Getting Your Hoops Up

By CHRISTIE LEIGH MUELLER
Copy Editor

It’s only the fifth week of the football season, but already the state of Kentucky is looking ahead to basketball season. With Louisville standing as the defending champions and Kentucky tipping-off their season with the number one recruiting class, fans of both teams across the state are starting to lose interest in the gridiron. Or so our expert-duo suspect.

TONY VANETTI: Let’s get something out first.  If you’re going to rank the sports at the University of Kentucky, it’s basketball, basketball recruiting and then football. Recruiting is very important to their fan base and by the way, they are very good at it. Here in Louisville, they’ve lost a couple of big recruits in the last few weeks which isn’t ideal, but it’s not too much to be concerned about.

MATT JONES: It all depends on what the future holds for Pitino. The problem that Louisville could have is if Pitino leaves in two years and leaves the pot empty. I’m surprised, they had two top 50 players de-commit and are going to other schools. Why would these guys de-commit to a team who is at the highest point since Pitino has been at UofL? Do you have any idea why that happened?

VANETTI:  I think the problem is the success Louisville has had in the last couple of years at guard. They’ve got Gill, Ware coming back, Russ is here this year.  The back court is stocked for the next couple of years and these kids don’t want to sit. And you know Rick, he’ll make you sit.

JONES:  I know Louisville isn’t used to recruiting the top players, but no top recruit thinks they are going to sit, especially the great players, they are almost certain they are going to play. Pitino is a good enough coach that he can get players who aren’t quite as good as the rest and they’ll still be successful so I’m not saying it’s a death nail for the program. But it does make me wonder what is going on over there.

How is it at your highest point, you lose your two Top 50 players?  Take that versus UK, I think there’s a good chance that Trey Lyle, James Blackman, Jr., who both committed to Indiana, could de-commit and recommit to Kentucky in the next six weeks. Do you think that Calipari likes that these kids have committed to IU and UofL and he’s stealing them? Does it make them even more attractive to him?

VANETTI: Maybe on a very low level. I think he recruits at such a high level. I hope that Louisville fans realize that Louisville does not swim in the same pool as the players that Kentucky recruits.  They are just not on the same level. Kentucky is up there with Kansas, Duke and North Carolina and I think Louisville starts to recruit in the second or third tier. Not that the program is there, but that’s where they recruit.

JONES: Wait, did I just hear what I thought I heard? Which was you saying that Kentucky, Kansas, UNC and Duke is on one tier and UofL is on a tier below? Tony, I think that’s the smartest thing I ever heard you say.

VANETTI: Just in recruiting. Of course they are in the top level…

JONES: We need to check the tape. It sounds to me that you’re acknowledging that Kentucky is on a different tier than Louisville basketball. After all of these years you’re starting to learn.

VANETTI: Right. We get lower level players but Rick is a better coach and coaches them up to national championships and Final Fours so we don’t really need those top-level guys. Cal can have them for the six-months and let them go.

JONES: Well, I do think Pitino got a special group last year, a couple of 4-year type guys that you don’t see a lot in college basketball very much any more.  It was a perfect storm of a collection of players. In general though, you need talent to win and need as many quality players as possible.

VANETTI: Bottom line, it’s concerning to lose the recruits. This year coming up is the test for either program—Cal’s best recruiting class ever against Rick’s four-year experimental L1C4.  It all comes together Dec. 28., in Rupp Arena. Throw the ball up.

JONES: Let me ask you this, who will coach at their school longer? Starting now.

VANETTI: Rick. You’ll never be able to pry him out of there. He’s the king of the world here and they are never going to kick him out. At Kentucky, it’s just too hard to stay.

JONES: I would say Rick as well. But I think it’s more because Rick Pitino is going to be like Willy Mayes in center field, he can’t not be the coach at Louisville. They are going to find him one day and he will have been there for so long he will have attached himself to the chair and they’ll be wondering how to get this guy out with all of his hair plugs…

VANETTI: Hey now, hey now…

JONES: Can we end the article right there?

MUELLER: Well maybe, but all of this begs the question, are we over UofL and UK football and now going to start focusing on basketball which has become almost equally as important in both schools?

JONES:  That’s a really good question. Louisville isn’t going to be over football because they are probably going to go undefeated, but because they don’t play anybody, I do think people’s attention will start to drift. For Kentucky, the key is the next three weeks. They need to make sure they don’t get drilled against Florida, South Carolina and Alabama. If they do, after the Alabama game, there is a bye-week and then it’s Big Blue Madness, and then the fear is that fans will move on and not pay attention again until the last game of the season against Tennessee.

VANETTI: Louisville’s schedule is so bad this season in football. I think if you asked me what I was going to cover on my show for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to do some basketball topics.

Tune into KSR with Matt Jones on Talk 1080 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Tune into the Afternoon Underdogs with Tony Vanetti on Talk 790 from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.