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Aaron Torres’ Take

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 175: More Michael Avenatti+ Football Season is Here!

It’s an all new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, as Aaron is joined by his buddy Nick Coffey to break down a number of different topics heading into “Week 0” of the college football season. The guys talk all sorts of things, including:

More on Michael Avenatti + News at Louisville? After touching on the Michael Avenatti news last week, the guys rehash and explain why it’s all much to do about nothing. They explain why the allegations aren’t nearly as scandlous as some make it out to be, and how none of it can be tied to major college basketball programs. Aaron also explains why there isn’t anything to worry about for Kentucky’s Kenny Payne whose name was mentioned in the documents.

Week 0 is here! The guys talk about college football’s Week 0 being upon us. When did Week 0 become a thing, and is the Week 0 and Week 1 slate this year slacking? Also, have we run out of teams to play Bama Week 1, and Nick discusses how bad it could get when Notre Dame comes to Louisville on Labor Day night. Also, the guys again touch on a quiet off-season: Are Alabama and Clemson to blame?

Get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or simply stream online through Spotify.  Don’t forget to follow the show on Instagram too.

Ranking The Importance of Each Player on the 2019-2020 Kentucky Basketball Roster

It’s mid-August, and while the world has turned its attention to football (as it should) what gets lost in the shuffle is that we are, believe it or not, right around 80 days until the start of the college hoops season. Opening night on November 6 may seem like a lifetime from now, but make no mistake, it will get here before you know it.

So with such a short time between now and the start of the season it’s never too early to look ahead. Which is exactly what I’ve been doing the last few weeks here at KSR. A few weeks ago I looked at a Way Too Early SEC basketball projection, and this week I decided to bring it a little closer to home with Kentucky. Specifically, I wondered to myself, “for Kentucky to have a successful season next year” what needs to happen? More importantly, who needs to play well?

With that, it brings me to this article today: Ranking the most important Kentucky basketball players heading into next season.

Now before we get started, a few disclaimers: This is a ranking of the guys who will be most important specifically to next season, as the Wildcats pursue a potential national title. This isn’t who was good in high school, who is the best NBA prospect, or who could evolve down the line into a star in Lexington. It is specifically about next season and the impact they will have.

With that, who are the most important Wildcats next year? Let’s take a look, as I rank all the scholarship players.

10) Dontaie Allen, F (Freshman)

This is just about the only “easy” ranking on this list.

That’s because while the reports out of summer camp are that Allen could be ready to go for the start of the season and could have an instant impact, we just don’t know for sure. Not after Allen sat out all of summer workouts while recovering from a car crash.

The good news is that the crash seems like it will have little impact on Allen’s future on the court. But until we know for sure when he will be back, it’s tough to put him any higher on this list.

9) Nick Richards, C (Junior)

It’s impossible to put together a list like this without someone feeling slighted. And in this case, that burden falls on Richards. Which is a shame. Because make no mistake: He will have a major impact on this year’s team.

The problem is, it’s hard to see him having a larger impact than anyone below him on this list.

That’s because while Richards does provide a skill-set that is completely unique to him (rim protection), defense is only part of basketball. And the early returns out of summer workouts are that his offensive repertoire hasn’t improved significantly enough where he will make a major leap in 2019-2020.

So, with that it seems fair to ask: If Richards hasn’t improved dramatically on offense, just how much will Kentucky play him? Especially on a roster that has all the pieces to run really good and effective small ball lineups.

Truth be told, I hope Richards proves me wrong. But right now, it just seems hard to put him any higher on this list.

8) Nate Sestina, F (Redshirt Senior)

Full disclosure: I’ve said since the day Nate Sestina committed that I wonder just how much he’ll be able to contribute this season. Yes, I know it’d be easy to look at Sestina as a grad transfer, see the impact that Reid Travis had last year, and assume that Sestina will be able to put up similar numbers. If only it were that easy. Remember, Travis came from a Power 5 conference, where he earned All-Conference honors, and played against a slew of future NBA players in the frontcourt. Sestina came from the Patriot League, and it’s just hard to know how a player will transition from playing against Lehigh and Lafayette every night, to now facing LSU, Tennessee and Florida.

But while I do have concerns about Sestina’s ability to transition from low major to high major, I also can’t deny this: He brings things to the table that no one else on this roster does. Specifically, he should provide size, bulk, physicality and toughness around the rim that the younger players on this roster simply won’t be able to.

The fact that he also has the ability to step out, hit jumpers and space the floor makes him that much more valuable, and because of it, Sestina should still see big-time playing time in 2019-2020.

7) Johnny Juzang, G/F (Freshman)

If you read to the end of this article the one thing you’ll notice is that I drop the word “versatility” about as often as Rick Pitino drops excuses when talking about Stripper-Gate. When it comes to this roster, there is no avoiding it.

And there may be no player that epitomizes Kentucky’s move to versatile, position-less basketball quite like Juzang.

Put simply, Juzang can just do so…many… things on the basketball court. He’s a guy who can handle the ball in a pinch, create off the dribble, and as his AAU coach told me this spring, score on all three levels. Maybe most importantly, he and Tyrese Maxey will likely be the Wildcats most consistent three-point shooters this season. You simply can’t put a price on the floor-spacing that he will provide for this team, and the fact that he can probably guard anywhere from the 2 to 4 positions (depending on the opponent) certainly won’t hurt either.

