Cal Can’t Have it Both Ways

TONY VANETTI: Let’s talk about the Harrison twins. Let’s look at last year. They didn’t go to the NBA because they were not going to get drafted as high as they thought. so they come back for a second year and now there are rumblings that one of them is not good enough to start ahead of some of the new players. So what’s going on with the twins?

Matt Jones: They are two of the most unfairly scrutinized college basketball players in a long time. The national media and even some fans just keep pounding on them, but I would just point a few things out. In two years they have taken the team to a national title game, and have remained undefeated in a season that’s the fourth best start in UK history. Last time I checked, that’s not too bad. So if that’s considered to be some kind of disappointment or failure, sign me up for that all the time.

VANETTI: I agree with everything you just said, because there is no doubt about it, when you go play for Kentucky that’s what you sign up for. But the system that Calipari sets up is, ‘We’re going to get you to the NBA as fast as you can.’ But if you have four guards at the end of the year, are the twins guaranteed to go? Or are you going to have a log jam of four guards? Because Booker, Ulis, and the twins make four.

Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison scored nine points versus Texas A&M.

Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison scored nine points versus Texas A&M.

Matt Jones: They will probably go regardless; even if they’re second round picks. But again, I don’t understand people’s criticism. Calipari has been criticized for five years for the “one and done” phenomenon. Then you get a kid who is successful in college and all people can say is that they’re not going to be good in the NBA. Well, that speaks for them if it’s true, although I’m not certain if that’s true. But what do you want from the guy? It’s a perfect example of a situation of a guy who cannot win. He brings in kids who have good college careers, and are good kids, like Alex Poythress and the twins, but if they don’t go to the NBA that’s terrible, and if a kid does go to the NBA then that’s terrible too.

VANETTI: Boo hoo, Kentucky drama. You’re undefeated. You’re still ranked.

Jones: But you’re the one that brought it up. Here’s the thing, think about Peyton Siva, for Louisville. Here was a kid that for the first year, or year and a half was kind of a disappointment because he was a McDonald’s All-American who came in and didn’t play great. By the time he finished, he was one of the most beloved players Louisville ever had. Now, he didn’t play in the NBA, so is he a disappointment? Is he someone who we should all think is terrible?

VANETTI: Yes, he spent the first three years leaving us wondering what this guy was going to do, but he left the school with a national title and a back to back Final Fours and towards the end he was playing at a high level of point guard. And he took a lot of hits, including from your John Calipari who said ‘A lof of my guys are in the NBA, while the other guy is still in college.’

Jones: Well that was more about Rick and Cal. Here’s what I think it is, for media people, they hate Cal. Right now it’s hard to criticize Cal, because he took his team to the national title game and is undefeated, so they have to find something else.

VANETTI: He’s put a little weight on; he’s getting a little chunky.

Jones: Now as far as basketball games, they have had some close game, but are still winning. Let’s talk about your Cards for a second, because they’re kind of the opposite. They played their best game of the year I would argue, in a loss at North Carolina. So do you feel good about where Louisville is?

VANETTI: That’s where fans’ heads explode, because you’re exactly right. They played their best game since Ohio State, and they lost. But the frustrating part is that they were up by 14 points and they didn’t finish. What happened against Kentucky last year in the Sweet Sixteen, we were up and didn’t finish. None of these games really matter, though.

Jones: I do think they matter more for Louisville because speed is going to be an issue for them. If you’re Louisville you would love to get a two seed,* but you definitely don’t want to drop below a three. I think there’s a difference between a one seed and everyone else. I don’t think you want to play a one seed in the Sweet Sixteen.

If Chris Jones plays at the level he’s played the last couple games then Louisville is going to be fine, because they’ll have three really good players. I still don’t think they are great, but they’re very good. I thought Louisville was going to lose five to six conference games but I’m hedging a little bit because that was with the assumption of the Chris Jones that kind of stunk in the non-conference. If Chris Jones plays at this level, Louisville will be better than I thought they were going to be two weeks ago.

VANETTI: Well let’s look at Louisville. Trez is starting to get some heat for not rebounding and/or not playing defense as well as he is playing offense, at this point, and of course the famous Wayne Blackshear, he’s catching a lot of guff from fans…

Jones: But Wayne is a senior, and he’s just not very good, and that stinks because he was a McDonald’s All American. He’s had four years and it’s just not happening. For Harrell – he’s not a great defender, but he’s never been a great defender. He’s a great shot blocker but he’s not a great defender. I think some of the criticism he gets for rebounding is unfair to him, too. At least he’s rebounding. What’s the hell is the rest of your team doing? I mean the rest of the team does not rebound. So you leave Montrezl Harrell in there, I noticed this against Kentucky, he goes one on two or one on three – he’s not going to win all those battles.

VANETTI: I agree.

Jones: So I don’t blame him for the rebounding. His defense isn’t great but I don’t know that it’s ever been great.

VANETTI: I thought that there were two things in that North Carolina game: Wayne Blackshear missing the open shot that was his shot to take, I mean Chris should have passed it to him. And Rozier got another look at it. I’m not upset the way the end of the game ended, but there has been a lot of talk of Dicky V. and his tribune to Stuart Scott and the ‘Booya! Booya! Booya!’ What are your thoughts on that?

Jones: Well I had zero problem with it. And it’s not because I like when Louisville loses. I would hope I would have zero problem with that if it was Kentucky on the other side, although that’s always harder. But look, somebody died. I have a rule of thumb across the board on all parts of my life. When somebody dies, give everybody a break, okay? Because when people die, that’s a hard thing. That’s more important than a freaking basketball game. Dick Vitale worked with Stuart Scott for 20 years in some form. Stuart Scott’s most notorious thing is “Booya!” and being a Carolina fan. If they win the game like that, right after he passed away, give the guy a break. If he had done that during a regular game when Stuart Scott was still alive, then I could get it and you being upset, but Scott just passed away, give him a break.

VANETTI: I agree. I’m okay with the tribute. I think the way he did it could have different. He could have said, “In tribute of my friend, here’s a little ‘Booya! Booya! Booya!’ for North Carolina…”

Jones: Okay and if people were upset in the moment I get that, but now that people have had time to reflect and know what he was doing…

VANETTI: So when you pass away and I’m calling a game, what do you want me to yell out?

Jones: You can sing Conway Twitty lyrics. Whatever you want. Listen, when I pass away, if you are still alive then anything you say will be wonderful because you will be one of six people who are Louisville fans who say something nice. VT