The Real Cards and Cats, Please Stand Up!

MATT JONES: Both the basketball teams split the past week. Kentucky wins at Missouri and gets killed at LSU, Louisville gets beat by Cincinnati but wins against Central Florida. Who had the better week?

TONY VANETTI: I think Louisville had the better week because it was at least a dogfight with Cincinnati at home, and that’s a really good team. I think that people thought the UK loss to LSU was worse than any loss that they’ve had thus far, even the one against Arkansas, so would you agree with that.

JONES: LSU is a much better team than Arkansas. But that is an insane answer, first of all. You had both games at home. If you’re going to be a contender, the only games you can lose at home are against elite teams.

VANETTI: You didn’t ask whether they are a contender or not.

JONES: Well, that’s what I’m getting at. For Kentucky, as bad as that LSU game was, you can lose that game and still be okay. And Kentucky won a road game at Missouri, which would probably be the best game on Louisville’s schedule. So Kentucky has a better week. But neither had a great week. But Louisville losing that game at Cincy, when Russ Smith hit that three to put Louisville up by three? You’ve got to win from there.

VANETTI: You have to win, but none of these opponents are what you’ve seen at Duke and Syracuse.

JONES: I don’t believe that at all. I don’t think Duke is all that great. Duke shot 58 percent from 3 against Syracuse. How many games are they going to do that? Duke is okay, but Louisville could play Duke tomorrow and beat them.

VANETTI: Okay, yes. But we’re talking about, Cincinnati, Missouri, LSU and Central Florida. How many of these teams are actually going to be in the NCAA tournament?

JONES: Central Florida won’t, but Cincinnati will be. And Missouri and LSU have a chance.

VANETTI: Again, it’s not killer competition week in week out.

JONES: No, it’s not. Cincinnati are maybe better than I thought they would be after that game. Now: going forward for the basketball teams, is Louisville now just what it is? There are two main ways to look at a basketball team: RPI and Ken Pomeroy. Louisville is great in the KenPom, but in the RPI they are terrible, in large part because Rick Pitino did not schedule anyone out of conference. Kentucky right now is where they’ve been all year, but where is Louisville?

VANETTI: I’ve never seen a Louisville team like this. Weaker Louisville teams normally struggle against the weaker teams. But Louisville this year is burying the weaker to mid-level teams and they are playing awful against the good teams. I don’t know which team it is. Louisville seems to beat up on the little guys and then fold when it comes to the bigger teams under that kind of pressure.

JONES: I told you that’s how I thought Louisville would be. Louisville plays a style that’s going to be very hard for bad teams to handle. They just jump on these teams and pound them. But I’ve been surprised we haven’t been able to beat these bad teams. And again: the Cincinnati game. When they got up three, I thought for sure they’d win. I think that’s a bad loss.

Now let’s switch to football for a second, all the talk – and rightly so – has been about Kentucky’s recruiting class that will probably be in the top 15. But I want to ask you: what about Louisville’s recruiting class? Bobby Petrino has one four-star recruit committed right now, and he may lose him. Have you been surprised at how poorly that’s gone?

VANETTI: Well, the recruiting is a problem when you have a new coach coming in, especially when you have a new coach coming in from Western Kentucky. So all of the players that he’s close to are all of the guys they were recruiting at Western. You know, Charlie Strong came from Florida, Stoops came from Florida State, so all his relationships with his players are all that caliber of player. So no, it has not been a great transition when you talk about stars. In football a lot of really good players fall through the cracks, and the other thing is you’ve got to coach them up. Joker and company brought in some pretty good players to Kentucky and they never panned out. You’ve got to be able to coach them up, and Stoops is doing a bang-up job getting three and four-stars, more four-stars than three. It’s really sort of jaw-dropping what he’s doing right now.

JONES: I was going to ask you about that. Are you as shocked about the Stoops stuff as everybody else nationally is? There was an ESPN conversation recently where they had six of their football guys ask who has been the most surprising team in the country in recruiting. Kentucky and Tennessee were the two picked schools. Have you been surprised?

VANETTI: Of course. See, when Louisville was doing it when Charlie got here you accused Louisville of cheating. I would never do that.

JONES: Oh, I don’t know why I would say that. It’s not like they had Clint Hurtt on the staff. How could I ever imagine that Clint Hurtt might cheat?

VANETTI: Clint Hurtt stuff was not happening at the time. You just flat-out accused people. You have no proof. You cannot accuse people without proof. So my point is, I would never accuse Kentucky of that.

JONES: You talk about a crazy thought that Clint Hurtt might be a cheater. Wow, where would I have got that?

VANETTI: I would never do that to the University of Kentucky. I have too much respect for those people over there. I’ll tell you that right now. Everyone in the whole world is surprised that they are locking guys down or flipping guys from other schools that are solid at Georgia and other schools that are just flat-out saying, “Look I’m going to go play for Stoops at Kentucky” when there’s no evidence whatsoever that Kentucky will ever be a player or whether Stoops is really a good head football coach.  You don’t even know yet.  He won two games last year.

JONES: Before we get out of here, did you like the Super Bowl commercial?

VANETTI: You know I’m so surprised that most Kentucky fans didn’t realize that it was just running in Lexington. I think some of them thought it was running worldwide.

JONES: We recruit heavily in Pakistan and Belgium, so we run that commercial everywhere.

VANETTI: If you walk down a defensive lineman from Belgium it will work then.