In the end, I have no idea how many points he’ll score or minutes he’ll play. But to me, Juzang is one of the sneaky big keys to success for the Wildcats this season.

6) Tyrese Maxey, G (Freshman)

Again, to be clear, this isn’t a list of the best long-term NBA prospects at Kentucky this season. If it were, Maxey may be No.1. It also isn’t a list of pure output. Maxey may end up being the team’s leading scorer. Instead, it’s about value and while Maxey is really, insanely, extremely valuable, it is one person’s opinion (mine) that he isn’t more valuable than the guys below him on this list.

But with that said, he is still again, extremely, EXTREMELY valuable.

The reason being, that he can do just about everything on the floor that you could ever want from a guard. He can handle the ball, create for others, play off the ball, score off the dribble and just might be the best three-point shooter on this roster. He’s also a dog on defense. Again, there isn’t a single thing you’d want from a guard on your roster that Maxey isn’t capable of doing.

The only thing that Maxey is lacking at this point is experience, which will come by March.

This kid is going to be a stud. And clearly has insane value to this roster.

5) Immanuel Quickley, G (Sophomore)

Again, it’s all about experience, which is why I have Quickley slightly ahead of Maxey on this list. Not because I’m comparing them as NBA prospects. But because experience wins in March. Just ask Virginia. Or Villanova. Or North Carolina a few years ago. And Quickley does have major experience, as he played in all 37 games for Kentucky last season and got major burn during their run in March. You think that won’t help him when things get tight on the road, or in the NCAA Tournament next March?

But more than just experience what I love about Quickley is his toughness. Remember, this was a guy who began the year as the starter at point guard, moved off the ball, and then eventually to the bench as Ashton Hagans’ backup. Yet despite it, you never heard him complain (at least publicly) and instead, this summer he just got back into the lab (as the kids say) and go to work. And the early returns are that he has been awesome in the Wildcats’ summer workouts.

Furthermore, let’s never forget, this is a kid who came to Kentucky as a McDonald’s All-American and as a recruit that everyone in college basketball wanted. He can play. And I fully expect 2019-2020 to be a breakout season for Quickley.

4) Keion Brooks, F (Freshman)
3) Kahlil Whitney, F (Freshman)

So, I kind of just lumped these guys together because the bottom-line is that they both kind of bring the same thing. Each is a big wing, who can step out, handle the ball, shoot from downtown and also play in and around the rim. They also bring versatility – there’s that buzz word again! – to this team. With each of them in the lineup, Kentucky can either play really small with Brooks/Whitney playing the “four” or they can play big, with one of these two wings playing at the three, with EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards (or potentially Nate Sestina) on the court at the same time.

Now, why are they lumped together? Because it’s just impossible to know who will actually contribute more once the season starts. While Whitney came in with more high school buzz, the early returns (including from KSR’s own Jack Pilgrim) are that both were impressive in summer workouts, and each could contribute in a big way.

My hunch is that Whitney – coming off a big weekend at the Nike Skills Academy in LA – will probably have the upper-hand to start the season. But don’t sleep on Brooks coming along as the season goes on.

2) Ashton Hagans, G (Sophomore)

I’ve already written at length about Hagans this spring, as a player who I believe could be a breakout guy not just at Kentucky, but nationally. Two months after I wrote that article, I still stand by it.

The bottom line is that Hagans has already proven to be one of the elite, on-ball defenders in all of college basketball. The question now is, can his offense catch up? Can he be more consistent getting to the rim, more consistent shooting, and do it all while setting up others?

It’s a question only he can answer. But, if Hagans can evolve on offense to go with his elite on-ball defense, he could be one of the best guards in college basketball. And Kentucky’s ceiling as a team will completely change.

1) EJ Montgomery, F (Sophomore)

It’s interesting because had you asked me to rank these players a week ago or a month ago I would have told you that Hagans was the most important player.

However, I was reading Kyle Tucker’s really good piece from a few weeks ago on the returning players next season and one line jumped out at me. In it, someone was discussing last season’s team, and specifically PJ Washington and Reid Travis and how many “free throws and layups” they created last season. That line really did stick with me, and made me realize just how many easy baskets, within five feet from the rim Kentucky was able to get a year ago. It also made me realize how different is it for a team when they know they can count on 20-30 easy points right around the rim every night.

Which brings us back to Montgomery.

Yes, he’s a completely different player from Washington and Travis and more of a hybrid forward who is comfortable playing away from the basket.

Still, you simply replicate the value of a guy who can get you points at the rim, and Montgomery should do that better than everyone else next season.

Add in the overall improvement in his game, and to me, it’s little debate: EJ Montgomery is the most important player to Kentucky’s success next year.

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 173: Chris Mack Reaction + Kelly Bryant

It’s Monday, and you know what that means: It’s time for an all new Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Aaron is joined by his old buddy Nick Coffey to recap a busy few days across sports. The guys touch on Aaron’s interview with Chris Mack and discuss the surprising controversy that developed around Kelly Bryant last week. Highlights:

Reaction Aaron’s interview with Chris Mack: Nick discusses the local reaction and how some in the media were mad that Mack agreed to the interview. Also, the guys discuss Mack’s comments on the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry: Has Mack made it harder for Kentucky fans to dislike the Cardinals?

