Rick Pitino And Russ Smith Preview Kentucky

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Pitino

--Kentucky is a terrific rebounding team. They're probably the tallest team in America. We haven't been a great rebounding team so far, so obviously this matchup is a major concern.

--Kentucky and Kansas have the top two home court advantages in college basketball that I've seen. I haven't been to Duke though.

--Can't tell you why Russ plays so well in Rupp Arena. He's a big game player. He had a big offensive game against North Carolina, but not a big defensive game.

--Julius Randle is such a unique talent. He can beat you in the post with that spin move, he can square you up and beat you with his front to the basket, and he can beat you in the air. They're the best lob team in the country.

--Kentucky's always going to have the same issues. They're not going to be cohesive in November and December, and then they'll come together after that and get better and better. Younger teams always get better and better.

--How I feel about the game is irrelevant. I can't score a single point. It's all about the players.

--Both teams are going to have quality wins before March. We know it's a big game, but we're not concerned with quality wins right now because we know we're going to have some before March. I think Belmont is a quality win for them.

--I think it's more difficult to coach a new team every year than it is to prepare for a new team every year, and he's (Calipari) done a terrific job with that.

--Willie Cauley-Stein is a dangerous weapon. He blocks a lot of shots and he keeps those shots in play, which is such a valuable skill.

--When you play in a major conference, you're going to play in a lot of big basketball contests. This is a big game, but you can't put too much into that or you're not going to have anything left for the next game. It should be enjoyed, but this game is much more for the fans than it is the players. I've coached in 21 of these games, and the only one that was really big was when they took our national championship away in 2012. We had a shot to win a national championship if we won that game, and that was a big deal.

--There are a lot of mixed marriages in the city between Louisville and Kentucky fans. They typically don't work out, but for now they have to live with it, and so the game means a lot.

--We're hoping to be able to play Chane and Montrezl together a lot, but they have to stay out of foul trouble. I'm not sure those two are more effective as a group than we are with Mangok or Stephan out there either. Mangok is better than people think he is.

--(On subbing for Chane and Montrezl in foul shooting situations) Mangok isn't as much of a free-throw shooting improvement as you'd think. Stephan is. He's our Kobe Bryant on the line.

--The officials know they're going to be criticized on TV if they make mistakes now, so there's no concern about poor officiating in big games. What you had to be concerned with was the games in the old days that were played in the middle of nowhere where the head coach was hiring his brother-in-law to call the game.

--Players will adjust to the new foul calls. I think it's better for the game, I really do. Russ hasn't gotten into foul trouble yet, which should tell you something about the type of defense he's been playing.

--You'll never hear me say a bad word about Kentucky, because that would be saying something bad about a place that meant a great deal to me. I think it's amazing that we live in a state that has been able to produce the last two national champions. It's great that something like that can happen, especially in this football-driven country.

--I don't like going up against Kentucky in recruiting, but I thought we were going to get Trey Lyles. I'd like to coach a one-and-done, but sometimes those guys are hard to pick out. Julius Randle is obviously one of those guys, but there are probably 40-50 guys in every recruiting class who think they're going to be a one-and-done, and it doesn't work out that way.

--I had a text from Gorgui the other night and he was talking about how different pro ball is and how it really is a business. Players are always in such a hurry for what's next these days. Whether the guys are there for eight months or four years, they should really enjoy their time in college.

--We were hoping to add a new frontcourt player in December, but he didn't make the necessary test score, so we know that no frontcourt help is coming.

--Montrezl Harrell could really use another season of college basketball to get better, but in his mind he's thinking "I'll work on those things while I'm getting paid in the league." And if I was him, I'd be thinking the same thing.

--I like my guards. I think all three are outstanding. Terry Rozier is a great defensive guard. Chris Jones and Russ Smith are great steal guards, but they're not sound defensively for their size.

--Kentucky is going to be a great team come March. What we have to hope for is they're not a great team come tomorrow.

--North Carolina's frontcourt took us to the woodshed, and Kentucky's frontcourt is taller and better than their's was.

Russ Smith:

--I have no idea why I've had such big games in Rupp Arena. I've been very fortunate.

--I don't mind the rivalry. For me, it's really just another game because I'm from New York. I know it's a big game for the people in Kentucky, so I kind of play for them, play for my town and for my fans.

--I didn't hate the 40-0 talk at all. That just shows that they have a great deal of confidence and it shows the aggressiveness of their players.

--The Kentucky guards could be some of the best in college basketball. They've taken a lot of criticism ealy, but they're only freshmen. As a player, I can't wait to see them grow.

--It's not too often that the last two national champions are on the court at the same time. You also don't get may chances to be on the court with so many guys who you know are going to be first round draft picks. It's been that way every year against Kentucky, and I've felt very fortunate to be in the middle of it all.

--Altering your game because of an opponent is kind of like staring at someone else's paper during a test. You don't know if that person's smart or if he even studied for the test at all. I try to always play my game and make people change for me.

--Experience means a great deal early in the season. If they still had Kyle Wiltjer, I think Kentucky would have been a lot better so far because he has that experience. They're really good. When it comes down to conference play, with the coaching they have and the players they have, I'm very confident that they're going to be very successful.

--I would tell the younger guys about this game that every good team is going to make a run. Kentucky's going to make a run, you just have to keep your cool and withstand it.

--They have great fans and we know the atmosphere is going to be great. They probably support their team better than any fans in the county--well I'm biased so I think Louisville's fans are the best, but Kentucky has great fans.

--I think I'm very much capable of distributing and getting my teammates involved. I struggled with it early during the Red/White scrimmages, but I think I've done a great job since then. They said that was what was keeping me out of the first round last year, that and my defense and size. I've handled my assist-to-turnover ratio and set a lot of steals records, so I guess I just need to get some HGH.

--Adjusting to the new rules has been tough. I just try to keep my body in front of the ball, and if he makes a tough shot then he makes a tough shot.

--Obviously we'd like to keep the ball out of Julius Randle's hands, but great players are going to find a way to get the ball and make plays.

--This game is important to me because it's potentially my last game against Kentucky, if we don't meet again in the postseason. I've always liked playing in rivalry games and games that mean a lot to the people that support me.

--I haven't made any plans to watch the bowl game, but I'm definitely going to watch.

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