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Aaron Torres’ Take

25 facts you need to know before filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket

We are now less than 24 hours from the NCAA Tournament tipping off (I guess by technicality it already tipped off, but who actually watches play-in games?) which means that like thousands of Americans across the country, you’re scrambling to fill out your bracket. Scrambling to figure out which school will pull off a massive upset, which double-digit seed will make the second weekend, and which round the Kansas Jayhawks will suffer their next disastrous upset.

Oh, March. This truly is the best time of year.

Thankfully, that’s why I’m here. While I won’t give you any money-back guarantees with selections (mainly because I have no money to give you) what I can do is give you all the random information I’ve stored in my brain these last few months watching college hoops. Again, none of the information guarantees anything. But hey, at least you’ll be informed when you fill out your bracket, right?

So what do you need to know as you put the finishing touches on this year’s bracket? Here are 25 things to consider as you put the finishing touches on that bracket.

The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E29: Bracket Breakdown

March Madness is finally here.  On this edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, Nick Coffey returns to the show to break down the entire NCAA Tournament bracket.  They also dabble into a few other topics, like…
— Nick explains why Louisville in the NIT is actually more fun than he ever imagined.  It’s not just because he liked what he saw from Louisville; the atmosphere was amazing.
— A complete breakdown of every single game in every single region.
—  Who are a few good upset picks?
—  Final Four predictions.
— Finally, a quick dive into the coaching carousel, featuring surprise names at Louisville and UConn.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Today’s episode is brought to you by:





Why does the NCAA Tournament committee favor teams that peaked in December instead of those who peak in March?

Like many of you, I spent all day Sunday anxiously awaiting the reveal of this year’s NCAA Tournament bracket. Like many of you, it is one of my favorite moments of the year, a time where a season’s worth of work comes together for a group of young men. It really is one of the most enjoyable nights on the entire sports calendar.

Therefore, you can imagine just how disappointed I was when the bracket hit my TV on Sunday night. Outside of the technical elements of the TV show itself (another topic for another day) my bigger issue came from the selection process itself, where – if we’re being totally honest – the committee had an awful day. Some of the bubble selections they made were absolutely blasphemous (yes, I’m talking to you, Oklahoma, Arizona State and Syracuse), while more deserving teams (USC, Middle Tennessee State) were left out. Even worse was some of the bracketing. On what planet was Arizona barely a four-seed? How about Kentucky as a five? Those might be two of the best teams in the entire NCAA Tournament. Yet somehow they’ll now play in the second round of the Big Dance.

And the more I thought about all of the committee’s awful decisions on Sunday night, the more I realized one thing: Virtually all of the issues that the committee had were all centered on one thing. Here is that one thing:

Why does the committee so heavily favor teams that play well in November and December (like Oklahoma or Arizona State), but never give consideration to those who are peaking in March (USC, Arizona, Kentucky)? Isn’t the whole point the whole point of the season to be playing your best basketball in March? And isn’t that the sign of a good team? So why do we continue to give the benefit of the doubt to teams that peaked early? Shouldn’t the goal be to get the 68 best teams (or at least 36 best at-large teams) into the field?

The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E28: Selection Sunday Special

The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E28: Selection Sunday Special

In this Selection Sunday Special Aaron Torres breaks down the 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket and explains why Sunday was a disastrous day for the committee and really, everyone who loves college basketball. He discusses the following:
— The brutal Selection Show. What was TBS thinking? Why did they have to make changes? And the truly terrible decision to list teams in alphabetical order.
— Aaron’s biggest gripes with the seeding process. How did Oklahoma get into the tournament? How did Arizona and Kentucky get matched up against each other? And why do we constantly reward teams like Oklahoma who peaked early, but not teams like Arizona and Kentucky who peak late?
— And finally, Aaron shares some early thoughts on the tournament bracket itself. He explains why he thinks the winner of Kentucky-Arizona is in great shape and why the West might be the most open region of all.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Today’s episode is brought to you by:






5 totally random teams worth following for on Championship Week

@coachmarkpope | Twitter

By technicality the SEC basketball tournament started tonight. But unless you’re a glutton for bad hoops (or a reaaaaaallly big Ole Miss) fan, the action really doesn’t get underway until tomorrow. Heck, we’re still a full 24 hours from Kentucky playing its first game.