Kelly Bryant is not getting a championship ring: Next up, the guys discuss the surprising story that emerged last week, with Clemson coach Dabo Swinney refusing to give former Tiger Kelly Bryant a national championship ring. Aaron says that fans are forgetting context when discussing the conversation, and both guys wonder if a different coach had made the decision what the reaction would have been. Also, is it weird that six months after people said that Zion Williamson should stop playing for Duke after he hurt his knee, that they are now critcizing Kelly Bryant for quitting on Clemson to protect his future?

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 Spotify.  Don’t forget to follow the show on Instagram too.

Chris Mack: John Calipari ‘Does as Good of a Job as Anyone in College Basketball’

It’s no secret that the Kentucky-Louisville basketball rivalry is the best, most heated rivalry in all of college hoops. But since the Rick Pitino regime left Louisville a little over a year ago and Chris Mack arrived, it seems that the rivalry has somewhat tempered.

It’s not to say that the two sides still don’t dislike each other, and that each side desperately wants to win every time they take the court. But the visceral hate seems to have slightly subsided since Mack’s arrival last April.

Still, the rivalry means a lot to both sides, and Mack touched on his first experience facing off against Kentucky last season, when he joined KSR’s Aaron Torres on KSR’s Aaron Torres Sports Podcast earlier today.

There he was asked about the Kentucky rivalry, how it compares to Cincinnati-Xavier and just his general thoughts overall. In listening to Mack, you could tell that he has the utmost respect for John Calipari and the program that he’s built.

I can tell you that Coach Calipari does as good of a job as anyone in college basketball,” Mack told Torres. “He has to almost start over every year with the new guys that he brings into the program. And I don’t care how talented a freshman is, that’s really difficult to transition from high school to college, no matter what your talent is. Then putting those guys on the same page, he does it as well as anybody who has ever done it.”

Those are certainly flattering words, and certainly something that – safe to say – you wouldn’t have heard out of the previous regime at Louisville.

Mack went on to continue to discuss the rivalry, and just how much he learned about it in his first season.

“It is a huge rivalry,” he said. “I don’t think you get a full appreciation of it until you live in this state. You’re either wearing something blue, or you’re wearing something red, there’s really no in between. A lot of households are divided across the state of Kentucky and it’s a great thing because people feel so strong about the sport of basketball in our state.”

From there Mack and Torres discussed a number of different topics. Mack chatted a little bit about the Cardinals loss at the Yum Center last year and his desperate desire to get better next season, as well as his loaded 2019-2020 squad. What can fans expect? What has he seen so far? And how is he tempering expectations, especially with his loaded freshman class.

To listen to the entire interview with Mack, more of his thoughts on Calipari, Kentucky and so much else, download the show, either on iTunes or Spotify.

Everything You Need to Know About the NCAA’s New Agent Rule

Yesterday, in its ever increasing (yet equally poor) attempt to “clean up” college basketball following the FBI trials, the NCAA reportedly enacted a new rule about the agent certification process.

And woooooooah buddy did it cause an uproar on the internet.

The rule, which was first reported by Jon Rothstein, calls for agents who want to represent players testing the NBA Draft waters – aka, mostly fringe, second round picks – to reach minimum qualifications, such as having a bachelor’s degree and taking a test at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.

Seems simple enough.

Yet since the rule was reported it has created upheaval. Smart writers simply called the rule unenforceable and short-sighted. It went to another level, when many assumed – incorrectly, I might add – that the rule was intended to be a direct shot at LeBron James’s agent Rich Paul, who does not own a bachelor’s degree.

This rule has nothing to do with Rich Paul. Which we’ll get to in a second.

Instead, this rule is the classic NCAA tale, one in which they try to do something good, yet somehow screw it up and it turns into a PR nightmare. The NCAA is in essence Lenny from Of Mice and Men, always trying to hold and nurture things, only to crush them into dirt instead. Only unlike Lenny, which used brute strength to crush that little mouse, the NCAA uses sheer stupidity.

Regardless, with so much talk about the rule, and with the simple concept that – at least in theory – it could impact college basketball (since we have dozens of players test the draft waters every year) let’s take a deeper dive.

Here is everything you need to know about the new agent rule, as it currently exists, why it won’t work, why it has nothing to do with Rich Paul, and what’s next.

Aaron, what is this new rule?

Let’s start with the basics.

As all of you already know, for years, players have been allowed to test the NBA Draft waters while maintaining their college eligibility. However up until last year to keep that college eligibility, they weren’t allowed to use an agent to help them through that process.

That changed this past spring, with players allowed to seek the counsel of agents throughout the draft process. While college coaches didn’t necessarily like it (agents are trying to recruit their players after all) it seemed as though it was mostly a success in year one. Players got more information from different sources. And for the most part, the players who tested the draft waters who really didn’t like their draft stock (aka EJ Montgomery, Kerry Blackshear, Devon Dotson etc.) all returned.

Still, despite the success of the rule in Year 1, the NCAA decided yesterday to put in place new rules limiting what kind of agents could represent players testing the draft process.

Again, this is only for players testing the draft process. Last year it wouldn’t have applied to Zion Williamson or Ja Morant or PJ Washington. It would have applied to guys like EJ Montgomery, Kerry Blackshear and Devon Dotson.

