ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said he wants Tom Crean (left) and John Calipari to resolve their differences and resume the UK-IU game.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale has served many roles during his Hall of Fame career: coach, commentator, philanthropist, mentor, fundraiser and voice of college basketball.
As busy as Vitale remains, he told me that he has time for one more assignment: Henry Kissinger.
That is a perfect launching point for the Monday Rewind. Vitale said that he is willing to be the statesman who can mediate a situation that perturbs him: the absence of the Kentucky-Indiana basketball game from the college basketball schedule. Vitale worked many of those games and misses it from his schedule.
In fact, Vitale also argued that IU and Louisville should play. (They are scheduled to play next season in Madison Square Garden as part of the Jimmy V Classic.)
For the record, this was strictly Vitale. I visited him before the Memphis-Louisville game Thursday to get his reaction to Louisville's decision to hire Bobby Petrino as the Cards' football coach. He preferred to talk basketball.
I'm fine with the game staying off the schedule – as long as both programs replace it with marquee games. Kentucky did that by playing North Carolina and Baylor, although neither game was played in Rupp Arena this season. The highest-ranked non-conference team IU brought to Assembly Hall in November or December was Stony Brook.
"They should play each other," Vitale said. "Indiana should play both Louisville and Kentucky. These coaches should make that happen because the fans deserve it. They're great programs. They're so close to each other. We've got all these match-ups and they don't play."
You mean match-ups like Kentucky-UT Arlington, Indiana-Nicholls State and Louisville-Fairfield? How could we survive without those games?
"The egos have to be set aside and do what's best for the players," Vitale said. "Those two guys (John Calipari of UK and Tom Crean of IU) should get in a room and say, ‘You know what? Kentucky and Indiana are bigger than both of us.'
"Because there are only two guys who are going to make that decision – those two. I don't want to hear about anybody else involved. Those two could simply say: Let's play. For the benefit of the game, the alumni and all the people."
Maybe there is a third guy who can melt the freeze? Vitale.
"I'd like to," Vitale said. "I did try."
*Nobody in the TV world praises Calipari more than Vitale, but he disagreed with the back-door shot that Calipari took at Indiana fans on his radio show last week.
More than two years have passed since the Hoosiers beat UK's 2012 NCAA title team on Christian Watford's three-pointer at the buzzer – and IU fans stormed the Assembly Hall court from Evansville, Columbus, Indianapolis, Greencastle, Gary, Kokomo and Terre Haute.
Calipari was not pleased – and still isn't.
"We don't have obnoxious — well, we may, but I never hear them — but we don't treat the other team with disrespect," Calipari said on his radio show.
"If we won a game against the No. 1 team in the country in Rupp Arena, would people charge the court? No. You're supposed to (win). This is Kentucky. We don't do that here."
ESPN analyst (and former IU player and coach) Dan Dakich saw those comments, reported to Twitter and said that Calipari finally admitted that the reason he won't return to Bloomington is that Assembly Hall is "too tough a place."
Vitale saw Calipari's comments – and disagreed with the UK coach.
"I don't buy that," said Vitale, who called that game for ESPN and was nearly trampled during the post-game scene.
"I thought that moment deserved them coming on the floor. I was there. And I'll tell you why it deserved it. Indiana had been in such a struggle. That was their first signature, unbelievable win under the Tom Crean Era.
"I had no problem in that case. NONE."
Give it a shot, Dick. But I don't like your chances.
*Conference play has started across college basketball. You know what that means. A weekly diet of coaches reminding everybody how difficult it is to win on the road.
I've checked the numbers for three local leagues of interest – the American Athletic Conference, the Southeastern Conference and the Big Ten.
Guess what? It hasn't been Mission Impossible. Here are the numbers.
In the AAC, road teams are 9-8, .529 winning percentage.
In the SEC, road teams are 7-7, 500 winning percentage.
In the Big Ten, road teams are 9-13, .409 winning percentage.
*Updated computer numbers for U of L, UK, IU and Western Kentucky.
The Cards are ranked in 13th in Ken Pomeroy's formula, 8th in Jeff Sagarin's predictor numbers and 49th in the Ratings Percentage Index.
The Wildcats sit 14th in Pomeroy, 12th in Sagarin Predictor and 17th in RPI.
The Hoosiers are 60th in Pomeroy, 47th in Sagarin Predictor and 70th in RPI.
And the Hilltoppers are 183 in Pomeroy, 178 in Sagarin Predictor and 147 in RPI.