Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Men's College Basketball [Print without images]

Friday, February 24, 2012
Could Vanderbilt surprise Kentucky?

ESPN.com

Editor's note: Myron Medcalf and Eamonn Brennan chatted Thursday, and looked ahead to the Vanderbilt-Kentucky matchup Saturday and other games this weekend.

Myron Medcalf: Another day, another dollar, another Watercooler convo. You like how I said "convo" instead of "conversation," don't you, Eamonn?

What's up?

Eamonn Brennan: That's how we keep it hip and relevant for the kids. Turn up the Skrillex on your Zunes, you rascals! Here comes the freshness!

MM: Word. I'm excited for the weekend on the hardwood. I actually think Vandy-Kentucky will be a great game. It was a great matchup when they met Feb.. 11. Vandy held its own and even secured a late lead. And the Wildcats haven't looked invincible over their past three games. Do you smell an upset?

Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis towered over Vandy in their first matchup. How would the Wildcats adjust if Davis got into foul trouble?

EB: I do not. Sure, Vandy hung around with Kentucky in Nashville. Sure, the Commodores made a late push. And yeah, Kentucky was tested. But it passed with flying colors. That last four minutes, UK flipped some sort of crazy-defense switch. It was like the Wildcats all looked at each other and said, "This team isn't scoring again." And Vanderbilt didn't. Other than an unlikely barrage of 3s, I don't know how Kevin Stallings' team solves the UK riddle. It's very difficult to imagine.

MM: True. The Wildcats have that switch. It's like they just wait to use it when necessary. Vulnerable is probably the wrong word. They've just looked bored during their past three games. It's like they're waiting for a big challenge. Vandy, like Ole Miss and MSU, put up a fight for a stretch. And then, boom! The Wildcats took off. Good or bad, in terms of national title hopes, that Kentucky is cruising like this? Would it be better served by a tough game right now to get ready for March?

EB: I'm sure the Wildcats' coach would prefer that each of the rest of their games be like Mississippi State -- a team that came out guns blazing with an upset in mind, forcing Kentucky to react and overcome in the second half. At this point in the season, UK doesn't need confidence boosts or dominant, wow-we're-awesome, 40-point victories. There's a lot more value to hard-fought games, because in the tournament, you have to win six increasingly difficult ones. Better to get this young team used to that now.

In fact, if I'm John Calipari, I'm hoping Anthony Davis gets in foul trouble Saturday. Not because I want to lose, of course. But because I want my team to learn how to play without him, in case such a scenario arises in the tournament. It very well could.

MM: I agree. That's the scenario that terrifies Kentucky fans. Sweet 16 game versus Wichita State, and AD picks up two fouls in the first 10 minutes of the game. Speaking of the Shockers, they're playing Drake this weekend, and the last time these two teams met, we had a triple-overtime game. That's one of my sleeper picks for game of the weekend along with Colorado State-SDSU and Purdue-Michigan. What game are you most excited about excluding Vandy-UK and Mizzou-KU?

EB: Love the Purdue-Michigan pick. Huge game for the Boilers.

Two others on my radar that are hardly sleeper picks but should be fascinating all the same: UNC at Virginia and Syracuse at UConn. The latter especially intrigues me. We've been over the UConn thing time and again this season, but does Shabazz Napier's last-second ONIONS bomb in the win over Villanova carry any sort of momentum or intangible benefit? Is it something the Huskies can build on? I tend to doubt it, and the whole momentum thing is overrated anyway, but Napier has been begging those guys to follow his lead all season. They haven't. Maybe that's the shot that galvanizes them, finally. (Or, you know, maybe not.)

MM: The Napier shot and the "man up" calls have only made me more interested in this game. It's just a pride thing right now for the Huskies. And yeah, momentum is overrated. But sometimes a performance like that ignites a flame in a team that's been dead for most of the season. Doesn't get any bigger than Syracuse in the Big East.

But the game of the weekend … game of the season? … is certainly Mizzou-Kansas. Now, when I did "The Experts" show last week, I called the Mizzou upset. I picked the Tigers again this week. And KU fans called me crazy and a bunch of other words my mom never let me say when I was younger. Am I nuts for that pick? We'll still be cool if your answer is yes.

EB: Kansas fans can do that from time to time. I can't even remember what it was about, but over the summer, we had a big feud going. We eventually squashed the beef, but it was like Jay-Z/Nas for a while there. Pretty sure a KU message board tried to "Ether" me.

As to your question … I'm glad we can still be cool. Because, yeah, I think Kansas is winning this game. I don't think you're crazy for going the other way. I just think Kansas has the upper hand in Allen Fieldhouse, and I think it's worth remembering that except for a bad call (or two, depending on your perspective) and an awesome Marcus Denmon freakout down the stretch in Columbia, Kansas wins that game.

My motto on the Jayhawks in the past two seasons -- both seasons in which they were picked to share or fall short of the Big 12 title -- has become the following: When in doubt, go with the program that's won seven straight Big 12 titles. On Saturday, I think the Jayhawks make it eight.

MM: Glad to know about the past beef. Good thing I followed the Canibus versus LL Cool J feud just in case there's beef.

I agree. Game could have gone either way. But I can't ignore the Denmon freakout. And I think the Kansas State loss certainly made me less confident in the pick. But there's so much more to this game. The conference title, the rivalry, the questions stemming from the way the first game ended. I think Mizzou will bring it. And because I'm stubborn and I don't don't really know how to reverse course on prediction, I'll stick with my call and say the Tigers will win again. The Jayhawks are very good. Few teams have looked better than Kansas in recent weeks. But it will get a major test in Allen Fieldhouse this weekend. I'm just excited to watch.

EB: Hear, hear. No matter what happens, Myron, let's promise to never beef with each other. Although it could make these chats pretty exciting for our readers.

MM: I promise. Unless you picked Jay-Z over Nas in that beef. …

EB: Uh-oh. We might have a problem here. To be continued. …