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Mary Jo Perino

This is the final part of a series with media members offering their opinions on Kentucky’s season.

Question: Do you think, in general, Kentucky fans are still solidly sold on what John Calipari is doing and has done at UK or do you sense some uneasiness after the last two seasons?

Ryan Lemond: “There has definitely been some uneasiness lately, and I think even Cal would admit it’s justified. There is no way this team should have underachieved the way it did this year. No way! I think UK fans love Cal. They believe in him, but the last two seasons have been a disappointment in everybody’s book. That’s gotta change. I would still take a national championship for two underachieving years, but most fans can’t do it. Win, and win now, and win a lot!”

Larry Glover: “I think all would agree he can really coach. You don’t get to Final Fours at three schools without really knowing what you’re doing.  However, some are legitimately questioning the ‘restocking the roster with freshman every year’ as the best long term approach. I think a balance between experience and talent needs to be struck.

“Honestly,  I think his promoting UK as a ‘Player First Program’ is a bigger issue for lot of folks in the BBN. Some of his quotes on the matter are giving the impression that winning games and championships are not a high priority.  I don’t share that point of view. I think Cal is very motivated to win big. I think he feels, and I share this opinion, that if you recruit and produce great talent … titles will come as a result.”

Keith Taylor: “Based on what I have heard there are some doubts about the one-and-done players. Fans miss the connection they had with four-year players. I sense they are missing the bonding and building relationships with the veteran teams and an experienced team.”

Tyler Thompson: “I think most of the fan base is still on board with Calipari. Given the right ingredients (talented freshmen plus veteran leaders), his recipe hasn’t just proven successful, it’s won Kentucky its eighth national championship.

“I think the one thing UK fans have learned this season is that you can’t rely on freshmen alone. The learning curve is too steep. Cal’s first three teams at UK have all had veteran players step up and give valuable contributions. Back in 2010, it was Patrick Patterson; 2011 Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins; 2012 Darius Miller. Even last year, Julius Mays tried to put the team on his back after Nerlens Noel went down. Coming into this season, most of us thought Willie Cauley-Stein or Alex Poythress would take that role, but so far, neither have, and the lack of leadership haunts this group. In turn, the freshmen have been expected to do it all on their own, and unfortunately, none of them are Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, two unique players mature beyond their years.

“Fortunately for Calipari and Kentucky, there is talk that the one-and-done rule may give way to a two-year rule, which would improve things immensely.”

Mary Jo Perino: “I think there’s definitely been a referendum on one and done players, but I don’t think that’s the problem. You don’t turn any of these guys away and you don’t truly know who will stay and who will go. But I do think there are some fans fed up with it. On the whole, it’s really tough for me to have a legit conversation with someone who really doesn’t think Cal is the guy for the job. I still believe he is 100 percent. Now if this happens again next year.”

Mark Buerger: “Not based on what I hear on Sundays. The tiny minority that wants a new coach is out on the far limit of sanity, but when you make a big production of telling a passionate and dedicated fan base that you are going to run the program they love in a new way and immediately follow it with seasons like the last two, you pretty much invite people to ask questions.”

Jennifer Palumbo: “UK fans want the team to compete for a national championship every season. Obviously last season was disappointing, but it also showed how hard it is to create the 2012 level of success. I think most rational fans appreciate that Cal is doing everything he can to bring the best players to UK.  The preseason hype by recruiting analysts and the media raised Big Blue Nation expectations to unrealistic heights. Every time I heard 40-0 talk, I cringed.  I want Coach Cal and the Cats to believe they can win every game, but that can be their goal. And if it ever happens, I’ll be first in line for the T-shirt.”

Tom Leach: “There’s always going to be uneasiness when things don’t go well.  Fans set the bar high at Kentucky but that’s why this program continues to win championships through almost every coaching transition.  Kentucky fans love to get to know the players and so they, along with Calipari, would love to see the rules changed to enable players to stay in the program longer.  I think the overwhelming majority of fans–when not in the moments after a loss–would say they believe in Calipari but they’d like to see that “tweak” in the rules that would provide a little more continuity of rosters and add a little more experience to each team.”

