Narrowing the Gap

Tony Vanetti: It’s never too early to talk about the Governor’s Cup, and I’m going to give you three answers to the question, “Has the gap closed between the two programs?”: A) Is it a push? B) They win by a touchdown? or C) It’s still Louisville’s game and they win easy at Papa John’s.

Matt Jones: Those are not three good categories, but we’ll go with it. I don’t think there’s any doubt that from what we’ve seen so far, the gap has closed. To what extent it has closed still remains to be seen. We know Kentucky has gotten a lot better, but the the big question is, “How much better?” And for Louisville, they’re worse than expected, but we don’t yet know how much worse. Neither team has played an elite-level team to really measure themselves against. But when you consider that last year Kentucky couldn’t beat anybody, and Louisville was pretty good against every team except the elite, I don’t think there’s any doubt that it has narrowed. I would say if the game occurred today, the spread would probably be seven, eight or nine for Louisville, which strikes me as about right. But I think Kentucky is trending up and Louisville’s kind of trending down. We’ll just have to see how the rest of the season goes.

Vanetti: I believe that the gap is closer than it was. If Louisville doesn’t improve on offense, I think it’s less than a touchdown favorite for Louisville, even though they’re at home. I think Stoops is playing better defense, which he said he was going to do, and it’ll be interesting to see where the Patrick Towles thing goes. He looked great, and then he’s kind of fallen off a bit. So I’m interested to see what direction the offense goes. Are they a running team? Or will they ever just come out and throw the ball? Let’s see what personality that offense comes up with as we get closer. But I still think that Louisville is a touchdown favorite.

Jones: I think that’s probably right. It’s interesting, the trouble this weekend with the UK players, that they decided to go with Patrick Towles. Because in hindsight, you would not want Drew Barker to be your starting quarterback with everything that he’s going through with the air gun incident.

Vanetti: At what point do you stop playing cops and robbers with toy guns on campus? I am surprised that none of them knew what they were doing at the time. At night, running around campus, shooting these fake guns that look real – I mean, it’s shocking to me.

Jones: Yeah, it is to me too, but it’s also kids. I was talking today about how in the post-Columbine world, all of this looks different. And then somebody mentioned to me that these kids were three when Columbine happened. So there’s a sense that all of the baggage we bring to stuff, other people don’t. But they can’t be that stupid. They made a mistake and they should be suspended. The good thing is that at Kentucky, they do get suspended, and at Louisville, they’d get a promotion.

Vanetti: So far it’s been squeaky clean on Louisville’s campus. No “Cops and Robbers” on campus after dark.

Jones: Well, let me ask you a question. There’s a report today that the kid from Georgia who was kicked off the team for domestic violence has an offer from Louisville. What do you make of that today, again, in the post-Ray Rice world? We like to joke about Louisville taking all kinds of troublemakers. Can they really do that now after the last couple of weeks in the news?

Vanetti: I know there was an article that he had an offer. Todd Grantham, who is our defensive coordinator, used to be at Georgia. So I know that he had mentioned to the kid, “Hey, you’ve got an offer from Louisville, just keep that thought in your head.” I’m not sure if it’s an official offer, or if it’s just a conversation between the two.  But my opinion about it? They can’t bring him to campus. I’m all for second chances, and it seems to work out for Louisville most of the time. But at this point in this culture and what’s gone on in the NFL the past couple of months, it would be a mistake.

Jones: But I think they will, to be honest with you. The thing about UofL is nobody seems to raise their hand when they do things. And it’ll be interesting to see. Most of the Louisville fans I hear seem to have your opinion. Will this be the line that gets drawn? Because I’ve been wondering where Louisville will draw a line with what they will take and not take in terms of morality. And it’ll be interesting if this is it. Maybe this is the line, because I think there’s a lot of people that don’t want him there. But you know there’s the connection, because he played for Grantham at Georgia, but I hope you’re right. I hope this is where Louisville draws the line, but I’m not confident that they will.

