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November 20th, 2018

Former Kentucky Basketball player Tom Payne granted parole

After serving more than 30 years in prison, Tom Payne is about to be a free man.

According to LEX18, Payne, the first African-American to play basketball for the University of Kentucky, has been granted parole after serving three decades for multiple sexual assaults. Payne has repeatedly expressed remorse for his actions, and hopes his story can be an inspiration to others trying to get their life back on track.

“I want to show that a man can be redeemed,” Payne told the parole board in 2016. “A man can come out of here and live a decent life.”

His request then was denied, but now, he’s got a chance at freedom. As Nancy Cox shared, it was an emotional moment at the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange:


A Full Preview of All The Thanksgiving College Basketball Tournaments

I’m just going to throw it out there: I really do believe that “Feast Week” – the week leading up and through Thanksgiving – really is one of the best weeks on the entire college basketball calendar. I know everyone loves the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament (because who doesn’t love betting on obscure schools you’ve never heard of) but “Feast Week” really is basically just as good, without half the hype.

Seriously, think about it. What’s better than wall-to-wall basketball, from noon until well after midnight, Monday-Friday? Nothing. Well, except maybe for wall-to-wall basketball, from noon until well after midnight, Monday-Friday… after half-assing your work week Monday-Wednesday, then taking off the back end of the week to gorge on too much food and adult beverages for four straight days. Forget Fourth of July. I never feel more American than I do during Thanksgiving week. And I’m sure you feel the same.

So with the games underway, what do you need to know heading into the most underrated week of the college basketball calendar? From Maui to New York, Atlantis to Orlando, here is your guide to everything you need to watch for this weekend.

Maui Invitational (Monday-Wednesday)

Teams to Watch: Umm, all of them, but mostly Duke, Gonzaga, Auburn, Arizona, Xavier

As you know this tournament already tipped off Monday – but that’s OK. This is always one of the pre-eminent tournaments of Feast Week so even though we’re entering Day 2, it’s only appropriate to start here. Especially since an already incredible tournament got more incredible-er this year. That’s because, as you’ve probably heard by now, Chaminade isn’t playing in the Maui Invitational this year.

And while that’s disappointing to people who love tradition, the reality is that it’s made Maui a better tournament overall. For starters, while we love the nostalgia of Chaminade, the reality is that they haven’t been all that good in this event. They’re just 8-92 overall since its inception and haven’t won an opening round game since 2012.

So while we lose to the chance to see a major upset, the reality is that it probably wasn’t going to happen anyway. And without Chaminade, it also gives us more good games featuring more good teams – and honestly, who are we to complain about getting more good teams? That’d be like complaining about your grandma serving you too much pecan pie for dessert on Thursday night. What kind of monster would do such a thing?

Therefore forgive me for stepping all over the little guy in favor of a field that will now go down as the most loaded in the history of the Maui Invitational. By now you know the field features three Top 10 teams (Duke, Auburn and Gonzaga), another perennial power (Arizona), and a loser’s bracket that starting today features a bunch of clubs that might just be good enough to make the NCAA Tournament. When the “worst” teams in the field are Iowa State, Xavier, Illinois and San Diego State, you know you’ve got yourself a heck of a field.

Looking ahead the one storyline here worth watching is whether anyone can beat Duke. With the way that both Auburn and Gonzaga played on Monday (which would best be described as “sloppy”) it’s not looking good.

Instead just stick around to watch good basketball, even if we probably know what the end result will be. Also stick around to watch Zion Williamson and see if he breaks a backboard before the end of this tournament. And because Bill Walton is calling these games and honestly, you never know what you’re going to get from that dude.

No, seriously.

NIT Tip-Off (Wednesday and Friday)

Teams to Watch: Kansas, Tennessee, Louisville and Marquette

While Maui has the deepest field, the two-day, four-team NIT Tip-Off is the only one where every team playing will probably end up in the NCAA Tournament. The “worst” team here might be Marquette – which was picked to finish second in the Big East. Louisville, which is “down” as they’ve been in a while is still probably a tourney team with a new coach. So yeah, there will be plenty of intrigue too.

So again, there is plenty to watch here.

In terms of storylines, there are two things that interest me the most, and ironically, neither of them involves Kansas. At this point, we know who the Jayhawks are: A deep, loaded, talented team who – regardless of how they may, umm, “recruit” their players – is still a national title contender and Final Four threat. I’m not sure we’ll learn all that much about the Jayhawks that we don’t already know.