Kentucky forward Julius Randle (30) shoots over a Georgia defense during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Southeastern Conference men's tournament, Saturday, March 15, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Kentucky forward Julius Randle (30) shoots over a Georgia defense during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Southeastern Conference men’s tournament, Saturday, March 15, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

This is the third in a series of stories on the Kentucky season with various media members offering their insights as UK gets set to start NCAA play.

Question: Do you see any scenario where UK could make the Final Four this year after starting the season No. 1?

Ryan Lemond: “Not a chance in France. Only if all the other teams come down with a month long flu bug. There is no way this team has showed me anything to indicate they are a final four team, especially finishing out the season losing three of their last four and nearly four of their last five. No way.”

Larry Glover: “For UK to make the Final Four, they would need a really favorable draw in terms of match ups and the region would need to fall apart a little bit. They also needed to escape the dreaded 7 to 10 seed zone. If so, they would avoid 1 and 2 seeded teams in the first weekend.  That would be a big help.”

Keith Taylor: “No. They would have to make a total transformation from the last two weeks of the season. They haven’t fared well against ranked teams. Do not see any reason to believe it all changes now, especially if opposing teams apply consistent pressure and get the Cats rattled.”

Tyler Thompson: “I think the only way it could have happened is if they won the SEC Tournament. For a group this young, momentum is everything. In my opinion, 95 percent of this team’s problems have been mental, which is completely understandable given their youth and the unreasonable expectations. For this group, it’s never ‘can they beat someone,’ it’s ‘will they beat someone,’ and if they had banded together to win the SEC, they may have finally cleared that mental hurdle and realized their full potential.”

Mary Jo Perino: “No, just being honest. The blueprint on how to beat UK is already out there and established, as much as that pains me to say.”

Mark Buerger: “None. They have shown no sign that they can put together any kind of run, especially against better teams.”

Jennifer Palumbo: “If nothing else, this college basketball season shows anything can happen. At the beginning of the season, who said the only undefeated team would be Wichita State?  I’m not saying UK will be in the Final Four, but why not?”

Tom Leach: “Yes.  Several times this season, I have cited Kentucky’s record in comparison to Michigan’s Fab Five group of 1992 (the only team to start five freshmen in a national championship game).  The overall records and the records against quality teams are quite similar and that ’92 Michigan team seemed to catch fire in the NCAA Tournament and each win fed their momentum.  And that Michigan group was a 6-seed that year.  The odds are against UK making that kind of run but could it happen?  Absolutely.  The seed is not as big a deal if the team gets its game right and we certainly saw signs of that last week in Atanta.”

This is the first a of series of articles with various media members on their thoughts on Kentucky’s season as the Cats get set to start NCAA tournament play.

Question: What has this Kentucky season been like compared to what you expected on Oct. 15?

Ryan Lemond, Kentucky Sports Radio: “I never ever thought in a million years we would be sitting here in March talking about a 10-loss season and a 6 or 7 seed in the NCAA tournament. Back in October I bought into this team. I believed all the hype. I believed it was the best recruiting class in UK history and one of the best in the history of college basketball. Final Four was for certain, and hanging banner No. 9 was a strong possibility. I honestly don’t think I’ve covered a team that has failed to meet my expectations more than this team has.”

Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: “This season has been a big disappointment. I didn’t expect 40-0 but I did think UK would have a team that could compete for a national championship and they don’t.”

Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: “Expected more wins, especially against top 25 teams. It’s hard to gauge what to expect from a team that starts five freshmen. I definitely expected better production from Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. Starting a freshman point guard produces roller-coaster results unless you are John Wall.”

Tyler Thompson, Kentucky Sports Radio: “Pretty much a 180. If you had told me Kentucky would finish the regular season unranked after going in as No. 1, I would have said you were crazy. This freshman class was heralded as the greatest in college basketball history, and everyone, from Cal to the media to fans, bought the hype, in part to erase the memory of last season’s NIT loss. Looking back, it’s clear that these freshmen aren’t as talented as we thought, and Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein haven’t matured into the veteran leaders that been so crucial to Calipari’s teams in the past.”

