Tony Vanetti: Ok Matt, I have a question: why is it that if Rick recruits an All-American and he doesnâ€™t pan out, itâ€™s always Rickâ€™s inability to coach, but at Kentucky it always seems like the kidâ€™s fault or the kid wasnâ€™t that good or the kid is certainly immature and itâ€™s not Calâ€™s fault?
Â Matt Jones: Well, what McDonaldâ€™s All-American has Cal recruited that has not turned into a first-round pick?
Vanetti: Well, “panned out” as in “they havenâ€™t delivered in their first year.” There is a first-round draft pick, and then thereâ€™s delivering wins that arenâ€™t very good.
Â Jones: In the last two years he has had eight McDonaldâ€™s All-Americans, and only one right now could you say has not panned out, and thatâ€™s Kyle Wiltjer. But beyond that, he has had Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin, which have had great success. Now the team is a different story, and in the team, there are some reasonable questions. But Cal has done right by the players. The problem for a lot of fans is if heâ€™s doing right by the team. Thatâ€™s what theyâ€™re worried about. But I donâ€™t think any of the players have complaints. Hereâ€™s what I believe is happening with this team right now. This group came in, and Iâ€™ve heard this from some sources, as maybe the worst-coached group of high school players theyâ€™ve had. They were just way behind. And it didnâ€™t help that the Harrison twins and James Young both were not here this summer.
Vanetti: But arenâ€™t you supposed to be able to spot that before you recruit them or during the recruitment period? Isnâ€™t that on Cal to a certain extent to recognize these guys arenâ€™t coached up well or their basketball IQs arenâ€™t up to snuff?
Jones: Possibly. Look, everybody has to take a step back. Kentucky has lost three games. Two of the losses are totally understandable. They lost to Michigan State, at the time the number one team in the country, in the third game of the season. They lost to North Carolina on the road, a team that beat the defending National Champions and the number one team in the country, Michigan State. The only loss thatâ€™s disappointing is Baylor. But people who act like this season is an abject disaster need to slow down. They’ve still got the Louisville game. They’ve still got conference play. I think theyâ€™re going to be ok. Now, they havenâ€™t been as dominant as I thought theyâ€™d be, and I think part of that has to do with a couple things. One, the players not being that well coached getting here. Probably the fact that they donâ€™t have the Patrick Patterson or Darius Miller veterans to help. But look: with three minutes to go, Tony, in all three games, either Kentucky has been tied or down one. Good teams with veterans may win those games. Not freshman. But by the end of the year, they might win all those games.
Â Vanetti: And I agree with you. But the longer you go losing those tight ones against the good teams with a bunch of guys that know theyâ€™re three months away from the lotteryâ€¦
Jones: But I donâ€™t think they all know that anymore. Thatâ€™s one of the things about this, with the exception of Julius Randle, Iâ€™m not sure any of these guys are certain lottery picks anymore. Willie Cauley-Stein probably is, but the twins and James Young are not guaranteed lottery picks unless they play better. Even take Julius Randle, As much as I love him, heâ€™s cost himself money these last few weeks. After the Michigan State game, he was the consensus number one pick in the country. Now heâ€™s probably three or four and thatâ€™s a two or three million-dollar loss.
Â Vanetti: What happened to the â€œKentucky Effect?â€ I thought that moved him up the listâ€¦
Â Jones: I know youâ€™re trying to troll, and thatâ€™s fine. But you will see the “Kentucky Effect” with people like Willie Cauley-Stein. He will go top ten in the draft. But letâ€™s switch gears to the more interesting topic, which is your football program, their coach and their player. Do you think Teddy stays or not?
Vanetti: I donâ€™t know what heâ€™s going to do. I hope he goes and makes a happy living in the NFL. He has done whatever he can do in college and the smart play is to go. His stock will never be higher than what it is right now. He needs to go make some money in the NFL and have a great career, but I really donâ€™t know. He reminds me a lot of Russ Smith in the sense that heâ€™s going to do what he wants to do regardless of what his parents or coaches say.
Jones: Russ Smith, whenever he goes to the draft, will go at the end of the first round. Teddy Bridgewater has the potential to be the number one overall pick.
Vanetti: And Iâ€™m not comparing them in that situation…
Â Jones: Also, football and basketball are so different. Basketball you can play forever. In football though, your body has a limited number of hits. You can only take so much punishment. Now,Â a quarterback can take more, but still, you got to go when you go. You and I agree on this, Tony, he needs to go. Heâ€™s going to be a hot pick and thereâ€™s not going to be anything that happens next year at UofL thatâ€™s going to make him a higher pick than he is right now.
Â Vanetti:Â Youâ€™re missing the point. They are both similar in the way they think and carry themselves. They are both very intelligent and seem to be wiser than their age. They both seem to make the decisions that are unpopular. He left Miami and came to Louisville. And really, what reason would he have to leave Miami and go against the grain to come to Louisville a couple years ago?
