LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The schedule says the University of Louisville basketball team will launch its season at 4 p.m. next Wednesday against the University of Evansville at the KFC Yum! Center.
If you’re searching for more specifics than that, please check back later.
Even Chris Mack, the Cardinals coach, understands that because of the novel coronavirus, his team might not play all five teams Louisville has lined up as opponents in the Wade Houston Tipoff Classic.
“I just cross our fingers and hope we don't have positive tests on any of the teams in the bubble,” Mack said. “I think football around the country has shown us that's not going to be a reality.
“There are going to be cancellations. There are going to be postponements. There's going to be shuffling of schedules.
“We can only control what we can control, and that is try to do the best job we can, both as individuals and as a team to keep from getting the virus and all the different things we've all been asked to do around the country.
“The second thing we have to do is very flexible, knowing that maybe we're supposed to play on a Monday night but that may change to a Thursday night against a different opponent, and that's OK. It beats the alternative of sitting in our basement not having any sports.”
Correct. The start of the season has already been delayed by more than two weeks. Evansville, which lost its final 19 games last season, will fill in for Southern Illinois, which had to withdraw from the event because of COVID-19 issues. The Cards are scheduled to meet Seton Hall, Prairie View A&M, Western Kentucky and North Carolina-Greensboro, too.
Virus issues are not the only ones that have challenged Mack as he prepared for his third season here.
Malik Williams, the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder, had surgery on a broken bone in his foot that put him out for at least 12 weeks.
Charles Minlend, a talented transfer from San Francisco, will likely miss the next five weeks with a sprained knee.
Samuell Williamson (knee), Jae’Lynn Withers (ankle) and Josh Nickelberry (knee) have missed practice with injuries. Mack said there have been days when his team has practiced with six healthy scholarship players.
Other than Williams and Minlend, will the team be close to full strength for Evansville?
“I don't know,” Mack said. “I’d like to be able to answer that, but some of the injuries that our guys are dealing with have been finicky, to say the least.
“And we have guys that want to be out there. Nobody's sort of sandbagging and holding back. Josh Nickelberry is sort of recovering and rehabbing from an arthroscopic knee surgery to repair some meniscus. So he's getting closer. I don't know when he will be at full strength, or at least full strength enough to be able to get on the court and practice and join us.
“Sam Williamson is back. He's been dealing with an aggravated patellar tendon. That really gave him fits for three or four weeks here in the preseason.
“So it's been a lot of moving pieces and a lot of moving parts to say the least here in practice ... I would think Sam would be ready for our opener next week.
“And then, obviously, Jae’Lyn Withers is a guy that's been rehabbing a sprained ankle that he twisted about a week ago. So likelihood is we'll get him back as well.”
What should the expectations be when the games begin next week? A starting lineup of David Johnson and Carlik Jones at guard seems certain. If Williamson is ready, he is a lock.
“The first thing I’ll say is: ‘Who’s going to be on the roster? Who is going to be healthy for that game next week?’ “ Mack said.
“We’re going to certainly look very, very different from a year ago. We don’t have all that experience returning. I’d like to think that David (Johnson) and Carlik (Jones) can do a bulk of the play-making.
“I think getting Sam back into the lineup and sort of getting his legs under him, we’re going to need him to be a guy that can score the ball and when Jae’Lynn gets healthy he can be a guy that I think is a tough mismatch for a lot of guys to cover because he’s so doggone quick.
“When we have our full compliment of players, we’ll be out there and competing and trying to win every single game that we play. But I don’t know that just yet.
“There may be some experimenting on the sidelines when we play Evansville.”
Copyright 2020 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.