Time for the Sweet and Elite

TONY VANETTI: Okay, both teams are in the Sweet Sixteen and now I cannot believe I’m going to say this, but some people are talking about a possible Louisville and Kentucky final game.

MATT JONES: First of all, it’s not that much of a surprise for me because you’ll remember it was in these pages last week that I picked Louisville to go to the Final Four. Will you acknowledge that?

VANETTI: Yes, you did pick them.

JONES: Secondly, it’s not a surprise when they were the higher seeded team. I like the way that some in the media are acting like Rick Pitino has done some miracle job getting this plucky group of youngsters to the Final Four even though there are two first round picks on their roster, and they were the higher seed in both games and beat UC Irvine and Northern Iowa. What happened to your standards Tony Vanetti? Louisville should be beating UC Irvine and Northern Iowa!

VANETTI: You can never fault a team for beating who’s in front of them, and UNI were a great team, and everyone was picking them. Louisville made them look stupid, and they’re a great team.

JONES: And who was the best team they beat this year?

VANETTI: Wichita State.

JONES: Exactly. So it’s a good team, but other than that they have not one victory against a team that mattered, and this is why I picked Louisville. If UNI wins that game, it’s a pretty big upset because they have not beaten anybody. But as I said last week, Louisville were in the bracket in which I thought they could make noise. There is no reason why they can’t beat NC State who they play the next game. They will have a hard time against Duke. But if somehow Duke got knocked off, who knows. Louisville is, at that point where they can beat anyone in the tournament, except maybe Kentucky and Arizona. But they can lose to anyone in the field, just as they almost lost to UC Irvine.

VANETTI: Okay, so let’s start over and re-bracket the Sweet Sixteen. Have you changed your Final Four?

JONES: I have Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke and Louisville. I’ll stick with that as I think it’s the most likely scenario. Probably the one I feel least confident about is actually Wisconsin as I actually think Arizona are playing really well. But that will be a great game if they play each other in the Elite Eight. Who would yours be?

VANETTI: You know what, I think I am now going to put Louisville in the Final Four. I thought they would go to the Elite Eight but at this point I think it’s so weird how they see this thing. Virginia had to beat Michigan State to go to the Sweet Sixteen, Louisville would have to beat the same team to go to the Final Four. It just depends on the matchups and who gets who, and so at this point I am going to go for Louisville, Duke, Arizona and Kentucky. So I am going to change it slightly.

JONES: I think that’s a smart one as well. Talking about Kentucky, it also makes me laugh how everyone now acts like Kentucky is so vulnerable because Cincinnati was 20-points down with a minute to go. The Cats played well enough to win. It’s like people are just begging to find a reason to call Kentucky beatable.

VANETTI: Look, there is no story that surrounds this story except that they are on this collision course with history. I thought the biggest story out of the KFC Yum! Center games was Ashley Judd and her service dog. She has a service dog to keep her calm. What did you think of that?

JONES: I love Ashley Judd. Don’t trash talk about Ashley Judd. I don’t say anything about Jennifer Lawrence and you need to be nice. I agree, though, there weren’t a whole lot of stories other than the Cincinnati player who tried to rile a few players up and got some emotion out of them. Now West Virginia is good enough to beat Kentucky, but not if Kentucky plays well. If they play well they win again and that’s probably true for all of the games in the regional. If Kentucky plays well, they win both games. If they don’t play well and the other team is really, really hot then they have a chance to lose.

VANETTI: I thought that Kentucky fans would pucker by now. At this point, going into the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight I see the opposite. I am going around town and Kentucky fans are getting not just confident but obnoxious, when it comes to calling their shot and saying that they are going to win this thing.

JONES: I’m not. I’m unbelievably nervous about it. If they lose, it will stink but they will still have had an amazing year and they would still have deserved to win.  But, Tony, just the notion that a 40-0 season could  hinge on a final game against Louisville makes my head explode. You realize that right? That would arguably be the worst moment, or the best, but possibly the worst of all time.

VANETTI: On the 30th anniversary of the Villanova-Georgetown game, I can see why you would not want to see that as a fan, because you would not want the 40-0 to get ruined. Alright, if Rick gets Louisville to the Final Four and Cal gets to the Final Four undefeated, you could make a case for both of them to be Coach of the Year.

JONES: No, you can’t. Look, people are too simplistic about the NCAA tournament. You’ve heard me say this for years that the NCAA tournament is random, that’s why I like Coach of the Year being a regular season award, because that’s a much better notion of what a team is. If Rick Pitino gets to the Final Four, you go, “That’s a great accomplishment.” But let me ask you this. If he gets there by beating UC Irvine, Northern Iowa, Michigan State and Oklahoma, is that really a great accomplishment? It’s a great set of wins, it’s good that they did it, but those are teams that Louisville is better than already. No, I do not agree that Rick Pitino would be Coach of the Year. The Coach of the Year is Cal, and if not Cal then Tony Bennett and nobody else is close.

VANETTI: Right, but look back at last year. Kentucky’s regular season was as bad as I have seen it in a long time.

JONES: But Cal did a great job for those three weeks, but even he would tell you it wasn’t his best coaching job. But last year’s Kentucky run was impressive, they beat teams that were better than them. Wichita was better than them, Louisville, and you could argue even Michigan, and Wisconsin too. Kentucky won all of those games. This Louisville thing is different. They’re taking advantage of a fortunate bracket, but spare me the notion that this is some kind of crazy great coaching job. It’s taking advantage of a great bracket.

VANETTI: Well they certainly look better than they did a couple of weeks ago, so I’ll give coach Pitino credit for that.

JONES: Well, they did in the Northern Iowa game, but they looked terrible in the UC Irvine game.

VANETTI: UC Irvine had the 17 foot aircraft carrier at center and they are a talented team. Do not diminish their accomplishments my friend!

JONES: And how great was that player?

VANETTI: No, there’s no question. Everytime he caught the ball it looked like a tennis ball.

JONES: So you think both teams are in next week?

VANETTI: I want to say yes. Yes!

JONES: I think they are too, and then I think Duke beats Louisville, Kentucky beats Wisconsin and the NCAA gets Kentucky-Duke in a final game that will be the highest rated thing in 30 years.