Mary Jo Perino, former WLEX-TV anchor and current Comcast Sports South contributor: “Absolutely nothing. I never believed they would go 40-0, but if you asked me which was more likely an undefeated season or 10 losses, I would have said undefeated every time. It’s not over yet, but I never really imagined myself being apathetic in many ways about this team in March.”

Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports Talk: “Short of a complete disaster, but certainly a major disappointment. I always thought the 40-0 talk was dumb, and I thought the team would struggle early, especially against this schedule, but I had really figured that by now they would have things figured out and be playing up to their talent level. They just aren’t.”

Jennifer Palumbo, WKYT-TV news anchor: “I had high hopes for this group of incredibly talented players even though most of them had never played together. This is a such a young team trying to come together in a short amount of time, and this season shows talent alone isn’t always enough to win.”

Tom Leach, Kentucky Radio Network and Leach Report: “It was hard to imagine a team so reliant on freshmen would be able to avoid some bumps in the road but there was so much hype for this group that it was hard to avoid getting caught up in the expectations that were unrealistic for that circumstance.  Hopefully, we’ll all remember that for future situations.  But when that expectations bar was set so high, this team was set up to fall short.  My broadcast partner, Mike Pratt, thinks they’ve been dealing with that as far back as the Baylor game in early December and I salute Calipari and his staff for finding a way to relieve that tension prior to last week’s SEC Tournament.”

Denver Broncos tight end Jacob Tamme (84) celebrates his touchdown with teammate Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker (87) during the first half of the AFC Championship NFL playoff football game in Denver, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Denver Broncos tight end Jacob Tamme (84) celebrates his touchdown with teammate Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker (87) during the first half of the AFC Championship NFL playoff football game in Denver, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Boyle County native Jacob Tamme has been in the NFL for six years, and will be playing in his second Super Bowl Sunday when his Denver Broncos take on Seattle in New York. Tamme, 28, was a fourth-round draft pick by Indianapolis in the 2008 after his record-setting career at Kentucky. He has 164 career catches for 1,594 yards and eight score. He caught a 1-yard touchdown pass and had another 23-yard reception in last week’s AFC title game win over New England to send him back to the Super Bowl where he played for Indianapolis when the Colts lost to New Orleans.

Statewide media members have covered/watched Tamme’s high school, college and NFL career. Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Mark Story, former WLEX-TV anchor Mary Jo Perino, Kentucky Sports Radio host Ryan Lemond, WLEX-TV sports anchor Alan Cutler, UK Radio Network play-by-play voice Tom Leach and WLAP Sunday Morning Sports Talk host Mark Buerger shared their insights on Tamme.

Question: What kind of legacy do you think Tamme will eventually leave behind when his playing career ends?

Story: “How many people from the state of Kentucky have played in two Super Bowls? As legacies go, that is pretty strong.”

Perino: “Jacob’s legacy, I believe, will be first and foremost that of a great teammate. Peyton manning doesn’t pick duds, and he sees what we all know to be true about Jacob. He will be remembered as a leader, a guy who will do anything asked of him on the field, and someone who used his position in the NFL to help others. He is one of the most selfless, caring people I have ever met.
Cutler: “The perfect team player.”

Lemond: “I think he has become the perfect ambassador for UK and central Kentucky, meaning he is not only a great football player, he is probably a better person. He leads his life the right way. He promotes his Christianity. He is who we wish all of our sons could grow up to be.  He is the guy we wish our daughters would date. He is the guy that everyone can be proud of whether you’re a Boyle County Rebel or a Danville Admiral or a Kentucky Wildcat or a Louisville Cardinal. He has represented this state well, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

Leach: “You look at Jacob’s career and you see him being on teams that won a lot of games, so his legacy is one of consistent success and production that his teams could count on.”

Buerger: “I think he’ll be remembered as a good guy and a terrific player who was in the perfect place for his skill set.”

