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Aaron Torres’ Take

Ep. 81 Aaron Torres Sports Podcast: Michael Sokolove author of “The Last Temptation of Rick Pitino”

It’s a new episode of the “Aaron Torres Sports Podcast,” and Aaron has a special guest. After Rick Pitino joined the show last week, this week it’s author Michael Sokolove, the author of the “other” Rick Pitino book, “The Last Temptation of Rick Pitino.” Before we get to Sokolove though, Aaron is joined by Nick Coffey to recap the weekend in sports.
A surprising conversation about Tiger Woods: The guys divert from college football momentarily for a quick talk on Tiger Woods’ tournament win on Sunday that momentarily took over the sports world. What is it about Tiger that makes fans so fascinated to watch him?
A recap of Kentucky’s wild win and the rest of Week 4 college football: The guys recap a wild weekend of college football, including Kentucky’s dominant win over Mississippi State. Are the Wildcats actually underrated at No. 17? And why Benny Snell is a major Heisman candidate. The guys also talk about Oregon’s crippling loss, and is Alabama officially too good for the rest of college football? The guys think so.
Next up, Aaron welcomes author Michael Sokolove to the show. Sokolove has a new book out called “The Last Temptation of Rick Pitino” which is chronicles the rise and fall of Louisville athletics and Rick Pitino. The guys discuss:
Their interactions with Rick Pitino: The guys talk about their experiences with Pitino. Pitino joined Aaron’s show last week and Michael interviewed him for the book. Is there anything believable or redeemable about Pitino or anything he says?
What led to Louisville’s downfall? Michael talks about his experiences diving into the Louisville athletics program. He does a deep dive on how the excesses of Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino made it pretty much inevitable that the athletic department would blow up.
The guys also discuss Brian Bowen and whether he knew that his family was soliciting money for his play, and also the FBI scandal as a whole. Is the college athletic model sustainable?

Get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.  You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  Don’t forget to follow the show Instagram too.


A Recap of Tyrese Maxey’s Interview with KSR’s The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast

It’s been a busy week for the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. In case you missed it, two-time national champion and the only coach to ever lead three separate programs to the Final Four (yes, I’m being sarcastic) Rick Pitino joined the show on Monday.

And earlier today, I followed it up with an interview with future Kentucky point guard Tyrese Maxey.

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock the last six months, you know that Maxey was the first player in the class of 2019 to commit to Kentucky and will be taking an official visit to the school this weekend, along with local product Dontaie Allen. And oh boy was it a fun interview, where Maxey lived up to his reputation as one of the biggest personalities in all of high school basketball.  I have little doubt he will grow into a fan favorite once he arrives in Lexington.

Speaking of “arriving in Lexington,” Maxey will be there Friday (even if it’s only for a few days). As he gets set for his visit, here are some highlights of his interview with the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast (you can download the whole show for free, right here).

The reason he is visiting Kentucky this weekend is because he wanted to experience a football game

One of the biggest things I wanted to ask Maxey was why he is visiting Kentucky this weekend. Especially considering that he is coming back in a few weeks for Big Blue Madness. After all, it’s not often that a player who is already committed to a school takes an official visit, then pays for his own trip a few weeks later.

His answer was surprising. He wanted to experience a Kentucky football game in person.

Maxey added that he actually played football when he was a kid (then again, doesn’t everyone in Texas?), saying that his primary position was quarterback. According to Maxey, the position was perfect for him because he is a natural born leader.

He chose Kentucky because of John Calipari’s honesty

When I asked Maxey why he chose Kentucky, his answer was similar to a number of players who I’ve spoken with through the years. He loved Calipari’s honesty.

“I feel like he never lies to me,” Maxey said, describing John Calipari. “He always tells me the truth. He spit straight facts to me, he never spit any fluff. He came in, he told me I need to get better, he told me I’m not where I need to be right now to be an NBA player and that’s my end goal.”

Maxey also added that another thing that drew him to Kentucky was that he would be surrounded by other good players. He admitted to being a competitive kid, and looks forward to competing with great players every day in practice.

tyresemaxey | Ig

Maxey is already tight with Kentucky basketball royalty

It’s no secret that one of the big draws for any high school player to Kentucky is the number of future NBA stars who’ve come through the school under John Calipari’s watch. It stood out to Maxey, who admitted that he knows quite a few of them. He said that De’Aaron Fox texted him the day he committed, and he’s spoken to Jamal Murray, Devin Booker, DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall among others.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

As I told Maxey during the interview: He better not lose his phone. That is a heck of a rolodex for an 18-year-old to have.

