Â By CHRISTIE LEIGH MUELLER
The cold front might finally be here, but things are heating up with Vanetti and Jones as basketball season nears. There are a few more important kick-offs for each team, but with a promising undefeated season for the football Cardinals and a season that canâ€™t end soon enough for the Cats, weâ€™re talking tip-offs this week. Start learning your facts about the defending national champs and the best freshmen class in the country.Â Itâ€™s game time!
VANETTI: What was it like having crazier fans than your own in Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night?
JONES:Â Alabama fans in football are like Kentucky fans in basketball. They are by far the best fan base. There were more Alabama fans at that game than any road team I can remember, including Louisville and Tennessee who are close. I like them. They are insane. They all dress up and wear weird outfits and dance. I was a huge fan.Â It was also good to be around fans of a classy nature after having to deal with Louisville so much recently.
VANETTI: Is it the best Kentucky football fans have been for a 1-5 team?
JONES: The next game against Mississippi State is big for Kentucky fans. Basketball is about to start. Kentucky needs to play well in that game to keep the fan base. That Alabama team is the best team Iâ€™ve ever seen play in Commonwealth in at least the last twenty years.Â So UK fans knew they were going to get beaten by them, so itâ€™s important for them to win the next game to keep people engaged.
VANETTI: Itâ€™s mid-way through the season, letâ€™s do a State of the Union on both teams. Starting with Louisville. At this point in the season, if you would have told me that the defense was better than the offense, I would have been surprised, and I am surprised. The offense is having trouble in the red zone right now. They arenâ€™t running the ball that wellâ€”which everyone was hoping was going to happen â€“â€“Â we didnâ€™t know we were going to get Perry back, we got him; we didnâ€™t know we were going to have Michael Dyer the transfer from Auburn, we got him; and Dominique Brown the starter from last year. So you hadÂ three legitimate starters and the rushing game isnâ€™t living up to it. Half way through the season, 6-0; we were supposed to be 6-0. Weâ€™ve hit status quo and are ranked in the Top 10.
JONES: Again, I donâ€™t know how to judge this team. You can say whatever you want to say. The optimist will say they are 6-0 and are heading to a BCS game. The pessimist will say, you guys should be great, you should be blowing people out but youâ€™ve only played two competitive games. Thatâ€™s not good.Â I think Teddyâ€™s great; defense is better than people thoughtâ€”myself includedâ€”the rest of the offense has probably been a little bit of a disappointment but it doesnâ€™t matter. You donâ€™tÂ play anybody so youâ€™re going to go 12-0.Â Really, your season is all on one game when you play in the BCS, probably against South Carolina or Florida State. If you win, youâ€™re happy. If you lose, youâ€™re not. And thatâ€™s your year.
VANETTI: Itâ€™s a long way off to try to predict who UofL will be playing in the bowl game, but obviously it will be one of the biggies in the BCS. Theyâ€™ll be able to prove themselves like they did last year.Â Kentucky, on the other hand, itâ€™s the most happy Iâ€™ve seen Kentucky fans at 1-5. I think they are happy with Stoops.
JONES: The only thing to be disappointed about is losing to Western. The rest of the season is about what youâ€™d expect it to be. Youâ€™ll judge this Kentucky team on these last six games.Â Theyâ€™ll beat Alabama State, theyâ€™ll probably lose to Georgia.Â So in those other four games, if they can find a way to win one or two of those gamesâ€”Tennessee, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State â€“ then I think itâ€™s a very successful year.
VANETTI:Â Can you keepÂ Maxwell Smith healthy for the next six-game run?
JONES:Â Whitlow will be back before the end of the year, but probably not against Mississippi State. Max Smith is not the Max Smith that we thought, his arm is kind of dead. I think he gets one game to prove himself and if that doesnâ€™t happen, you hope Whitlow is healthy. But that doesnâ€™t really matter. None of these guys are the quarterbacks of the future.Â Really, what we are excited about is basketball season starting on Friday. Things are about to get nasty in Lexington.
VANETTI: I know how good Kentucky basketball will be every year based on how obnoxious Matt Jones is. Â Last year he seemed to be very even keel, honest and rational. This year, he is already over the top driving me nuts on a daily basis. Which, equals, they are going to be awesome this year.Â Youâ€™re really a good gauge.
JONES: Well, they are going to be awesome this year and I plan on getting more obnoxious.Â I donâ€™t think non-Kentucky fans really get how good they are.Â Iâ€™m not saying they are going to win, teams can always get upset, but they have no weaknesses. Everything that you need a team to do, they have one or two guys that can do it.
VANETTI: Matt has the ability to levitate and float from place to place when he knows the team is good, he’s like a Jedi. They are going to be scary.
JONES: You need to be scared. This is going to be a level that UK may not hit again for a few years.Â They have seven guys who will get drafted in the first round if they come out. Thatâ€™s unprecedented.Â They are going to completely demolish the other teams.
VANETTI: The Kentucky fans took a hiatus and now they are back.Â The whole state is going to be set on fire. Louisville, of course, is loaded, too and they are ready to go. The problem is, neither schedule is exactly over the top. Kentucky has a better schedule at the beginning.
JONES: Kentucky has a better schedule everywhere. Yâ€™all are the defending National Champs; you play Kentucky, North Carolina and a bunch of bones. Thatâ€™s the worst schedule Iâ€™ve ever seen. That American Conferenceâ€¦why couldnâ€™t they get some out-of-conference games?
VANETTI: Itâ€™s one year. They got the notice to get into the ACC last year, Matthew.Â They will play the schedule thatâ€™s in front of them, they will demolish their opponents and then go into the tournament as a number one seed. Hopefully yâ€™all donâ€™t choke out with a bunch of freshmen and Louisville will see yâ€™all in the championship game.
JONES: Louisville is better at football than you think, and they are not going to be as good in basketball as they think. Certainly still a contender, but there is no comparison to Kentucky. You all have one NBA player, maybe two. You have a bunch of role players.Â And thatâ€™s nice. Thatâ€™s sweet. Itâ€™s a good Louisville team. You make them apple pie and let them play Tulane and Houston and everyone can enjoy it. But Kentucky is a rock star team this year and itâ€™s not the same thing.
VANETTI: Obviously your blind faith about Kentucky and your new love of the freshmen has kept you delusional that 70% of the scoring is back and Rick Pitino has shooters. When he has shooters, the system works, the machine works, and everyone else should go home.
JONES: Well Iâ€™ll tell you what no one is talking about that is a serious issue for Louisville, the rules have changed. Theyâ€™ve done for college what they did for the NBA a decade a go, theyâ€™ve eliminated hand checking on the perimeter. And when you go to the basket, any bump in the lane will be a foul. If itâ€™s actually enforced, UofL will have to adjust how they play defense because they were so good at defense last year.
VANETTI: Rick will adjust and theyâ€™ll be just fine. Itâ€™s not rocket science.
JONES: If Iâ€™m a Louisville fan, I donâ€™t worry about scoring or the schedule. I worry about how they call those games.