Shorthanded NC State men’s basketball to play St. Louis on Thursday

NC State

North Carolina State’s D.J. Funderburk (0) shoots as North Florida’s Jose Placer (15) and Jonathan Aybar (21) defend during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Raleigh, N.C., Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – N.C. State’s men’s basketball team hasn’t play since Dec. 3 but head coach Kevin Keatts hopes to play again Thursday.

“It’s been a long road for us, a long couple of weeks,” Keatts admitted. “Our guys are just grateful to get back on the court.”

Cases of COVID-19 within the Wolfpack program forced the team to pause all activities after the Pack (3-0) beat UMass-Lowell 90-59.

“I think we should be playing,” said Keatts when asked if the season should be put on hold. “On our end there are some concerns, there should be concerns but at the end of the day I think we have a safe situation for our guys to continue to play and we want to play if we can.”

Keatts defended Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski over comments the Blue Devil coach made about pausing play.

“Coach K got hammered about pausing,” said Keatts. “They hammered him about pausing because his team had lost a couple of games. I think that’s ridiculous. I’ve been on calls with him this summer and he’s always talked about possibly starting the season in January or February and playing conference only.”

Keatts said the criticism of Krzyzewski is “unfair.”

“He gave his opinion of what he felt should happen and I don’t think he was treated right by a lot of folks. When he said it everyone jumped on the fact that his team had lost a couple of home games. I think that was unfair,” Keatts said.

The Pack is slated to return to the court on Thursday as State travels to play St. Louis.

The Wolfpack’s matchup against the Billikens was announced late Tuesday. St. Louis will travel to Raleigh during the 2022-23 season.

N.C. State was supposed to play its conference opener against No. 23 on Louisville but that game was postponed due to virus concerns with the Cardinals.

The Louisville postponement makes four games being called off so far for the Pack this season due to the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Keatts said he would have nine players available for the game against the Billikens.

When asked if those nine were scholarship players, Keatts replied with, “we’ll have nine players.”

“This past Saturday is the first time we got back into the gym,” said Keatts. “At that point we had six dudes and on Sunday we had eight guys and over the past few days we’ve been able to practice with our eight guys.”

The Wolfpack and Billikens are scheduled to play at 8 p.m. on ESPN+.

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