The Importance of Being Perfect

MATT JONES: Kentucky are 26-0, the best start to a season in school history. Tony you’ve got to love watching these Cats. Don’t they just warm your heart?

TONY VANETTI: No, they do warm something, but it’s not my heart. It’s a good basketball team, they own college basketball, right now, so you have to give credit where credit is due. Calipari is basking in the sunlight. He was nominated for the hall of fame, on top of all that. He’s having a year like the one Rick had in 2013 when Pitino won the national title and was inducted in the hall of fame. This is a great basketball team. It looks like they play around with teams and then just close them out.

JONES: I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a team dominate the press in college basketball like Kentucky has this year. Let’s think about where we were a year ago. One year ago they lost at South Carolina, Cal got kicked out, there were writers who were saying Cal’s system doesn’t work, he’s going to have to lay in the bed that he made. And now a year later he’s nominated for the Hall of Fame, undefeated, has the best team in the country.

VANETTI: There’s no doubt. And much has changed with just Rick and Cal and where they are now. You asked me years ago, ‘Can Rick surpass Cal in anything ever again?’ and I said ‘Of course he can, because things can change.’ UK went to the NIT while Louisville went to win the title. At this time last year, Rick’s system is the one that worked because you develop a player and Cal’s system doesn’t work because the freshman just can’t deliver. Then boom, one year later and UK are the toast of college basketball, and who knows, one year from now it could flip again.

JONES: It’s doubtful though, because the thing with Calipari is that you bring in recruiting classes that every year can be really good or bad, but with Rick it’s much more of a slow build, and you’ve got to look at the future and wonder what’s going on. If you’re looking at Louisville’s basketball team, the future does not look bright.

VANETTI: Yes, but I want to stay positive. We’ve been there before, where Louisville has had bridge years, and they end up having a pretty good team at the end of the year. You don’t know what these freshmen are going to do next year. But you’re right, the three best players on this team are not coming back next year, and the bench has struggled most of the season. They are averaging about a bucket a game and that’s not good. Next year, Mitchell had better be a good one, that is the guard that Rick has recruited and hopefully Quentin Snider can improve, so that the backcourt can be something. The three 7-foot players that Louisville brought in this year have not turned out to be the guys they thought they were, yet. So hopefully one of those guys can step up and be better than this year.

JONES: If there is one thing you guys do well, it is recruit awkward big men. But you mentioned three guys not coming back next year, one of those might not even be on the team this year. What did you make of the Chris Jones suspension?

VANETTI: You know there have been rumors and talk that Chris Jones has been a little disruptive in practice, and that there might be something there. Sure enough, he was suspended earlier in the season and now again, he didn’t make the trip to Syracuse. There is nothing positive out of that. Louisville has three good players. You can’t take one of them away and think that chemistry is going to make up for his points and production on the floor. They need Chris Jones in the tournament.

JONES: It’s strange to me, because the last three years the team has been characterized by good teammates and guys that chip in and all that jazz. There has been a lot of talk that Jones and Montrezl Harrell hate each other, and if they don’t hate each other off the court, they sure seem to hate each other on the court. I don’t know why that all seems to be falling apart. Maybe it’s that Peyton Siva played such a huge role. But back to Kentucky, what are the chances of them now going 40-0?

VANETTI: First of all I don’t want to dismiss the suspension of Chris Jones. It is a big deal, and they need to get it fixed. If they are to make a run, they need him. But as with Chane Behanan and Kevin Ware, it’s also not worked out in the past. As for Kentucky, I have no doubt they will go 40-0 this year. I even think that some UofL fans are cheering for Kentucky to go undefeated, and I’m with them on this. I think it’s tougher for them to go undefeated and that the pressure will build for them at the end of the year.

JONES: I don’t. I don’t think it matters. Whether they go 40-0 or not this has been a historic season. Once they beat Tennessee, and go 26-0 you see a historic ride. Maybe they drop to Arkansas or Georgia, but it’s kind of hard to see it happening. When it comes to the tournament, if Kentucky play the way they should they won’t lose. If however they have a bad game, it’s not like they are unbeatable; they’re beatable.

VANETTI: What I think should happen is: Cal should go undefeated, win a national title, go to Cleveland and coach. And I think you guys should make things right with Billy Gillispie and maybe a sober Billy Gillispie can continue what Cal has done. I think you need another stab at Billy G. at Kentucky.

JONES: So, here’s what you hate, the fact that Cal is not going to leave. The Cavs are winning and the people in Kentucky are the biggest Cavs fans, because every time they win it’s more likely that Cal stays, and retires here, and pesters you and Tommy Jurich for the next six or seven years.