An interview with Curry Kirkpatrick

He's one of the most respected sports columnists working today. He was great at Sports Illustrated and has continued his excellent work with ESPN both in print, on the net and on the airwaves. Cat Tracks had the pleasure of speaking with Curry Kirkpatrick and picked his mind about college basketball.

Question: Is Arizona No. 1?
Curry Kirkpatrick: "Yes, I think so but it doesn't mean they'll get to the Final Four. I saw them against Texas and Kansas and I thought Lute was playing too many players. Now that he's shortened the bench I think they're a lot better."

Question: Who are some interesting "sleeper" teams?
Kirkpatrick: "Well, this year I don't if there are any sleepers. It seems so wide open. It's a cliché, every year they say this tournament is wide open but I think this year it is. A lot of the big conferences are down. The ACC is down, the Big Ten is down and Big East is down I think. If you look at the Big 12 and the SEC, those are the strongest conferences."

Question: Who are some of the more dangerous teams that "sneak up" on an opponent?
Kirkpatrick: "Creighton and Southern Illinois out of the Missouri Valley and Xavier, all could be very dangerous teams in the tournament. Two or three weeks ago I would have said Syracuse. I love the way they're playing and I think they're a great sleeper, but they're no longer a sleeper. I would hate to play Syracuse in the tournament. They have the great player (Carmelo Anthony), the good shooters and they play that zone defense that's tough against everybody. Syracuse is my sleeper, if they are a sleeper."

Question: What factors into a team's success in March?
Kirkpatrick: "I think a lot depends on the draw more than anything. If Arizona and Oklahoma got in the same regional, I don't think Lute wants to play Oklahoma again. They're the kind of team that would be very difficult because they're very physical. They're well rounded and they play the same as they played last year. I don't think Lute would like to play them. So it all depends on the draw."

Question: What do you think about Kentucky?
Kirkpatrick: "They may be peaking too early. They're playing so great it would scare me if I were a Kentucky fan. They're playing too good. Can they keep this up? I don't know, I don't know, it depends on the draw. They play great defense, so they don't have to depend on their shooting."

Question: What is Arizona's weakness?
Kirkpatrick: "A lot of people talk about Arizona's weakness being its halfcourt defense. They don't guard the ball very well in the halfcourt, that they don't play that good of defense. I think they'll have to have the freshman, (Andre) Iguodala, in to play defense. He really helps them."

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