Per Rothstein, the agents needed to have three minimum qualifications:

  1. A) Bachelor’s Degree
  2. B) They had to be certified with NBPA for a minimum of three years
  3. C) Take an in-person exam at the NCAA Office in Indianapolis

Seems simple enough.

Little did anyone the firestorm it would quickly create.

Wait, let’s backtrack. Why did the NCAA alter this rule in the first place?

The bad thing about all the backlash that the NCAA has taken over the last 24 hours, is that this rule was put in to place for the right reasons: It was designed to protect fringe NBA Draft picks (most of the kids testing the waters) from getting bad advice, from uniformed parties.

Again, to be abundantly clear, this rule only applies to players testing the NBA Draft waters. Once a guy like Zion Williamson or Ja Morant or PJ Washington decided to declare for the draft and stay, this rule wouldn’t apply to them.

Instead, what the NCAA is trying to do, is to make sure that the players who should consider retaining college eligibility – aka the guys who might not make very much money as a professional basketball player the following season – are protected. They’re trying to make sure that before a kid who might not get drafted stays in the NBA Draft, they are getting good, sound, smart advice from people who are qualified to give it.

In other words, this rule isn’t in place to stop a guy like Rich Paul from doing his job. It’s in place to stop a 24-year-old Christian Dawkins type from getting in a player’s ear and convincing them that they will be drafted higher than they are, just to get them to leave college.

That’s what I’ve been saying for two days, and it was confirmed by others (including Jeff Goodman) today.

Again, the rule was put in place for the right reasons. Even if its turned out so terribly wrong.

Why did this story blow up the way that it did? And why are people calling it the “Rich Paul Rule?”

The story blew up for a few reasons. The first was that as many plugged in writers pointed out, the rule is flat out unenforceable for so many different reasons. We’ll get to those reasons in a minute.

But first we have to hit on the bigger question: Why is everyone calling this “The Rich Paul Rule?” And how the hell did LeBron figure out a way to throw himself into the middle of this conversation?

Well, put simply, Rich Paul, the most well-known agent in sports, a man who has a client list that includes LeBron, Anthony Davis, John Wall, Ben Simmons, Draymond Green, Darius Garland and others, doesn’t have his bachelor’s degree. Because he doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree, that means he doesn’t qualify under the NCAA’s new rules.

Of course, as soon as people picked up on this, they started calling it the “Rich Paul Rule,” and claiming the NCAA is trying to hold Rich Paul back from doing his job. LeBron James himself chimed in, because let’s be honest: LeBron loves throwing himself into the middle of pretty much every conversation, ever.

But, as I’ve said for the last 24 hours, while it makes for a cute narrative that everyone is out to get LeBron and his agent, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

The bottom-line is that while the optics look bad, I’d venture to guess that no one in the NCAA even knew that Rich Paul wouldn’t qualify under their criteria. Be honest, did you know as of yesterday that Rich Paul doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree? I didn’t and I cover sports for a living. Anyone who follows this stuff closely knows that Paul is not only qualified to do his job, but is extremely good at it.

Again, I’m guessing it never even crossed the NCAA’s minds. They’re not trying to stop Rich Paul. They’re trying to stop the next Christian Dawkins, a guy with no qualifications to be helping kids with what could be a life-altering decision.

A few more thoughts on the Rich Paul element of this story

The idea that this somehow turned into an NCAA vs. LeBron/Rich Paul debate is laughable to me. It really is.

First of all, and this is a serious question: What would the NCAA have to gain by going after Rich Paul? What would they gain by holding him back? Absolutely nothing. Rich Paul is one of the most well-established agents in the world, with a client list of potential NBA All-Stars and lottery picks. Heck, if the NBA can’t even slow down Rich Paul – which they can’t, by the way – why would the NCAA even bother?

To take it a step further, it’s not even like Paul represents the kinds of players the NCAA is trying to protect – fringe second round picks and undrafted guys. His client list is a who’s who of NBA All-Stars and lottery picks.

Sure, there is the occasional second round pick (like Iowa State’s Talen Horton-Tucker this year) but he isn’t even pursuing the type of guys that this rule would apply to.

Finally, why is this rule unenforceable?

So, I already mentioned it a few times, but yes, this rule is unenforceable. I just don’t see any way that any agent – whether they meet the bachelor’s degree requirement or not – will fly to the NCAA’s offices and take a random test, by a governing body (the NCAA) that has no control over them.

If anything, as The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie pointed out yesterday, this rule will actually have the reverse effect that was intended: If a player wants to work with an agent that isn’t NCAA certified they’re going to. Which means that rather than testing the draft waters, they will simply declare and go pro and give up their eligibility. Seriously, if Rich Paul wants to rep you but he doesn’t qualify, are you really going to say no to him to protect your NCAA eligibility? Probably not.

To take it a step further, I also wonder this: What if there isn’t a single agent who flies to Indianapolis to take the test, which I think is a real possibility. What happens then? Is everyone who declares for the draft now permanently ineligible to play college basketball?

Yeah, I’m guessing there won’t be very many people, from coaches, to players, to parents, to agents and TV execs who will be happy about that.

So, what’s the solution?

