Defeated, But Still Great

TONY VANETTI: Okay Matt, the season is over. Kentucky did not get out of the semi-finals, how are you coping with it?

MATT JONES: I’m alright. I was disappointed for a couple of days but it only stings when you think you’re the best team and you don’t win. But the NCAA tournament is fickle and the best team does not always win. In fact, the best team often doesn’t win and Kentucky did not. It’s still a great season to go 38-1 but the one loss will loom large.

VANETTI: Do you still believe that Kentucky is the best team?

JONES: Oh yeah, definitely, Kentucky was the best team. Look, think about baseball. The best team will play 162 games and the best team will win 100 and lose the other 62. In football, teams lose; that’s just part of it. And in basketball teams lose a lot. Duke lost by 20 points at home to Miami. That happened, so it’s all about timing and Kentucky lost at a bad time. They lost to a Wisconsin team that was probably the third best team, but Wisconsin matched up well with Kentucky, and so they lost. But if they played 10 times I think Kentucky would beat Wisconsin more times than they wouldn’t.

VANETTI: Was there salt in the wound that Duke won the title and four of their freshman scored most of the points, and the headline read, “How Awesome Is It That Duke is Winning With Freshmen?” Is that a little twist of the knife?

JONES: That’s assuming that I care what idiot journalists say. One of the things that I have learned is that college basketball journalists have the collective basketball sense of a pear. I’m really not concerned at all about what they have to say. It’s hypocritical when they do that, but we’ve known they have been hypocritical about Calipari forever. Kryszewski winning with all freshmen is impressive just like it was impressive when Cal did it.

VANETTI: Some people will look and think that we put way too much emphasis on the post-season and Louisville fans have a legitimate point when they say that UK is the greatest team ever, and yet UK played 35 minutes more than Louisville because they went into overtime with Michigan State.

JONES: Yeah, and that’s what stupid people would say. Was Kentucky last year better than the team this year? No! Of course not. That Kentucky team last year lost 10 games, but they made it one round further. So a stupid person would look at that and say they are better. We sports fans put way too much emphasis on things that could go either way. That’s the nature of college basketball, it’s what makes it great and it’s why the NCAA tournament is awesome. But it also means that people go crazy about something that happened in a one game scenario. And there I think you are making a mistake.

Vanetti: So moving forward, as Calipari goes, there are rumors about him going to the NBA. What are the odds he takes off?

Jones: He’s not going to. He knows where he’s supposed to be. He’s a better college coach than he was an NBA coach. He’ll be smart and he will stay, and then next year Kentucky will have to console itself with another number one pre-season ranking.

Vanetti: Alright, let’s go back to the championship game real quick. Coach K wins his fifth; one more than Rupp. He has now secured himself in a category all his own. Your opinion on Coach K?

Jones: I think he’s the best coach ever. I do. It’s much harder to win it now than it was when Wooden won it. It just is. More teams care about it; there’s more parody; there’s more everything. It is harder now than it was before. To win five now is like winning 10 back then, which is how many Wooden won. So I think he’s the greatest coach ever. He’s also an example of how things can be fickle. Last year, the greatest coach ever lost to Mercer, and this year they won the title. It just goes to show, you never know what will happen, but at the end of the day you judge a coach by a long period of time. And over a long period of time he has been amazing.

Vanetti: How has your fan base been handling the situation?

Jones: Everybody’s sad. It’s sad. Come on Tony, you know how it is. You’re probably sad for us. We liked this team so much.

Vanetti: I did like the players on this team, there’s no doubt about it. Karl Anthony Towns, Booker, and even Willie. Do you want to take a guess and put it in print, how many will go and how many will stay?

Jones: Five will definitely go. In the end, Dakari is close, I think Booker comes back, and next year Kentucky will be really good. I think they’ll sign one or two more big time recruits and then you’ll get another great team.

Now Louisville is doing their own one and done strategy here it looks like, just with guys who are old with beards. How do you think that’s going to work out?

Vanetti: Well it’s exactly right. He’s taking the fifth year guys. He’s got Trey Lewis who is coming in from Cleveland State. He was their leading scorer. Pitino is trying to shore up some outside shooting, trying to fill the holes left by some of the guys that left last year. I don’t know how that will work. We all know that if you don’t play defense, you don’t get on the floor. So Trey Lewis better get on it with the match-up zone pretty quick or he’s not going to see the floor. We also have Mitchell coming in next year who could help with that backcourt.

Jones: Well Kentucky did that. Kentucky has Julius Mays and he was almost an exact clone of this guy. He was the leading scorer for Wright State in the same conference, and he came in and he helped Kentucky just like I think this kid will help Louisville.