As the Cardinals continue to push toward their annual goal of reaching a national championship, the program is going to be tested early this year with one of the strongest nonconference slates in recent history.
The University of Louisville women’s basketball program on Wednesday announced its non-league schedule that is highlighted by 10 teams that reached postseason play, including nine that logged at least 20 victories last season, and matchups against a pair of NCAA Sweet 16 participants.
The Cardinals boast a plethora of experience, returning all five starters – and three more letterwinners – from last year’s team that went 26-8 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The program, led by ACC Player of the Year Myisha Hines-Allen, bolstered its roster with a talented fifth-year transfer and the No. 6 recruiting class in the country.
Louisville opens the year on the road for the sixth time in program history, playing its first of consecutive contests against Ohio Valley opponents. The Cardinals begin the 2016-17 campaign onNov. 11 against UT Martin, which went 22-10 last year and reached the second round of the WNIT.
In its first game at the KFC Yum! Center, Louisville plays host to Belmont on Nov. 13, competing against former UofL assistant and current Bruins coach Cameron Newbauer. The Bruins reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years after winning the OVC conference tournament title and capped the campaign with a remarkable 24-9 record.
Following the contest at Middle Tennessee State, one of six conference tournament champions on this year’s schedule, on Nov. 16, Louisville’s third-straight 20-win opponent, the Cardinals play host to three games at the KFC Yum! Center as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. Louisville welcomes Bowling Green (Nov. 19), Lafayette (Nov. 20) and Chattanooga (Nov. 21), which touted a 24-8 record a year ago, before breaking for the holiday.
The Cardinals resume action on Nov. 27 against national power South Carolina in the final game of the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic, which is being played at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass. The Gamecocks went 33-2 last season, reaching the NCAA Sweet 16, and return All-America starters A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates. It is the first meeting between the two programs since Nov. 29, 1991.
Louisville then begins a stretch of six-consecutive home games.
Taking part in its third ACC/Big Ten Challenge, sporting a 2-0 record, Louisville faces Maryland on Dec. 1 for the first meeting in the regular season in series history. The Terrapins went 31-4 last year, including a 16-2 mark to win the Big Ten regular-season title. Both programs were rated in the top 10 in ESPN’s early preseason rankings, with Cardinals being selected second and the Terrapins seventh in the poll.
Louisville then plays two in-state schools, consecutively, when it faces Kentucky on Dec. 4 and Western Kentucky on Dec. 11. It will be the 52nd meeting all-time against the Wildcats and the 36th against the Hilltoppers.
The Cardinals wrap up the home portion of their nonconference slate with contests against South Dakota State (Dec. 14), Charleston (Dec. 16), and Evansville (Dec. 18). The Dec. 14 game is the first meeting in series history against the Jackrabbits, who went 27-7 last year and won the Summit League conference tournament championship.
Louisville’s nonconference schedule concludes with Vanderbilt – the first meeting since the 2011 NCAA Tournament – on Dec. 21 at Memorial Gymnasium and then during ACC play against South Florida on Jan. 22 at the Sun Dome. The Cardinals last traveled to Tampa in 2014 and defeated the Bulls in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
LOUISVILLE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL NONCONFERENCE SCHEDULE
Nov. 11 at UT Martin
Nov. 13 vs. Belmont
Nov. 16 at Middle Tennessee State
Nov. 19 vs. Bowling Green ^
Nov. 20 vs. Lafayette ^
Nov. 21 vs. Chattanooga ^
Nov. 27 vs. South Carolina $
Dec. 1 vs. Maryland %
Dec. 4 vs. Kentucky
Dec. 11 vs. Western Kentucky
Dec. 14 vs. South Dakota State
Dec. 16 vs. Charleston
Dec. 18 vs. Evansville
Dec. 21 at Vanderbilt
Jan. 22 at South Florida
^ Basketball Hall of Fame Classic (Louisville, Ky.)
$ Basketball Hall of Fame Classic (Springfield, Mass., MassMutual Center)
% ACC/Big Ten Challenge