Fun fact: Maxey loves Spiderman

When I asked Maxey to share something that not many folks knew about him, he said that he was a big Spiderman fan. He said that he likes Spiderman’s super-powers, his speed, agility and ability to get from Point A to Point B quickly.

Ironically (or maybe not), that also very accurately describes Maxey’s game on the court.

Not to mention that it seems like one fan is especially fired up about this development.

He has never played against fellow Kentucky commit Dontaie Allen, but knows Kahlil Whitney well

This one was shocker to me, but Maxey said that – as best as he knows – he’s never played against fellow Kentucky commit Dontaie Allen, who will also be on campus this weekend. I know that Allen came onto the scene as a big-time recruit a bit later in the process than most kids, but considering that most of the top players know each other from an early age, that was stunning.

On the other hand, Maxey also said that he’s known the third member of this recruiting class, Kahlil Whitney for years. Maxey described his future teammate’s game similar to his. “He’s a dog,” Maxey said. “That’s one of the reasons Coach Cal likes him. He competes defensively. He competes offensively.”

He is actively recruiting other players

Maxey was surprisingly open while discussing the other players he’s recruiting to Kentucky.

It sounds like he has the closest relationship with Scottie Lewis, and admitted that he talks to him “almost every day.” Considering that Lewis is down to just Florida and Kentucky that has to be a great sign for the Wildcats.

Maxey also said that he speaks with James Wiseman, Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt regularly. He said that Wiseman is “hard to get a feel” for but that Carey has opened up to him more recently.

Maxey was also in the dark about Jaden McDaniels, who John Calipari recently had an in-home visit with.

Other odds and ends:

There are other odds and ends, but the most important one is this: He has Kentucky beating Mississippi State 31-28 on Saturday night at Kroger Field.

To listen to the full interview with Maxey, subscribe to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.  You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  Don’t forget to follow the show Instagram too.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 80: Future UK Point Guard Tyrese Maxey

After reaching No. 1 on the iTunes charts earlier this week (thanks to an appearance from Rick Pitino) the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast is back with special guest Tyrese Maxey, who joins the show just days before the point guard officially visits Kentucky. But first, Aaron welcomes his buddy Nick Coffey to discuss:
Who Should Be the Next Coach at Kentucky and Duke? On Wednesday, CBS Sports put out a list on who should be the next coach at Kentucky, and Aaron disagreed, so he put out his own list on KSR. Nick and Aaron go through the candidates – why Will Wade could be shaping up as a great hire down the road, and is Fred Hoiberg a better option in the NBA than Billy Donovan or Brad Stevens? Also Duke can’t possibly “keep it in the family” when Coach K retires, can they?
A Week 4 College Football Preview: Next, the guys review the biggest games of the college football weekend – Can Texas A&M keep things close against Alabama and can Mississippi State pull the upset against Kentucky? Also, Aaron and Nick give out their surprise picks of the weekend.
Next up, Aaron welcomes on Kentucky commit Tyrese Maxey to the show. Maxey is headed on his official visit to Kentucky this weekend and discusses the following with Aaron.
What He Is Expecting on His Visit to Lexington: Maxey discusses his plans for the trip down to Lexington this weekend. What does he hope to see, what is his relationship with fellow commits Kahlil Whitney and Dontaie Allen and what is his prediction for the Kentucky-Mississippi State football game?
Who is He Recruiting with Him To Kentucky: Maxey discusses the players he hopes will join him in Lexington. How would he fit in with Scottie Lewis in the backcourt? How he got Vernon Carey to open up recently? And what is his relationship with James Wiseman?
Finally, Maxey discusses his relationship with Kentucky’s NBA players like John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, and how Celtics guard Marcus Smart has helped him train this summer.

Get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.  You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  Don’t forget to follow the show Instagram too.


Who’s Next After John Calipari Leaves Kentucky? Here’s a List of Candidates

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of the last couple weeks, the guys over at CBSSports.com have been doing a series on “Who will be the next coach” at all the major schools that currently have Hall of Fame coaches. For anyone who is a college hoops junkie, it’s a series of fun reads and fascinating “what if’s” on how the future of the sport could unfold.

