Mack backs off dispute with Cal, game likely on Dec. 26

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Apparently Louisville basketball coach Chris Mack has put the feud with Kentucky coach John Calipari over scheduling of the UofL-UK game behind him. No more videos, no more wisecracks.


So Calipari's remark last week in his own video, "Scheduling, the guy down west, he's nuts, he's out of his mind," will stand as the final word on the subject.


Both coaches have said the Battle of the Bluegrass will be played on Dec. 26 in the KFC Yum! Center. UofL spokesman Kenny Klein said no contract has been signed, but added that is the "likely" date.


The schools may still be trying to work out some logistics with their respective conferences because under NCAA rules this year, programs are required to have at least three days off for Christmas. However, the ACC and SEC could potentially give them a bye and allow them to take off Dec. 27-29.


Asked about the situation during his media teleconference Wednesday afternoon, Mack replied:


"I don't have much feedback from Kentucky, other than some fans every once in awhile. We're excited to play the game. The date I'm pretty sure is going to be Dec. 26, but other than that  not a whole lot to add."


As for the entirety of Louisville's schedule, the non-conference portion is expected to be completed within the next week. There is no indication when the ACC will release its schedule, but Mack hinted that he is getting impatient.


"You're asking the wrong person," he said. "I want that as quick as I can get it. I don't know when the ACC schedule is coming. I don't even know our opponent for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge (Dec. 6 or 7) yet, but we should know hopefully soon."


Most of the teams that will play in UofL's 8-to-12-team non-conference bubble put together by Mack are known, but not the matchups.


UofL has signed contracts from Arkansas Little Rock, Duquesne, UNC Greensboro and Winthrop. Also expected to play are Southern Illinois, Prairie View A&M and Western Kentucky.


"Not every team is playing the same number of games," Mack said. "It's not like there's five teams and they're all playing four games. There's a little bit of oddity to the schedule. There  is a team or two that will play a couple of games."


The event will start Nov. 25, the first day games are allowed, in the KFC Yum! Center. Teams will stay in the Galt House, which is connected to the Yum by a pedway, so players will be in a protected environment and will undergo COVID-19 testing.


"With the Galt House, that gives us the ability for our health officials to test every day, for the coaches to be in agreement that we aren't going to leave the bubble, including the team that is right here, us," Mack said. "We felt like there would be a lot of teams that would have interest as long as we keep costs down. We're not trying to make money on this. It's just about providing an opportunity."

WILLIAMS, JONES NAMED CO-CAPTAINS


Preseason practice opens Thursday and the Cards have chosen senior Malik Williams and newcomer Carlik Jones as co-captains via a team vote.


Williams, a 6-foot-11 forward/center, was also a captain last year when he was runnerup for the ACC Sixth Man of the Year award. He averaged 8.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.


Jones (6-1) came to Louisville as the top grad transfer in the country, according to ESPN. The former Radford guard averaged 20 points, 5.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals as a redshirt junior while leading Radford to a second-straight Big South Conference regular season championship.


"Malik was a tri-captain last year, so I thought it was only natural," Mack said. "He's done nothing but cement who he is as a player and person with our group. Carlik wasn't here a year ago, but arguably one of our most talented players. He's had a great voice, I think he's acclimated to his teammates extremely well, he's a winner.


"So I think players gravitate to him. Certainly, Malik knows our system better, but I think both of those guys will do a terrific job as captains. Our team is fortunate to have terrific leadership and it starts with these two. Their experience, ability to lead and toughness have been evident throughout the offseason and preseason."


UofL TO HOST 2023 REGIONAL


Louisville will host several NCAA events in the next six years, including a 2023 men's basketball regional at the Yum! Center. The NCAA on Wednesday announced 450 site selections for its preliminary rounds and championships from 2022-23 to 2025-26 in Divisions I, II and III.


UofL will also host semifinal and final rounds of the 2023 Division I men's soccer championship at the Lynn Family Stadium and the 2024 Division I women's volleyball finals at the Yum!


Other 2023 men's basketball regionals will be played in Kansas City, Las Vegas and Madison Square Garden. The University of Dayton will continue to host the men's basketball NCAA First Four through at least 2026. Having served as a site for the start of the tourney from 2001 and also hosted games prior to then, UD Arena has held 125 men's tournament games, the most of any facility.


The 2021 Final Four will be played in Indianapolis, with subsequent championships in New Orleans, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio and again in Indy in 2026.


Forty-three states plus the District of Columbia were selected to host at least one NCAA championship event, with California's 34 being the most. Texas was second with 30, while North Carolina totaled 28, followed by Pennsylvania with 27 and Ohio with 25.

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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