Jacob, Luke and Allison Tamme. (photo submitted)

Jacob, Luke and Allison Tamme. (photo submitted)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Boyle County native Jacob Tamme has been in the NFL for six years, and will be playing in his second Super Bowl Sunday when his Denver Broncos take on Seattle in New York. Tamme, 28, was a fourth-round draft pick by Indianapolis in the 2008 after his record-setting career at Kentucky. He has 164 career catches for 1,594 yards and eight score. He caught a 1-yard touchdown pass and had another 23-yard reception in last week’s AFC title game win over New England to send him back to the Super Bowl where he played for Indianapolis when the Colts lost to New Orleans.

Statewide media members have covered/watched Tamme’s high school, college and NFL career. Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Mark Story, former WLEX-TV anchor Mary Jo Perino, Kentucky Sports Radio host Ryan Lemond, WLEX-TV sports anchor Alan Cutler, UK Radio Network play-by-play voice Tom Leach and WLAP Sunday Morning Sports Talk host Mark Buerger shared their insights on Tamme.

Question: What continues to impress you the most about Jacob Tamme?
Story: “His competitiveness. Because Jacob is such a nice guy in civilian life, I think his competitive drive gets overlooked. The fire that allowed Tamme to soar above Eric Berry to turn a sure Tennessee interception into a 40-yard UK gain and launch Kentucky’s big rally against UT in 2007 is a big key, I think, to what has allowed Jacob to ‘make it’ in the NFL.

Perino: “His professionalism. He may not have gotten the same opportunities to play as he did last season, but that hasn’t stopped him from working hard and taking advantage of every time he did get on the field, even as a special teams player.”

Cutler: “Class act. As classy an athlete as I’ve ever talked to at UK.”

Lemond: “  Considering the shelf life of most NFL players is usually just three years, Tamme continues to impress me with his ability to stay in the league. I think it comes from his incredible work ethic and being a true “team” player. If he has to play special teams, he does it. If he has to tackle somebody, he does it. If he has to put his hand down and block some 280-pound defensive end, he does it. If he has to block to set up a play, he does it. If he has to catch a pass, he does that too. He deserves it because he has worked hard at it his entire career.”

Leach: “First, he’s always been a class act. As for on the field, what has always impressed me is that he makes ‘significant’ catches. In the AFC title game, his two catches were a touchdown and the play that sealed the win. At Kentucky, he often seemed to be the go-to guy for a key third or fourth down pass.”

Buerger: “From a football standpoint, I think his staying power in the league is what impresses me the most. The NFL is a tough business. Even if you manage to avoid the injuries that drive a lot of guys out, careers aren’t necessarily long. He has had a really good one. From a personal standpoint, I love the way he has used his success to help others, and the way he remains a proud Kentuckian and come back to do so much of his work here. Seems like a truly all-around good guy.”

Mary Jo Perino

Mary Jo Perino

Vaught’s note: WLEX-TV sports anchor Mary Jo Perino has just a bit over a week left on the job — and we are going to miss her dearly — and she wrote this response to the story about her last week that brought so many touching responses from you about her and her career. And the best news — she will become a regular contributor here.

By MARY JO PERINO

First off all, to say I’m overwhelmed is an understatement.  I’m just a girl who does a job she loves, following a team she loves, and it’s rare that you get to see the impact that has on people.  I meet people all the time who want to talk about UK sports, but it isn’t until you leave I guess that you realize what an important job it can really be.

I was touched by hearing from two guys I consider family, Alan Cutler and Ryan Lemond.  Both have shown me the ropes, taught me everything I know, and have meant more to me than they will ever know.  I can’t thank them enough for turning my blood blue.  To hear from Tom Leach, that was just icing on the cake.  I have the utmost respect for Tom and have enjoyed getting to know him, Larry, and so many others along the way.  That is probably what I’ll miss the most, the comradery and friendship developed with different members of the media.

But I already knew those guys liked me :)  What meant the most to me was hearing from Theresa and other viewers.  That’s why we do what we do and to have made a connection with people, many I’ve never met, makes me know I made the right choice in profession when I got out of college.

I also know I’m making the right choice now.  To be available to spend more time with my son will truly be a blessing.  He’s growing up so fast and I’ve already missed too much.

