Louisville’s men’s basketball team checked into the Galt House Hotel for a 10-day stay on Tuesday and practiced in a surreal-looking KFC Yum center with taped seats and plexiglass partitions between the team benches and fan seats.
‘Strange’ doesn’t even describe Louisville’s last start to the season in 17 years, but Cardinals players don’t mind as long as they can actually play games. They open against Evansville at 4pm. m. Wednesday in the Wade Houston Tipoff Classic, the first of their two games in the Classic and one of their five total games in the multi-team event.
Teams typically start the season with a few games before diving into an MTE that crowds multiple games in a limited time frame, but the pandemic has changed things this time around. No exhibition games. No closed scrimmages. Nothing for Louisville or Evansville or any other pre-season college basketball program that is like stepping on the gas after turning the ignition on.
Nine teams play 16 games between Wednesday and December. 4 in the Yum Center after some unusual steps that only led to planning adjustments two weeks ago. In addition to Louisville and Evansville, Little Rock, Duquesne, Seton Hall, Prairie View A&M, UNC Greensboro, Western Kentucky and Winthrop compete in the Cardinals Bubble.
Although the bladder isn’t impermeable, Mack said each team was tested for COVID-19 three times a week for two weeks for two weeks prior to the event. All teams have tested negative so far, an impressive feat as other teams across the country are canceling or postponing the opening due to positive tests.
« I think the logs from U of L Health, Galt House and Yum Center will help, but there is also a luck factor and we keep our fingers crossed and hope we can get you through all of these games, without falling out, ”said Mack.
Malik Williams (feet) and Charles Minlend (knees) are expected to head to Louisville for the opener, and Mack said Josh Nickelberry (knees) will also miss the opening games. Nickelberry is still recovering from knee surgery and « is about to return, » said Mack, but isn’t quite there yet. His injury list didn’t include Jae’Lyn Withers’ red shirt, who was recently sidelined due to a sprained ankle. This is good news for the Cardinals forecourt.
Samuell Williamson’s return is also a blessing after the deterioration of his patellar tendon. The 6-foot-7 swingman recently returned to training but has taken the Cardinals to another dimension.
« He increases competitiveness when he’s back on the ground. Sam is extremely competitive. I think he learned a lot from year one to year two, ”said Mack. « I know he was disappointed that he couldn’t be on the practice area every day. But the only thing I don’t have to worry about with Sam is where his thoughts are. He’s at the gym and doing what he can every day. ”
The Evansville game marks the debut of several Louisville players, from Withers – who last played in high school – to Carlik Jones. You want the program a 20th. Home win in a row while doing the work they have done since meeting in June.
Returning playmakers like second security guard David Johnson are also poised to take a step forward for the cards. Johnson, a preseason all-ACC second-team selection, has grown vocally and has improved his shooting since last season.
« And I think the only thing we’re really excited about offensively is that he’s really slowing down and not always trying to hit you at sheer speed and sheer quickness. It keeps him in much better control and can see the ground a lot better, « said Mack.
The Purple Aces, a program Mack had played for before joining Xavier, was baffled. 1 Kentucky in a 67-64 thriller at the Rupp Arena last November. The team saw a change of coach in the mid-season and the situation worsened when Evansville lost its last 19 games. The program has not won a game since December. 21, 2019 against Murray State.
Coach Todd Lickliter took over in January and returns with a team that lost their top five goalscorers from last season. A team trained by Lickliter is characterized by set games and counter-sets that keep Louisville busy, but the Cardinals’ preps are largely focused on their own execution.
To consider the prelude a success, Mack said the cards need to be the same team they are in practice.
« If we ask for high communication during practice, it shouldn’t feel like a library when the game comes. « . If we demand physicality on the glass when taking the shot, we shouldn’t miss block-outs. This will be a test for our guys, because here too many of them are inexperienced. Not that we are before 19. 000 fans pay, but we’re playing for real money, ”said Mack.
“You still have to be who you are on the practice area every day. When we’re up close and our tails are pitting against each other, that’s all I can ask. And we will find a way to improve as we march forward. ”
Louisville Cardinals Men’s Basketball, Evansville Purple Aces Men’s Basketball, Chris Mack, College Basketball, Missouri Valley Conference
World News – USA – The wait is over. Louisville Basketball is nearing its opener against Evansville
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