This week, and seemingly every week, our friend Jeff Goodman gave a little nudge about the Cats. This time it was his comment that the Cats would struggle to finish in the Top 8 in the Big East. Because Goodman has been good enough (get it, “Good” enough….yes we are clever here), to come on my radio show, answer my annoying texts or generally respond to any criticism, I asked him to come defend his statements. Once again, he did and as always, we thank him. Here is the transcript of some of the proceedings (a Kentucky Sports Radio exclusive….dont try to steal this Greta van Susteran!)
MATT JONES: Thanks for Taking the time to talk with me. It is always very nice of you and I appreciate you defending yourself without just telling me to blog somewhere else.
JEFF GOODMAN: Glad to do it. Its always fun.
You said in a recent column that Kentucky would struggle to finish in the Top 8 of the Big East. Care to elaborate a bit?
AT this point I think it is fair to say that Kentucky would be fighting for eighth place….clearly UCONN, Pitt, Louisville, Syracuse, Notre Dame are better. That’s 5, Marquette would probably be 6, Villanova I just saw. Could you say Kentucky would be right there with Villanova or Marquette or Georgetown? Yeah you could say that. Again, I think there are four or five teams that are clearly better and another three that probably could beat Kentucky 5 out of 10 times. They could finish 8th out of the Big East. Again, I think Villanova and Georgetown are better teams than Kentucky, but there isnt a huge difference between all of them.
Take Georgetown for a minute. The Cats have two common opponents, Tennessee and West Virginia. Kentucky beat both of them on a neutral or road game, Georgetown got beat handily by both of them, on a neutral or home court game.
Thats true, but you cant just look at it like that. Georgetown did blow out UCONN at UCONN. I have seen 21 of 22 top teams in person. From seeing them in person, that it is absolutely fair to say that Kentucky would be a struggle to be a Top 8 in the Big East. Is there really anyone who will say that the SEC is not down?
Yeah but Jeff thats not the question. No one denies, at least I dont, that the SEC is down. But the question is how can you say with confidence that a team like Georgetown is better than Kentucky when the similar opponents rendered different results?
You gotta look at their overall body of work. You cant just look head to head. When you look at the overall body of work, you see the differences.
Ok, lets look at the overall body of work. Take a team like Pittsburgh. They have beaten terrible teams and the only name wins they have are over Georgetown, which we already talked about and Texas Tech.
You are outta your mind if you think that UK is a better team than Pittsburgh. Out of ten times Kentucky beats Pitt once on a neutral site.
But Jeff, how can you say that? Pitt goes into Freedom Hall a week after Kentucky and essentially plays them the exact same way. Pitt has beaten no one of consequence and Kentucky just blew out Tennessee and is undefeated in conference play. What basis is there to say they would only win 1 out of 10 games?
The same basis as the other Big East teams I mentioned. They have a better roster top to bottom. All those teams have more balance. Kentucky has two great players but it is easier to stop 2 guys with a gameplan than to create a gameplan against a balanced team. Take a team like Villanova, that matches up extremely well with Kentucky. They have good role guys who could guard Meeks and Cunningham is a good matchup with Patterson. Villanova beats Kentucky 6 out of 10 times. Now do I think Marquette matches up as well? No, but I still think Marquette wins 5 out of 10 against Kentucky. College basketball is about matchups and the teams as a whole in the Big East are more balanced. Kentucky needs a third scorer and has major point guard issues.
You say they need a third scorer, and I used to think so too. But if Meeks is averaging 25 a game and Patterson 17, do they really need one?
Yes, you cant beat good teams with just two guys. I mean do they have one of the best 100 point guards in America?
Thats a tough question. But what about Davidson last year? They had one guy and they were one random dude making a three at the buzzer away from the Final Four.
Well ok, if Jodie Meeks plays that well, then yes he can take Kentucky on his backs as Curry did with Davidson.
But he is playing that well. He only averages 3 a game less than Curry.
Yeah but you cant expect that every night. Look, here is what I am saying. I am saying they could finish anywhere from 5-9 in the Big East. I mean they would struggle to come in the Top 8, they might get there, but there is no guarantee they would come in the top 8. That is my whole point.
And I guess my point is that with the exception of UCONN and Louisville, I dont see a huge talent discrepancy between some of these teams and Kentucky, and in the case of the Cards, they played them and took them to the wire.
And what I am saying is, that just looking at those teams, Kentucky is not as good as they are, in my opinion.
What does Kentucky have to do for you to think they are a top-notch team. What if they were to finish, say 15-1 in the SEC?
IF they finish 15-1, then they clearly are a team that could battle and be a Top 10ish team. These days there is so much parity in college basketball. though. Could they finish 5th in the Big East, yes…but are they the fifth best team in the Big East? I think probably not. But having said that, Oklahoma is #6 and I don’t think there is a lot of separation between them and Kentucky. And, I would say the same thing about teams in the Big 12 and teams in the Big 10. Put them in the Big East and I would say the same thing about a team like Purdue.
What about a Michigan State? Are they much better than Kentucky? I mean they just got run at home by Northwestern.
Yeah that one really surprised me. I think they are definitely a notch above a team like Kentucky, but not if they play like that. I mean look, I think Kentucky could maybe win the Pac 10 and contend in the Big 12 and Big 10. So its not like I dont think they are a good team.
Well it sounds like then, if you think Kentucky can win or contend in 4 of the 6 BCS conferences, you think they are pretty good. But is the Big East so good that a team that can win 4 of the 6 BCS conferences really cant come in the top 8? That seems like a crazy statement
Its parity and matchups. I just went through those teams with you and I think they are all better or right there with Kentucky in the top half of the Big East. Honestly, I don’t understand how you can say that the argument that they might finish 8th is a crazy lunatic statement.
Not a lunatic statement, but I think Kentucky is more likely a 4-5 team in the conference. But we agree to disagree. Tell me what you think of Patterson and Meeks. Two of the best 20 players in America?
I would absolutely agree with that. I will be the first to say that Meeks and Patterson are as good a duo as there are in college basketball. And they have both vastly exceeded my expectations.
What about Gillispie? You have been critical of him before. What do you think about the job he has done this year?
I think that Gillispie has done a very good job with this team so far and be doing it with two front line guys and not a lot around them. I thought his Freshman would give more but this is how Billy works. He will make them learn it. But those guys should play more if they are going to be good.
I know what you mean, but what is odd is that when they play, the team struggles. You put in Harris and Porter and individually they may look bad at times, but the team ends up doing better when they are in the game.
I have noticed that. It certainly happened at Louisville and Tennessee. Those guys baffle me sometimes and the team is better when they play. But those Freshmen I thought would play more. That has surprised me, no doubt.
Where do you see the Cats when it is all done?
Hard to say. I want to see them for the rest of the year. If they are as good as you (Matt) think they are, then they should take care of business in what is a weak SEC. If they do that and only lose a game like at Florida or at Arkansas, then we may have to say they are good.
But not top 8 in the Big East? (laughs)
(laughs) I guess we will see
As always, thanks Jeff
Anytime man. I dont hate Kentucky like you think and I love the passion of their fans.
Thanks again to Jeff Goodman. As always, it was a great interview and I thank him for taking the time to talk to the blog.