I hope that Larry will allow me to be a contributor to the site, and I also hope to have opportunities in the future to keep my hand in the business so to speak.  I am really looking forward to just being a fan too.  Fun fact, I’ve never, EVER tailgated before a football game in my life and I can’t wait to do that!  There are a lot of things I’m looking forward to doing and, of course, a lot of things I’ll miss.

Kentucky is such a special place to be a sports fan and a sports journalist.  People crave information about their beloved Cats and I was thrilled to be a part of that.  Ten years certainly flew by, and I hope it’s not that long before we meet again!

From the bottom of my true blue heart, thank you.

Mary Jo Perino recently prepared for a live broadcast from the SEC Tournament in Nashville. (Gary Moyers photo)

Mary Jo Perino recently prepared for a live broadcast from the SEC Tournament in Nashville. (Gary Moyers photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

If you are a Kentucky football or basketball fan, you likely know WLEX-TV (Channel 18) sports anchor Mary Jo Perino. She’s been a smiling face that openly roots for the Big Blue but yet comes across as knowledgeable and fair and not a homer.

Soon she’ll be leaving her job to pursue other opportunities that will make it easier for her to spend time with her 7-year-old son. Our loss is her gain and her son’s gain and how could you not be happy for her.

Still, after watching her for 10 years at WLEX (2002 to 2006 and then from 2007 until now after a brief stint in Atlanta), it’s not going to be quite the same without her.

Just ask Alan Cutler, the sports director at WLEX. He’s worked all 10 years with Perino and their Friday night high school football show was  must-see TV because of the way they interacted. So what will he miss most once she’s gone?

“It’s not one story, it’s the one liners that go up and back. MJP is a closer. She’s great at making a comment that you can’t answer back because it’s on the edge. It’s funny and she knows I can’t respond because the response won’t be politically correct. And she knows exactly what she’s doing,” Cutler said.

She also worked with Ryan Lemond, now a co-host on the syndicated Kentucky Sports Radio weekday morning sports talk show, at Channel 18.

“Mary Jo is one of the my favorite co-workers of all time. It was always a joy to come to work when Mary Jo was there,” Lemond said. “Her desk was directly behind my desk, so it was always a treat for me to have a co-worker that was not only very, very talented, but also a very, very good friend.

“I’m so proud of her. I kind of feel like a ‘big brother’ to her at times, and I’ve just been very proud to see her grow as a broadcaster, a friend and as a mother.”

Tom Leach, the radio voice of the Kentucky Wildcats, has been a Perino fan, too.

“Coaches always want energy from their players and that’s what Mary Jo has always brought to the UK sports scene, plus that wonderful smile. Hope we’ll see her in the crowd even though we won’t see her on press row,” Leach said.

WLAP Sunday Morning Sports host Mark Buerger has a different type best memory of Perino.

“I’ve been at my real job at Special Olympics for 11 State Summer Games events. Mary Jo has emceed the Opening Ceremonies at four of them. Every time I have asked, Mary Jo has made the trek to Richmond immediately after getting off the air to be a part of the event (which starts at 7 p.m. every year),” Buerger said.  “She made it when they were doing construction on the Clays Ferry Bridge. She made it the day Jon Cohen announced he was leaving Kentucky for Mississippi State. And she made it the year I tried to give her a year off, but I had a late cancellation and called her a couple of days before the event.

“And every time she was there she took those Ceremonies just as seriously as she did a broadcast, was an absolute pro and was a big part of producing a great event for the more than 1,300 Special Olympics athletes who compete at the Games every year. We’ll miss having her there!”

But it wasn’t just those who knew Perino well who loved the way she did her job and will miss her as those of use in the media will. Just ask Theresa Salyer.

“We like that she is so personable, enthusiastic and easy to look at, in other words really good looking. She is so passionate about our Cats and you can tell she loves what she is doing,” Salyer said. “She is also very fair in her reporting about UK sports. She is great at the Derby and has taken to the Bluegrass state and loves our state like a native.