Honestly, this is just the latest example of the NCAA taking a good premise – protecting the players – and making it needlessly complicated. All they had to say was “You have to be certified by the NBA” and be done with it. The fact that they added all the needless qualifiers (having a bachelor’s degree etc.) just opened them up for unneeded criticism.

Unfortunately they are now being criticized. Even worse, this is just the latest example of the NCAA putting in rules without truly understanding how the business end of basketball actually works for players and agents. You think any agent is going to fear the NCAA, and sprint to Indianapolis to get approved? You think any player is going to be stopped from going with the agent they want?

And again, I wonder what the future of this rule holds, and if the rule is eventually altered. Not because of the backlash. But because there’s way to actually enforce it. Again, if not a single agent flies to Indianapolis to take this test – and I suspect they won’t – what is the NCAA going to do? Make hundreds of players permanently ineligible.

Unfortunately, this is typical NCAA: Have your heart in the right place, but go about things the wrong way.

That’s exactly what this rule is.

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 171: College Football Thoughts + Cam’Ron Fletcher

It’s a new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, as Aaron is back with plenty to talk about. He shares his early thoughts of Week 1 in college football, before transitioning to a few different basketball stories that caught his attention. Here is the rundown for today’s show:
College Football Week 1 Thoughts: With college football now just three weeks away, Aaron discusses some games that he finds interesting heading into the season. Oregon-Auburn is the headliner of Week 1, and a game that is esentially “must win’ for both. Plus, a sneaky good game Week 1, as well as thoughts on Texas-LSU in the second week of the season.
Another player will skip college basketball: Aaron discusses the decision of five-star Marjon Beauchamp to skip college. Beauchamp is heading into his senior year of high school, and Aaron wonders why, if college won’t help him get to the NBA, why is he playing high school this season? Also, are we sure this “trend” of high school players skipping college is here to stay?
Cam’Ron Fletcher commits to Kentucky: Finally, more recruiting news from over the weekend, as Cam’Ron Fletcher has committed to Kentucky. Aaron explains what he has seen out of Fletcher, and why he believes the 6’6 wing will be a nice fit in Lexington. Also, why Fletcher’s commitment may be further proof of John Calipari changing his on-court coaching style. Finally, Aaron shares some intel he’s heard on two big Kentucky targets — Jalen Green and Joshua Christopher.

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 Spotify.  Don’t forget to follow the show on Instagram too.

© Dale Zanine | USATSI

A Random, Mid-Summer SEC Basketball Power Ranking

© Vasha Hunt | USATSI

There’s no other way to put it, we’ve officially reached the doldrums of the college basketball off-season.

Now look, there’s obviously nothing better than what goes on from November until late March and early April. Duh. But at the same time, the college basketball off-season has slowly become an entertaining follow in its own right. Elite recruits are now waiting until late in the spring to make decisions. Transfers have created free agency in college basketball, with the best ones often waiting until early June to make their final choices on where they’ll play the following season. Then from there we get the NBA Draft (or “Graduation Night” as John Calipari calls it) and for the die-hards, even a little Summer League, where “graduation night” meets “class reunion” with so many former college hoops stars in Vegas. Recruiting helps fill our appetites until the end of July.

Then August hits.

And while all of us love football (myself certainly included), the itch to get some college basketball information never really leaves us, as we wander in the hot summer sun, looking, begging for any piece of information or story line to hold us over.

Unfortunately, today is not the day where I have a big story to share – but what I do have is an itch to talk college basketball. So I figured why not do a totally random, mid-summer SEC Basketball Power Poll? I did a ranking in May, but that was before NBA Draft decisions went final. Now that everything is final and rosters set, let’s re-visit, by ranking the 2019-2020 SEC teams season in tiers.

The Favorite: Kentucky

This isn’t going to strike anyone reading this as a surprise, but Kentucky will once again enter the season as the favorite in the league. And while some years Kentucky’s place atop the conference entering the season is up for debate (like last year when Tennessee had a legitimate claim as the top team) this year, it really doesn’t feel like there’s much argument.

In the backcourt Kentucky not only has talent, but for the first time in a long time, experience. After three straight years of having a freshman run the point the Wildcats bring back experience at that position in Ashton Hagans. Immanuel Quickley will be back in the backcourt as well, with and Tyrese Maxey arriving as a McDonald’s All-American. And while Maxey is rightfully earning “best pro prospect on the roster” buzz, don’t sleep on Hagans, who I believe can be an All-SEC type guard and another guy who moves up NBA Draft boards by the end of the season. On the wing, Kahlil Whitney and Johnny Juzang will both add athleticism to go along with Juzang’s shooting, and Keion Brooks will add depth. The front-court isn’t deep, but I personally like the versatility that EJ Montgomery and Nate Sestina bring to the table, with Nick Richards providing some much-needed rim protection. Like Hagans, I believe Montgomery could end up an All-SEC type player as a sophomore.

With all due respect to the other 13 teams in this league, to me, there is no debate. The Wildcats enter the season as the team to beat in this league.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 170: Summer Hodgepodge and ‘Last Chance U’ Review

We’ve officially hit the summer doldrums but the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast must go on, as Aaron is joined by his old buddy Nick Coffey to discuss a bunch of random mid-summer topics. The guys go all over the place, discussing:

A Couple Random College Football Thoughts: As the summer drags along painfully, the guys discuss how there is seemingly less college football hype this year than in previous summers. Does it have anything to do with the fact that virtually everyone believes Alabama and Clemson will play for the title? Plus the guys discuss Bama and Tua playing with a chip on their shoulder after the Tide got smoked by Clemson and Tua was robbed of the Heisman. Also, did Georgia already miss their best window to beat Bama?

