Bad Moon Rising for Cards?

Tony Vanetti: Louisville played their second top five match-up of the year and it ended the same way. Even though I think Louisville played better against Kentucky than they did against Duke, it didn’t come out well for the Cards.

Matt Jones: Yeah Louisville was awful for most of the game. The takeaway for me is, everybody focuses on Louisville not being able to shoot but they haven’t been able to shoot all year, and they’ve kind of got through all that. The bigger thing is Montrezl Harrell – we’ve all convinced ourselves that he’s a superstar but he’s played three games against ranked teams this year, and he’s scored nine, nine, and 10 points. Is it possible that Montrezl Harrell as a sort of national top five guy is slightly overrated?

Vanetti: I think there’s something to that; I wouldn’t argue that. I think the fact that everyone is pointing to is that he has changed his game a tad bit to be more like the NBA style that he’s going to play at the next level, with the outside shooting…

Jones: He needs to take no outside shots. No outside shots! He’s an okay shooter, but there’s no reason he should be shooting from the outside.

Vanetti: We’re discussing whether he’s a high-profile first team All American. We all agree that he’s a great player, but is he an All American against the good competition, like you said? He hasn’t had superstar performances. I think he suffers when he plays legit big men in the low-post. He just doesn’t have the body He’s 6’6”? 6’7”? He has long arms, so he gets rebounds when he’s not supposed to. He can dunk a ball when he’s supposed to, but if he’s going to play legitimate 6’10” and 6’11” big men with talent and good feet, it’s a problem with him.

Jones: You hit it right there. He’s not as tall as people think. He’s played against three guys in Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor and Kennedy Meeks on North Carolina. All of them will play in the league to some level. And he (Harrell) just hasn’t looked like a guy that can score, and that’s a problem for Louisville. We’ll see how the rest of the season goes. I told you all along, I think they will lose five or six conference games – are you finally ready to come and agree with me?

Vanetti: Well Rick Pitino was agreeing with Matt Jones after the game. He said they thought they would get 22 wins. I think the jury is still out whether they can turn this thing around, and figure out what’s gone wrong. Again, they’re 15-3 with three losses to three of the best teams in college basketball.

Jones: But they have no good wins! I agree with you generally speaking, if a team is 15-3 you sort of lay off. But they haven’t beaten anyone good. Minnesota was 0-5 in conference at one point. We’ll see. Here’s how we’ll judge Louisville: Can they beat Virginia, Syracuse and Carolina? If they can win two or three of those then I’d say ‘okay they’re still good.’ But if they lose all of them, which is legitimately possible, then I think you start to go “well, the shine is gone.”

Two quick things before we get off topic. Do you – a) think it matters that Montrezl Harrell is no longer a captain? And b) are you worried about the program going forward, once Harrell, (Chris) Jones and maybe (Terry) Rozier are gone?

Vanetti: Let’s tackle the Harrell thing first. I think this is typical mid-season form for Louisville, and Rick, and the players where we all believe that everything is falling apart. This is right on time.

Jones: He does the drama every year, doesn’t he?

Vanetti: He does and this is what you learn to live with. It’s the same thing every year with a different player, and it was Chris Jones a couple of weeks ago. But this is right on time at the beginning of conference play, and then at the conference tournament the team comes together and talks about brotherhood. So this is right on time with that; I’m not worried that he’s not a captain anymore.

At the end of last year with the loss to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen Rick said, “that was the end of an era.” The end of the era is after this year. Next year everyone is young. The rebuilding year for Louisville is next year, so a lot of Louisville fans will be hoping they will go deep in the tournament this year because they know what’s coming next year.

Jones: I will say one thing, that Donovan Mitchell kid is for real. He’s a really good player.

Vanetti: Okay, Kentucky doesn’t play a ranked team all the way out. Does that concern you going into the tournament in terms of preparation for March?

Jones: A little. But here’s the thing about the SEC. The bottom are better this year than they have been the past couple of years. There isn’t really a top besides Kentucky. So in year’s past you’ve had Kentucky, Florida, and a team ranked three to five. This year there’s no Florida. So it’s a little concerning, but the Kentucky team is so good, I’m not sure if it’s going to matter. But yeah, I wish they had one or two more games in the conference that were harder.

Vanetti: Well, we know the Louisville drama from a few weeks ago with Montrezl Harrell and Chris Jones. But what is the drama involving UK right now?

Jones: The only possible drama are the people who play up the Andrew Harrison/Tyler Ulis thing, which I think Calipari and his team have done a really good job of trying to ignore that. Let’s just say for the purpose of argument that the guys on the second year are better than the guys on the first year. Who cares? They’re winning by so much, it’s kind of irrelevant. VT