LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Two days before his University of Louisville women’s basketball team plays Oregon in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, Cardinals coach Jeff Walz talked about more than the need for getting prime performances from every player.
“The only time we get to see the sun is when we get to walk across to the convention center for a COVID test or to get on the bus to come here to practice,” Walz said.
He talked about his dream of being able to take his players outside so they could enjoy the sunshine in San Antonio, Texas.
He talked about the frustration of not being able to open the windows in is room at the Marriott Hotel near the San Antonio River Walk.
He talked about being able to convince NCAA organizers about the value of Vitamin D.
Walz said he was appreciative the NCAA approved a trip to the Alamo for Walz and his players Friday night. Walz said the Cards have not been permitted to take walks since Wednesday.
“They’ve done a great job of keeping us physically safe,” Walz said. “But I’m really concerned about the mental health side of it.
“We used to be able to go for a walk outside. Now that’s been taken away. We can’t do that … having the opportunity to get out tonight, I think it’s going to be really good for our players.
“Just to get fresh air, as stupid as it might sound, it’s nice.”
The mental challenge of advancing in this tournament has tested more than the Cardinals ability to study video and process game plans.
There is also the challenge of creating an experience that has been more than basketball, basketball, basketball.
No leaving the hotel to visit the River Walk, a prime attraction in San Antonio. No trips to the coffee shop. No movies. No team meals in restaurants.
A year after losing the entire tournament to the novel coronavirus, the NCAA has successfully navigated the field from 64 teams to 16.
Every precaution will be enforced to help them get to 8 teams by Sunday night and 4 by Tuesday.
“We are grateful to be here, don’t get me wrong on that,” Walz said. “We have worked all year to have this opportunity to play in this NCAA Tournament.
“But we have brought up a few things and I’m hoping that the NCAA committee is going to be able to make some things possible where our kids can get out and at least get a little bit of Vitamin D (Saturday) to just get some sun and some fresh air.”
The Cards (25-3) are listed as a 1-point underdog against the Ducks, who are 15-8 and ranked No. 23 in the latest AP poll. The teams will play Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Alamodome. The winner will play either top-seed Stanford or Missouri State in the Alamo Region final Tuesday.
Oregon upset Georgia, the 3-seed, 57-50, on Wednesday. The Cards have won 3 straight against Oregon, including a 72-62 upset victory in the Bahamas in November 2019.
Louisville started slowly in its first two NCAA Tournament games before rallying to defeat Marist and Northwestern.
“We’re going to have to make sure we pass the ball to ourselves,” Walz said. “That would start the game out well for us. We have struggled with turnovers in the first quarter of both games.
“We’re going to need everybody from here on out. We’re not going to get by with anybody having an off night.”
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