Last Chance U Review: The guys discuss Aaron’s interview with Coach Jason Brown and Season 4 of Last Chance U in general. Both guys explain why they’ve grown to enjoy Coach Brown and believe he really does enjoy playing the villan role. Also, can he parlay his current media tour into another coaching gig???

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 Spotify.  Don’t forget to follow the show on Instagram too.

Ranking All 31 Kentucky Basketball Games Next Season from Most to Least Watchable

(Photo via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

While it feels like a lifetime between now and the start of the college basketball season, we are – believe it or not – just 100 days away from the first game of the year tipping off (Well, at least according to the Kentucky basketball Instagram page. I didn’t actually do the math). And while there is still quite a bit of time between now and that opener against Michigan State, there are signs we’re getting closer.

Like last week for example, when Kentucky’s out of conference was officially completed with a road game at Texas Tech as part of the Big 12-SEC Challenge.

With the out of conference schedule now finalized it means that we now know all 31 games on Kentucky’s schedule (by technicality, we don’t know the dates or times of the SEC regular season games, but those too have been announced). And with the full 31-game schedule complete, it means that now is as good a time as any to look ahead to what’s coming next season.

So with the schedule out, I thought it might be fun to go ahead and take all 31 regular season games, and rank them from the “most watchable” to the “least watchable.”

Factors include the opposing team, any noted hatred between the two schools, and even venue. Since Kentucky is basically the biggest game on every other team’s home schedule, you’ll see a lot more road games towards the top of the list then home games. That’s not to say that Rupp Arena won’t host great games (it will), just that when Kentucky goes on the road, it is just a bigger deal in that city than it is a lot of times than when the game returns to Lexington.

(For example, without trying to piss off either Kentucky or Auburn fans, I’d say that Kentucky coming to Auburn is a LOT bigger deal to Auburn fans, than when it is for Kentucky fans when Auburn visits Rupp Arena. Hope that makes sense)

Anyway enough fluff, and let’s get to the rankings.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 169: Zion’s Shoe Deal + BJ Boston Commits to Kentucky

It was a busy weekend in basketball and Aaron Torres is here to recap it all, as he talks shoes deals for Zion Williamson and RJ Hampton, college basketball betting odds and a big recruiting weekend for Kentucky. Here is a recap of today’s show:

Zion Williamson and RJ Hampton get shoe deals: Zion Williamson signed a record-setting shoe deal late last week, and Aaron believes that much of the credit has to go to the exposure he received at Duke. Aaron explains the value that college basketball still plays in helping build a player’s brand, and why he wouldn’t have gotten the same money had he not gone to Duke. Aaron also discusses the shoe deal RJ Hampton signed last week, why he’s happy for Hampton, but that it’s not as big a deal as people are making it out to be.

A look at next year’s college basketball title odds: Last week a few sites updated their college basketball title odds, and Aaron tells you where the best bets lie. He tells you why you should stay away from the favorites, but schools like Louisville, Seton Hall and Baylor have good value. Could a true long shot hit to win the title?

B.J. Boston commits to Kentucky: After talking Arizona recruiting last week, Aaron discusses a big recruiting weekend for Kentucky this week. B.J. Boston is a Wildcat, and Aaron believes its huge. What kind of player is Kentucky getting? And why this could lead to a monster recruiting haul for Kentucky this season.

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 Spotify.  Don’t forget to follow the show on Instagram too.

Tyler Herro: Leaving Kentucky Was “Definitely Harder Than Decommitting from Wisconsin”

The college basketball season ended just four months ago, but it’s amazing how quickly things can change in such a short amount of time.

That’s especially the case for Tyler Herro.

Since the college basketball season ended, it’s been a whirlwind for Herro, who has gone from a guy projected to go “somewhere in the first round of the NBA Draft” to “lottery pick.” Once he was selected by the Miami Heat at No. 13 overall, he was one of the breakout stars of NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

And after a spectacular Summer League, Herro joined KSR’s Aaron Torres Sports Podcast to discuss everything that happened at Kentucky, as well as everything that has happened since.

The interview is wide-ranging, but maybe the most interesting subject they hit on was Herro’s departure from Kentucky.

When asked if it was a difficult decision to Lexington for the NBA Draft, Herro didn’t hesitate: It absolutely was. He also wasn’t afraid to throw a little shade at a certain, umm, other school.

“It was probably one of the hardest decisions [I’ve ever made],” Herro said. “It was definitely harder than decommitting from Wisconsin.”

From there Torres and Herro hit on a number of different topics pertaining to last season with the Wildcats. They discussed Herro’s favorite memories at the school, his best games and how playing at Kentucky prepared him for the NBA Draft. In a comment that has been made by many former players, Herro believes that the opportunity to play against other elite players every day in practice is what allowed him to not only get to the next level, but have early success there this summer.