Instead, what I want to see at the Barclays Center on Wednesday and Friday is two-fold. First, I just want to see what Louisville looks like under Chris Mack. I’m a believer in Mack and truly think this squad can surprise some folks in the ACC. Still, it won’t be easy opening with a loaded Tennessee team that is currently ranked in the Top 10 nationally.

Speaking of Tennessee, that’s the other thing I’m interested in here: How good are the Vols this year? We know they were phenomenal a season ago, but as I’ve said all off-season, on a roster full of veterans with limited upside, is it possible this team has already peaked? Unlike a young squad like Duke, Kentucky, Villanova, Arizona or whoever that you know will get better, haven’t we already kind of seen the “best” that Tennessee is going to get?

We’ll find out, but I’ll add this: Even if the Vols have peaked they’re still a darn good team. And I wouldn’t complain if we got a Tennessee-Kansas final on Friday night at Barclays Center, a game that could have an Elite Eight feel to it.


BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Tuesday Morning Defensive Breakdown (MTSU)

Overall, not the best defensive performance for the Cats but some big stops at the end and turnovers still provided some big moments for the Cats.  While the yardage stats were not so great, the D was still crucial is the win on Saturday.  A breakdown of the defensive stats from Saturday:

1st Down
Run: 15 rushes, 145 yards (1 fumble recovery)
Pass: 14-17, 110 yards, 1 INT, 1 sack

Combined Season Stats
Run: 166 rushes, 899 yards, 3 TD (3 fumble recovery)
Pass: 66-125, 706 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT (10 sacks)

Recap: MTSU gashed the UK defense all game, both through the air and on the ground game.  The rush defense had been so good all season on 1st down that it was surprising to see the Blue Raiders get chunk yardage like they did.  Hopefully this is just an anamoly and not something that could lead to an upset on Saturday.

2nd Down
Run: 9 rushes, 53 yards
Pass: 10-10, 111 yards, 2 TD, 3 sacks

Combined Season Stats
Run: 118 rushes, 572 yards, 4 TD (2 fumble recovery)
Pass: 54-85, 576 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT, (10 sacks, 2 fumble recovery)

Recap: The worst 2nd down performance of the year.  Obviously any QB that goes 10 for 10 and throws 2 TD’s did whatever they wanted.  But UK also gave up almost 6 yards a carry as well.

3rd Down and Long (6 yards or more)
Run: 4 rushes, 14 yards (converted 0 of 4)
Pass: 3-3, 38 yards (converted 2 of 3)

Overall Season Statistics
Run: 19 rushes, 178 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble recovery (converted 6 of 19)
Pass: 39-64, 454 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 4 sacks (converted 17 of 68)

Recap: A couple rushes were QB scrambles but overall UK was solid here.  Stockstill played really well and hit two nice passes for conversions but overall the UK defense stood strong here.

3rd Down and Short (5 yards or less)
Run: 3 rushes, 4 yards (converted 1 of 3)
Pass: 1-1, 4 yards, 1 sack (converted 1 of 2)

Overall Season Statistics
Run: 34 rushes, 95 yards, 1 TD (converted 20 of 34)
Pass: 23-34, 252 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 4 sacks (converted 22 of 38)

Recap: UK was stout here, stuffing the Blue Raiders twice on 3rd and 1 and also sacking Stockstill once as well.  Those are soul crushing stops for a team trying to make a comeback.  This has been a great situation for the Cats and have led to many big stops.

KSR Show Thread 11/20: Talking Wiseman and Crootin’

Good morning, friends, and welcome to the Tuesday edition of Kentucky Sports Radio. Today, Matt, Drew, and Ryan will preview James Wiseman’s decision and what it will mean for John Calipari and Kentucky if he picks Memphis, the Governor’s Cup, tomorrow’s basketball game, and much, much more.

Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080 or send a text to the KSR Texting Machine at (859) 300-3264.

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November 19th, 2018

Insider Notes: Is it time to panic?

Good afternoon, folks. This post has been edited a couple times today with the news this morning. If you missed it, James Wiseman will announce his college decision on Tuesday at noon on ESPN and Vernon Carey Jr., will cut his list to three at some point this week. It’s going to be a busy week, so let’s get to the notes.