Vanetti: It depends on how strongly Todd Grantham feels. If he really likes the kid, he has to sell Bobby and Tom Jurich on him. We’ll see how far it goes. Let’s just see if they send him an offer. It’s all just hearsay until there’s an offer. But I’m with you. I can’t imagine that they do, but here we go.

Jones: John Calipari said this week that he’s playing 10 players, and that’s what he’s doing. Do you believe him, and do you think that’s a good idea?

Vanetti: I don’t believe him. It’s difficult to do that, especially when you have players that are playing well, and you’re just going to bring five in. But he already did this in the Bahamas. I know those kids don’t count against his record, he just wanted to see what they had. But it worked. At the five-minute mark the horn sounds, and there are five All-Americans kneeling by the table waiting to come in. That kind of instills fear in everyone when you do that. And then you bring out the starters!

Jones: The thing is, it did work. When I first heard they were going to do that before they went down there, I thought “That’s not really going to work. They’re doing it so everybody can play, and Cal thinks they’re going to lose all of those games anyway,” because I do think that the staff went down there thinking they were going to lose every game, or at least to the pro team and the Dominican team, and then they play this way and not only do they not lose, but they win. And they beat some of those teams down. So I think he’s going to try to do it. Is he certainly going to do it? I don’t know. I think he believes he can. He likes the challenge. He thinks this team is so good. That’s the interesting thing. He thinks this team is so good, and they are really, really good. So because of that, I think he feels sort of invincible, like “I can do it differently than anybody else has and still win.”

Vanetti: If he has the patience, when one of the five isn’t doing well, to stick with it so they play through it, that’ll be interesting.

Jones: What about the other way? What if somebody is going off? Aaron Harrison hits three straight 3s.

Vanetti: I think they’re going to dominate people. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. I think he’ll platoon for the first half, and then he’ll have a combination when they come back out. You’ll have a starting lineup for the tip, and then a starting lineup for the second half.

Jones: In the Bahamas they would play like that and they would play really well, and then they’d get to the end of a game and he wanted to mix it up and put his five best guys in, and they wouldn’t play well because they never played together. So it’ll be interesting. I love it. I love that Cal finds a way to keep Kentucky in the news by talking about these things. But my guess would be that you have to hate it, correct?

Vanetti: Yeah, I do. I really do. I didn’t hate the 2012 team, but my theory is that they are better than that team, because the margin for error is bigger for this team. If you got Davis in foul trouble, that team dropped off dramatically. I think you could get anybody in foul trouble on this team and still be fine. In that way I think they’re better than the 2012 team, which sucks not just for Louisville, but for everyone else in the country. And I know Cal enjoyed sticking it to everyone, especially the media.

Jones: But don’t we all love it?

Vanetti: No, we don’t.

Jones: Oh, ok. Well, how about on the Louisville side of things? I feel like this team is much quieter. I feel like I’m not hearing much about these guys except that they have like five 7-footers. What’s going on? What am I missing?

Vanetti: University of Louisville basketball has been quiet. With the Chris Jones injury, we don’t know the extent of that, because we never really hear what’s going on. So is this going to linger for half a season? Because you didn’t hear about Luke Hancock, and that’s sort of the Achilles’ that lingered for a while. So will that be the same case? I don’t know. I agree with you, though. It’s got to be by design, because Rick Pitino loves to have stuff in the news while football’s going on. That’s just the dynamics of this state. So I’m with you. It’s kind of quiet. We’ll see maybe in the next week or so if Rick has some sort of story break.

Jones: Well, what I like about this is the Cats are clearly on top of the world in basketball, they are rising in football, and I just see the anger and worry coming down in the Louisville fan base, and you know I always enjoy that.

Vanetti: We ain’t scared in football, but in basketball…

Jones: You better get us in football this year, because to quote Charlie Strong, “You ain’t getting us again.”