And after hitting a few other big-time schools recently (Duke, Michigan State, Syracuse) writer Gary Parrish took a look at Kentucky today, discussing what life after John Calipari could look like.

It’s an interesting read and I encourage everyone to check it out, as it has a whole assortment of names. Some are obvious (Billy Donovan), some not so much so (Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann) and some have next to no chance of happening (even if its years before John Calipari retires, I can’t see any scenario where a school the stature of Kentucky would hire Sean Miller after all the FBI stuff of the last year).

Regardless, it also got the wheels turning in my head.

As the national college basketball insider here at KSR, I thought it might be fun to share some names that I’ve heard as potential candidates at Kentucky as well. Understand, this is in no way knocking the CBS article – it’s a really well-done piece – but more of an extension of it, and again, a place to share some thoughts on what I’ve heard as well.

Before we get started, I’d like to add one thing: As the CBS article mentions, John Calipari is only 59-years-old and it appears like it will be a long time before he goes anywhere. At this point, it feels like the NBA ship has sailed and he isn’t go back to the pros (with the money he makes, and recruiting mojo he has, why would he?). Therefore, while it seems unlikely he’ll be at UK another 15 or 20 years I do think it’s probably at least 5-7 years before he seriously contemplates hanging it up. And even that might be a bit on the light side.

So again, that’s the important thing to remember here. A lot of these guys wouldn’t be candidates if the job opened today. But they might be if it opened up down the road.

Here are a few I’ve heard, in addition to a few additional thoughts on some of the names CBS threw out there.

Mike White, Florida head coach

Because it’ll still likely be several years before Calipari steps away, it probably means some of the more obvious names right now might not be so obvious when the job opens up (I’m looking at you, Billy Donovan). It also pushes someone like White to the front of the pack.

No, White probably doesn’t have the resume today to get the job (or at least be the favorite to get it) but he is still only 41-years-old, and to his credit has done a fantastic job keeping Florida basketball relevant in the national conversation after taking over for Donovan. He has also found his niche in recruiting. Not only has White consistently brought talent to Gainesville and developed it once its there, this cycle he has gotten in with some of the best players in high school basketball. You don’t need me to tell you that five-star prospect Scottie Lewis is down to Kentucky and Florida. Plus, at 41-years-old he’s still relatively young, and would have plenty of good years left when the Wildcats job (in theory) opens up.

Just about the only thing White is lacking at this point is major NCAA Tournament chops. In seven years as a head coach he has only made the tournament twice – but those two tourney bids have been in the last two seasons when he’s gotten comfortable at Florida.

Therefore it seems safe to assume that the best is yet to come for White in Gainesville. Which will make him an even more likely candidate down the road.
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Recap of Rick Pitino’s Interview on KSR’s Aaron Torres Sports Podcast

So as you may have heard by now, Rick Pitino was the most recent guest on the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. He was there to talk about his new book, but in discussing the book, I obviously asked him about a bunch of stuff that needed to be addressed. Mainly, his recruitment of Brian Bowen, his relationships with Jordan Fair and Andre McGee and whether he will ever coach again, be it in college or professionally.

Now before we get into the interview itself, I do think it’s worth mentioning one thing: I tried to go into the interview with an open mind. Admittedly I know that Pitino and KSR have an, umm, checkered history, but even though I work for KSR, I wanted to be fair in the questions I asked and the approach I took to the interview. Do I believe every word Pitino has said through the years about his role in the McGee/Bowen scandals? Absolutely not. Do I believe every word he uttered on my podcast? No. But again, he gave me his time, and while I wanted to ask tough questions, I did want to be fair with him.

So what were some of the highlights of the show and my broader thoughts overall?

Here are a couple key things – and to listen to the whole interview, you can click here.

Pitino sounds like a sad and defeated man

When word started to trickle out that I’d interviewed Pitino, a lot of you reached out and asked what I thought about my conversation with him. Truthfully, the No. 1 takeaway I had wasn’t on Bowen, McGee, truth or lies. It was on the fact that Pitino really does just sound like a sad guy right now.

Now admittedly, he has no one to blame but himself, either for breaking NCAA rules (what most of the public believes) or at the very least for hiring people who broke NCAA rules (which is his version of things). Ultimately no one is feeling sorry for him.

Still, when asked about his time away, he references several times needing to find a “new passion” beyond basketball. It’s clear he still hasn’t found it yet.

He insists there was no reason to see any red flags with Brian Bowen

When we started speaking about the scandals, I immediately began with Brian Bowen. I was particularly interested in the comment that he made when Bowen committed, where he said this was the “luckiest” recruitment he’d ever been part of.

Again, to be clear, this interview isn’t about whether I believe Pitino or not – but asking fair questions for those who doubt him. And this to me, is more than fair. After all, the guy has been involved in college basketball for more than 40 years. It doesn’t take that long being around the sport to know that five-star players don’t just fall out of the sky. Even if Pitino didn’t have proof something fishy was going on, it stands to reason that he should have questioned it.

Ultimately, Pitino stuck to the company line that the commitment only happened because Donovan Mitchell left and a roster spot was open, and that Bowen was “out of options.”

Personally, I’ll agree to disagree.

No five-star player is truly “out of options,” even if they aren’t necessarily good ones.

Two, if he didn’t ask more questions, it is my personal belief he should have.

He disputes Jordan Fair’s role in the Adidas scheme

Fair is the assistant coach at the center of the Bowen controversy, who was said to have been in a Vegas hotel room where the plan to secure Bowen for $100,000 was hatched. According to the FBI, Fair is even heard on wiretap saying that they needed to keep things “low key” because the NCAA was on Louisville for the Andre McGee deal from a few years before.

Pitino had a slightly different version of the events saying that when he talked to Fair, Fair claimed that he left the room as soon as he walked in and saw an envelope full of cash on the table.

When I followed up and asked point blank, “The FBI says they have Fair on wiretap saying to keep things ‘low key’” Pitino slightly changed course, saying that the truth will come out when trials begin in the next few months.

To me, it seemed like he was ducking the question. But ultimately, I’ll let you draw your own conclusion here.

Pitino briefly mentions Papa John and the governor

Again, just go ahead and insert your own commentary here.

Pitino says he wouldn’t believe another coach telling the same stories he is

Towards the end of the interview I ask Pitino point blank if he’d believe another head coach who claimed to be completely innocent after being caught in not one, but two massive NCAA scandals (not to mention an embarrassing personal one).

Pitino admitted he would not.

“As a layman looking back, no I wouldn’t believe him,” Pitino said, before then adding that if the same coach passed a lie detector test and put out a book similar to his own, he would believe him.

While Pitino quickly diverted from his original answer, it was one of the few times I felt genuine candor and honesty from him.

He truly does believe he’ll never coach again

Or so he says, claiming many times that this book is closure and the beginning of the next chapter of his career.

Personally I find it a little bit hard to believe, especially considering the number of times Pitino admits throughout the interview that he is struggling to find a “new passion” in life.

My guess is that we see Pitino on the sidelines again within the next couple years. I doubt – unless he’s cleared in the FBI probe – it’s on a college campus. But I do believe he’ll be on a sideline sometime soon.

Billy Donovan will be his first podcast guest

At the end we finally got to a more laid back portion of the interview where I asked him about his plans for the future. Pitino mentions his podcast, and gives everyone a sneak peek on what to expect: Billy Donovan will be his first guest.

No word yet on how to download the show.

But can subscribe and get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  Don’t forget to follow the show Instagram too.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 79: Rick Pitino joins the show

It’s a huge day for the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, as former Louisville coach Rick Pitino joins the show to talk about his new book, his time at UofL and what he’s been doing since he was fired last fall. Before we get to Pitino, Aaron is joined by his good friend Nick Coffey where they discuss:

Nick’s Relationship with Pitino: Before we get to the interview, Nick Coffey, who covered Pitino for years in Louisville, shares his thoughts. What were his impressions of Pitino’s book and does he really believe Pitino when he says he’s done coaching?

A Full College Football Recap: The guys break down LSU’s shocking win at Auburn and ask the question: Why does everyone continue to doubt Coach O? Plus a look at Ohio State’s win and the Big Ten’s awful weekend. Also, who is the most disappointing first year head coach, Willie Taggart, Chip Kelly or Scott Frost?

Next up, Aaron is joined by Rick Pitino, who discusses his new book “Pitino: My Story” his role in college basketball’s biggest scandals and more.

What has Pitino been up to since being fired? Pitino discusses the day he was fired and how his life has changed since. What does he do to fill his days and how much does he miss coaching basketball?

Pitino’s relationships with Andre McGee, Jordan Fair and Brian Bowen: Pitino explains his relationships with the three key figures in his two prominent scandals. He shares why he claims he could have never suspected Brian Bowen was taking money and why he’s still not sure Jordan Fair was directly involved.

Plus, would Pitino believe another coach who claimed to know nothing about either scandal? And does he really believe that he will never coach again?

Get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.  You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  Don’t forget to follow the show Instagram too.


Everything You Need to Know About the Other Rick Pitino Book

So it feels safe to say that Rick Pitino has been in the news just a wee, tiny little bit over the last couple weeks. You know, the whole “releasing a memoir that is supposed to detail everything, but instead didn’t actually tell us anything at all?” You remember that book, right? How could you forget.

Yet while “Pitino: My Story” has gotten all the headlines over the last few weeks, what’s gotten lost in the shuffle is that another Pitino book is set to come out two Monday’s from now. That book is titled “The Last Temptation of Rick Pitino: A Story of Corruption, Scandal, and the Big Business of College Basketball” by noted author Michael Sokolove. And as you can imagine, it’s definitely got a different feel than Pitino’s own memoir.

With that said, I’ve actually gotten an advanced copy of Sokolove’s book. Here’s what you need to know:

The book shows the full scope of Louisville’s rise as an athletic power

Look, I’m sure that for most people reading this post know all about the back-channel, inner-workings of Louisville athletics. Still, for a guy like me, who follows this stuff but doesn’t live inside the state, it was a fascinating look into the rise of a big-time college athletics program.

It opens with Tom Jurich at the booster dinner where he announced that Louisville had agreed to that massive new deal with Adidas, but then backtracks to when Jurich first got to Louisville in the early 2000’s. From there we go through everything – from the new facilities that were built, to the funds that were raised, to the way that the school swindled the city out of Louisville out of a lot of cash when the KFC Yum Center was built.

That certainly isn’t the only element of the book. But again, as an admitted outsider, I did find it quite interesting.

The book also takes a look at the rise of big money in college sports

The more that I think back on this book, the more that I realize that while it is essentially about the rise and fall of Pitino, it is also about the rise of big-time college athletics with the Louisville scandal kind of serving as the story that brings everything together. There are blurbs about how mob money led to point shaving in the 50’s, the effect that the sneaker companies had on the sport in the 1980’s and 90’s, straight through where we are today with the AAU and sneaker culture of the mid 2000’s.

For a college sports junkie like me, it made for good background, and reinforced a lot of information that I had once learned, but long since forgotten.

Let’s just say that while Louisville might have perfected scandal, it certainly didn’t start with them.

Speaking of scandal, don’t you worry, there is still plenty on Pitino

For all the background and context that this book provides, it still gives complete details on everything that led to the downfall of Pitino last fall.

And make no mistake, when I say “complete details” I’m not talking about the Brian Bowen stuff. I’m talking about details dating all the way back to the Karen Sypher extortion case, through Andre McGee and into the Brian Bowen stuff. And it isn’t just the whole, one-sided “It was one rouge assistant acting completely out of control” stuff that we’ve heard for years but actual, useful and factually correct information.

Point being, if you’re the type of person who is going to enjoy every sordid detail of all of Pitino’s scandals repeated in a slow, meticulous fashion, this book is for you.

The book has some interesting tidbits, at least for an outsider like me

Like for example, I had no idea that Pitino and Jurich essentially had no relationship outside of work. Given that the two will forever be tied together in history and given that both seem to have questionable judgement (Pitino in his personal protocol, Jurich in the people that he hired and then stood behind) I kind of just assumed they were buddies outside of work as well. Two peas in a pod, if you will.

Not the case. At least according to the book.

Another thing that I found interesting was that one of the few disputes the two had was when Jurich decided to re-hire Bobby Petrino as the school’s football coach. I’m not sure if this has ever been told publicly or not – again, I hardly claim to be an expert on Louisville athletics – but apparently when rumor started to trickle out that Petrino would return, Pitino tried to put the kibosh on it.

So why was Pitino so upset? Get this: Pitino thought that bringing back Petrino – who obviously had been fired for having an affair – would reflect poorly on him, and bring back to light conversations about his own affair with Karen Sypher.

Consider me shocked (I’m kidding of course) that Pitino would take something that has nothing to do with him, and make it about himself. Who could ever imagine that?

Credit to the author

Credit needs to go to the author Sokolove on at least one account: He tracked down both Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino for interviews.

Admittedly, none of what they said is particularly groundbreaking (Pitino stuck his whole “My only crime was hiring the wrong people” line) but at the very least, at least he attempted to get both side of the story.

Even if one side is very skewed.

And some final thoughts

In reflecting back on this book, my biggest take away is that this by far the most comprehensive thing I’ve read on either the Louisville athletics scandal or the FBI scandal that tore through college basketball last season. It gives just about every detail, from every angle, be it from the history of Louisville, the NCAA, Christian Dawkins, his associates, you name it. I blew through it in a couple days because I enjoyed it that much.

To be blunt, I don’t know quite how much a Louisville or Kentucky will truly “learn” from the book, but if you want an honest and fair recounting of what happened and how it all went down, pick yourself up a copy of the book on Amazon.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E77: Recapping Kentucky’s Win, Georgia’s Dominance and the Coolest High School Coach Ever

A new Aaron Torres Sports Podcast is LIVE.  In the latest episode, Aaron and Nick recap a wild Week 2 of college football, including:
Kentucky’s Historic Win: The guys recap a once-in-a-lifetime win in Gainesville. After each picked Florida last week, the guys admit they were completely wrong and discuss how Kentucky looked like the better team on Saturday night. With the loss, how long will it take Florida to rebuild this once proud program? And, what is the ceiling this year for Kentucky?
Clemson’s Thrilling Win over Texas A&M: Even though Clemson won, it felt like A&M was the big winner, as Jimbo Fisher looks like the real deal for the Aggies. Aaron explains why Saturday proved that he was worth every penny.
Georgia’s Dominance and other Takeaways: Finally, the guys wrap up by talking about Georgia’s dominance — are they the best team in college football? Also, the guys chat about Herm Edwards surprising start and let you know about the coolest coach in all of high school football.

Get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.  You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  Don’t forget to follow the show Instagram too.


An Outsider’s Thoughts on Kentucky’s Historic Victory over Florida

(Photo: USA Today/Kim Klement)

Over the past year or so, I’ve carved out a nice little niche as KSR’s resident “outsider,” the person doing his best to give you an outside perspective on basically anything of interest to a Kentucky sports fan.

Admittedly, most of my posts have covered hoops – you know, college basketball, recruiting, the NBA Draft whatever – but every once in a while I do dabble my toes in the Kentucky football waters (my first post at KSR was actually on UK football). I don’t claim to be an expert. But there are times a year where football takes precedent over basketball.

And this feels like one of those days. After all, it’s not often the team I’m covering snaps a 31-game losing streak to a hated rival.

Therefore, today I will take a break from the hoops beat and share a few thoughts on Kentucky’s wild, 27-16 victory over Florida on Saturday night. Again, I don’t claim to be an expert (I leave that to folks like Nick Roush and others who are with the team every day), but after watching roughly 12 hours of all sorts of college football every Saturday (then talking about it on radio and podcast) I do feel like I’ve got a thing or two to say from time to time.

So what were this outsider’s thoughts on UK’s historic victory over Florida? Here are nine:

Benny Snell is the truth

Snell has been hyped as the best back in the SEC by a handful of experts from across college football the last few months, which isn’t surprising when you remember that he rushed for over 1,000 yards in both his freshman and sophomore years.

Still, if there was any doubt just how good he was, Snell proved it to a national audience on Saturday night. On the evening, Snell finished with 175 yards, and averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Not a bad night’s work, yet as impressive as those numbers were, watching him wrack up all that yardage was even more impressive.

Put simply, Snell is a complete back. He’s a guy who not only has size and speed, but also the vision to see holes before they open and burst through them once he does get that crease. And not to mention, he is one of the more powerful backs I’ve seen in college football as well. As Jordan Rogers said a few times on Saturday’s broadcast “there aren’t many running backs with as many yards after contact as Snell.”

No there aren’t.

And to be blunt, there aren’t many running backs anywhere in college football with the skills of Snell either.

The offensive line deserves a ton of credit for the win

Writing about offensive line play is about as sexy as writing about help side defense in basketball, but in the case of Saturday night’s win, the guys up front deserve a ton of credit. With all the focus on Snell, Terry Wilson and the defensive pass rush, it feels like they’re being a little overlooked.

To the offensive line’s credit they absolutely controlled the line of scrimmage against a good Florida defense, opening holes and allowing Kentucky to average over seven yards per run. Admittedly, some of that was Snell simply running through tackles and Terry Wilson making people miss. But a lot of that was the guys up front too.

Still, you know what stood out to me the most about the line’s play? Remember that late touchdown throw that Terry Wilson had to Lynn Bowden Jr. (of course you remember, how could you forget!). Did you notice how much time Wilson had in the pocket there? He had forever to read the defense and deliver the perfect pass.

And that’s a credit to the big guys up front. They don’t always get the acknowledgment they deserve. But at least in this article, we’re going to change that.

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The 25 Best Out Of Conference Games in College Basketball This Season

Photo by UK Athletics

Yesterday was a weirdly busy day in college basketball, where for some reason (likely to do with TV schedules becoming official) the CBS Sports Classic, Big 12-SEC Challenge and Champion’s Classic all announced start-times for their games.

It was a flurry of college hoops excitement the likes of which we haven’t seen since the NBA Draft deadline, and with it, daydreaming of the season ahead. When you can set your calendar for games like Kentucky-Duke, Kansas-Kentucky, West Virginia-Tennessee, Kentucky-North Carolina, Kansas-Michigan State etc., well, I mean, what’s better than that?

With all the news though, it got me really wanting to set my calendar- not just with the handful of games in those three events but with ALL the big games in college basketball this upcoming season.

Which is exactly what I did below – with the 25 best out of conference games in college basketball this year.

Again, these are just the out of conference games, with no conference games listed (since some leagues haven’t released their conference slate yet). Therefore, you won’t see some of the bigger inter-league games like Kentucky-Tennessee, Duke-Carolina, Duke-Louisville or whatever else below.

But you will see that the college basketball slate is LOADED this November and December. Here are the best games:

25) Western Kentucky at Washington (November 6th)

Opening night will serve as America’s first look at Western Kentucky super-recruit Charles Bassey, and will also serve as a first look at a team that is good enough to win the Pac-12. No word on whether this game follows the Champions Classic or not but wow, what a nightcap this would be.

24) Nebraska at Clemson (November 26th)

Go ahead and insert your lame “I’d rather watch these two teams play football” joke, but just know that Clemson made the Sweet 16 last year and Nebraska finished in fourth place in the Big Ten and just barely missed the NCAA Tournament. Joke all you want, but skip this game at your own peril. You’ll need to know these teams come March.

23) Memphis at LSU (November 13th)

LSU is a Top 15 team talent-wise that really won’t be tested too much in the out of conference, while Penny Hardaway is a master recruiter who we are still waiting to see coach a game in college basketball. Is either a fraud? We will find out right away.

22) Vanderbilt at USC (November 11th)

Looking for a couple teams who missed the NCAA Tournament last year that are good enough to make the Sweet 16 this year? Look no further than these two schools – and their superstar recruits (Darius Garland at Vanderbilt and Kevin Porter at USC).

Plus, how else are you going to spend the first Sunday of college basketball season? Actually watching the NFL? Give me a break.

21) North Carolina at Michigan (November 28th)

The first of several ACC-Big Ten Challenge games on this list, this game loses a little of its pizzazz considering that Michigan lost a big chunk of its roster. Still, we’re talking Carolina and Michigan. You will be watching.

20) Arizona at UConn (December 2nd)

A fun inter-sectional game between two teams who are trying to find themselves. No one is quite sure what to expect from Arizona after they lost DeAndre Ayton, Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins and no one is quite sure what to expect from UConn in Year 1 of the Dan Hurley era either (Although I think both will be better than many people expect).

The names of the program will get you in the door. The intrigue of what this game means in the big picture could last all season.

19) West Virginia at Tennessee (January 26th)

This is one of the two Big 12-SEC Challenge games on our list here (and I’m betting you can guess what the other one will be) with two teams that will start the year ranked in the Top 20. Will they be as good as advertised? We should have the answer by the time these teams tip off in late January.
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