Luke Hancock, screengrab via Facebook.

We’re a quarter of the way through the college basketball season. This a big week with several great matchups, including No.9 North Carolina (7-2) vs. No. 14 Kentucky (7-2) and No.13 Clemson (9-0) at Memphis (7-2). Both games are on Saturday afternoon. We thought it would be a great time to catch up with ACC Network analyst Luke Hancock.

Hancock, the 2013 Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player for the University of Louisville, is in his fifth season at the network. We spoke to him about his observations on the season and his playing days. 

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Awful Announcing: How excited are you for the Kentucky vs. North Carolina game? 

Luke Hancock: “Oh, I can’t wait. Carolina has played well at times and they have had some stretches where teams have been able to take them out of rhythm. If you give Carolina anything, they’re going to do really well. You have to be super disciplined against them. This is a Kentucky team with a bunch of young guys, and I think they’re uber-talented. I’m eager to see (freshman center) Aaron Bradshaw matching up with (fifth-year senior center) Armando Bacot. Aaron Bradshaw may win it in the long run with an NBA career that trumps Armando, but that’s a senior and a grown veteran college athlete. I’m ready for the matchup.”

What about North Carolina impresses you so far?

“I think they have a great lineup of four guys and Elliot Cadeau, a guy who has accepted his role as a freshman. He can facilitate the basketball and seems totally fine if it doesn’t involve him scoring a bunch of points. You don’t see a lot of freshmen accept a role like that and just play as steady as he has. RJ Davis is scoring as well as anybody, shooting it at a high clip. I love Harrison Ingram. He’s a mismatch. He’s strong enough to guard fours. And then Armando Bacot is going after some of the all-time Carolina records. Yeah, they lost to Villanova in overtime, but I think they’ve just got a complete team.”

How surprising has freshman Reed Sheppard been for Kentucky?

“He’s been so productive, so confident. I think some of the knocks on his game just haven’t been there. Everybody talked about ‘Can he defend at a high enough level?’ He might be playing some of the best defense on the team. He’s not afraid of the moment. When he shoots it, every time it leaves his hands you think it’s going in.”

Who’s the most surprising team you’ve seen?

“Clemson. Not that I didn’t think they were a good team but they kind of faltered a little bit down the stretch last year. You wondered how they would come back and how Joe Girard fits. He started the first few games not scoring very well. But they answered the call on the road against Alabama, playing South Carolina who was undefeated, and TCU on a neutral site. They have impressed with the way they shoot the ball, their versatility, and their physicality. They’re ready for a war, and you better be if you’re playing Clemson.”

What do you make of Syracuse with its new coach Adrian Autry?

“JJ Starling and Judah Mintz, when those guys are playing well, they look like one of the best backcourts in the country. I like Justin Taylor, Maliq Brown, and Chris Bell. But I wonder how good Syracuse can be without a dominant five-man. I like what Adrian Autry has done. They’re playing more man-to-man. They’re trying to pressure a little bit more, trying to go for a few more steals. If you’re going to play undersized, it’s one of the main ways you can kind of get yourself through that. So, he’s adapted well.”

Will Kenny Payne be coaching Louisville next season?

“That’s a tough one. I don’t know the answer to that. I know that Louisville fans are kind of anxious right now. There’s a tradition of winning, and KP has been a part of that as a player. He understands that maybe better than anybody, but it just hasn’t gone well to this point. And again, it’s a fan base that is ultra-passionate. I tell this story occasionally about me playing my first few games there and getting booed by the fans at the KFC Yum! Center. And oh, by the way, we won a national championship that year. They’re educated basketball fans, but they have some serious passion. That’s why this place is kind of unlike any other.”

What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen or heard from a fan during your playing days?

“Somebody had a sign that said ‘Luke Hancock wears cargo shorts.’ I always thought that was hilarious because I did wear cargo shorts back then. I traded them in for some golf shorts now. I wasn’t even offended. It was at Cincinnati, and we ended up winning that game on a Russ Smith (last-second shot).”

What led you to TV?

“I started out doing local radio around Louisville. I just enjoy talking about sports, talking about sports with fans, and watching sports in a different way through that experience. It led to an audition, and I had an opportunity. It’s always been something that I thought would be a lot of fun and something I could be good at.”

You played for Rick Pitino at Louisville. Do you have a good Pitino story?

“Probably from the national championship game. He drew up a play out of a timeout. The play was for me to come off a double screen for a shot. He told me in the huddle ‘Do not leave early. Put your head under the basket and wait on the screen.’ He said it five times to me.

“I went out there and (Michigan’s) Nik Stauskas was guarding me and kind of had his arm up high. So I took off early of course. I catch it, and the defender is right there with me because I didn’t wait. Anyway, I drive and I get fouled shooting so I’m going to the free-throw line but there’s a TV timeout. Rick Pitino is just staring at me dead in the eyes because I didn’t wait. Coach is just killing me, but I was at the free-throw line so he couldn’t take me out. This was right before I went on a little stretch, and I hit four threes in a row, and kind of changed the game. The funny part is, when we’re in the timeout with Rick, he’s screaming at me. ‘If you do that again, you’re never playing again, I’m not playing you for the rest of the game.’ Then I go back in and hit four threes in a row.”

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Grant, Amy Grant or Hugh Grant.