Thankfully though this is that glorious time of year, where even if your favorite team isn’t playing, there’s still plenty of hoops on TV to watch, especially in the random, small conferences that no one knows anything about. Still, with 350+ D1 teams it’s worth asking: Which teams are worth actually paying attention to?

Thankfully, that’s why I’m here. While UK fans are focused on counting down the hours until the Wildcats play again, I figure that the least I can do – as the national voice of college hoops on this site – is give you a little scoop, on a couple teams you might not know much about. They range from “really good teams that can make a deep run in the Big Dance” to “totally random teams and – hey, why not hop on the bandwagon?”

Here are five totally random teams that might be worth following for UK fans this week.

The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E27: Murray State Head Coach Matt McMahon

Murray State coach Matt McMahon is the latest guest on the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, as the madness of March is officially upon us. However, things start off with Nick Coffey joining Aaron, as the guys give the most in-depth conference tournament preview you’ll hear anywhere. It starts in the ACC where the guys ask:
— How is Notre Dame a bubble team? Why do they get credit for games missed with Bonzie Colson, but teams like Kentucky (Jarred Vanderbilt) and Arizona (Rawle Alkins) don’t. Also, will Louisville do enough to get an at-large bid?
— A preview of the Big 12 Tournament – are we sure Oklahoma is in, and why doesn’t Oklahoma State get more love? Also, are we sure this league is that good?
— And finally, an in-depth look at the SEC Tourney. Why this might be the most balanced tourney of all? The guys make their picks and ask the question – would you be surprised if just about anyone wins?
Next up, Aaron welcomes Murray State head coach Matt McMahon to the show.
— The guys discuss the history of Murray State, and how that helps McMahon in recruiting.
— The pressure of being in a one-bid league. McMahon explains why he believes his team’s conference tournament started all the way back in January.
— How is team is spending their off-time, and what fans can expect when they tune into Murray during the NCAA Tournament.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Today’s episode is brought to you by:

A full guide to Championship Week across college basketball

To everyone reading, we’ve made it. We are here! Championship Week. For my money, the single best week on the entire sports calendar.

Now I know that sounds like blasphemy – especially for those who think that the first two days of the NCAA Tournament are the best two days in sports. But here me out. While the first two days of the NCAA Tournament are fun, ultimately you only get the best teams playing two games, and one (usually the first round) is often a blowout. But Championship Week? We get more games, spanning more days, with the best teams playing 3-4 times in the week. We also get the best teams facing each other, and teams that know each other well matching up, adding to drama. Seriously, what’s better than flipping on the TV, catching an ACC/SEC/Big 12 buffet in the afternoon, and not moving from the couch until the last games in the Pac-12 and Mountain West finish up sometime around 2 a.m. ET?

The answer is “nothing.” Nothing is better than that. Nothing is better than Championship Week.

And as always this year, Championship Week has plenty of intrigue, with plenty of teams battling on the bubble and even more trying to lock in a top seed.

So what do you need to know heading into Championship Week? Here is our official preview.


The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E26: Ed O’Bannon

The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E26: Ed O’Bannon

Former Final Four Most Outstanding Player Ed O’Bannon joins the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast to talk about the state of the NCAA and his new book “Court Justice,” which takes a closer look at the lawsuit that effectively ended college sports video games. But first, Aaron and his friend Nick Coffey break down what happened this weekend in college hoops and what to expect during Championship Week.
— The surprising Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square, and why it became a great primer to Championship Week.  How deep can Michigan go in March, and why isn’t John Beilein discussed as one of the best coaches in college basketball?
— Kentucky’s loss to Florida over the weekend. Was this the best thing that could have happened to the Cats? And why John Calipari is STILL trying to figure out his roster late into the season.
—  Will Louisville miss the NCAA Tournament after last week’s losses?
—  Is it OK to forgive Grayson Allen?
Next, UCLA great and March Madness Legend Ed O’Bannon chimes in with…
—  What was were O’Bannon’s best memories on campus, and what it was like to be at UCLA when the Bruins were winning big.
— His new book, which discusses his lawsuit with the NCAA. He takes us behind the curtain on what it’s like to see someone else use your likeness and profit off your name and picture.
— With the FBI probe still taking over college basketball, what can the NCAA do? What needs to change? And what can we do to ensure college basketball remains the sport that we all love and care about so much?

