A Conversation With Jay Bilas

I've made little attempt to hide my admiration for Jay Bilas over the years. The man pretty much does everything I've ever tried to do, but 15 times better. Basketball was my favorite sport growing up, but I was too small and too much of a shaky ballhandler to be a legitimate player. Bilas played for Duke and then professionally. I went to law school and left after a year. Bilas graduated from Duke and still practices. I make a modest living writing about college basketball. Bilas is on ESPN and is the best in the business.

Basically, his swag consumed mine for the duration of the following conversation.

Louisville is the prohibitive favorite to win it all right now, but a lot of people still point to outside shooting as their Achilles heel. If the Cards do go down this weekend, how does it happen?

I think the one thing that can get in Louisville in serious danger is foul trouble. With Kevin Ware being out, having to play without either Russ Smith or Peyton Siva for an extended stretch can change the course of the entire game. They play so aggressively on defense, and if you can take that away with foul trouble then you're going to have a chance to win. Ware was also playing really well offensively for them, and being down a man in their rotation is also really going to take a toll on their offense.

Having said that, I don't think there's one thing alone that Louisville can't overcome. They beat Duke by 22 and only made three outside shots. I don't see a bad shooting night alone being enough to sink them, it would have to be accompanied by an especially good shooting night by their opponent.

There's been some controversy this week surrounding Kevin Ware's injury and the fact that people are profiting from it. U of L has said it won't be accepting any of the proceeds made from any Ware-merchandise, but there are still people and companies out there who are making money off of this injury, and Kevin Ware isn't one of them. How do we remedy this or is there a remedy for this?

First of all, I'd like to clarify my position on all of this because I think my tweet yesterday gave some people the wrong impression. I don't blame Louisville or any other institution for making money. I think making money is great. This is a business, and the goal of any business in a capitalist society is to make money.

The problem I have is that this is a situation where everyone is making money and everyone is reaping the benefits except for the athletes doing the vast majority of the work. They're the only ones not getting a cut. When you exclude one group of people in a situation like this, there has to be a good reason, and there's not a good reason here. That's my problem with all of this.

So what's the solution?

Allow the players to participate in the free market the way other people can. There are no restrictions on any other students, none. Whether they're rich or poor or from whatever background, none of them have any restrictions that this one group of individuals do. The same is true of every administrator, every coach, everybody on the athletic side and the academic side. The only people who have any restrictions in this multi-billion dollar industry are the athletes themselves. Not only do I think it's wrong, I think it's immoral.

You recently said that you thought Peyton Siva would find a place in the NBA. That seems to be a minority opinion. Why do you think that?

I think Peyton is so fast, so strong, so dynamic and so disruptive on defense that he can find a place in the NBA. He's not a great shooter and he's obviously not a big guard, but he can come into games and be disruptive, change the pace and operate well in transition. His speed is game-changing, and those are the types of traits that teams look for in the NBA. I also think that his shot will improve. Now he's not going to turn into Steve Kerr or anything, but his shot will get better.

I've got a few questions that some readers have asked to be answered. Louisville fans were pretty upset that Russ Smith was only a third team All-American. Where would you have put him?

Yeah, I thought third team was low too. I had Trey Burke as my Player of the Year, and I got a lot of messages from people saying it should have been Russ Smith. Most of them were from the Commonwealth, but you know. It's a close call. Third team for Russ Smith, I would quarrel with. First or second team, I think, is far more reasonable.

Do you actually practice photo-bombing or is that just a God-given talent?

Oh, there's no practicing. I go purely on instinct, baby. That's 100 percent God-given.

Are those actually your kids in the Dove Commercial, and do you always do that intense post-fist bump stare?

Yes, those are my kids. The eye-rolling that you see from my son is definitely not acting. I see that almost daily. The effectiveness of that eye roll is more about my ability as a parent than it is my son's ability to act.

If Louisville and Michigan were to both advance on Saturday, who do you like in that battle of guards between Siva/Smith and Burke/Hardaway Jr.?

It's difficult to say because they're so different. Siva and Smith are much faster and more athletically dynamic than Hardaway and Burke, but Burke is the complete package. He's everything you could want out of a guard in terms of his ability to run the floor, shoot the ball, pass the ball and play defense. Like I said earlier, he was my pick for player of the year. All four guards are great and all four do different things well, but I think Burke is the best of the bunch.

Why are you so hood?

It's where I come from. Rolling Hills, California. That's what we called it, we called it the hood. If you leave your Gucci loafers lying around then they're gonna get took.

Pervis Ellison or Gorgui Dieng?

Oh boy, that's close. I'd say right now that it's Pervis Ellison, but Gorgui Dieng is gaining fast. The big difference between the two is that Pervis did it for four years. Now I think Gorgui is going to catch him here shortly, but he was much more of a project when he got to Louisville than Pervis was. Pervis was more of a forward at Louisville and Gorgui is more of a center, but by the time Gorgui's done they're both going to be up there on the highest plane of Louisville big men.

If forced to choose, though, I have to go with Pervis because he did it consistently for four years. He came in and was magnificent, and when he left he was even better.

What are you looking forward to most about the Final Four?

I'm looking forward to watching the players. That's the thing I love most about the Final Four. I always love the games and the competition at the Final Four, but I really like to watch the players and their reactions and really just how they deal with the whole experience of being on this giant stage and their families being there and all of that.

I'm always drawn to the losers at the Final Four, which I'm sure Louisville fans are aware of since I hung that '86 banner that's still inside Freedom Hall. I can tell you when you experience something like that, it never leaves you. You always remember being there and falling short, and those are the real moments. The moments in college, I think, mean more than anything you do as a professional or anything you did in high school or any other time before. This period just means more and these are real moments that these kids will never, ever forget. I can tell you right now that the pain of losing in 1986 is still every bit as sharp and as deep as it was right after it happened. But this is why we love the college game. It just means more to everyone involved.

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