LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Well, 6 p.m. has come on gone. In the Eastern time zone. Then in the NCAA’s time zone, the Central. Mountain time has come and gone. And I’m not going to wait for Pacific.
Louisville’s role as the first top replacement team in NCAA Tournament history will end without a phone call, it appears. The NCAA's next comment on the state of its 68-team field won't be until Tuesday, but sources say Louisville was not contacted.
Just like the NCAA. When you want them to call, they never do.
With all but one team now in Indianapolis and Virginia making plans to roll in on Friday, what’s done is done. Add Replacement Team No. 1 to University 6 and whatever other name this department had that it didn’t want.
It was a nice gesture by the NCAA, I guess. Maybe a consolation prize. It allowed for a slim hope. But in the end, to cut the deadline off on Tuesday night was never much of a chance for Louisville.
Cardinals coach Chris Mack knew that from the start. He didn’t even have the team practice Monday.
"As far as being a replacement team, I think that's nice language the NCAA put out," Mack said. "It's a great safeguard for them and the tournament, but the reality of it is I don't see any team missing the NCAA Tournament, at least once it begins. Now, once it begins, that could be a different story. But let's face it, if you can still have five healthy players, not even have to have a coach on the sideline, most rosters with walk-ons, scholarship players are 16-17 players. So I just have a hard time believing that in the next 28 hours or so that an entire roster is going to be decimated to the point where they can't play. I don't even think that's a consideration."
Still, as I pointed out, since last March, the unthinkable has happened almost daily.
Wouldn’t you know it, in this NCAA Tournament, it didn’t. But here’s the hopeful note in that: For 68 teams, from all over the nation, traveling untold miles, after conference tournaments, many of them in front of fans, everybody is healthy, everybody is able to play, so far.
That is a hopeful thing. After a year of COVID-19 pauses, let’s hope it continues.
That, in the end, was Mack’s hope, even though it meant his team’s season was over. If teams have to drop out from here on, there will be no replacement. That's a shame, at least for Louisville.
"Nobody's wishing for anybody to get COVID," Mack said Monday. "We're not on hands and knees wishing for an outbreak. But that's just not us. I hope every team that got selected is able to play in the tournament and has a great experience."
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