LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — If you’ve heard the speculation, the University of Louisville basketball players have heard the speculation, too.

The chatter that an update on the NCAA investigation into the program could be delivered any day?

“We hear about it everywhere we go, just because of how epic it is,” U of L forward Raymond Spalding said.

That the matter will not be completely settled until next June or July, as U of L coach Rick Pitino said during the team’s annual Media Day at the KFC Yum! Center Tuesday afternoon?

“If there are some (further sanctions) we have to take in the future, so be it,” said guard Ryan McMahon. “It’s kind of out of our control at this point. The damage is done … We’ve already taken some penalties.”

The possibility that Pitino could miss games, perhaps as many as the nine that Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) and Larry Brown (SMU) were suspended from their teams last season?

“We’ve heard about it,” center Anas Mahmoud said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re going to play 100 percent with coach on the line or if he’s not.”

Has Pitino discussed the possibility of further punishment with his players?

“Not directly,” McMahon said. “We’ve heard throughout (the process) that it’s possible he’ll be suspended for a few games. There’s not much we can do.

“I’m not worried. We have a great team. We have a great assistant coaching staff. You never know with the NCAA. They could suspend him for a certain amount of games or ACC games. It’s out of our control.”

That is the mystery of the way the NCAA works. None of the players know what the NCAA has uncovered in its investigation of the stripper and prostitution scandal, stirred by Katina Powell’s book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules,”  that began a year ago. 

The players don’t believe they will have to miss the 2017 post-season after the U of L administration took the team out of the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA Tournaments last March. That penalty still resonates in the locker room.

“We believe that what the school did (last season) was more than enough,” Mahmoud said.

They don’t know how the situation will affect their Hall of Fame head coach, who said the situation was not an issue — and then repeated, “I just said it’s not an issue; The best way I can answer is it’s not,” when Pitino was asked about the NCAA matter a second time.

What is an issue with the returning players is getting their opportunity to play in the two prime tournaments they missed last season. The Cardinals disappeared after the first weekend in March, following their return from a 22-point loss at Virginia.

“It bugged me a lot because we weren’t playing in it,” Spalding said.

“It was kind of what we expected, the ‘This stinks,’ feeling,” McMahon said. “We knew we could have been there. We knew we could have competed with a lot of those teams. It wasn’t regret. It was just frustration.”

For the next four weekends the best college basketball teams in the country played on. The Cardinals did not. They watched. They wondered, especially when they saw that the Final Four included two ACC teams the Cardinals knew well.

“It was tough looking at,” Mahmoud said. “We beat two Final Four teams — Syracuse and (North) Carolina. We were thinking we could have went that far as well. We saw that we were good enough to be there.”

“Just look at Syracuse,” McMahon said. “Some would argue they wouldn’t have made it into the tournament if we were in it. They made it to a Final Four. You don’t know what could have happened.”

Indeed. The Cardinals lost six Atlantic Coast Conference games. The Orange lost nine, including one at Louisville by 14 points on Feb. 17. The Cardinals also played the Tar Heels once. Louisville also won that game (by six). It was the team’s final game before former university president Dr. James Ramsey announced the post-season ban.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Mahmoud said. “This is our year. This is our year that we can respond back and show the character that we have and how mature we are.”

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