His team was humming along, winning six of the first seven games, with the lone loss coming by three points to Louisiana Tech. His team is now hanging on, working toward getting healthy, as Southern Conference play begins on Wednesday.

"Trying to survive, man," said Samford men's basketball head coach Bucky McMillan. "We're dealing with a lot of injuries right now. Six of our top eight players missed practice yesterday. Our first conference game tomorrow, we're not doing too well health-wise."

Samford has lost seven consecutive games heading into Wednesday's SoCon opener against Mercer at the Pete Hanna Center, with tip-off scheduled for 6 p.m. The Bulldogs, when healthy, are among the top teams in the conference. Right now, though, they are far from healthy.

Point guard Ques Glover, who is one of the top players in the conference, hasn't played in a full game since scoring 26 points and adding four assists in 29 minutes during a 79-76 loss to Louisiana Tech on Nov. 25. He tore the meniscus in a knee during practice the next day, played the first half two games later in an overtime loss at Depaul and has been out since. McMillan said he hopes to get Glover back in the next two to three weeks.

That's just a start to the injury and illness problems. Cooper Kafies, a 6-foot-4 junior guard, who is in his second season as a starter, is injured and could be out for the year. Jaden Cambell, another starter, is hobbling with a bad back. AJ Staton-McCray hurt his knee last week.

"The craziest part of this is, I think this can't get any worse, [then] I walk in to practice today, I have two more with the flu," McMillan said.

Shooting guard Bubba Parham, one of the league's top players, and key reserve Achor Achor are expected to miss Wednesday's game with the flu.

"It's unbelievable," McMillan said. "I have these walk-ons. I'm having to turn their stuff into the NCAA to make sure they are eligible. We didn't plan on them playing in a game."

Britton Johnson and Quinn Richey, two walk-on players, who have played in a game, will be key parts of the rotation in Wednesday's game. One of them may be in the starting lineup.

Through all of this, though, there still is optimism. Even short-handed, the losses, for the most part, have been either one-possession finishes or overtime games. Five of the seven losses have come away from home.

"The reality of it is, we lost by 1, 2, 3, overtime and overtime," McMillan said. "If Ques is healthy the whole time, we're probably 10-3 now, at worst, and feeling pretty good."

Starters Jermaine Marshall and Logan Dye have carried the weight with the depleted roster. But they've also had to deal with extra attention from opposing defenses and the winning expectations of a program.

"It's hard, man. We're all competitors," McMillan said. "They are successful because they take ownership. I'm miserable right now because, every night, I think about something I could do that can help this. I put it on me. You know, we can run this zone. I can fix that. The reality is you just can't overcome some things. Jermaine and Logan are high achievers, so they're not going to just wilt and say, 'We can't win. We're missing a lot of guys.' They're going to take a lot of responsibility themselves, 'I have to play better. I've got to play a perfect game.' You know, playing a perfect game every day is impossible."

At some point, preferably soon, the Bulldogs will be closer to full strength. And they've shown early in the season that, when healthy, they are capable of doing good things.

"I really think we have a chance to win the league," McMillan said. "I really believe that if we're healthy. Two ways to win the league, you win the regular season, you win the tournament. There's only one of those that will get you to the NCAA Tournament."

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.