Â Jones: Oh, I can think of a reason. The same reason that right now is on a show called “Penalty!”
Â Vanetti: You just keep on reachingâ€¦
Â Jones: I donâ€™t have to reach far. But what about Charlie Strong now being the Vegas odds-on favorite to take the Texas job? That surprised me. What do you make of that?
Vanetti: There is no way Charlie Strong goes to Texas. And as I say that he is probably on the phone with them now. That is the biggest surpriseâ€¦
Â Jones: I donâ€™t understand why you would say that there is no way. Texas is one of the best jobs in football if youâ€™re a coach and you want to reach the top of your profession. I understand that Tennessee is not, but Texas, Alabama and probably USC are the three top jobs in the profession. Why would you not look at it?
Â Vanetti: Well, you mention Alabama, and if you remember they had a couple guys turn it down before Nick Saban got the job. They went two to three full months in panic mode before they found a coach.
Â Jones: Yes but that was because they had six to eight years of being down and then they had the coach with all the strippers.
Vanetti: Hereâ€™s why I say that. Charlie is not exactly your PR coach. He doesnâ€™t like to do the media end of things. I donâ€™t think he particularly likes to do the weekly press conferences, he barely does his radio call-in show and he does do his TV show most of the time. But he doesnâ€™t like doing those things. And if you want to talk about what you have to do for the Longhorn network, it is times ten what you have to do here at Louisville. And if he doesnâ€™t like to do it here, then he would hate having to do it there, and thatâ€™s why I say that.
Â Jones: Thatâ€™s a very fair point and might be why he wouldnâ€™t take the job. But the idea that he wouldnâ€™t consider it is silly. He considered the Tennessee job, and the Texas job is better, so clearly he will consider it. But more importantly, I donâ€™t think they will offer it toÂ him, to be honest. I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s a really good fit. But weâ€™ve learned over the years, Tony: donâ€™t discount Vegas.
Â Vanetti: And again, that is the most surprising thing Iâ€™ve read. When I saw that this morning, I couldnâ€™t believe it. I thought there would be other names on top and he would be fifth or sixth and if other guys turned it down at Texas, then Charlie might get a phone call. And youâ€™re right. Iâ€™m not saying he wonâ€™t take the call. Who doesnâ€™t do that? They could throw money in that he could take care of his great-grandchildren with. It is a ridiculous amount of money that Texas has to play with, and with four and five stars, you get to choose who you want from Texas. Itâ€™s an unbelievable football job, but itâ€™s like coaching Kentucky basketball: you better win, and you better win every week, or itâ€™s trouble in River City.
Â Jones: Well, Iâ€™m sure we will talk about this more. But with just a week and a half to go, what are we thinking of the Kentucky-Louisville basketball game?
Vanetti: I have no idea whatâ€™s going to happen on December 28. Here is one thing, though, that is starting to concern me. The scouting report on Randle is coming out and they are starting to double-team him. But I remember a couple years ago, Terrence Jones was that guy for Kentucky where the team was struggling a little bit, But Terrence Jones was just a beast. Randle reminds me of that situation. And remember, Terrence Jones would not pass out of a double team until what game that season?Â The Louisville game. So Iâ€™m wondering if Randle is going to discover that he can kick it back out?
Â Jones: There are coaches that say you always know about your team the first couple of games after Christmas. Well, it just so happens that for Kentucky and Louisville, itâ€™s always the Kentucky-Louisville game. I donâ€™t know what to expect. I think Louisville is the better team right now, but the game is in Lexington and I still think Kentucky has more talent. Honestly? I could see Kentucky winning by 15, and I can see them losing by 15. Iâ€™m not sure Iâ€™ve ever seen a game quite like that between these two teams.
Vanetti: OK, but let me ask you this: after back-to-back national titles with these two teams, donâ€™t you feel like the pressure is really off both teams, at least where the fan base is? I think the fan base cares who wins the game, but theyâ€™ve each had enough success over the last year that if they lose to the other team itâ€™s not devastating.
Â Jones: I think that was true at the beginning of the year. But I think, because Louisville hasnâ€™t played anybody and Kentucky hasnâ€™t beaten anybody, that the game is more important for seeding purposes now. It will be hard for either of these teams to get a one seed without winning this game. So the game will actually be pretty important. I think whichever team wins is in pretty good shape for a one seed, and whichever team loses probably canâ€™t get one, so I think the game matters a lot this year.
Â Vanetti: Switching to football for you guys. How is the feeling around the football office with keeping the recruits?
Â Jones: I think they keep the whole class together. They might lose one guy but they keep the class together, and I think they get Matt Elam, who will be the highest-ranked recruit to come to UK in 20 years since Couch.
Â Vanetti: The rumors are he is Roll Tide…
Jones: Well those rumors are dumb. Theyâ€™re like the rumors that Charlie Strong wonâ€™t consider Texas.