Athlon Sports’ Mitch Light caught up with CBS college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg earlier this week to chat about the Final Four.
Athlon Sports: You’ve been involved in the sport for a long time, both as a player and broadcaster. Can you remember a Final Four matchup as juicy as what we have with Kentucky and Louisville?
Clark Kellogg: No, I can’t. When you consider what that rivalry means to the folks in Kentucky and also to people that follow college basketball closely, it’s way up there in the regular season — highly intense and extremely passion-driven. Now you factor in the stage that it is being played on and what is at stake, then it goes to a level that we haven’t seen in a Final Four matchup, quite honestly. This will be my fourth year calling the national championship game, and I spent 12 years as a studio analyst before that and watched it for a number of years before that, and I don’t know if we’ve ever had this kind of a matchup — a rivalry that has teams of this type of tradition, like Louisville and Kentucky.
Kentucky is the favorite. If you are looking at it from a Louisville standpoint, other than the obvious of making shots, what do the Cardinals need to do well to win this game? What’s a matchup that Louisville might need to win?
It is really too hard to lock into a particular matchup. The point you made, and it’s very simplistic and an obvious one, but shot-making is huge. It has such a big impact on everything, being able to set up your defense, being able to keep pressure on Kentucky. I think Louisville will be able to get good shots. They’ve got to be able to knock a high percentage of them down. Kentucky is without weaknesses, so being able to score the ball is one of the elements you have to bring to the table. I just don’t think you can out-defense Kentucky or slow them down enough to beat them just in a defensive battle. Scoring the ball and making shots is a huge, huge part of the equation for any team to beat them.
Looking at Kansas, I think a popular storyline this year has been Kansas’ relative lack of elite talent. They have good players, but they might not have a bunch of future pros on the team. Is that accurate?
It’s not elite compared to some of the recent teams that Kansas has had, particularly the 2008 national championship team, and even last year’s team when you had the Morris twins. So I can understand why people would say that. The jury is out what is going to happen in the post-college careers of players like Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson, even a guy like Jeff Withey. That being said, I think it is being overstated a tad, but compared to recent Kansas teams, yes, this is not a team that jumps out at you with a bunch of players with obvious pro potential. That being said, you don’t have to be in the pros to get to the Final Four. You just have to be able to handle the landscape in front of you, and Kansas has done that with really good defense and the play of Thomas Robinson and the improved play of Jeff Withey and the brilliance of Tyshawn Taylor for the last third of the season.
Looking at your alma mater, Ohio State, what is the key to defending Jared Sullinger? You have to kind of push him off the block and out of his comfort zone, right?
I think that is one of them. You want to be able to defend Jared Sullinger effectively one-on-one, but Kansas likes to double-team the post, and they do it aggressively and hard. If they determine that is the strategy that they want to go with, they will have to rotate well on defense. The key is you have to make it tough for a guy like Jared Sullinger. Don’t allow him to get a steady diet of a certain defense. Don’t allow him to get a rhythm. You want to minimize his deep post touches and you want to attack him at the other end of the court as well. The key matchup for me for Kansas will be Deshaun Thomas. They really don’t have a natural defender for him among their starters. I am interested to see how they deal with him. He is a scorer in the truest sense of the word. He can make threes. He can post you up. He can hit a mid-range shot. He is an elite scorer at the college level. How Kansas deals with him may be more important than what they do with Jared Sullinger.
Got to you ask about a team that is not in the Final Four, but how much fun was it for you to have your son, Nick, and his team, the Ohio Bobcats, enjoy so much success in the NCAA Tournament?
It is a thrill and a sense of pride and gratitude that I can’t adequately describe in words because of how full it makes you as a dad, as a mom, and as a sibling, to see your son or your brother out there. Just a tremendous run and an exciting run of fun for our family, and I was full beyond a measure of pride because of how Nick handled himself off the floor. He’s been grounded. He’s worked hard, and he’s been a good teammate.
I know you are involved with the Capital One Cup. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how you got involved?
Certainly can. I am an advisory board member for the Capital One Cup and have been for two years. Capital One is committed to the achievement of student-athletes, both on and off the court or field, and that dedication and drive to be the best is really the reason why the Capital One Cup was created. It rewards Division I athletic programs for their cumulative on-field performance across men’s and women’s sports with over $400,000 combined student-athlete scholarships. I couldn’t be happier to be associated with the Capital One Cup. And fans have an opportunity to follow their university of choice in the Capital One Cup simply by going to CapitalOneCup.com. You can find the standings at Facebook.com/CapitalOneCup and Twitter.com/CapitalOneCup. And all four of the Final Four teams have an opportunity to win as many as 60 points by winning the National Championship.
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