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Today’s episode is brought to you by:




Devin Booker’s former NBA coach goes in-depth on his career and 70-point game

In theory, Wednesday night could have gone down as one of the most significant evenings of the John Calipari era at Kentucky, not because of the opponent the Wildcats played, but because of what could have conceivably been on the line. That’s because in theory, Wednesday night’s game versus Ole Miss could have been “Senior Night” for one of the most talented recruiting classes to ever come through Kentucky, the 2014 group which included Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis and Trey Lyles.

Of course that Senior Night recognition never came, if only because that group was simply too talented to stay in Lexington for four years. Towns went on to be the No. 1 pick in the following year’s NBA Draft and earned his first All-Star nod this year. Lyles was also a first round pick that year, and Ulis came out the following season, after winning SEC Player of the Year as a sophomore.

Yet of all the players in that group, the one with the most intriguing future is probably Booker. Booker joked on Wednesday night that he wonders if Calipari would have actually started him on Senior Night, yet at 21-years-old is already one of the most uniquely gifted young players in the NBA.

One person who has seen Booker’s progression into a budding NBA superstar – former Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson – joined the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast on the KSR network (which you can download by clicking here) earlier this week to discuss Booker’s evolution as a pro. And it’s safe to say that Watson thinks very highly of his former star.

“‘Devin Booker [will] be the best player to ever wear the Phoenix Suns jersey,’” Watson says he told friends after Booker’s rookie season. “And I still believe it to this day.”

Watson first came to Phoenix as an assistant with the Suns, and he was actually the guy who worked out Booker during the draft process. Booker came in with the reputation as just a spot-up shooter, but Watson quickly realized there was more to his game, and began expanding it after Booker was drafted No. 13 overall that year. They worked on pick-and-roll offense and elbow jumpers behind the scenes, as Booker grew more comfortable in the NBA. In those early days, Booker wasn’t playing much. But the coach told him to be patient.

“At that time he wasn’t really playing and he was starting to get frustrated,” Watson said. “I just kept telling him ‘The NBA is 82 games. A season can change so quickly. Things can change so quickly. You always get your chance through injury, trade, or the team is not performing well. You will get your opportunity, so just be ready.’”

That moment came late in the season. By then Watson had become the Suns’ head coach and the franchise as a whole had decided to go younger. They traded away starter Markieff Morris and even at just 19-years-old, the organization made the decision that the focus of the entire team would be Booker. Booker responded by going on a tear to end the season – in his last 25 games, Booker scored in double-figures 24 times, including five separate 30-point games.

Even despite the upswing, there were still doubters.

“[I was told] You guys were young, anyone can score if they play that many minutes,’” Watson remembers friends saying to him. That’s when he made the comment that he believed Booker would go down as the best Phoenix Suns player ever.

And by the beginning of that second year, Watson looked like he might be onto something. Booker led the Suns averaging 22 points per game and added three assists and three boards a game, while becoming one of the league’s best scorers. That season was also the year that Booker went off for his monster 70-point game against the Boston Celtics, a mark that only five players in NBA history have ever reached.

Watson remembers that night vividly and shared the details with the Torres Podcast.

For starters, the Suns were playing the Celtics, a team they’d beaten just weeks before. Unfortunately it was now the end of the season, and the franchise had basically gone into ”tank mode” resting a number of key players (including, ironically, Eric Bledsoe) and were really just looking for some positive momentum for an especially young team. And it’s insane to think about just how young the Suns were. That weekend the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 was going on, and Watson says that the Suns were younger than 15 teams actually in the Sweet 16.

In terms of the particulars, the night started off mostly forgettable for Phoenix and Booker. They fell down by 13 after the first quarter, and Booker himself showed no signs that he’d soon make history. Booker had “only” 19 points at halftime and “only” 42 after three quarters. Watson planned to give Booker a rest prior to the start of the fourth quarter – but then, a couple hard fouls from Boston’s Marcus Smart changed everything.

