U of L (4-0) was able to avoid any problems in its first four games of the season in the Wade Houston Tipoff Classic in the KFC Yum! Center. But Thursday Mack's luck finally ran out nine days into the season just as the Cards were building momentum for a possible breakthrough into the AP Top-25 and a high-profile game against a Top-10 opponent next week.
U of L Athletics Director Vince Tyra announced late Thursday night that the team has paused all team-related activities indefinitely due to a positive COVID-19 test and accompanying contact tracing measures among individuals within the program.
As a result, the Cards' final game in the Classic, against UNC Greensboro Friday afternoon, was canceled. The game between Duquesne and Winthrop at 11 a.m. Friday was also canceled. Earlier in the week, Prairie View A&M had to cancel two games due to positive tests within its program.
"We are adhering to the ACC and university protocols and will monitor the matter day-to-day," Tyra said.
The positive test was detected during the team's Thursday COVID-19 evaluation, one of three tests administered each week in accordance with ACC protocols developed by the ACC Medical Advisory Group. The positive test involved a Tier 1 individual in a group consisting of student-athletes, coaches, team managers and staff.
It is unclear how the positive test and pause will affect U of L's next game at No. 4. Wisconsin Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge or its ACC opener against N.C. State in the KFC Yum! Center on Dec. 16.
Louisville had won four straight in the Classic, easily defeating Evansville, Prairie View and Western Kentucky, while edging Seton Hall 71-70.
This is the second time the men's basketball team has had to pause activities since the players returned to campus on June 1. On July 7, activities were paused for two weeks after two unnamed people in the program tested positive.
For the Classic, U of L had taken every precaution to avoid problems arising from the pandemic, including housing teams and support staff in the Galt House, where a skywalk provided easy access to the KFC Yum! Center. But Mack knew the system wasn't foolproof by any means.
"We hope to be able to play the entire bubble," Mack said when the Classic began. "But there's also a luck factor and we cross our fingers we are able to get through all these games without any cases breaking out. But we're in the winter and I'm so sick of the phrase 'uncharted territory,' but that's where we're at."
In the last three months, colleges have canceled or postponed more than 200 football and basketball games. Among schools whose basketball teams have been affected since the season began on Nov. 25 are UCLA, Wake Forest, Maryland, Villanova, Oklahoma, Florida, San Diego State, Florida State, Xavier, Tennessee and Richmond.
Even before the season began there were indications of what teams would face over the next five months. The idea to replicate the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, fell apart when the teams and ESPN couldn't agree on the minimum virus protocols all would be required to follow.
The cancellation impacted more than 24 teams and 10 ESPN events. Numerous other multi-team events were also canceled, including the Cards' appearance in a Las Vegas tournament.
Reports are that the minimum number of games needed to qualify for March Madness will be set at 13. Louisville has a 20-game ACC schedule remaining.
With COVID-19 raging across the nation, it could be a long winter and an even longer college basketball season.