Going Mad for Big Blue

Coach Cal and Drake.

Coach Cal and Drake.

Tony Vanetti: Alright Matt, you had your Big Blue cult night, where you all wear robes and light candles and chant. How did Big Blue Madness go?

Matt Jones: Well, it was a great show. We had Drake there, and he proceeded to shoot the air ball heard around the world. It was a great event. John Calipari was his John Calipari-est. He said nothing and then dropped the mic – it was great. Big Blue Madness is what makes Kentucky basketball great. It’s over the top, it’s ridiculous, everybody else rolls their eyes at it, but we love it. And it gets people to fever pitch. And I love it.

Vanetti: I can’t argue with that, no one can pull that off like Kentucky can. And it starts with the camping out; people are out there weeks before waiting for free tickets to be given out. And then you have all of these top-notch recruits. I’m not sure how a kid watches that kind of event and doesn’t move Kentucky up on their list. It’s just an unbelievable night.

Jones: They really took it over the top this year, especially with Drake being there. The fact that Drake has become the most visible Kentucky fan ahead of Ashley Judd is really something. I mean, the dude’s from Toronto; he has no connection to the school whatsoever, and yet he has become the biggest Kentucky fan. He warms up with the basketball team, he wears UK gear, he sits in the film room. If that isn’t the epitome of the Calipari, over the top era, I don’t know what is.

Drake.

Drake.

Vanetti: It seems like it should be some kind of violation, but it isn’t.

Jones: It’s a violation of the NCAA’s rule against awesomeness!

Vanetti: Alright, for an old man, tell me where Drake ranks among rappers.

Jones: In all seriousness, I think he’s one of the five biggest musicians in the world right now. In terms of popularity, let’s put in your era, it would be like getting Poison at a big event.

Vanetti: Awesome, wow that puts it in perspective, thank you. Moving on to your football team, they’re better than they played on Saturday, but how did you get embarrassed in Death Valley? Tell me the rundown.

Jones: Well, there was a lot of stuff that went wrong. It started with the fact that they almost overdid it on the coaching. They had a lot of terrible plays on special teams, the offense couldn’t get it going, and then once it started slipping it just rolled downhill from there. It’s weird to say, but even though in the first half Kentucky was down 27-3 and three poor special teams plays, they kind of played LSU even. But then, in the second half, they just got overpowered. It was a good reality check for Kentucky fans. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. And I don’t know about the team, but the fans needed that reality check. So it’s not all bad.

Vanetti: You’re starting a lot of freshman and sophomores, these are Stoops’ guys. And in the long run this is going to be good for you guys. Because it was the physical growing up for you guys. You got punched in the face in Death Valley by some very physical secondary players for LSU. On defense they beat you up a little bit. And I think you guys are going to learn from that. They have to have their “Welcome to the SEC” game and this was it for the freshmen and sophomores. They will remember this game as juniors and seniors as ‘this is how you have to go play if you’re going to go on the road, you’ve got to be physical, you’ve got to hit back when someone hits you.’

Jones: I totally agree. And with Mississippi State coming in, people think I’m crazy, so this is going to sound crazy. But, I think Kentucky can win. I don’t think they will win. I think Mississippi State will win the game. But I wouldn’t be shocked if Kentucky won.  I think Mississippi State is very, very good, but people are suddenly acting like they’re a juggernaut. And they’re not. State has very good players, and a really good defensive front, but they are beatable. I think they will lose to Alabama later in the year, and I think Kentucky can beat them. They’ve got a puncher’s change. Everything will have to go right, they have to be errorless. But I expect that game on Saturday – playing the number one team in the nation, and on national television – to be competitive. I really do.

Vanetti: Look, it’s a 13.5 underdog for Kentucky, but Mississippi State’s defense is ranked somewhere around 12th or 13th in the SEC, no one’s talking about their suspect defense yet. I agree with you, I think Kentucky has a puncher’s chance, if they can put together some of those trick plays and work this time, instead of getting cutesy and it backfiring. You’re at home, and Towles has to have a huge game for that to happen. I think at least they cover.

Jones: That’s the key. Mississippi State’s weakness is its secondary. They may actually have the worst secondary in the SEC, with Vanderbilt. Kentucky’s going to have to throw, and throw deep. That’s the only chance, Towles is going to have to go deep, kind of like they did against Florida. They went downfield against Florida and it worked, a lot. He’s going to have to do that again. And if he does and they put a bunch of points on the board, I think they have a shot. The one thing that can’t happen for this program is, they can’t get destroyed. They can’t get annihilated again. Because that’s a good way to start losing confidence, so that’s my only real big concern, to make sure that they keep this game competitive.

Vanetti: Ok, let’s go to Louisville football. They have a week off, and then Florida State coming to town. That Thursday night will be humongous for the city of Louisville. You’ve got the Heisman trophy winner who can’t seem to keep himself out of trouble, Jameis Winston, Jimbo Fisher, the head coach, defending national champs, Thursday night football, national television, so do you think Louisville has the same chance to beat Florida State that Kentucky has to beat Mississippi State?

Jones: I actually think Louisville’s got a better shot than Kentucky does. First of all, there’s very few times that I’m envious of Louisville. There’s nothing to be envious of. You all do everything we do, just a little worse. But with one exception. I’ve been to a night game, I was there a few years ago when you all played West Virginia. I’m not going to say it was the best game I’ve ever attended atmosphere-wise, because I have a couple of Kentucky ones I’ll put up there. But it was up there. That was a hell of an atmosphere, and I wanted Louisville to lose by 80 but I still had fun as they won. That’s what it’s going to be like for you all next Thursday night. It’s going to be a great atmosphere and I think you all have a chance because unlike Mississippi State, Florida State’s entire team has revolved around one person. With that one person, they can have a bad game, and you all can have a shot. Now, if Jameis Winston is anywhere close to decent, you all have no shot, because your offense is terrible.

Vanetti: I think the crowd will be as sauced as ever, even more than they usually are. And what do you think about Pitino calling the shot for Bobby, guaranteeing a win against Florida State?

Jones: The Rick Pitino-Bobby Petrino dynamic is hilarious to me. Because it’s two jerks that hate each other, and I think that is awesome. Because they both deserve each other. If I’m Bobby Petrino, I’m furious. Like, ‘Shut up, Rick!’ The last thing we need is the most visible person in our school guaranteeing a win. You know that’s going to be in Florida State’s locker room, you just gave Jimbo Fisher his bulletin board material. It’s only going to make that relationship worse, which I think is great.

Vanetti: Yes, when you have two dynamic guys like that, they’re going to rub each other the wrong way. It’s two guys that are at the top of their profession; it smells like you’re a little jealous of that kind of competition between the football and basketball coach. I know you guys don’t have that.

Jones: No, the good thing about having Calipari and Stoops is they’re two class act, quality individuals, that nobody can disagree with, meanwhile they have the two vagrants on the other side. It’s a good contrast in styles.

Vanetti: You are a giant jerk.

Photos Courtesy of DONNA GRAY