The Louisville basketball team now has a complete schedule just a couple of weeks before their first game.
On Tuesday morning, the Atlantic Coastal Conference revealed the entirety of the conference schedule for every team. You can view that release here.
Just because we want to include their wonderful graphics team, the Louisville basketball Twitter account tweeted out their entire in-conference schedule shortly after the unveiling.
There is tons of goodness in here as the Cards are set to participate in 20 conference games this season. In quite amazing fashion, the ACC did not have to cut down on conference games despite COVID.
The team is set to open the conference slate December 16th at home against NC State in what (on paper) should be a very winnable game for the Cards. Let’s take a further look at what we learned from the ACC schedule.
The ACC is so-so this year by media standard
Yes, it is true. In what is considered the most dominant conference in basketball year in and year out, the ACC has just four teams ranked inside the AP Top 25. The highest being Virginia at #4 followed by Duke (9), North Carolina (16), and Florida State (21).
Other than that, the only team even receiving votes in the league is Louisville (which is sixth in the receiving votes category). Essentially, what the Associated Press is telling us, is that there are only five teams in the ACC who are ranked in the top 43 in the country heading into the 2020 basketball season.
That would be considered very underwhelming for the ACC who is widely considered the best basketball conference by a fairly large margin.
In a year where Louisville cannot stay healthy on the court, this sets up decently well for the Cards. Louisville will be without senior forward Malik Williams for a very large chunk of ACC play (if not all of it). Meanwhile, they may or may not have Charles Minlend back before Louisville begins the ACC campaign. Louisville needed a down year from the ACC and they just might get it for the 2020-21 season.
Louisville’s toughest stretch
Now, make no mistake, there are a couple of notable brutal stretches in this schedule. The Cards draw Virginia and Duke (the ACC’s top two teams) twice on their slate along with one Florida State meeting and one North Carolina matchup.
The toughest part of the schedule is in the back half. This really sets up ideally for the Cards who can get their young legs under them as they endure the grind of conference play through late December and January. However, if Malik Williams is not back, the back half of the schedule is all the more brutal.
In the last month of games alone, Louisville will draw a home-and-home with Virginia, an away game against North Carolina, and a game at Cameron Indoor to take on Duke.
Some might call that a stretch from Hell. I would have to agree. Louisville will be playing four of their last nine games against preseason ranked opponents including three of the last four. That’s tough. But, by February/March, every team in the league should be playing their best basketball including U of L.
Cards fans will be excited to know that the men will have a three game home stand against ACC foes in the middle of January that includes two massive games against Florida State (January 18th) and Duke (January 23rd).
As of right now, 3,000 fans would be allowed to attend each U of L home game. Now, this could certainly change as COVID has shown us that nothing is a guarantee. But that is a treat of three straight home games for Cards fans.
Home court advantage is not so much a thing this year as it has been in years past because of the reduced fans in arenas across the country. However, there is still a case to be made for staying home and playing on your own court.
If the Cards can pick up wins in two of the three games, they’ll feel pretty darn good about the outlook of their season. A depleted U of L team is going to have to show up game in and game out.
Why non conference games will be important
Louisville opens the season on November 25th against Southern Illinois. The Salukis have one of the best mascot names in basketball. However, this should absolutely be a game that Louisville wins. The Salukis are a young basketball team that the Cards should handle. Did I mention their team name is the Salukis?
Getting off on the right foot and gaining confidence within the team is going to be hugely important after losing seniors Malik Williams and Charles Minlend. If they can get their confidence early, they may be able to keep the train moving into conference play.
Louisville needs to perform well in the multi-team event (MTE) that they are hosting. If the Cardinals win four out of the five MTE games, look out. This team could be incredibly dangerous when healthy if that occurs.
Louisville got a tough draw in the ACC-Big Ten matchup going against a veteran Wisconsin squad who is ranked seventh in the AP poll. That game will be extremely difficult for Louisville to win heading into ACC play.
Carlik Jones, likely the unquestioned leader of the team, will have to keep the young freshman and sophomores focused on each individual game. Jones has the experience and the play to back it up. He is likely going to be the points and assists leader on the team, barring something extremely surprising developing.
Everybody knows how difficult the ACC is. It is a 12-round fight every time these schools matchup and, despite a down year in the league, I would expect it to be no different in 2020-21. The Cards will have to bring their hard hat each game to keep pace with the ever so competitive ACC.