Coach Jeff Walz is spending almost as much time these days on the telephone lining up games as he spends on coaching and recruiting. Negotiating those irritating phone trees, sitting through the wait times, hanging around for call backs. The telephone is a virtual lifeline.
One after another, games falling by the way side, pausing their programs because of Covid-19 infestations. Forcing Walz back to the telephone, an instrument he has used to maximum advantage in making the University of Louisville women’s basketball a perennial power over the last decade or so.
One scheduled opponent, Duke, taking the extreme measure of cancelling the remainder of the season. In the spirit of the holiday season [sarcasm], making the announcement on Christmas Day . The decision driven by the Duke athletes. Unlike the vast majority of their counterparts, they preferred sitting out the rest of the season over playing basketball. Opting out just a few days before a scheduled second game against UofL.
Ironically, Louisville was Duke’s last game of the season. The Cardinals prevailing 73-49 at Durham, improving their overall record to 5-0. Shortly after that game, UofL announced its own pause, a break that would last for three weeks. They finally resumed the season on Friday, thanks to an arranged game against Northern Kentucky, Coach Walz’ alma mater … and against nearby Bellarmine on Saturday. Postponements during that time included games against Florida State, Miami and North Carolina.
At one point, Walz was making calls during a church service on Christmas Eve. While he would not confirm the opponent, there is speculation that he was contacting Coach Geno Auriemma of the University of Connecticut. That would have been the game of the No. 2 Louisville vs. No. 4 UConn. But alas, that game was not meant to be, at least for now. But who knows, with all the uncertainty of the Covid-19 contagion, no one would be surprised at what Jeff Walz can make happen during the 2020-21 basketball season.
Not a hint of any discussions with the University of Kentucky, located just 73 miles down the road. Highly doubtful the Wildcats, humming along with an 8-1 record, want to spoil their early success with a possible loss to Louisville. Nothing has changed. Not a chance in hell of that happening.
Walz says his team has maintained high levels of basketball activity during the absence of real games. His current team is probably the most talented team that he has had during his 14 years at the University of Louisville. “Basketball is what they do,” he says. “I have a lot of players who want to play after college. Some might play in the WNBA, some in Europe. Some might do both. Because their ultimate goal is the same, they are very self-motivated. I’m very fortunate.”
The ACC has already stipulated that there could be an exception to the rule of 13 games to qualify for the NCAA tournament. “But when you are healthy, you want to have an opportunity to play,” he adds.
The so-called experts on Covid-19 are saying the pandemic will get much worse before things get better. A real possibility the 2020-21 season could go south and go away like last year’s season. A real waste because this University of Louisville has a legitimate shot at its first national championship in women’s basketball.
Here’s hoping the season continues well into March. Don’t be surprised if Jeff Walz pulls a cell phone out of his pocket at the next game. No choice, gotta have that next game, anyone, any time, anywhere.