Bring Out the Crystal Ball

Photo by VICTORIA GRAFF | Contributing Photographer

Photo by VICTORIA GRAFF | Contributing Photographer

Tony Vanetti: I know you’re going to disagree with me but I really think that it’s a quiet 19-0 for the Cats.

Matt Jones: Well, quiet, in the sense that there hasn’t been any huge moments where people thought they could lose, etc. But they’re still the most talked about team in the country. College basketball is weird this year because we’ve got a bunch of good teams, but only one really great team. I know you loved Neal Brown’s quote about football where he said “We are the show.” But in basketball when it comes to this season I do think that we are the show.

Vanetti: ESPN is in love with UK, now CBS, I mean Kentucky is the darling. You’ve got a million draft picks on the team, you’re undefeated. I know Virginia is sitting there. Whoever loses first will have a little more pressure on them. But around town, you go to Kroger, you go to ball games with your kids, and the Kentucky fans, there’s not a lot of talk about that, you go “oh yeah, Kentucky is playing tonight.” That’s it. I mean there’s not a lot of drama, the team’s playing well…

Jones: Well there’s no drama, I agree with that. And amazingly Cal has done a good job of that. He’s made it such that the only drama is about point-guard controversy that isn’t even real. If you think about it, considering the attention on the team, for there to be no drama really is a testament to Cal. Let me ask you this: if they were to go undefeated in the regular season, should Cal be national coach of the year?

Vanetti: Oh, I think there’s no question. I think there’s a couple people you look at, but Calipari – oh my gosh – since the end of the regular last season until now. I think he should get credit for the tweak last year, for as much as we made fun of it. I called him a clown at the end of the regular season last year and took a lot of guff for it. And what did he do? He turned it around that next afternoon. Just to get back at me, really.

Jones: (laughs)

Vanetti: But this year, if you go the regular season undefeated, and I get that Wichita State did it last year…

Jones: It’s not the same as when they did it. The SEC isn’t great, I grant you that. But in the SEC even the worst team has got good athletes on it. And that’s not true in the other leagues. UK would be the first big five conference school to do it since 1976. And yes, he should be national coach of the year. And here’s another question, who is the best player on UK’s team right now?

Vanetti: Well the one most people are talking about is Booker. They love that kid. Right now he’s getting the headlines. He’s moving up the draft board. Is Willie falling off, is that what you’re saying?

Jones: No, no, no. My point is just to say, this is what’s so amazing about this team. If you ask people who is the best player on the team, you might have gotten Willie, Karl-Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, and some people might still argue Tyler Ulis. It’s absolutely crazy with this group. Depending on the moment, it can be a different team. They’ve already had seven different guys lead the team in scoring. But right now Devin Booker can shoot the ball, almost unfathomably well, and I keep worrying he’s only going to play one more year.

Vanetti: Okay, but if the game comes down to the end, for Louisville I think everyone wants Terry Rozier to have the ball in his hands, taking the shot, handling the ball. For Kentucky, you’re going to play a tight game coming down the stretch, who is it? Andrew is handling the rock, Aaron is handling the rock, who do you want to have the last shot?

Jones: I think Aaron. Until Aaron misses one, I’m thinking Aaron Harrison. Here’s what they found in the last few weeks, their crunch time line up. It looks to be Ulis, Booker, one of the twins, Dakari and Willis. That’s who they’re going to go with. As far as who takes the shot, it will be whoever is open. This is a different group. There’s no star, but then there are a lot of stars. It’s really strange. But on the other side, UofL actually played really well this week and looks to be on the upkick. Now their schedule after Boston College starts to get harder, do you like where Louisville is, or is it more a reflection of their last couple of opponents.

Vanetti: We’ve said it since the beginning of the season, the margin for error for Louisville is very small and the margin for Kentucky is very wide; they can have injuries, and foul trouble, and you’re still going to win. For Louisville we know we need to keep the big three on the court and Rick has realized that. He knows the big three players are going to play 40 minutes each game and if either one gets into foul trouble then the chemistry seems to fall off. The Wayne Blackshear as a captain experiment is over. He is who he is, Terry Rozier is a bona fide star, and Trez is great when he plays how he should. They got some confidence back at Pittsburgh. Anyway I saw Coach K got his 1000th win, and I know that you’ve made a living making fun of him. What are your overall thoughts on him?

Jones: He doesn’t seem like a dude I’d want to hang out with, but he’s the greatest coach of all time. I would put Coach K number one because I think it’s a lot harder to do what he does now, in this era. Four titles, tons of Final Fours and the most wins of any coach and with Duke. He’s the greatest coach of all time.