Serious business being discussed in today's weekly Monday Morning Meeting between WDRB Sports Columnists Rick Bozich and Eric Crawford -- U of L's lofty football rankings, local teams at the top of the basketball world and the NBA in Louisville.
1. Louisville needed overtime to beat Cincinnati, but it appears that the Cards jumped six spots in the latest BCS rankings. Are you OK with that? And how do you explain it?
RICK: First, I'll explain it, then I'll react. Cards benefited from the games USC, Texas Tech, Rutgers and others lost. Seemed as if they had stalled in the ratings. Teams lost. U of L won. Hello, Top 10.
But 10 is too high for this team. Maybe you've seen something that I've missed, but I haven't seen any evidence this is the 10th best team in the country. Life and death to beat South Florida and Cincinnati at home? They've beaten a string of mediocre teams by a touchdown or less. Help me out here.
ERIC: Part of the problem is the volatility of teams losing in front of the Cardinals. If there's enough of a shakeup, a team that just keeps winning is going to move up by default, and U of L has. I got to looking at some of the voters in the AP poll, and it was less a rush of support for U of L that lifted the Cards than a lack of agreement on who should be in those spots ahead of them. Most voters agreed that U of L came in at the 9-13 range, and that was better than some others that had wider fluctuations.
But don't discount U of L's place in the computer rankings. The Cardinals have climbed to No. 13 in that consensus.
There's not enough megabyte in the rest of U of L's schedule to lift the Cards much further, but I can't sit here and say No. 10 is too high, if that's where the thing puts them. The problem is that there are a lot of just "pretty good" teams in the 8-16 spots, and U of L is one of them. So for me, rank those in whatever order you want. There are schools in that group U of L could beat, some they probably wouldn't.
For U of L, it just needs to keep winning, regardless of competition. Because as Big East schools are finding out -- it's a long fall if you don't.
2. Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky are coming out of the box 1-2-3 in the AP writers' and USA Today coaches' polls. Are you OK with that? And how do you explain it?
RICK: Yes, I'm OK with it. This is going to be one of those seasons where 8 or 10 teams are ranked Number One. These three are deserving even if they will have ups and downs.
Here's the explanation: Indiana has five starters back and a solid freshman class. Louisville has the best point guard in the Big East and a pair of pros in the frontcourt, plus several other solid pieces, especially Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear. And Kentucky has three of the top 10 prospects in the 2013 NBA Draft, according to Sports Illustrated.
ERIC: I'm not only OK with it, but I endorse it. I'm Eric Crawford, and I approve that message. They should be in the top three. Indiana, don't forget, has the consensus preseason player of the year in Cody Zeller. U of L has all the assets you listed, and UK has more first-round NBA talent than anyone in the nation.
Easy call. Let's just hope they all live up to the lofty expectations everybody has.
3. The NBA season tips off this week. If you could recruit an NBA team, would you? And which one would it be?
RICK: The chance to see at least 41 more basketball games in an arena that needs to generate more revenue? Let's do it.
And let's do it with the Sacramento Kings. They're looking for love -- and the entire area would pull together to watch DeMarcus Cousins, Chuck Hayes and Francisco Garcia, plus coach Keith Smart. That's UK, U of L and IU. Sounds like a marketing dream to me.
ERIC: If you have a chance to lure big-league sports to your city, you do it. But the team doesn't matter so much as the ownership. J. Bruce Miller had an intriguing foreign group interested a while back -- a group that even was interested in turning Freedom Hall into the Madison Square Garden of the south while changing the game with television rights fees in China that would've opened up a major revenue stream. But the lockout happened, and everything moved to the back burner.
I don't know what kind of lead investors are available to go along with the group of city leaders that seems to be coming together on this idea, but I've always thought an NBA team, if marketed properly and with ownership of the right type, could be successful here. And most important, it could give the city a tie to the rest of the state that has been lacking, and one that could serve as a positive bridge between Louisville and the rest of the commonwealth. So, yes, give me the Kings, but maybe with a new ownership group.
All this is well and good, and I do believe interest in the NBA around here is as high as it's ever been. Outgoing NBA commissioner David Stern lumped Louisville in with a group of cities seeking to get into the league during a news conference last week.
But the arena the NBA team would play in already has a primary tenant. And U of L athletic director Tom Jurich said last week that the university would protect its contract. So before anybody brings any NBA team into this city, the issue with U of L needs to be settled, and that's going to mean, I believe, a major commitment. I don't believe U of L will share an arena with an NBA team. Some college programs do it. They are not programs that make a great deal of money off basketball, at least not compared with U of L -- even pre-KFC Yum! Center.
If city leaders are hoping that public pressure on U of L will force the university to come to the table if and when they can get a team interested, they're gambling a little bit. Making U of L a scapegoat for arena shortfalls is even more dicey. Better to start discussions with U of L now and see what it would take to satisfy everybody. The city negotiated an NBA-type deal with U of L. I expect it would take near-NBA money to get out of it. In the meantime, new NBA team or not, development in that taxing district around the arena needs to keep moving forward. That's the one thing that the city ought to be able to lure. An NBA team? That's a much tougher proposition.