Booker wanted back on the court, and he wanted revenge.

“Devin’s face completely changes [after those fouls],” Watson said. “The quarter ends, he looks at me, I look at him, and no words were even spoken.”

And then from there, Booker went on a tear. He made basket after basket after basket, to the point that eventually the crowd started cheering him on, even though the Suns trailed. When Watson asked his assistants what all the commotion was about, they responded simply that he had 65 points. Watson’s reaction was classic. “I said ‘Oh s**t!” he says now. “I’m coaching the score of the game. Not points per game, per player.”

Thank you, @kobebryant #BeLegendary

A post shared by Devin Booker (@dbook) on

Eventually Booker got his 70 and while and his teammates celebrated, both the media and opposing players criticized the decision to go for such a lofty point total. In a close game throughout, Watson defended the decision, telling the media “I was trying to get the game into overtime, so we could get him 80.”

More importantly however, Watson realized something: In their two years together, Booker had done everything his coached had asked. He had stayed strong through losing streaks and never stopped working when his team struggled. And his coach wanted to reward him.

“I had a young kid, who has been nothing but positive and high-character going into a tough situation, tough season losing, and just fighting every day for his team,” Watson said. “He deserved the opportunity to do what he can do. There’s no way I could shut him down and stay at 68 or 65 or whatever it is. There’s no way I could have done that. He deserved it. We teach them to play until the end.”

Watson also mentioned another exchange, which had happened earlier in the day which helps explain what motivated Booker that night. Watson said that in Booker’s rookie year he’d set up a meeting between Booker and Kobe Bryant before a Suns-Lakers game, and in that game, Bryant told a young Booker – a player Kobe admired – to be “legendary.” He signed a pair of sneakers with the same phrase, and it was a phrase that Watson dropped on Booker that night.

“Before the game I told Dev ‘be legendary,’” he said.

And that’s something that Booker appears on his way to being. Although Watson is no longer with the Suns, he has watched Booker continue to develop this year, to the point that he is now averaging nearly 25 points per game, tied with Russell Westbrook for ninth in the league.

Booker has the chance to be legendary. And according to Watson, he’s just now beginning to scratch the surface of his potential.

“You have one of the best basketball players in the NBA regardless of age,” Watson said of Booker’s future. “And with that, anything is always possible.”

To listen to Watson’s entire interview – where he shares more stories on Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis, download the entire Aaron Torres Sports Podcast.

The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E25: Earl Watson

It’s available through the KSR feed on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E25: Earl Watson

Earl Watson joins the latest episode of the Aaron Torres Sports podcast to discuss his illustrious NBA career.  From playing alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, to coaching Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis, Watson discussed it all. But first, Nick Coffey and Aaron get to the madness that has developed throughout college basketball over the last week:

— The guys record just minutes after Sean Miller announces he will return as Arizona’s head coach! They talk about why it seems obvious that an FBI wiretap with Miller’s voice on it doesn’t exist, and how this story could have possibly gotten out with all the facts.
— The hot take parade that has overwhelm college basketball since the latest FBI probe. Why Jalen Rose and Jayson Williams are wrong to say “boycott the NCAA Tournament” and why Louisville fans are losing their minds.
— Plus a chat on Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss, Duke’s loss to Virginia Tech and why the season itself feels as wide open as ever before.
Next up, Aaron welcomes on former NBA head coach Earl Watson to the show. The pair have a 45-minute, in-depth hoops talk that includes the following subjects:
— Earl’s roots in hoops – how he grew up in Kansas but rooted for UCLA, before transitioning to the NBA. He also discusses his first impression of former teammates Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who he played with in his rookie year.
— His time coaching Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis. He goes in great detail on the night Booker scored 70 points, and how a pep talk from Kobe Bryant motivated it. Also the guys share stories about Ulis trying to fight players signficantly bigger than him.
— What is Earl’s future? He was linked to the UCLA job last year when Steve Alford nearly left for Indiana. Will he coach college hoops?

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

NOTE: Sponsor the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast for a special price if you sign up by March 15th. Email to learn more.