“Meeting her personally at the Kentucky Ohio Convention and then having her remember who I was two years later was special.  I took our son, who is a great Mary Jo fan, to met her this year at the SEC Tournament and she was friendly and seemed to enjoy meeting any Cat fan.

“I love her smile, voice, just everything about her and she will be sorely missed by a lot of people. I would love to see her get back into the sports scene somehow or way. She has a lot of knowledge about a variety of sports and gives a fair report.”

Indeed she did and I’ll dearly miss seeing her not only at UK games, but at high school sports events. She was just as passionate about prep sports, and I loved that about her. Her smile could always brighten your day and on air she could always make you feel like she was talking directly to you. And athletes loved talking to her and it showed in the interviews she got on a regular basis. But mainly I’m going to miss seeing her in a professional capacity simply because she was such a good friend.

What about you? If you have seen her work or met her, let me know what you will remember or miss about Perino.

uk-ul-logo1Question: Who do you think wins the Kentucky-Louisville game Saturday and why?

Mary Jo Perino, WLEX-TV: “Louisville. They are the better team.”

Tom Leach, Leach Report and UK Radio Network: “With so many factors working in its favor, Louisville should win at this point in the season, especially with the homecourt advantage.   But I’m also confident Kentucky’s talented freshmen will start to jell as a group and if that starts to happen by Saturday, the Wildcats would have a chance to win a close one.”

Ashley Scoby, vaughtsviews.com: “Louisville. They’re playing much more together than Kentucky is, and a hundred times more sound defensively. The Cards have plenty of motivation this year after what happened in April, and they’re playing at home.”

Jennifer Palumbo, WKDY-TV: “Kentucky will win because the Cats owns the series and Cal owns Pitino.”

Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports: “Louisville. At home. Play better as a team. Way more experience in games like this.”

Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: “I think the Cardinals will win the game. If UK takes care of the ball then they can take it to the wire but if they fold under the pressure then it will be a runaway win for U of L. One thing to keep an eye on, the longer UK hangs around the more the pressure builds for U of L late in the game.”

Ryan Lemond, Kentucky Sports Radio: “I am predicting a 50-49 win for U of L. I still don’t think UK has ‘found themselves’ yet, but they are getting closer. I think it’s going to be an ugly game, and the uglier the better for U of L’s chances to finally get a win over Cal’s Cats.”

Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: “I think Louisville wins this year on the fact that they have a more experienced team and have a proven outfit. They have shown that they can win on the road and also at home, which also is a plus for the Cards. Kentucky hasn’t proven it can overcome a hostile environment and Louisville will be a much-tougher place to play than Notre Dame. I give the nod to Louisville, 75-64.”

And ESPN analyst Dick Vitale is also predicting a 77-70 Louisville victory.

Question: What are the chances both Kentucky and Louisville could make the Final Four again this year?

Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports: “Somewhere close to zero. I think there’s a decent chance that neither one does. Louisville has trouble scoring from time to time. I think that could ruin them come tournament time. Kentucky just doesn’t look like any kind of threat to get that good by the end of the season. I know they didn’t look like a threat two years ago at this time, but for some reason I don’t see this team making the kind of strides that team made.”

Jennifer Palumbo, WKDY-TV: “There’s a good chance because both teams are talented and well-coached.”

Tom Leach, Leach Report and UK Radio Network: “I would think Louisville’s chances are very good–veteran team with Final Four experience, likelihood of a top two seeding.  This Kentucky team will likely be in a similar position to the one two years ago, where some early setbacks left them with a number four seed so they would probably have to beat two or three higher seeds to make it to Atlanta.  Logically, their prospects of making three Final Fours in a row would not be as bright–but that group two years ago should  have taught us not to write this team off yet.”

Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: “Louisville has better odds, than Kentucky. The Cardinals have a chip on their shoulder after last year’s loss to Kentucky in the Final Four and wants to prove they belong among the top four teams in the nation this year. Barring a total meltdown in the Big East, the Cardinals likely will open the NCAA Tournament at Rupp Arena and have an easier road to the Georgia Dome than UK at this point. In order to improve its chances, Kentucky needs to climb back into the Top 25 and compete flawlessly in the SEC. The room for error is a small one.”

