Jay Bilas took a break from hanging by the pool to come on the show this morning and give his observations on the Cats after three exhibition games. Like the rest of us, Bilas is very impressed with Kentucky’s performance so far. “Wow…I mean, they’re…wow,” Bilas said. “They’re really good, and they have a chance to be great.”
Bilas raved about this team’s depth, which he says is remarkable so far, especially since Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles haven’t been able to play yet. “This is a different type of team in that they’re so deep,” Bilas said, echoing his comment earlier in the week that with Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles, you could split the team in two and have two Top 20 teams. “Who gets to platoon?!” Bilas marveled. “You just don’t do that. [Calipari] can legitimately platoon and not take a drop off at all.” Bilas said having real veterans has also helped the Cats, as well as having good chemistry off and on the court. “They relate to each other really well, and they seem like really good guys, and that can’t help but make you a little bit better.”
Matt asked Jay, a former Dukie, to compare John Calipari with Coach K, and Jay said the two are actually pretty similar on the court. “They’re very similar in their coaching in that both of them have adapted to the changing landscape of the game as well if not better than anyone else. John is more of an out front salesman. John cares what people think. I don’t think he spends a whole lot of time worrying about it, but he absolutely cares. But John comes across like he doesn’t care. He will do and say some controversial things to stir things up a little bit. Coach K is less likely to do that. I’d say he can seem from afar, a little bit more corporate, but both are great guys with different personalities. They have very different personalities. Both of them are funny, both of them are great to be around, but they’re different personality types. They’re both competitive as all get-out, and they’re two of the best coaches that have ever lived. You don’t win like Calipari’s won and not be great.”
Jay admitted that when Calipari came to Kentucky, he didn’t think the run he’s had was possible. “I did not think what he’s done at Kentucky was possible. I didn’t think it was possible to take that many young guys and blend them together and win at that high of a level that consistently,” Jay said. “I thought the norm would have been the NIT year. Where you have teams that take their lumps and have these wild swings, ups and downs. So, you might have a really good year and then you really struggle, and then you have another really good year. But that’s been the anomaly.” In fact, Bilas went as far to call Cal’s time at Kentucky “one of the most incredible runs in college basketball history.” Wow.
When asked about the Big Blue Nation, Bilas said he doesn’t think there is anyone more passionate about basketball than Kentucky fans, and mentioned his numerous ties to the area (his niece graduated from UK and married Mark Krebs, his brother lives in Louisville). He said that makes him feel like a distant relative of the UK family, even if he used to play for Duke. “The highest compliment that Kentucky fans ever give me is ‘We hate Duke, but we don’t hate you,'” Bilas joked.
So, does Jay think that fans should be as giddy as we are right now? “I do think this team is worthy of a National Championship. That doesn’t mean they’re going to win it, but they’re good enough to win it,” Bilas said.
Listen to the whole interview below. It’s totally worth it.