“Me and Keldon [Johnson] used to play one-on-one every day before and after practice,” Herro said. He’s one of the best wings in the country, he’s making me better, I’m making him better every single day.”

Finally, Herro gave a bit of a scouting report on what fans should expect from next year. With Ashton Hagans, EJ Montgomery, Immanuel Quickley and Nick Richards back in Lexington for another season, Herro believes the Wildcats are in for a big 2019-2020 campaign.

“Ashton, I’m hoping he’s going to be one of the best, if not the best point guard in the country next year,” Herro said. “He’s putting in a lot of work right now.”

He continued.

“The rest of the guys, EJ, Nick, Immanuel, it’s scary what they can do for how many guys they’ve got returning and talented they were last year to see them coming back.”

To listen to Herro’s full interview with Torres, click here.

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 167: ‘Last Chance U’ Coach Jason Brown

Just days after the debut of the latest season of “Last Chance U”, former Independence Community College head coach Jason Brown joins the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast to discuss what went wrong at Indy last year, and what’s next for him (don’t worry, there are no show spoilers). Before Coach Brown though, a couple topics from the weekend:

Recap of last week’s media days: Aaron talks about the biggest stories from last week’s media days. He explains why he was disappointed to hear Jim Harbaugh call out Urban Meyer — would Harbaugh have made the same comments if he had to coach against Meyer this season? Aaron also discusses Nick Saban’s comments at SEC Media Day on how his assistant coaches weren’t locked in at the end of last season. Were the comments disrespectful to Clemson, following their title game beat down of Bama last year?

Last Chance U head coach Jason Brown joins the show: With the new season of “Last Chance U” out, former coach Jason Brown joins the show for an exclusive interview. What went wrong last season? Does he have any regrets? And can a guy like him still making it in coaching in the modern era? This is a fascinating interview with a polarizing man, and one that you DO NOT want to miss!

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 on Instagram too.

Mark Krebs Says There’s “No Doubt” Kentucky Had the Best Team in 2010

Photo via UK Athletics

If you’ve followed this site or listened to Kentucky Sports Radio this morning, you know that it’s a big basketball weekend in Lexington. That’s because the city has been tabbed as one of the eight host cities for “The TBT” a single elimination, five-on-five basketball tournament where the first prize winners get $2 million.

It really is a cool event, and the Lexington regional is loaded. “The Bluegrass Boys” feature a bunch of locally-known guys, as they’re coached by Wayne Turner, and feature names like Dominique Hawkins, Ramon Harris and others. “Loyalty is Love” is one of their opponents, with DeMarcus Cousins as their GM, and others – including Daniel Orton – on their roster.

The games began at 3pm ET at Frederick Douglass High School and will go all night, and as a lead-up to them former Wildcat Mark Krebs, joined KSR’s Aaron Torres Sports Podcast to preview the event.

Krebs also discussed his time playing for the Wildcats with Aaron, most notably his final year in 2010 when the Wildcats made the Elite Eight. That was of course John Calipari’s first team in Lexington, one which featured a slew of guys who are still currently in the NBA, including Cousins, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson and Darius Miller.

So yeah, that was a loaded team, and if you think the guys on that team still don’t think about “what could have been,” think again.

That team knows it was the best team in college basketball. And should have won the title.

We were no doubt the best team left in the tournament that year,” Krebs told Torres. “I go back and talk to Darius, John and those guys and that’s the first thing they say ‘Man, I wish we could go back and win it. It would be awesome.’”

Unfortunately, it simply wasn’t in the cards for that Wildcats team, as a cold shooting night against West Virginia cost them a year’s worth of work. That is the nature of a one and done tournament of course, where the best team doesn’t always win. That’s not just the case for the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats, but so many teams throughout college basketball history.

Which leads to the question: How many titles would Kentucky have right now if it wasn’t a one and done event? The answer: Almost certainly a lot more.

“It just goes to show you that when it’s one game, winner go home [it’s different],” Krebs said. “I think if it were a seven-game series we would have won it, and Kentucky wins it a lot. But when it comes down to one game, you just never know.”

Still, when reflecting back on his time at Kentucky, Krebs had nothing but great things to say. He is the rare player (maybe the only one actually) whose time in Lexington actually spanned three different coaching staffs, as his first year in 2006-2007 was Tubby Smith’s final season at the school, before he played two years under Billy Gillispie and then a final season under Calipari.

And as fun as his four years were in Lexington, he can’t believe it’s been 10 more since he last played in 2010.

“I just feel like it goes by so fast,” he said. “When I go back to watch practice or see Coach Cal, when I get back there, it’s almost like no time has passed. But when you actually look at the teams that have come through, the amount of pros that have come through, and all that has happened in 10 years, it’s mind-boggling.”

To listen to Krebs’ full interview on KSR’s Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, click here.

And if you’re interested in attending the TBT, action tips off at 3pm local time at Frederick Douglass High School, with the Bluegrass Boys playing at 9pm ET.

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 166: SEC Media Days + Mark Krebs on TBT

It’s an all new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, as Aaron welcomes two guests to today’s show. First he talks SEC media days with his buddy Ryan Fowler, a radio host in Tuscaloosa. Then he welcomes on former Kentucky Wildcat Mark Krebs, who talks about his time playing with John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, as well as the TBT, which comes to Lexington this weekend.