Mary Jo Perino, WLEX-TV: “It’s so tough to get there for any team.  I give Louisville the better chance.  They’ve got guys who have been there before. It will be much tougher for UK to get there.”

Ryan Lemond, Kentucky Sports Radio: “ I think U of L’s Final Four run last year was kind of a fluke. They really weren’t very good at the end of the season last year (remember the 35 blowout loss to Providence), but they got ‘hot’ at the right time and made a good run. This year there is no denying that they are pretty good. With Dieng they are a Final Four caliber team, but they don’t have that outside scoring threat this year.  So I am predicting Louisville will not make the Final Four.
“I also can’t predict a Final Four for UK.  There are just too many red flags here at the midway point of the season for me to think they can make a Final Four run. I think they will have a great SEC run this year because the SEC is really down, and I think UK is going to only get better and better.
“If I had to lay odds in Vegas on either team reaching the Final Four, I would say: UK 55 percent and U of L 70 percent.”

Ashley Scoby, vaughtsviews.com: “Louisville has a great chance to go far in the tournament this year, barring any season-ending injuries that just seem to have happened to the Cards over the last few years. I’ll be expecting them in the Final Four. Kentucky undoubtedly has the raw talent to make it to the Final Four again, but it all depends on how Calipari continues to develop this team mentally, as well as Ryan Harrow’s continued improvement.”

Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: “There’s a far better chance that neither team makes it than both teams making it.  Strangely, these two programs , as good as they are, are rarely title worthy at the same time.  They’ve been to the final four at the same time only twice since 1975.”

Next: Who will win the game?

uk-ul-logo1Question: Which team has the most pressure on it to win this year?

Tom Leach, Leach Report and UK Radio Network: “ Louisville.  They’re going to be favored and with such a big experience edge and the homecourt, they have more things working in their favor than at any other time in Cal’s time at Kentucky.”

Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: “If Pitino can’t beat Calipari Saturday then U of L fans will have to wonder if he ever will.  Rick is 0-4 against Cal and 2-7 in the last 9 games against Kentucky.  Plus, he’s not likely to win next either with the game at Rupp and Cal poised to bring in the best class ever  That means the pressure is all on the Cardinals.”

Ryan Lemond, Kentucky Sports Radio: “ No doubt it’s Louisville. They’ve lost four in a row to their arch-nemesis and arch-rival.  They lost two games to them last year.  They lost in the Final Four to them last season.  They lost two years ago at the YUM Center to UK when it was supposed to be the big ‘christening’ of their new home. It’s Pitino’s old school. It’s Pitino’s old protege. Everything about this game puts all the pressure on U of L, but the biggest reason has to be that if Pitino doesn’t win this one, he may never beat Calipari at UK. UK is going to stay at top caliber team. U of L may never have this talent level again … ever.”

Jennifer Palumbo, WKDY-TV: “ Louisville.”

Mary Jo Perino, WLEX-TV: “Louisville, no doubt.  They’ve lost to Cal three straight years and are supposed to be the much better team. Pitino can’t lose this game.”

Ashley Scoby, vaughtsviews.com: “Kentucky. Coming off a national championship and a Final Four win against Louisville, the Cats are still seen as being the top dogs and expected by UK fans to beat Louisville (always). Louisville has almost flown under the radar this year, even with their national ranking. Kentucky has much more to prove this time around, especially after they fell out of the top 25.”
Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports: “I’ll say Louisville, but only because everybody expects them to win. Kentucky needs this game to prove it can beat somebody good.”

Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: “Louisville has more to lose since the Cardinals are having what has been a banner season so far. A loss would drop Louisville in the polls, while a win for Kentucky would land the Cats back into the Top 25 going into the Southeastern Conference portion of the schedule. Kentucky hasn’t fared well on the road this year and a victory at Louisville would give the young squad confidence going into the SEC. Louisville has lost four in a row to the Wildcats, including twice last year.”

Next: What are the chances both teams could reach the Final Four again this year?

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