The Best is Yet to Come

TONY VANETTI: Well, one Mangok free throw away from the Cardinals crashing your Cat party in Indianapolis.

MATT JONES: It goes to show that luck doesn’t always win out for a team. I wasn’t amazed that they had the chance, as I picked them to go the Final Four, but they were very fortunate, as they could have lost the first round, Mangok with his first free-throw defied the laws of physics to go in. But luckily he missed the second and Michigan State won.

VANETTI: Well, the night before a couple of free-throws won you guys the game. I particularly enjoyed the look of depression with four minutes to go, and you’re only down just a couple of points, and yes you did come back and win, but boy your fan base did look like they were wondering, ‘How is this even possible? We can’t lose before the Final Four!’

JONES: You just epitomized what it has been like to be a UofL fan this year. You can’t say anything about what’s going on, on the court and you actually get joy out of almost losses. I will remind you that Kentucky is still 38-0 going into the Final Four.

VANETTI: Yes, they are but we can get a little joy out of the almost puckering of the UK fans on Saturday night.

JONES: But you know Tony, that’s been one of the things that’s been amazing about this group, because they’ve had five or six games where they reasonably could have lost; against Ole Miss, Texas A&M, LSU, Georgia and now Notre Dame. In all five of those games it came down to the last minute or two and they’ve won all of them. You really have to give them credit for that. With a minute to go, if it’s a one point game, and it’s kind of a toss up, but Kentucky have now had five of those games and they haven’t lost one. That is impressive.

VANETTI: Yes, and it was impressive after the game when Karl-Anthony Towns was very gracious and giving his coach some pointers on how to be like that after a game.

JONES: Oh stop it! That’s the most ridiculous story of all time. What do people want him to say? He did not think his team played well. What is wrong with saying that? Notre Dame played well, and we played badly. Why is that rude? I don’t get that. People just look for something to criticize about Calipari.

VANETTI: Well, when you’re here to complain that you’re the most scrutinized basketball program in the country, we’re here to make sure you earn it. I think most of the Louisville fans were impressed on how you finished that game, I will agree with that. When it came down to the nuts and bolts of it, Aaron Harrison came down again with some big free throws and Notre Dame with a dumb play at the end of the game, where the guy went into the corner and you guys were just waiting for him. It was a great game that has to go down as one of the most exciting NCAA games even though you guys have had a lot of those lately.

JONES: Oh, it’s great. In terms of Elite Eight games, it’s one of the best of all time. But getting back to Louisville for a second, they were right there, got back in it. Do you get the feeling, and I’m not talking trash here, that it’s kind of the end of an era now that Blackshear, Harrell and Rozier are gone? I know that Pitino said that last year, but I feel like it’s more the case this year – this sort of glory era for the Cardinals is ending.

VANETTI: Well it looks like that from the outside looking in but, if you’re a Louisville fan, Pitino pieces teams together sort of every year. He has kids leave. Let’s look at Wayne Blackshear’s class. You had Chane Behanan, Kevin Ware, Zack Price and Angel Nunez and Wayne was the only one to make it to senior year.

JONES: Yeah, but there is a difference though. Louisville for the past few years have had two or three guys each year you knew were good. Take this year, Chris Jones, Harrell and Rozier were good. Now, Jones didn’t make into the end of the year, but you had the solid pieces. I look at that team next year and I don’t see anybody that’s certainly good. I think you’re best player is probably Quentin Snider, who halfway through the year was not even playing. I hope Louisville is bad, but I have to tell you this isn’t just me talking trash, I just don’t see how they will be good next year.

VANETTI: Well, again. I think they will struggle next year, and I think it’s going to be one of those coaching years where Rick is going to have to dumb down the schedule and the first 15 opponents are going to have to be very winnable games in order to stack the win column for a while. They certainly won’t be ranked in the top-20 or top-25 for the season. You’re right, they don’t have a solid base because outside of Mangok and Snider they don’t have that much in terms of coverage. Louisville is most likely going to struggle in the ACC..

JONES: Well, let’s talk about the teams that are still playing – the Wildcats. Wisconsin, I’ve said all season, will be their toughest matchup and I think they are the one team who could beat them. Wisconsin to me, and maybe Duke were the only teams who could do that. How do you see that game going?

VANETTI: Well, everyone has been complaining about Kentucky’s schedule, and how they didn’t play so and so after a certain date but they are going to make you earn it. I agree with you. To me it was a coin flip between Arizona and Wisconsin and maybe I’m wrong about that. To me, I thought the worst matchup for Kentucky was Arizona as they are more athletic, but they are going to make you beat them. It’s going to be a big matchup.

JONES: If Kentucky plays Duke – is that the biggest game in college basketball in the last 25 years? An undefeated Kentucky versus Duke.

VANETTI: It’s certainly tight.

JONES: I think you have to go back to UNLV-Duke and look at all those storylines. You have the two most famous coaches in college basketball in Calipari and Coach K. You’ve got the likely number one and number two picks in the draft. You have an undefeated team, going for 40-0 against probably the program that’s been the best in the last 30 years. I’m not sure you can get a bigger game can you?

VANETTI: That’s why you tend to think someone is going to screw it up! I’ve got to tell you though. As a college basketball fan, that is a match-up I want to see. Besides the Louisville-Michigan actual game, which was so fun to watch, whichever side you were on, the national title game has been a let down, even with Kentucky winning it against Kansas. They started the year beating them by 10 and ended the year beating them by 10. There was no real drama, and I think college basketball needs this game. Let’s be honest, y’all are very popular, but you are also the two programs that everyone loves to hate!

JONES: It would be like Darth Vader playing against Lex Luther! I love it though. If Kentucky goes undefeated they will have played the best conference champ in Notre Dame, they will have played a two-time Final Four team in Wisconsin and they will have played Duke. If you beat those teams and go 40-0 you have to say it’s one of the handful of best seasons in the history of college basketball. VT