Welcome to the Big Dance!

TONY VANETTI: Alright, it’s the big dance. Let’s talk a little basketball. I thought it was ironic or weird that Denny Crum predicted that Louisville would be out in the second round and Matt Jones predicted Louisville could go to the Final Four.

MATT JONES: You can back me up on this, Tony. I predicted UofL’s fate in the tournament correctly for five straight years and this year, I looked at their bracket and, I don’t think there’s anybody that they can’t beat. If you’re Rick Pitino you’d probably say, okay, I’ve got a No. 1 and 2 seed. The two, I’ve got the best chance of beating. They both get put in Louisville’s bracket and don’t get me wrong: they could easily lose the first game, but I do think they have a chance to go to the Final Four.

VANETTI: Well if you’re going by that standard then, do you think that is the weakest side of the bracket?

JONES: I don’t know. I don’t think it’s the weakest. I mean Duke’s bracket is the weakest but it is the most wide open. I think the No.3 seed in that bracket is Oklahoma. There’s nobody in that bracket that’s a powerhouse. So anyone can win it. I actually think there’s a lot of dangerous teams in that bracket. At the top there isn’t like some power that has to be knocked off.

VANETTI: Okay, let’s project Kentucky through a couple of games and let’s project Notre Dame the No. 3 seed to get it to the same spot. Have you thought about that match up, at all?

JONES: Here’s what I think: Notre Dame hasn’t been to the Elite Eight since 1999. So I’m not going to sit there and worry about Notre Dame in the Elite Eight until they get there. I look at that bracket and I say there’s a lot of ways for Notre Dame to lose before they get there. They’re the hardest matchup for Kentucky in their brackets but at the same time, people are assuming something about Notre Dame that isn’t necessarily true, which is that they always shoot well. Now if they come out and shoot well against Kentucky they’ve got a decent shot to beat them, but they don’t always shoot well and they play zero defense. Like, negative zero defense. And Kentucky can score. Last year’s Kentucky team couldn’t really score. This team can, so while I think Notre Dame is the toughest game for UK in that bracket, I also don’t think it’s the huge problem that some people do.

VANETTI: Alright, this is an easy question for either team: what does Louisville do best and what do they do worst, and the same for Kentucky?

JONES: Well, why don’t you give some opinions here too Tony.

VANETTI: I would say Kentucky’s best case scenario is that they hit the Final Four with very little difficulty. Notre Dame gets beaten out before they have to play Kentucky. Worst case, you play Maryland in the Sweet Sixteen. Melo Trimble can get really hot and you get knocked off. For Louisville best case is they go to the Final Four where they get beat by Duke. Worst case they come out cold as ice and they’re down three and they don’t have anybody like Russ Smith to bail ‘em out this year.

JONES: I will agree with that. I like both of those assessments. But here’s my question with the tournament real quick: Kentucky’s a No. 1 overall seed. Shouldn’t they have the easiest route? I don’t understand why…

VANETTI: Oh yeah!

JONES: Why haven’t people been asking that question more? You look at the right side of the bracket and it’s clearly the left side where Kentucky is that has got more traps.

VANETTI: My only complaint about the bracket at all is that Wisconsin and Arizona are on Kentucky’s side for the semi-finals but to be fair, that’s probably where they should be. They probably are the 4th and 5th seeded teams. So I can’t complain too much. If they just flipped and put Villanova’s bracket where Arizona and Wisconsin’s bracket is, I think everybody would think it looked really fair, all the way around, but they didn’t and so be it. You’ve got to play those teams anyway. Once you get to the Final Four, I think you have an expectation that you’re going to play somebody good. So I’m not overly concerned about it.

Alright, the estimates say that 40,000 Kentucky fans could invade Louisville this weekend. Also Prince Charles and Camilla are arriving on Friday. That should be a good mix. The Royals and Big Blue Nation together this Friday.

JONES: I forgot about Prince Charles coming Friday, too. That should be good. We can put one of those 34-0 shirts on him, and I think everybody would be really happy. As for, Louisville, they’re going to Seattle you know? A little Peyton Siva reunion. What do you make of sending the Cards out to the West coast?

VANETTI: Well I will tell you this little side note. Everytime one of the former players would show up at the KFC Yum! Center, Louisville would play terrible. Everyone wanted to impress their former teammate. So I’m hoping those guys are not going to show up. It could be pretty exciting in Seattle…But it’s a long haul going out to Seattle. Obviously there’s not going to be a lot of Louisville fans, since it’s pretty tough to get out there for a couple of days to go to the game. It’s so much more manageable if they can get lucky enough to get it together, and win those first two games, and move to Syracuse, which I think is a little bit better place for Louisville to go to a Sweet Sixteen game.

JONES: Yeah, listen, no offense to all the various people that are picking Northern Iowa to beat Louisville, but I would question how many of these people have watched Northern Iowa probably more than once.

This always happens with the tournaments. Like, “Hey, there’s a school that would be cool to say is good. Let’s say Northern Iowa.” Now I actually have seen Northern Iowa play. I’ve been to Northern Iowa’s arena. And they are good, but they’re not better than Louisville. So if Louisville plays well they will beat Northern Iowa, and Northern Iowa could easily lose to Wyoming in that very first game. So Louisville got the perfect draw. If Rick Pitino had made the draw himself, he couldn’t have done a better job giving his team a chance. Now they have the ability, however, to suck as much as anybody else, but here’s the thing people don’t talk about when it comes to Louisville. While they have had problems this year, they really haven’t lost to anybody “bad,” but they haven’t beaten very many teams that are “good.” So I look at that bracket and say for at least the first two games, they’re better than Northern Iowa, they’re better than Wyoming, they’re better than UC Irvine. They haven’t lost to a bad team all year. My guess is they win both of those games.

VANETTI: Yeah, they haven’t been blown out. The only two games in which they looked particularly bad were the Notre Dame and Duke games. Other than those games, they were in every other game. Even against Kentucky there was an eight point loss and it was really the last six or seven minutes of the game when Louisville looked bad. So I agree with you. They’ve never been blown out of games, and they’re going to be in every one of them all the way out here, possibly to the Final Four.

JONES: Here’s how fickle fans are: Louisville still is not good this year, okay? A lot of fans, if they get to the Sweet Sixteen, will talk about what a great job Rick did. Even though it will take beating UC Irvine and maybe Northern Iowa. Two teams from conferences that are you know, not good, but that’s how silly fans are.

VANETTI: It’s going to be fun. Let’s throw the ball up, buddy. We’ll see you in Indianapolis, okay? I’ve already got my reservations.