I posted what I’ve heard on Wiseman in another post and weighed the pros and cons of Kentucky’s chances. You can read that HERE. I have no current update from that post and what I was going to post today before the news is how strangely quiet UK has been over the last week, and really the last few weeks. A quiet confidence? Probably wishful thinking as I’m not sure Wiseman’s family has broken any news to UK (positive or negative). Someone did bring up another hypothetical that I didn’t put in the post above, maybe Wiseman is committing to UK tomorrow to give Penny plenty of time to look for other targets, but that seems unlikely. Wiseman plays former UK commit DJ Jeffries later Tuesday evening. If that were the case Memphis’ staff wouldn’t have been pumping their chest for the last month. I had one 2019 recruit tell me Wiseman is going to Memphis, but he said it’s “an educated guess.”

I’ll be watching tomorrow but I’m not expecting any surprises.

Photo by FIBA


The best I have on Carey’s final three is that someone close to UK told me “anyone’s guess” which isn’t the bode of confidence UK fans were looking for in the recruiting world. I feel confident that Carey Jr. ends up at Michigan State or Duke (like most analysts). UK, UNC or Miami will get the last spot on that list, but folks on the AAU scene seem to believe that it would take something surprising for any of those three schools to overtake Carey’s top two.

I’m not ready to give up on UK’s chances of making the final three, but I haven’t heard anything to indicate it’s a lock. I’ll be anxiously awaiting like everyone else and it also seems like UK’s staff will be in the dark.

So, what’s next:

If Wiseman picks Memphis and Carey eliminates the Cats it’s going to be a blow and there’s no denying momentum is low for UK. However, no inside information, but Calipari will figure something out. Here are some options: UK still has other forward targets in 2019, we’ve been told that a grad-transfer is possible, keep an eye out on someone possibly reclassifying and I would almost guarantee that new names will emerge in 2019 and someone will decommit at some point in the next six months. A coach will get fired or something will happen.

But even though I believe UK will have viable bodies for next season this has still be a shocking development with bigs in 2019. Landing Wiseman, Carey or Stewart seemed like a must and there’s very little reason to believe any of the three will end up at UK. I would have never guessed that a couple months ago and always thought it was more likely that UK would end up with two of those players instead of none. I still think UK is the team to beat with Hurt, but as we’ve learn with the players above, being in the lead or near the lead months before a commitment doesn’t mean much (or anything). Hurt still hasn’t taken an official visit.

The troubling part is that UK wasn’t outworked in the Wiseman/Carey recruitments, especially Wiseman. Some schools have been recruiting Carey longer, but once UK started they’ve been recruiting him as hard as anyone. And while the Carey recruitment isn’t over it appears those two just weren’t buying what UK was selling. I’m guessing folks close to UK are as confused as you are as to what went wrong.

But UK will get bodies for next season. I’m not completely sold on E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards leaving after this season. My guess as of today is that Montgomery will go, but he currently doesn’t have NBA teams salivating in what will be a loaded draft.

Photo via Endless Motor


He officially visited UCLA over the weekend and that was his last official. He’s checked out his final five: Washington, UK, Texas, San Diego State and UCLA. How quiet the family has kept this recruitment has been pretty amazing. For nearly every official visit the media didn’t find out about the visit until a few days before. So, I have no idea when he plans on making a final decision or if he maybe will surprise everyone and sign in the next few days.

My guess is he won’t, but I’m not sure.

The only new piece of info/scuttlebutt I heard (from the AAU side of things) is that the dad likes UK/Washington, but others close to McDaniels would like to see him go to San Diego State where his brother currently stars. His brother is likely heading to the NBA Draft after this season, so it’s unlikely you’d see the two play together, but there seems to be a sense of keeping the McDaniels pipeline alive at SDSU. That same person also didn’t seem to love UK’s chances because McDaniels is a quiet kid and the lights may be too bright at Kentucky. I can confirm that McDaniels is a quiet kid but that’s the first I’ve heard that it could hurt UK’s chances.

We did report the near fight between McDaniels and UK commit Kahlil Whitney over the summer. I have zero inside info (as a matter of fact someone close to Whitney said there’s no truth to it) but I did wonder if Whitney refused to sign because UK is heavy with McDaniels. I doubt that to be the case, but if you’re looking for conspiracies there you go. I’d be completely shocked if Whitney didn’t end up at UK regardless of who Kentucky brings in at the wing or forward position.

And sadly that’s all I have for this week. I wish there was more but people have been mostly quiet during the signing period and I’m guessing UK’s taking a wait-and-see approach with how things shake out this week, but if the worst case scenario happens I’d be a little surprised if they didn’t try and reach out to some new names. If the Cats could land Hurt and another wing/forward, they would be fine for 2019-2020. You would still need a bruising center (grad-transfer) or Nick Richards to return, but a frontcourt like that would be serviceable enough to make a Final Four and compete for title. But the margin for error is razor thin.