Here is a rundown of today’s show:

SEC Media Days: Aaron opens the show by discussing media days, and why, in general, he is bored by the pomp and circumstance of them. He does however discuss the biggest narrative from this week- is it “now or never” for Georgia as they pursue Alabama? Next, Aaron welcomes on his buddy Ryan Fowle, a radio host in Tuscaloosa to talk about the week’s events. Is anyone – including Georgia – actually close to catching Bama? And is Florida the future power of the East, not the Dawgs?

Mark Krebs discusses TBT: Next up, Aaron is joined by an old friend from the “One and FUn” days, former Kentucky Wildcat Mark Krebs. Krebs is part of the “TBT” which takes place in Lexington this weekend. He tells you everything you need to know, before discussing his days playing at Kentucky. He also explains why he and his teammates in 2010 will never forgive themselves for letting a national championship slip through their fingertips.

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 on Instagram too.

Versatility Will Be Kentucky’s Strength in 2019-2020

Versatility Will Be Kentucky’s Strength in 2019-2020

Over the past couple weeks, John Calipari’s social media accounts have been ablaze with all of the typical, mid-summer Calipari content. You know what I’m talking about. Calipari is always putting out all sorts of good stuff – updates on old friends (no one catches up with more middle and high school friends than Calipari does), old players he’s run into on the recruiting trail, things like that.

But quite a bit of Calipari’s content lately has also been about what next year’s team could look like. And once again Calipari is throwing out one of his favorite words – “position-less” – to describe next year’s roster.

Yet while too many coaches throw around the phrase “position-less” haphazardly nowadays (heck, Calipari may have done it once or twice himself in the past) I think it accurately describes what the 2019-2020 Kentucky basketball roster will look like. I also think that the Wildcats positionless-ness (pretty sure I just made up that word) should actually be a strength heading into next season.

It’s funny really, because when I interact with Kentucky fans (be it on social media, or when they e-mail into my podcast) it seems as though every UK fan’s biggest fear is that next year’s team simply isn’t big enough. That a roster with only Nick Richards, EJ Montgomery and Nate Sestina isn’t enough, and that they’re one big man short. That they “need” N’Faly Dante to reclassify and become a member of the 2020 Kentucky Wildcats.

A couple thoughts on that. One, based on everything I’ve heard, I’m not sure that Dante will be able to reclassify in time to get to campus for next season. After all, making up a year of high school is harder than most folks realize – especially when the player involved (Dante) doesn’t speak English as his first language. Not to mention that after having KSR’s Jack Pilgrim on my podcast this week, Jack seems convinced that even if Dante were to reclassify, Kentucky might not be his first choice in colleges.

(To listen to all of Jack’s comments on Kentucky recruiting, click here and download Monday’s show).

Therefore, while any school would be willing to take a kid as talented as Dante, I’m not sure that Kentucky will get him for next season. More importantly, I’m not sure Kentucky necessarily “needs” him either.

It sounds preposterous, but just hear me out on this. Because in looking at Kentucky’s personnel for next season, they really do have the guys to play small ball and position-less. As a matter of fact, playing small ball and position-less might put their best players in the best position to succeed. Which might, in the process, help the Wildcats reach their potential as a team next season.

At guard, it’s hard not to love the blend of talent and experience that Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey provide. I’ve already written at length about Hagans this summer, where I explained why I truly believe he will evolve into an All-SEC type point guard. I also think that folks are completely sleeping on Immanuel Quickley and his ability to potentially serve as “instant offense” for this team. Quickley showed flashes last season and should be even better in 2019-2020 whether he comes off the bench or is in the starting lineup. As for Tyrese Maxey, well, his talent speaks for itself. He’s a McDonald’s All-American and was a guy that coaches told me was the best shooter all week at the Nike Hoops Summit back in April. This guy is just a straight up baller. There’s a reason that he’s projected by virtually everyone as Kentucky’s best long-term NBA prospect.

Then there’s the wing and in the front-court, which is where things get really interesting for the Wildcats. We all know that Johnny Juzang will get buckets from deep, but it’s at the forward spots where Kentucky can really create mismatches and give opposing teams headaches. Kahlil Whitney (and to a smaller degree Keion Brooks) can play as a “traditional” three-man when Calipari wants to go big, with Montgomery at the four and Nick Richards at the five. Or, Whitney can play a new-age “small ball” four with Montgomery sliding over to the five.

Can you imagine, the speed, versatility and athleticism that a Hagans-Maxey-Juzang-Whitney-Montgomery lineup would have, and the mismatches it would create? Same if you sub Quickley in at one of the guard spots. Or Brooks or Nate Sestina at the four spot.

Remember, the Golden State Warriors just made three straight NBA Finals with what they called their “death lineup” of four perimeter players (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant) on the floor, with Draymond Green serving as the team’s “big.” While I’d never, ever compare the talent of college kids to the best team in the NBA over the last few years, Kentucky’s own version of the “death lineup” could give opponents all sorts of fits. Put simply, no matter what you think of this collection of players, it promises to be one of Calipari’s most versatile rosters yet.

So no, don’t believe the narrative that Kentucky is “a big man” short, or that they “need” N’Faly Dante.

Dante would certainly be nice.

But this roster has the talent and versatility to not only win games – but give opponents nightmares in the process.