The Biggest Game Of The Year?

MATT JONES: Well Tony, after all year talking about how poor Kentucky was doing, they came out this weekend. And I know you’re getting scared now, because the Cats are coming on Friday night.

TONY VANETTI: No one is scared, my friend. In fact, Vegas has Louisville as a five-point favorite, and those guys pretty much know what they’re doing. No one is scared. We are ready for this ball game. We’re so happy for the land of Kentucky that they got it together and FINALLY beat a good team. Conratulations, great win over Wichita State, now try and do it again on Friday night.

JONES: Well, first of all, Vegas was wrong about Wichita State and Kentucky, where they also had it as a five-point game. But I’m happy for the city of Louisville. First of all, it will be safe Friday night because there won’t be flash mobs during the game finally and you’re going to be able to get another loss to Kentucky in the tournament. Just so you know, Calipari and Pitino have played three times during this tournament and whichever coach has coached Kentucky has won that game every single time, and I expect it to be four on Friday night.

VANETTI: Well, that just means we’re due – and I love that in sports. We’re due for a win in the tournament over UK. And I hope you tell all your listeners 65 North is going to be crowded. You got Tennessee people coming up. You got Louisville people coming up. We don’t need the Kentucky double-wides blocking any more of the traffic than they already do trying to get into Indianapolis and into the game. It’s going to be crowded enough. So tell them to take the family pickup truck and not the double-wide. I know the house is mobile, but try to refrain.

JONES: And watch for the Louisville fans driving, because you know they’ll have enough Crown Royale for how long that trip is going to take. Now as for the game itself. I actually think it’s a good matchup for Kentucky – like we’ve talked about – for the same reason Kentucky beat them in December. UK’s height is a real issue for Louisville. They don’t have enough to guard Randle, Willie, Dakari, etc. What will really be important is how the game is officiated. The game in Lexington, Harrell got some early fouls, and I think what ref shows up is going to be a big part of what happens.

VANETTI: I thought Wichita State for a portion of the game had a game plan to where they were negating your size inside with shot blocking. You can’t control that the entire game against Kentucky, but you can try to do it for a portion. And the other thing, just to manage the runs: you know Kentucky is going to run. Louisville will run. And you’re going to have to keep the other team to six or eight and hope your runs get you 10, 11 or 12, and hopefully at the end, we can get it. But this will be one run after the other, and who’s got it at the end will decide it. It’s going to be a close game.

JONES: It’s very interesting how Kentucky has not been a team of runs until the last seven or eight games. Even against Florida both times, they went on big runs. Ten points or more. They had one of those literally at every game but their last seven or eight. So you’re right: Louisville’s ability to manage that will be interesting. I think the game comes down to one factor, and I said this before the game in December and it ended up being true: whomever plays better at the three position. I think Kentucky is better than Louisville down low, Louisville is better than Kentucky on the perimeter, so I think it comes down to Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear versus James Young. And last time, if you remember, Kentucky left Luke Hancock open and he brinked three after three. Now he’s shooting a lot better, and that matchup which decided the game at Rupp will be more important than anything.

VANETTI: No question. The Harrison twins have been the key to your entire run. They are playing so much better and actually hitting their shots. If they shoot like they have in the Wichita State game and in the SEC Tournament, Louisville has almost no chance to win this game. The pressure is all up top. If the Harrison twins are playing good defense up top and shooting well out there, it’s over for Louisville. But then again, what are the odds the Harrison twins will keep doing what they’re doing? Are they going to continue shooting like that, or will it dry up Friday night?

JONES: I think that’s a very good point. And that is the question: The Harrison twins. Those two guys, the way they play is kind of in the way Kentucky goes. You mention pressure, and I have a different view of pressure. And that is the pressure on the teams. Last time these two teams played two years ago, the pressure was squarely with Kentucky. They were supposed to win the national title. Louisville was just happy to be there. This time, though, I think it’s the opposite and the pressure is on Louisville. It’s a more veteran team. They’ve got guys that don’t look like they’ll be back next year with Hancock, Russ and Montrezl and this is their year. And while Kentucky may not have all their guys back, we know we’ll get another batch of guys. I think the pressure is on Louisville, so it will be interesting to see.

VANETTI: If this game was played last week I think everyone would pick the Cardinals. And the fact that Kentucky had two of their best games and knocked off Wichita State and Louisville looked so bad in their first two games – it has totally flipped the script. I’m not sure I totally agree with all the pressure that is on Louisville here. I think there is a lot of talk that this is the loss for Louisville, that Kentucky played so well and a lot of people have rearranged all 16 teams and now they think Kentucky is in the top five and Louisville is in the bottom five. I don’t know if I agree with that.

JONES: But wait a minute. Kentucky could lose this game and they still have the Wichita State win, all right? They still have that win to hang their hat on. Listen, no one wants to lose to Louisville. Trust me. Least of all me. But if Kentucky loses, they still have that. If Louisville loses, what’s the signature game of their season? Beating Rutgers by 60? Or winning the AAC Conference Tournament? But what is that? Not to say it’s a disappointment, but there wouldn’t necessarily be a fond memory of this year, and at least Kentucky will have this Wichita State win.

VANETTI: I agree with you to a certain extent, but Louisville won the National Title last year and we’re still holding on to that happiness.

JONES: I agree, and Kentucky won it two years ago, which is why neither fan base should be upset. But I’m saying the pressure is on them. You’ve got a veteran team. But the good thing about Louisville is that if it comes down to the last two minutes, they’ve been there before and done it.

VANETTI: Have you figured out how you’re going to sneak in the moonshine to Lucas Oil Stadium?

JONES: We’re going to sneak it under your fans’ flat-billed hats. There is plenty of space. But let me also say YOUR Mayor is coming out and saying Friday is officially Wear Red Day? Was that not one of the dumber political moves of all time?

VANETTI: Mayor Fischer is very popular in Louisville and I don’t think this will affect his popularity either way. He’s done such a great job in his first term.

JONES: Oh yeah, just great. Everything over there seems just rosy. That Yum! Center is in great shape, mobs of 200 teenagers running through the streets punching people – the city couldn’t be in better hands, Tony.

VANETTI: Well, in a bigger city there are a couple more problems. So you just follow what Calipari says and the city is fine. But it’s a bit more complicated here in the big city.