Contrasts for UK, Louisville

INDIANAPOLIS — John Calipari sent Andrew and Aaron Harrison and three other freshmen to sit behind the microphones and answer questions about Kentucky's Sweet 16 matchup tonight against Bluegrass State rival Louisville.

Rick Pitino sent up seniors Russ Smith and Luke Hancock.

That, as much as the 70 miles that separates the schools, is the gulf between the neighbors who face off in one of the most important meetings in their long, not-so-friendly rivalry.

Kentucky welcomes one-and-done players and won a title that way in 2012. Louisville goes for a more long-term approach and won last season's championship.

"There's so many arguments," Pitino said. "I think the best of all worlds, I would like to see exactly what football has."

Whether they stay a minimum of three years (football), one year (basketball) or something else, the issue of how athletes fit into a college campus was thrust into the spotlight by this week's National Labor Relations Board decision that defined football players at Northwestern as employees.

Neither coach would bite when asked about the ruling. "Has nothing to do with this game, so I leave it alone," Calipari said.

The one-and-done rule has been key in Calipari's re-emergence as a Final Four coach over the last six years, and has weighed on the minds of other coaches, like Pitino, who don't land the NBA-ready kids as frequently but often find themselves competing against them.

"I think we're all playing the hand we're dealt," Calipari said. "Kids are going on to the league from us and performing, and I'm proud of that."

Hancock said: "I know everyone wants to talk about experience. But they've got six, seven, eight, nine, 10 guys that are going to play real hard. We have the same. It's not going to be too big an advantage either way."

tennessee-michigan: Cuonzo Martin feels as if he's spent his whole life getting to know Glenn Robinson III.

Now the Tennessee coach must figure out how to beat the Michigan star tonight.

"I'm happy for him and it will be fun playing against him," Martin said. "Of course, we'd like to get the win, but I'm happy to see where he's come, how far he's come as a basketball player. He's a great kid."

The Tennessee coach and Robinson's father were roommates at Purdue. After college, the ex-teammates stayed in touch and have traded stories about the younger Robinson's early life, even the times Robinson brought his newborn son to Martin's apartment back in 1994. So when the younger Robinson emerged as a budding prep star, of course Martin wanted him to come to Tennessee.

Instead, Robinson went north and wound up in a region semifinal showdown against one of his favorite college coaches.

"He's a great family friend. I know my mom and grandma are close with him and his family," Robinson said. "Great guy, and it's just funny how things work out."

Since turning down a chance to enter the NBA draft, Robinson helped propel the Wolverines (27-8) to their first outright Big Ten title in 28 years, led the Wolverines to their first Big Ten tournament title game since 1998 and now has second-seeded Michigan within two wins of back-to-back Final Fours.

Contrasts for UK, Louisville 03/27/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 27, 2014 9:55pm]

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