After a week of the media talking, on one hand, about Kentucky's dominance over Utah in NCAA play, and on the other hand, about Andrew Bogut's total domination of any player he faces, it is pretty obvious that players and coaches from both teams are getting pretty sick of the hype and are ready to lace ‘em up and hit the floor.
Coach Ray Giacoletti and his team appeared tired of fielding the same questions. They were in no mood to hear any more about the 1993 team, the 1998 team or the 2003 team. This is 2005, Rick Majerus is no longer the coach and as far as he is concerned, the playing field has leveled. "They are a different team, and we are a different team," Ute guard Marc Jackson said. He later added that the Utes are more confident than ever. "Our team is still fresh at this point in the year. We weren't two years ago. Two years ago we didn't have (Bogut). We are playing well right now. We have a lot of confidence. We have got a good game plan."
Jackson was not the only player for the Utes (29-5) expressing confidence. The coach sounded assured as well, "It doesn't matter who we play," said Utah coach Ray Giacoletti. "You have to play someone. Kentucky is a great team and rich in tradition. But anyone that made it this far was going to be a challenge."
Despite the confidence, Giacoletti showed signs that the continuous barrage of questions about the NCAA history of the two teams was wearing on his patience, "I'll bet I have been asked the same two or three questions 50 times this week about the 1998 and 1993 teams. I know the media has made a lot around the background of Utah and Kentucky," Giacoletti said. "Most of us weren't here, so it is a new era for the Kentucky players, our staff and our program."
The players are feeling the same. In yesterday's press conference, Bogut referred to the plethora of questions, "I have heard about Kentucky beating us many times in the NCAA, blah… blah... blah…", to which a reporter followed up with the question, "Well Andrew, regarding the ‘blah… blah… blah'……"
On the other end of the spectrum, Kentucky coaches and players must be equally sick of hearing the same questions about how the Cats will try to handle arguably the best player in the country.
"In Bogut, we see a real pro. He's a monster player, "Smith said," but he is not a one man show. You don't really stop guys like that. If you spend all your time thinking about one guy, you are going to lose focus of what is important to win the game. We are focused on the Utes. It is five on five and each team has 14, 15 players. Bogut is talented but they have many ways of beating you. They have many players doing a great job. It isn't just one player."
"The guy, he looks very big on TV," said UK senior forward Chuck Hayes. "He is very fundamentally sound. He has such a nice touch around the basket. It will definitely be a challenge for us. But we have faced quite a few really good big men this year with success."
Hayes, the senior that has led Kentucky this far, has almost been forgotten, overshadowed by the hype surrounding Bogut. But coach Tubby Smith knows that his senior will be ready, "Chuck Hayes is a servant. He is a giver. He is a contender not a pretender. He's well rounded. He has those virtues that any parent would want in their child. He leads by example on the court and off the court. He does a lot of things you really can't teach."
Giacolletti acknowledged that Hayes would be ready to lead the team and expressed concern over Kentucky's size and athleticism, "I think Kentucky is more athletic and deeper than we are," Giacoletti said. "We have to play a certain style to be competitive and give us a chance to be successful. We'll advance and go on or lose and go home." ________________________________________