Joy and Sadness in the Bluegrass

TONY VANETTI: First off, Matt, congratulations. It was a big win up there. UK is in the Final Four. You guys certainly earned it, beating Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan. Three really, really good teams in a row.

MATT JONES: That’s one of the toughest trips to the Final Four ever, but for Kentucky fans, something of a dream week. Three teams in eight days, and of course, to beat Louisville. For Kentucky fans to listen to Louisville fans talk trash, we’ve sort of been calm and complacent, and the victory was quite something.

VANETTI: I did enjoy the “Year of the Cardinal.” Because at least with UK fans, if they’re not good, they’ll go away, and it only took the Wichita State game to come back with a vengeance and be fantastically obnoxious, once again.

JONES: Do you agree the “Year of the Cardinal” is over? With Charlie Strong leaving for Texas and this class of players leaving and graduating, is it over?

VANETTI: There is no question. The “Year of the Cardinal” is finally over. You lose the Sweet Sixteen game and it’s over. Last week, I thought this game was a fantastic idea and great for everyone. Now, not so much.

JONES: Well, it was good for everyone, because it re-establishes the correct order of things. You put together a good run. Once every 30 years, the sun will shine on the old Louisville home. But the rest of the time, it’s Kentucky’s state. And it was good to get that back. John Calipari is now 6-1 against Rick Pitino. Does Calipari own him now?

VANETTI: Yes. I mean, you can’t see it any other way. Cal at Kentucky and Rick at Louisville, Cal owns Rick because of 6-1. Rick will say it doesn’t bother him, but it has to. He’s so competitive at everything he does – a round of golf, a game of poker…

JONES: Of course it bothers him. Did you buy after that game that they’re buddies now?

VANETTI: No, not at all. They’re not friends. You know that. And even if they pretend that they talk or text… I mean, come on.

JONES: Well, look, in all seriousness, I’m glad Russ Smith is graduating, because he’s been good for a long time and he’s probably one of my favorite UofL players of all time. I love to watch him. I think he’s a great kid. A lot of the things he did after the game were classy, and his coach could learn a lot from him. And listen: a lot of stuff is changing there. UofL is losing essentially everything. Everyone from their national title is gone and they have to start over.

VANETTI: I think they’re absolutely fine. They’re going into the ACC, they have enough returning players that they can make a run at it next year, even though you have already written them off. We could talk about the game a little bit. I would rather lose by double digits than lose the way Louisville did on Friday night. Are you the same?

JONES: I am. When you win, you want it to be as painful for your rivals as possible, so I sort of enjoyed the Aaron Harrison shot. It was like cutting your kidneys out in a hotel room in New Orleans and putting them all on ice. I was very happy that it was just in the most difficult way possible. Aaron Harrison, back-to-back shots, against Louisville and Michigan. The Harrisons are stone cold killers, and it was unfortunate that Louisville had to be one of the victims.

VANETTI: It’s unbelievable, the love/hate affair that has been between the Harrison twins and the Kentucky fans.

JONES: Not by me. I liked them from the get-go and thought they got an unfair rep.

VANETTI: Well, you also said they weren’t who you thought they were after a few games into the season. Remember? I’m going to last year during the tournament. You’ve got people saying “keep calm, the twins are coming.”

JONES: We knew it. It turns out we were right. Turns out I was right all along.

VANETTI: Right, so the 10 losses during the season…

JONES: It was just a ploy to make it sweeter when we beat you. Like Frankenstein, we rose from the dead and made the Louisville fans cry and the mayor cry. Heck, everyone was so sad Kevin Ware transferred. Who could have seen that coming?

VANETTI: Oh, I don’t know who could have seen that coming, but again, congratulations on getting to the Final Four, and it could be an all-SEC national championship game on Sunday night if you guys get your business done.

JONES: Well, all I can say to Louisville fans is, “It’s okay. You won the title last year. You have a Sweet Sixteen shirt this year that can go in your closet, and we’ll do our best to do our best to bring the title home and keep it in the state of Kentucky. And then we can all celebrate as a group.” Does that sound good, Tony?

VANETTI: I want to go throw up.

Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune