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Aaron Torres’ Take

Recruiting Guru Evan Daniels Updates The Status of A Couple Kentucky Targets

Photo: USA Basketball

College basketball’s National Signing Day (which is really a week) has arrived, as top high school basketball recruits were allowed to sign Letters of Intent starting yesterday, with the period closing next Wednesday, November 21.

Kentucky already got its first signee, as Tyrese Maxey officially became a member of the 2019-2020 Wildcats on Wednesday, with Dontaie Allen expected to sign later this week. UK’s third commit Kahlil Whitney isn’t expected to sign this week, but as T.J. Walker reported on Tuesday, there is nothing to worry about for now.

Still, with the usual exodus of players expected following the season, Kentucky clearly isn’t done recruiting, and the question is obviously who will join the three guys above? 247 Sports’ Evan Daniels joined KSR’s “The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast” earlier this week to share his thoughts on some of the top players left in the class.

You can listen to the full interview by clicking here, but below is a rundown of what Evan is hearing about the 2019 class’s top players.

We start with 247’s No. 1 player James Wiseman, who has seemingly been stuck between Memphis and Kentucky since the day that Penny Hardaway signed on as Memphis’ head coach back in March. Things have changed a little bit since Daniels and Aaron recorded late last week, as Daniels is now reporting that he doesn’t expect Wiseman to make a decision before the end of the signing period (he said on Aaron’s’ show that he thought Wiseman might sign early).

That’s probably a good sign for Kentucky, as all the buzz lately has been on Memphis. And unlike others who say they believe Wiseman is a “done deal” to Memphis, Evan isn’t buying it.

“I don’t think there’s anything per se new to report,” Daniels said. “But he’s done with his visits. And obviously where he goes to school, the buzz and what everyone thinks is Kentucky and Memphis.

Where is he going to between those two? I think it’s difficult to determine. I think most people right now would say it’s Memphis. I’m not fully sold, but it wouldn’t shock me. I wouldn’t be shocked if he goes to Kentucky either. But as of now that’s all we really know. And I think we’ll probably see some sort of decision date set in the very near future.”

Again, considering how many others have reported that Memphis is a done deal, that is a good sign for Kentucky.

It’s not a good sign however for the No. 2 player in the class, Vernon Carey. At one point Kentucky was thought to be the leader for Carey, and KSR’s TJ Walker does still believe UK to be in the mix. But right now Evan says two other powers lead the way:

“My gut would say it’s between Duke and Michigan State,” Daniels said. “And Michigan State getting a second official visit factors in here. But heading into that visit I would probably give the edge to Duke. That’s just me handicapping it. That’s just me saying it. I don’t think that’s necessarily what he would say publicly.”

So, one good update and one bad for Kentucky fans.

Now, how about a total wild card that no one is quite sure on? That would be Seattle-area prospect Jaden McDaniels, who absolutely burst onto the scene last summer. Thanks to his strong player, McDaniels has gone from a fringe Top 100 prospect to now in the Top 5 by virtually every recruiting service.

Photo via Endless Motor

Still, even after McDaniels rapid rise, his recruitment has remained relatively under wraps. He is from Washington and his brother plays at San Diego State. But as we’ve discussed before, his dream school is Kentucky, where he just visited last weekend.

“He’s got that official visit with Kentucky this past weekend,” Daniels said. “He’s got one more visit, he’s probably going to visit UCLA before he decides. Assuming he does do that then it’s going to be interesting, because I think there’s a possibility he decides early, but it wouldn’t shock me if he goes ahead and waits. So, he’s one of those guys who would have taken visits to all the schools he wants to see, but maybe he doesn’t have a decision yet. And that could change too. He may end up being ready.

His is an interesting scenario. Does he stay close to home (Washington)? Does he go where his brother went (which is San Diego State). Does he go to the blueblood school that is recruiting him (Kentucky)?

It’s an interesting scenario and it’s one to figure out. I couldn’t give you a leader for him at this time.”

Like all the recruitments, it appears as though it will be wait and see for McDaniels.

To listen to Evan Daniels full interview with Aaron Torres, there is no need to wait however. Evan and Aaron not only discuss recruiting, but also the shocking Champions Classic result and what it means for Kentucky going forward, as well as all the big topics in college basketball.

To get the full episode, subscribe 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. 95: Bobby Petrino is Fired + Evan Daniels

It’s been nearly a week since the last Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, but there are no shortage of topics to discuss, as Nick Coffey joins to discuss the dismissal of Bobby Petrino and 247 Sports’ Evan Daniels talks more Champions Classic and college basketball recruiting.
Bobby Petrino is Out at Louisville: What many had been waiting for became official on Sunday as morning. Coffey discusses what went wrong for Petrino in his second act at the school and why maybe it always destined to end like this for Petrino.
Is Jeff Brohm THE Guy?  Nick tells us why Jeff Brohm will inevitably be the guy at Louisville and what he would mean to the program. Is Louisville’s administration even planning for the possibility he turns down the job? The guys also talk a little weekend college football, and Aaron discusses whether we’ve finally seen a flaw in Alabama’s armor.
Next up, 247 Sports’ Evan Daniels joins the show to discuss all things hoops. He and Aaron go in-depth on:
The Champions Classic: Evan was in the building in Indianapolis; what did he see? As the recruiting expert who has seen all of these players dozens of times, he admits why even he was surprised at how good Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett looked. Evan and Aaron then debate whether we’ve already seen Duke’s best game, and also, where does Kentucky go from here?
Recruiting talk: The guys wrap up by talking recruiting. When will James Wiseman announce the next step in his recruitment and is a decision on the horizon? What about Vernon Carey and Jaden McDaniels? Finally, what is Cole Anthony looking for in a school and just how long will his decision take?

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.


Why It’s Ok for Kentucky Fans To Be Frustrated, But Not Give Up on the Season

Why It’s Ok for Kentucky Fans To Be Frustrated, But Not Give Up on the Season

I’ve been watching college basketball religiously for well over two decades, and the more that I think about it, the more I realize that I don’t think I ever remember a result quite as stunning as what we saw from Duke-Kentucky on Tuesday night.

Take the two most tradition-rich programs in college basketball. Take the two most talented teams top-to-bottom in the sport. Take two Hall of Fame coaches and put them on the court together, and what do you get?

A 34-point blowout. Huh?

Only that’s what happened on Tuesday night, and there really is nothing else to say that hasn’t already been said. It was a game where Duke was so thorough and dominant, it’s leading to all kinds of hyperbole and Wednesday morning quarterbacking from college basketball fans: Is Duke the Bama of college basketball (no, please stop). Is Kentucky’s season over before it begins (no, please stop). And is Zion Williamson the evolutionary next step in the sport of basketball, with 6’7, 285 lb. cyborgs taking over the sport from now until the end of time? No, please stop. There has only been one Zion Williamson in the history of basketball. And what he does is not replicable.

So yes, Duke was the far better team on Tuesday night, and yes, they should be the unquestioned No. 1 team in the country going forward. But it’s also safe to play the season, and let’s not just hand them the national championship trophy now.

To quote Denny Green, “If you want to crown their ass, crown ‘em!” but I’m not ready to do that yet. Even if again, they truly put forth a transcendent, unbelievable performance on Tuesday night.

Still, there are reasons to still to tune into college hoops this season, and if you’re a Kentucky fan (which most everyone reading this article is) to not give up on the season yet.

Here are six reasons why.

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68 Things To Be Excited For in the 2018-2019 College Basketball Season

Photo by UK Athletics

By my count it’s been 218 days since the last college basketball game was played between Villanova and Michigan, but folks, we’ve made it. We’re finally here. Today is the day college basketball begins.

Sure, you might not tune in for the technical first game (anyone got the spread on Wisconsin-Lutheran vs. Green Bay?) but yes, there will be actual college hoops on our TV’s today and no shortage of good games. And it will be that way straight from now through the beginning of April of 2019.

Forget Christmas, this truly is the best time of year.

So what do you need to know heading into the season? Well hopefully you’ve been paying attention here as I’ve given you no shortage of good content, ranging from a bunch of major conference previews (including the SEC), to the strengths/weaknesses of each title contender and even my projected field of 68.

But even still, there is plenty more to get excited about.

What exactly, you ask? Here are 68 reasons to get excited (and if you stick around to the bottom of article, I’ll even give you my National Player of the Year, Final Four picks and 2019 national champion).

Enjoy!
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The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 93: NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster Previews the Champions’ Classic

We are just days away from basketball season beginning, so what better way to get you ready for Kansas-Michigan State and Duke-Kentucky than with a new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Aaron is joined by NBC’s Rob Dauster to preview the big games, plus talk about other storylines across college basketball. He also talks college football and wraps by discussing his preseason field of 68 in college hoops, which was posted on Friday.
Here is a full rundown of the show:
Aaron talks a wild weekend in college football: Aaron recaps ‘Bama’s dominant win, but just because they won big at LSU, it doesn’t mean that other teams aren’t capable of beating them. He also recapped Georgia-Kentucky and explains why – even in a loss – the Wildcats have nothing to be disappointed about. And finally he takes a look at the playoff picture: Can the SEC still get two teams in? Does Notre Dame have to go undefeated to get a spot? And a truly wacky situation in the Big 12.
A Champions Classic preview with Rob Dauster: Next up, Aaron welcomes in NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster to discuss the mega-showdown this week in college basketball + all the major storylines heading into the season. They open with a key injury at Gonzaga, and how it could literally shake up the entire season. Then they talk about the big games. Rob explains why he has some concern with Kentucky’s lineups and how it could be manifested against Duke. Also, why he has Kansas No. 1 in the country coming into the season.
Finally, Aaron wraps by talking more college hoops: He breaks down his entire field of 68, and why he thinks it will be another big year for the power conferences. He then answers user-submitted questions and gives his picks for the Champions Classic!

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 Preseason Projection of All 68 Teams in the 2019 NCAA Tournament

People, it’s hard to believe but we are here! College basketball season is about to begin and I for one, couldn’t be more excited. With games tipping off next Tuesday, it’s that magical time of year when all 353 Division I teams believe they have enough to make it to March, and have their One Shining Moment on the national stage.

It won’t happen for everyone. But for 68 teams, it will.

So who will those 68 teams be? Well, as someone who loves college basketball and studies it year-round, I felt like – with the season now just days away – today was the perfect time to release my field of 68.

A couple notes before we start: One, this is just my field of 68. I’ll release my preseason All-Americans, Final Four and national championship picks next week. Two, this is only a projection of which 68 teams will make the field – separated by the 32 teams who will earn automatic bids by winning their conference tournaments, plus the 36 teams who will earn automatic bids. I’m not projecting seeds, regions, nothing like that. Just the 68 teams. Also, just to be clear, every team is listed in alphabetical order, first by conference, then from team within conference. So just because I have Clemson ahead of Duke in the “ACC at-large” section, doesn’t mean I think the Tigers will be better. Again, this isn’t a true bracketology (call your boy Joe Lunardi for that). Just a projection of who will make next year’s Big Dance.

So who are those 68 teams?

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© Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The 8 Questions Kentucky Must Answer to Win the 2019 National Championship

© Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Look, I know that Kentucky is a football school, and that the sole focus this week is on a potential SEC-East clinching game against Georgia on Saturday. I get it. I totally do. But as some of you might have heard, the Wildcats have a pretty good hoops team entering the season too.

Crazy, I know. But yes, they’re really good. Coached by some guy named Calipari. No. 2 in the preseason polls or something. Nine deep with McDonald’s All-American caliber talent. Again, I just wish Kentucky wasn’t such a college football hot bed, and these guys might get a little more attention!

In all seriousness, I’ll leave the heavy-hitting analysis of the football team up to Nick Roush and the football guys, but if you’ll excuse me for a second, I would like to indulge in a little basketball talk. Kentucky is now just days away from that opener against Duke, and the start of what could be a very special season. As I’ve mentioned many times throughout the summer, I really do believe they’re the best team in college basketball and should be a favorite to cut down the nets next spring in Minneapolis.

Still, as good as the Wildcats are, they have questions like everyone else. So what questions do they need to answer this season to ultimately win the school’s ninth national championship come early April? Let’s take a look:

Are the veterans ready to lead?

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but history tells us that John Calipari’s most dangerous teams are the ones that have veterans sprinkled in on the roster with younger guys as well. I’m also not sure if you’ve heard, but Willie Cauley-Stein also once played football, Kevin Knox’s dad won a national championship at Florida State and Bam Adebayo got his nickname when he broke a table as a kid.

Again, I wish announcers really would talk about these storylines more.

Still, even though this will be a talking point that is beaten to death by the end of the season, it really is important here. The Wildcats have three sophomores with major experience and one fifth-year senior. The question for me is, are they ready to lead?

After all, it’s one thing to have older guys, but it’s another thing to have a Tyler Ulis/Darius Miller/Patrick Patterson type presence to grab guys when they’re in the huddle, push people when they’re down and to fight through adversity.

For all intents and purposes, it seems like some of those older guys (P.J. Washington, Reid Travis) and even a couple of the younger ones (cough, Keldon Johnson) are ready to take on those roles. But we won’t know for sure until we see it on the court.

What will Kentucky get from the point guard position?

This is kind of a trickle-down storyline from the one above. But we all know that the point guard is the leader on the court, and in the past, Kentucky has had wildly strong personalities in that spot, ranging from John Wall to Ulis to De’Aaron Fox.

But this year it’s more of a wild card. The talent is there. But all three players are being asked to take on roles they’ve never had before.

What makes things especially interesting – at least to me – is that all three of the point guards in question have slightly different skill-sets. Immanuel Quickley is probably the best at running an offense out of the group, but doesn’t necessarily look for his own shot a ton. Ashton Hagans is by far the best on-ball defender, but his offensive game still seems to be lacking at this point. And Quade Green seems best playing off the ball and getting buckets, which is fine. But with Johnson and Tyler Herro also on the wing, at some point will it make more sense to insert them into that spot?

Again, we’ll start to get answers here soon. But at the same time, it’s really hard to make a deep run into March if you don’t know what you’re getting from the point guard position. And right now, it’s hard to know exactly what UK will get from that spot.

Sophomore Nick Richards was real and spectacular in the Bahamas. But will it translate once the games start?

Credit to my buddy Drew Franklin, who sniffed out Nick Richards’ sophomore emergence months ago, like it was a half-priced happy hour special at KSBar or something. Richards – along with a few other guys – was one of the real revelations of the entire trip to the Bahamas, thanks in large part to that breakout, 19-point performance in the opener.

At the same time, what’s sort of gotten lost in the shuffle is that Richards has been relatively quiet since that opener. Despite putting up 19 points in the Bahamas, Richards finished the trip averaging just 12 points per game over the course of the four games in the Caribbean. He also had 13 points in Kentucky’s exhibition win over Transylvania last week.

Now on the one hand, it’s important to note that Kentucky will gladly take 12 or 13 points per night from Richards once the season begins. If they get that, they’d be through the roof. The more important question though is can he play with the intensity he showed early in that Bahamas trip on the defensive end?

Look, it’s no secret that Richards is just about the only shot-blocking, rim-protecting presence on the roster, and because of it, it’s important that he plays well enough on both ends to warrant playing time. It won’t be easy with a loaded front court of E.J. Montgomery, P.J. Washington and Reid Travis.

Point being, Kentucky needs to get some version of “Early Bahamas Nick Richards” all season long, if they truly want a chance to compete for a title.

What will Kentucky get out of E.J. Montgomery?

Montgomery was limited in the Bahamas, but once healthy he has already shown why some people believe that he’s the best NBA prospect on this roster. Montgomery absolutely balled out at Kentucky’s pro day and was maybe the best player on the floor in the Wildcats exhibition win over Transylvania, scoring 14 points on 7 of 10 shooting.

And really that game is what has me so darn intrigued about Montgomery. That’s because as good as the other bigs on this roster are, no one has a skill-set quite like Montgomery, who is as comfortable stepping out and hitting 15-foot jumpers as he is banging down low. And the former is important – if Montgomery can consistently hit that mid-range shot, it is one more threat from the outside, and will create more spacing and driving lanes for Kentucky’s guards.

If Montgomery can continue to play like he has since the team’s pro day, he adds a whole new dimension to this roster.

Will the three-pointers continue to fall?

Honestly, I’m not as worried about Kentucky’s three-point shooting as some of the national pundits. If you watch the Wildcats games you know that they can shoot the hell out the ball, with everyone from Tyler Herro to Keldon Johnson, Jemarl Baker, P.J. Washington, Quade Green and Immanuel Quickley capable of hitting from deep.

Still, even with all those shooters, there are questions: Will Baker be available at all? Will Washington (and to a smaller degree, Reid Travis) be able to show the consistency that they have early in the season. And what happens if Herro has an off-night, or Green falls down the depth chart?

Again, I’m not as worried about Kentucky’s shooting as most. But it is something to keep an eye on going forward.

Can Keldon Johnson, P.J. Washington and Tyler Herro… umm… ahh…

On second thought, I really have no concerns about any of these guys.

Both will be awesome.

Let’s just move on.

Will the weight of the NBA get to any of these guys?

Again, this is something I’m not all too worried about, because at the end of the day, every Kentucky team is filled with a bunch of guys who want to get to the NBA and John Calipari always seems to figure out a way to make it work.

Yet this year it feels like, more than ever, the stakes may be higher in terms of guys going out of their way to impress NBA scouts.

Think about it. Reid Travis is a grad transfer, who specifically came to Kentucky for the exposure that playing at one of the most prominent programs could bring. And he needs that exposure to prove that he has evolved as a basketball player. Will that – at any point – impact how he plays.

P.J. Washington was thiiiiiis close to staying in the draft, and he too came back to show that his game has evolved into a more “NBA friendly” version.

Tyler Herro has been adamant that he came to Kentucky because he believes he is an NBA guy, not a four-year system guy at Wisconsin. What will that mean for him? Quade Green and Nick Richards both want to show they’ve improved, and Keldon Johnson and E.J. Montgomery are playing for lottery spots as well.

Again, impressing NBA teams has never held back Kentucky before. But it might be something worth watching here.

Finally, can they get the breaks and the bounces?

This one is obviously less quantifiable, but at the end of the day every national champion needs a few breaks and bounces along the way. Rarely does a team just blitz through the NCAA Tournament relatively untested. Even that 2012 Kentucky squad needed big plays down the stretch against Louisville and Kansas to seal the title.

So can Kentucky get all those breaks, avoid the key injuries or bad foul calls at the worse possible time?

We’ll start to find out soon – because folks, the season is finally here!

 


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 91: Walter McCarty

The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast is back and ready to talk about all the big storylines in sports. This week Aaron has a special guest, new Evansville head coach, and former Kentucky Wildcat and long-time NBA veteran Walter McCarty. Before McCarty joins the show, Aaron is joined by his buddy Nick Coffey, as they recap the whole weekend in college football, including:

Is Clemson a challenger for Alabama? The guys start by talking Clemson, which – for the third straight game – dominated an opponent. Are they finally a team that is built to challenge Alabama? Also, are we starting to see greatness from freshman QB Trevor Lawrence?

Kentucky’s Wild Win over Missouri: The guys also talk about the Wildcats wild, last second win over Missouri. What a crazy win – and Aaron explains why he believes the Wildcats match-up well with Georgia next week.

Next up, Aaron is joined by a very special guest, as new Evansville basketball coach Walter McCarty joins the show. He and Aaron hit on a number of different topics, including:

McCarty’s Playing Days: Aaron and he talk about his time playing in both Kentucky and the NBA. They discuss how his ’96 title team was kind of like a John Calipari team years before John Calipari ever got to Kentucky. Also, what about how he was born a few years too early – and how his game would perfectly translate to today’s NBA.

His time coaching in the NBA: Next up, McCarty discusses his time coaching in the NBA with the Boston Celtics. What did he learn from Brad Stevens that he will take to college and what was it like to game-plan for LeBron James. Also, would the Celtics have won Game 7 last year if Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward hadn’t been hurt?

Purple Aces: Finally, Walter wraps by discussing his new team at Evansville. What are his hopes for this year and what does he hope to build long-term in his home town?

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.


The Biggest Weakness for Every Top 10 College Basketball Team Entering the 2018-2019 Season

Although I’m not quite sure how we got here, we are basically 10 days from the start of the college basketball season – and believe me, I am not complaining. After six months of analyzing and overanalyzing everything about this season (seriously who is the ninth best team in the SEC, Vanderbilt or Arkansas?!?!), we are finally here. The latest clue that basketball is reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally close came this week when both the AP and Coaches released their preseason polls.

Still, while there is unquestioned optimism coming into the year, if you ask any single coach, there is also plenty of cause for concern. After all, as good as some of the top teams in the country are, no team is perfect, and everyone has concerns coming into the season.

So what are the biggest concerns for the top teams in the country? Let’s take a look at one for each team ranked in the Top 10 of the Coaches Poll, which was released on Thursday:

1) Kansas Jayhawks – The FBI

Not sure if you’ve heard, but it’s a bad few weeks for Bill Self. As we all know now, text messages obtained by the FBI and released in court over the last month basically revealed that Self worked closely with Adidas to ensure they landed the commitment of forward Silvio De Sousa. De Sousa has already been suspended and almost certainly will never play again for Kansas (ironically, I actually think his suspension helps Kansas on the court, where they had too many players in the front court as is). More importantly though, everyone wants to know what will happen with this program, and Self specifically.

Ultimately I’m not positive that the texts alone reveal enough to cost Self his job, and even if more evidence comes out, it seems highly unlikely that any resolution will come before the end of this season. At the same time, how much will the scrutiny of the investigation weigh on this program? We saw the FBI backdrop take a toll on schools like Arizona, USC and Louisville last year, and eventually you’ve got to think it will on Kansas as well. Everywhere Self goes he will be asked questions about this FBI probe (no matter how much he continues to issue “no comments”) and in every opposing arena players will be serenaded with “FBI” chants from fans.

My hunch is that like Arizona last year it will eventually wear on one of the most talented teams in the sport and keep them from fully reaching their potential.

2) Kentucky Wildcats – Will They Peak Too Soon

Since the day Reid Travis announced his decision to enroll at Kentucky, I’ve been adamant that this team has no real weaknesses, and four games in the Bahamas only strengthened that belief. This is a team with all the components to win a title: Size, athleticism, skill, mental and physical toughness and experience.

However, when I was watching Kentucky’s “Pro Day” a few weeks ago, I found one comment John Calipari made to be very interesting: He said that he has to do everything he can to make sure that this team doesn’t peak too soon. As he said, this team had to ramp up the intensity for those four games in the Bahamas and will need to keep that edge through a season-opener against Duke, a brutal November and December that includes games against North Carolina and Louisville, and an SEC slate with a handful of Top 25 caliber teams. Is there any chance that mental edge fades the deeper they get into the season? Can they really keep it up for what amounts to 10 months straight?

It will be interesting to see how Calipari handles this group, and the ways he finds to motivate them. However outside of that, it really is hard to find too much to pick apart with this team.

3) Duke Blue Devils – Can the “Big Three” Co-Exist Together

I’m getting kind of tired of typing this so I’ll try to keep it brief. But since the day that Zion Williamson committed to Duke last winter and signed up to play with R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, I really have questioned the ability for all three to play together on the same court.

Sure, signing the top three players in a recruiting class sounds sexy on paper, but putting together a basketball team isn’t like putting together a line-up full of home run hitters in baseball. Guys have to be able to play together, styles have to mesh. And what I see from those three Duke players are three insanely talented players – but three that are all essentially the same. All three are incredible athletes and future NBA stars, but all three are also players who are best at creating their own offense and most effective when they have the ball in their hands. None are great three-point shooters, which will limit spacing and driving lanes when they’re on the court together. And much like Duke two seasons ago when they had Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen, I could see a scenario where this simply doesn’t’ work out.

To Duke’s credit they did look good during their trip to Canada, but that was without Reddish on the court. It’s clear that Barrett and Williamson can play together, but what about when they add a third piece to the mix?

We will find out soon enough when Duke faces Kentucky a few weeks from now.

4) Gonzaga – Uncertainty at the Point Guard Position

Ask most casual fans about the Zags, and they’ll tell you that their biggest problem could be weak competition in their conference, where outside of BYU, they probably won’t face an NCAA Tournament caliber team once league play starts. But considering that the Zags have made it to the Sweet 16 or beyond in each of the last four seasons – something Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan State, Arizona, Kansas and UCLA can’t say – I’m not so worried about it.

What I am worried about however, is the point guard position.

Gonzaga does return fifth-year senior Josh Perkins, but he isn’t a natural point and was kind of forced into the role last year. It showed, as Perkins finished with a 3-2 assist to turnover ratio and to make matters worse, he missed the whole off-season after shoulder surgery. I talked to Perkins a bit this summer and he claimed that his injury was a blessing in disguise as it allowed others to get more ball-handling reps, and the Zags did get a reinforcement the last few weeks as they welcomed in grad transfer Geno Crandall to the program from North Dakota. Again though, Crandall is more of a combo guard and not someone suited to run an offense.

At the end of the day, the Zags are talented enough to win a national championship. But until we see production from the point guard position, we will continue to question whether they can actually reach that goal or not.

5) Virginia Cavaliers – Will Tony Bennett Actually Switch Up His Coaching Style Come March?

One of the reasons that I think so many of you like me so much is that I always tell it like it is. And as part of telling it like it is, I’m just about the only national media member that refuses to endlessly gush over Tony Bennett. Do I think he’s a good coach? Good enough, sure. Do I think he’s a James Naismith and John Wooden all rolled into one like so many claim him to be? Come on, man.

And if anything, I think it’s fair to call into question his actual “coaching” merits. Because while he has a system built to rack up wins in the regular season, his inability and refusal to change up his style of play continues to cost his team in March. Seriously, just watch that UMBC game. Everyone remembers the loss, but few remember how the Cavaliers got there. When they fell behind early, they  continued to run the same boring, plodding offense, which took 28 seconds off the clock every possession.

At a certain point, Bennett had to switch up his team’s style of play, switch up everything that is comfortable to him and he couldn’t do it. And until I see otherwise, I believe it will continue to hurt the Cavaliers to come tournament time.

It was backed up when I talked to a coach following that game, one who had been to multiple Final Fours. I remember him telling me (and I’m loosely quoting him), “That guy will never win a title until he changes as a coach. In the NCAA Tournament you’re just going to face too many different teams, that play too many different styles, and if you can’t adjust, you’ll never be able to win a title. You need to be able to win more than one way.”

That has stuck with me all summer and will continue to stick with me until I see change in Bennett. He is great at what he does, but part of being a “coach” is adjusting your game-plan based on the opponent and situation.

Until I see otherwise, I’ll continue to pick against the Cavaliers.

6) Tennessee Volunteers – Have They Already Peaked?

I’ve made this argument so much throughout the summer that I will try to keep it brief here. But is it possible this particular group of Vols have already peaked?

It sounds crazy, but think about it. This is a group of fourth and fifth-year players who have grown, developed, matured within Tennessee’s system. Also, if we’re being perfectly honest, they’ve all kind of hit their “ceiling” as basketball players. While young teams like Duke, Villanova and Kentucky will no doubt get better throughout the year, how much better can 22 and 23-year-old grown men like Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield really get?

To me, it’s a fair question. And it’s why I’m not as high on the Vols as some other teams.

7) North Carolina – Another Team with Point Guard Issues

This one really is a no-brainer. The Tar Heels have arguably the most balanced frontcourt in college basketball. Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson and Nassir Little are each All-ACC caliber players (Maye and Little both could mess around and win Player of the Year) with perfect skill-sets to complement each other. It isn’t the deepest frontcourt in the country. But it is the one where the pieces fit perfectly together.

The problem is in the backcourt, where Joel Berry is gone and there is no adequate replacement. Freshman Coby White will be thrust into that spot and considering that he’s a freshman and more of a combo guard than he is a true point, it probably won’t end well for the Tar Heels.

To be blunt, I think North Carolina is a little bit overrated – and it’s because of their point guard play. I don’t expect them to stay in the Top 10 for long and consider them more of a fringe Top 25 team.

8) Villanova – Did They Lose Too Much Off Last Year’s Team

Seeing the system that Jay Wright has created at Villanova really is incredible. They rarely recruit a bunch of can’t miss NBA players, yet develop the guys they have into future pros. And when one leaves, the next guy steps in. Between the growth of Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono and the four guys they had drafted last year, it’s only a matter of time before the NBA is filled with a bunch of former Nova guys.

However, that last part is kind of the problem. For years, this program has been able to replace its stars with one homegrown player after another, but that cycle was somewhat disrupted by last year’s national championship run. Had the Wildcats not made the national championship game, there is a zero percent that Donte DiVencenzio or Omari Spellman would have even considered going pro. Instead, both blew up in the tournament and both ended up as first round picks.

No one is feeling sad for the Wildcats are winning a title, but had those two returned, Villanova would have likely been the preseason No. 1 team in the country. Now, for the first time in a long time, they will have younger and inexperienced guys thrust into bigger roles.

How much will it cost them?

(The early returns are “not much at all”)

9) Nevada – Do They Actually Have Too Many Players?

Earlier this summer I had Nevada head coach Eric Musselman on the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast (actually I’ve had him twice – you really do need to make sure and subscribe) and one thing that he said stuck out to me. The Wolf Pack only had about six healthy players by the end of last season (at one point they actually had to bring over players from the football team just to run a five-on-five practice) and I mentioned to him that it must be nice to have a full roster, after a slew of transfers and freshmen joined the Pack this off-season. The Wolf Pack are expected to be about 10-deep this season.

In an interesting twist, Coach Muss told me the exact opposite was true: Having a deeper bench created more problems for a coach. Not necessarily with this specific Nevada team, just in general. As he explained it on the show, he’d prefer to have a rotation of about seven to eight guys who knew their roles and knew exactly how much they were going to play and what roles they had. Any more, and it became to get complicated.

So those were Coach Muss’s words, which leads to just one problem for the Wolf Pack: They are insanely deep this season. Nevada expected to lose at least a couple players to the pros (most likely Caleb and Cody Martin), but when both decided to return it created a log jam on their roster. When you add in a bunch of transfers who sat out last season, they now have nine players who are either playing their fourth or fifth year of college basketball. Eight of those guys have averaged double figures at some point in their college careers, either at Nevada or their previous stop.

Yes, you read that correctly. Nevada has… EIGHT GUYS who have averaged double-figures at some point during their college career. The one veteran who hasn’t is Lindsey Drew who started every game for the Wolf Pack until a season-ending injury last year. And Nevada also added McDonald’s All-American Jordan Brown to the mix this past summer as well.

So yeah, you think there are going to be battles over playing time and stats? It seems inevitable.

And more than any other program, it seems like that will be the ultimate issue for the Wolf Pack.

10) Michigan State – Relying on Freshmen

True story: As I got set to write this piece, I texted a buddy of mine who works at Michigan State. I asked him what he thought the biggest concern or weakness of his team was entering the season. His response: “We really don’t have any.”

So yeah, I guess a lack of self-awareness is the biggest issue in East Lansing right now.

In all honesty, I actually like the make-up of this team, but as he later mentioned to me, the Spartans will rely on a bunch of freshmen to fill gaps off their bench. None need to be stars, but for Michigan State to have any depth they will need guys like Gabe Brown and Foster Loyer to contribute. N

March is always a crapshoot, but especially when you’re relying on such young players. And the Spartans will rely on a few this March.


KSR Partners with Kentucky Speedway to Get You Ready for Next Year’s Quaker State 400

In case you missed it, on Thursday, KSR’s the “Aaron Torres Sports Podcast” welcomed on a very special guest: As two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined the show, in an episode presented by Kentucky Speedway.

And as part of that interview, Kentucky Speedway offered a very special deal to KSR readers, and for regular attendees at Kentucky Motor Speedway: A chance to get a free copy of Dale Jr’s new book “Racing to the Finish: My Story.”

How it works is simply really. The bottom line is so many of you are going to go to the races, so why wait until this summer’s races in July (July 11th-13th this season) to purchase tickets? Why not get them now, and get a free copy of Dale Jr.’s book while you’re at it?

All you’ve got to do is go to KentuckySpeedway.com/KSR, and use the promo code “KSR” at check out, and any purchase or upgrades of $100 or more, automatically gets you a free copy of the book. Again, you’re going to the races anyway, so why not purchase ahead of time? Visit KentuckySpeedway.com.KSR, use the promo code “KSR” at check out, and you get a free copy of the book with $100 or more in purchases.

In terms of the interview with Dale Jr., you can download it here, and it really was a fascinating look behind the curtain of his final few years in racing. As many of you know – and some probably don’t – Earnhardt, winner of 26 Sprint Cup races, was forced to step away from the track after chronic concussions forced him to step away.

As he explained on the show, it wasn’t an easy step – especially with so many people, from family to friends, to sponsors relying on him to stay in the sport, even when his health wasn’t good.

“A lot of the things I felt pressure from may have been real, may have been perceived, but either way, it was difficult… it was so hard for me and everyone who was affected by my career or connected to it, to talk about what we needed to do. And, you know, I think a lot of people, even my close family and people were involved in my career and connected to my career weren’t aware of how serious the situation was. Until I could get them in front of my doctor and explain what was happening to them.

That’s the big problem with concussions. You can look at a person and they look completely fine and may even act normal, but you can’t see what’s going on inside their head and know what they’re dealing with. So that made it all very, very difficult and tense. And there were some disagreements and arguments, and all the while you’re concussed while going through this. You’ve got the concussion and try to manage your career and whether you’re going to retire. I did not enjoy any bit of that. And I’m glad it’s over to be honest with you.”

Ultimately though he decided to step away, and wanted to write this book, to let other people know that if you’re suffering from concussions, help is out there.

When I got injured in 2012 I didn’t know you could go to a doctor for a concussion. I didn’t know there was treatment or someone who could help. I’m afraid that that’s still the case for a lot of people out there. The every-man, the person who is injured on the job or at home, they don’t know any better other than to rest this off. And a lot of times they end up getting well enough to be well enough to go back to work, but they still have symptoms long, long into their life. Even if you have a concussion 10 years ago you can go see [my doctor] Mickey [Collins] and he can help you get a quality of life.

And I think that’s important for people to know.

Of course it wasn’t all about concussions as Dale talked about a variety of things, ranging from what he misses most at the track, to what is next in his career post-racing to his beloved Washington Redskins who picked up a big win last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

Again, to listen to the entire podcast interview, as well as a sit down with Kentucky Speedway’s Mark Simendinger, who discusses preparations for the 2019 Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart, you can download the show on iTunes or the Podcast Addict app for Android users. You can also stream the show online here.

And remember, if you’re going to the races this summer, why not get your tickets now AND get a free copy of Dale Jr’s new book while you’re at it.

KSR readers get a special deal, when they visit KentuckySpeedway.com/KSR, and use the promo code “KSR” at check out – all purchases of $100 or more receive a copy of Dale Jr.’s new book! Don’t wait, get it now!


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 90: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Presented by Kentucky Speedway

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 90: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Presented by Kentucky Speedway

Let’s be honest, you’re planning on going to Kentucky Speedway for a full weekend of racing next July highlighted by the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart – so why not get your tickets now? And why not get a free copy of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s new book “Racing to the Finish: My Story” while you’re at it? 
Kentucky Speedway is offering a special promo just for KSR readers – just go to KentuckySpeedway.com/KSR, and use the promo code “KSR” at check out, and any purchase of $100 of new tickets or upgrades, gets you a FREE copy of Dale Jr’s new book. Again, you know you’re heading to the races, so get your tickets now at KentuckySpeedway.com/KSR, use the promo code “KSR” at checkout, and get a free copy of the book while supplies last. 

 
Welcome in to a very special edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast.  Aaron welcomes onto the show iconic NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. to talk about his new book and life after racing.  After the interview Torres is joined by Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger and his buddy Nick Coffey.
On this episode:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. discusses: What went into writing his new book “Racing to the Finish.” He details in great anguish how concussions cost him his career, and why he feels like it’s so important to speak out.  Junior shares how tough it was to step away and what’s next on his career. He also gloats about his Washington Redskins after a big win this weekend.
Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger: The general manager of Kentucky Speedway Mark Simendinger joins the show. He talks about Dale Jr.’s impact on racing, his interactions with Dale Jr. during his trips to Kentucky and why the book gave him a newfound respect for the racing icon. Mark also lets fans know what they can expect if they come to Kentucky Speedway this summer for the Quaker State 400 or any of the track’s other races.  If you’ve never been to a race, he explains why a NASCAR race really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Verdicts in the FBI Trial with Nick Coffey: Finally, the guys wrap up the show by discussing the stunning FBI verdict. Aaron explains why no one saw this coming and the guys wonder if seeing people go to jail will finally clean up college basketball. They take a deep dive into the situation at Kansas and wonder why more people aren’t calling for Bill Self’s job. Before the show ends there’s a college football weekend preview that showcases Kentucky-Missouri, Florida-Georgia and LSU.

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 2018-2019 ACC Basketball Season

Everything You Need to Know About the 2018-2019 ACC Basketball Season

Last week, as we got set for SEC Media Days, I, as the resident college basketball insider decided to give you an everything-you-need-to-know, full rundown of what was ahead in SEC basketball this season. You can read it here, but the bottom line is this: You all loved it. I got more feedback, response, comments etc. on that article than anything I’ve written in a long time.

That’s also why I decided to bring back the concept, and write today a little bit about the ACC in the lead-up to their media day on Wednesday.

Look, I know that the ACC probably doesn’t carry the same interest level around here as the SEC, but if you’re going to watch college basketball (like everyone who reads these posts does) than you really do kind of have to know what’s going on in the ACC. It is home to some of the best programs – like them or not – in college basketball and a slew of national championship contenders. Even if I don’t think this conference is quite as good as years past, there are still plenty of big storylines.

Speaking of which, I actually think you could argue that the storylines in this league are as compelling as any conference in college basketball. In no particular order: How does Virginia bounce back after a historically embarrassing loss to UMBC? We know Duke’s freshmen are fantastic, but is the rest of the roster championship caliber? What will Chris Mack’s first year be like at Louisville? Is this the best Syracuse team that Jim Boeheim has had since they joined the ACC? Is this the best team Buzz Williams has had at Virginia Tech period? And how the hell is Luke Maye still in college?

Just kidding on that last one. Sort of.

But when you add it all up, it makes for a wildly compelling season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Here’s what you need to know about the ACC this season:
(more…)


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 89: College Football Week 8 + G-League

A new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast is LIVE. Today Aaron is joined by his good friend Nick Coffey to recap college football’s Week 8 and talk about the G-League offering $125,000 contracts to rookies. Plus, they prepare you for the program’s biggest guest EVER who will appear on Thursday’s show. First up though is college football, as the guys break down:
Purdue’s Stunning Win against Ohio State: The guys react to Purdue’s shocking and dominating win Saturday against Ohio State. Aaron explains why he saw this one coming, and wasn’t shocked by the result. The guys also ask how this could shake up the playoff picture in the Big Ten and is Michigan now the favorite to win the conference? Finally, Nick weighs in on what Purdue’s victory means for Louisville – and their potential pursuit of Jeff Brohm as the school’s next head coach.
The Rest of Week 8 in College Football + UCF talk: The guys react to the rest of the Week 8 college football chatter, including an in-depth conversation on Central Florida. Yes, the competition isn’t good. But after 20 straight wins dating back to last season, is it finally time to consider Central Florida as a legitimate playoff contender?
G-League Select Contract: Finally, the guys react to the G-League’s new $125k contract to high school players who don’t want to go to college, news which broke right after the guys taped the last episode. Coffey and Torres get into why this is a risky move for all high school basketball players, and why, at least for the time being, it probably won’t have a major impact on college basketball. Will a player be willing to risk his draft stock to play against grown men? What about the travel in the G-league? For the time being, college is still a better opportunity for most players.

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.