Not surprising that a few fans would be impatient with Coach Chris Mack after another disappointing season. Unfortunately, he is 9-13 in the months of February and March the past three seasons. A program still reeling from the after effects of Rick Pitino’s departure.

If there is a legitimate criticism from this vantage point, it would be the way the Covid-19 threat was managed or mismanaged. That would be the luck of UofL fans, being the program forced to endure two 15-day pauses. What’s really aggravating is that some traditional rivals, like the one 70 miles to the East, had virtually no problems with the disease, missing only one regular season game. 

Mack took over the program following a year with no recruiting class. David Padgett, while a great guy, either didn’t bother or was unable to recruit anyone while he was filling in for Pitino. Mack had two seasons where he was still using some Pitino leftovers, followed by a third season with the pandemic. Despite these challenges, UofL tied for second place in the ACC last year and was contending for a first-round bye at the end of the current season.

In the midst of it all, he has to contend with the NCAA investigation hanging over the program. No resolution in sight. Don’t doubt for a minute that opposing coaches are indoctrinating recruits about the negative consequences. It took a special individual, especially one with the track record of Mack, to consider coming to Louisville. A nice salary, in the $3 to $4 million range, but he could have commanded that at other blue chip programs with far more than its share of challenges. 

For this reason alone, Mack deserves more time.

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Las Vegas could have expanded profit opportunities if the odds makers allowed bets on which teams will meet Covid-19 protocols for the NCAA tournament. The deadline for schools to inform the NCAA they can’t meet the guidelines is 11 p.m. Saturday.

Duke needn’t bother, based on its 13-11 won-lost record before a positive Covid-19 test knocked the Blue Devils out of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Unfortunately for the University of Louisville basketball team, Duke was all hyped up for the ACC. And why not, they weren’t going anywhere unless they won the conference event. Duke’s season is done.  

Virginia, on the other hand, is a  question mark. The latest program victimized by Covid-19 is a legitimate contender to win a second consecutive national championship. While they can’t compete for the ACC crown, the Cavaliers can still play in the NCAA event. Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of men’s basketball, says a team just needs five healthy players to play. However, NCAA protocols also state that each member of a team’s travel party must have seven consecutive negative tests to make the trip to Indianapolis.

UofL basketball, as of Friday morning, was still in the NCAA discussion. But the Cardinals weren’t passing the eye tests, based upon their most recent performances in losses to Duke and Virginia. No one will be surprised if UofL is not mentioned when the teams are picked on Selection Sunday.  Louisville looked a like a legitimate contender early on, getting out to a impressive 4-0 start with wins over teams like Seton Hall and Western Kentucky. But then came the first 15-day Covid-19 pause and a 37-point loss to Wisconsin. Then there was that 45-point loss to North Carolina following another Covid-19 pause, and the potentially season-ending clunkers to Virginia and Duke.

A season with so much promise marred by pandemic pauses and glaring inconsistencies. Another early exit from the NCAA tournament would not be surprising.

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

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