Scheduling Questions Remain for Louisville's Chris Mack Following Altered Start Date
College basketball finally has a definitive start date.
After weeks & months of speculation that the sport could potentially follow parts of college football's lead and postpone until next year, the NCAA's Division I Council voted to push back the first contest date by just fifteen days and has set an official men's & women's basketball start date of Nov. 25.
"It's a great relief," Louisville men's basketball head coach Chris Mack said Thursday. "For our players to get the concrete answer that 'this is when we start practice' and 'this is when we have the opportunity to play our first game, I know they're really relieved. They had a jolt of energy as we had some workouts today."
But now begins the process of trying to piece together the non-conference schedule. On top of pushing back the start date, the D1 Council reduced the maximum amount of contests by four with the number of games being determined by whether a team enters a multiple-team event.
There's a lot of stuff in flux right now," Mack said. "We're in several conversations with a lot of people around the country trying to do what we can to put together a non-conference schedule."
Several contests across the college basketball landscape that now fall outside of the permitted competition range are all of a sudden up in the air, and Louisville is no exception to this. The Cardinals were originally scheduled to play in the MGM Main Event, a multi-team tournament out in Las Vegas, on Nov. 20 & 22, but now the status of the event is in question.
"We're looking into it. To say that a decision has been finalized would be premature," Mack said. "Obviously I think the chances have been diminished, but I don't have anything finalized in terms of 'are we going to go to Vegas or not' at this point."
Another contest that potentially finds itself on the chopping block is the game against Cincinnati. The rivalry with the Bearcats was renewed earlier this season and originally set for Nov. 13, but now it might be pushed back a year for more than just scheduling reasons.
"Let's be honest - when you have a game that you're possibly looking at playing in their arena with no fans, then I'm going to ask him a year later to come back to the Yum Center in front of 22,000 fans. If you"re (UC head coach) John Brannen, you don't feel good about that," Mack said. "I want to do what's best for our program but at the same time I'm not going to put other guys' programs in a tough way."
One game that Louisville fans can almost certainly count on seeing is the Cards' role in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. While the dates will be changing, Mack noted that it was a '"priority" for both leagues and that it would be played "unless something unforeseen would happen."
Given how COVID-19 has impacted nearly aspect of life as we know it, including travel, the program has in contact with "several teams geographically that are close to Louisville" that would make sense when constructing a non-conference schedule. When addressing this topic, Mack did not rule out a potential matchup with the Bellarmine Knights.
Mack also divulged that there have been discussions about hosting in games inside a "bubble" after watching the NBA's success with it, although doubted the feasibility of it given the discrepancy in money between college programs and NBA
"There’s been talk of it. How much talk I wouldn't be able to divide the percentage but we talked about a bubble. We talked about non-conference bubbles, we’ve talked about ACC bubbles," he said. "There's been a lot of talk but to say anything's been concrete, I don’t think so at this point."
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