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Aaron Torres’ Take

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 136: The Final Four is Set + What Went Wrong for Kentucky and Duke?

The Final Four is set  after a truly unpredictable Elite Eight.  Aaron Torres is here to break down a Final Four no one could see coming. Aaron talks about all four wild Elite Eight games, discussing the following topics:

Why Duke’s Loss Was Inevitable: Aaron opens the show by discussing Duke’s loss to Michigan State in the Elite Eight. Aaron says that Duke was flawed all season, and all it took was the right team, on the right day to knock them off. Also, Aaron heaps praise on Michigan State, who he calls “the mentally toughest team in college basketball this season.” He also explains why he thought Cassius Winston was the National Player of the Year for most of the season.

Kentucky Comes Up Short Against Auburn: Aaron reacts to Kentucky’s stunning loss to Auburn. Unlike the Duke game, where Duke played well but lost, Kentucky gave the game away against Auburn. Aaron explains how a small stretch in the first half defined the game, and how missed free throws cost the Wildcats. Aaron then breaks down Auburn and why they’ve had success, and wraps by explaining why he doesn’t believe Tyler Herro or Ashton Hagans are “one and done” players.

Saturday’s Elite Eight Games: Saturday night was filled with just as many fireworks. Aaron talks about everything that had to go wrong for Purdue to lose, but also wonders if it is karma coming full circle for Virginia. Also, Aaron explains why he loves Texas Tech, and why Chris Beard might just be the best coach in college basketball right now.

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.

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 135: Sweet 16 Preview + Coaching Carousel Update

Sweet 16 games get underway tomorrow and the coaching carousel is spinning off its hinges, which means it’s the perfect time for a new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Aaron is joined by his buddy Nick Coffey to preview the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, before he looks at the changes in the coaching world. Here is a rundown of today’s show:

The Biggest Storylines Heading Into the Second Weekend: Aaron chats with Nick about all the big storylines heading into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Aaron explains why Duke should NOT be considered the favorite going forward, and why it’s impossible to know what to expect from Kentucky without P.J. Washington. Also, why is the information out of Kentucky so inconsistent on the injury? They also talk Admiral Schofield benching himself, and re-select their Final Four now that we are down to 16 teams. Also, who is the worst team not left in the field?

A Wild Coaching Carousel Season: While some teams continue their pursuit of a championship, other schools are looking for new head coaches, and it’s been a wild year in the SEC where four jobs have opened up. Aaron explains why it was time for Arkansas to move on from Mike Anderson — but why Kelvin Sampson might not be as easy to lock down as some people think. Also, will Alabama get the guy they want? And what the hell is Vanderbilt doing? Aaron explains why Vandy is a perfect case study in how “corrupt” the world of coaching searches really is.

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.

The Biggest NCAA Tournament Questions Heading Into the Sweet 16

Well folks, we’ve made it. An NCAA Tournament field that started with 68 teams is now down to 16, and after four straight days of wall-to-wall basketball followed by a much-needed break, it’s officially time to begin discussing the Sweet 16.

And ohhhhhh, how sweet, with 16 of the best teams in college basketball advancing to the second weekend. There is no Sister Jean, George Mason, VCU or Butler, just some of the best programs, coaches and players in college basketball. As someone who loves college basketball, I can’t tell you how much I enjoy seeing the Kentucky’s and Carolina’s and Duke’s and Tennessee’s and Michigan’s of the world in the second weekend of the tournament. They’ve been the best teams all season long and I can’t wait to see them all play each other this weekend.

Of course, just because we’re down to 16 teams doesn’t mean we have any better feel for how this tournament will actually play out. If anything, it’s the exact opposite. There might be more questions heading into the Sweet 16 than there were heading into the Big Dance itself.

So, what are the biggest questions as we head into the second weekend of the Big Dance? Here are a few:

Are We Sure Duke is Still the Favorite?

Look, there isn’t a single person who took the time to read this article that doesn’t already know what happened when Duke played UCF on Sunday. Therefore, I’ll avoid doing a play-by-play overview of the final few minutes, and instead say this: It took a staggering number of breaks for Duke to beat UCF.

Just off the top of my head, are five things that went Duke’s way in the final two minutes to help them seal the victory:

  1. UCF had a missed, uncontested dunk that would have put the Knights up by six. Instead, Duke came down and hit a three, which was a five-point swing at a crucial time in the game.
  2. A sketchy block/charge call went in Duke’s favor. It’s also worth noting that the play came after Zion Williamson missed an open three-pointer, and Duke was able to get an offensive rebound. Had UCF simply secured the board, the play would have never happened.
  3. The refs missed a big “hook and hold” call on Zion Williamson’s missed free throw
  4. The refs missed an RJ Barrett push off, for an offensive rebound and go-ahead basket on Zion Williamson’s missed free throw
  5. UCF missed two point-blank shots at the buzzer

Still, as weird as it sounds, I’m not here to blame the refs. UCF – as I just mentioned above – had about a million chances to put the game away and couldn’t capitalize.

At the same time, if it took that much good fortune for Duke to beat UCF – UC FREAKIN’ F – should we really expect them to just roll to the Final Four? Especially in a region where they will face one team that’s already beaten them (Virginia Tech) and two others with the skill and talent to knock them off in the Elite Eight (Michigan State and LSU?).

To me the answer is no. And I just don’t see any way that anyone can say that Duke remains the favorite in this year’s tournament. Does Duke have the talent to make a run? Of course. But what have we seen that makes us believe they will actually do it? Especially given that everyone around Zion Williamson has seemed to regress since he returned from his injury two weeks ago.

Seriously, I know it sounds crazy (since Duke won the ACC Tournament) but the fact is that while Zion has been even better since his return, just about everyone has gotten worse. For example on Sunday, Zion finished with 32 points. It was an awesome effort, but what no one is talking about is that no other Duke player had more than 15 points, with Barrett shooting just 6 of 15 from the field. Zion also took more than half the team’s foul shots which means his teammates aren’t getting to the line and aren’t creating their own offense. Against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament, it was the same, with Zion scoring 31 and no one scoring more than 15.

Zion Williamson has been the best player in this tournament and it’s not even close.

But basketball is a team game, and right now, I just don’t think the team around him is good enough to take home a title. It’s time to stop calling Duke the “favorites” to win the title.

What’s the Deal with P.J. Washington’s Foot?

If it weren’t for Duke’s near loss to UCF, this PJ Washington foot injury would be the biggest story in college basketball right now. The bottom line is that one of the four or five best teams in the tournament is without an All-American, and no one has any idea when or if he’ll be back. Yet because the media has so much Zion fever, it feels like no one (outside of Kentucky) is even talking about it.

But to me, this is maybe the biggest story left in the tournament. Since as we all know, Kentucky simply isn’t the same team without Washington in the lineup.

The crazy part too is that despite roughly 750 outlets covering Kentucky, it’s been hard to get any good information on Washington’s injury. We know he hurt the foot in the SEC Tournament, and we know it didn’t really get bad until a day after. Yet it wasn’t until last Tuesday or Wednesday we even found out he was in a walking boot (later a cast). And it wasn’t until Kentucky’s actual opener against Abilene Christian that we got some details. The most alarming: That the pain was “10 out of 10” according to Washington.

Now I’m no doctor, but that certainly doesn’t sound like a great diagnosis heading into the weekend.

At the same time, there are some positives. Every report I’ve read said that placing Washington in a walking boot has nothing to do with how quickly the injury can or cannot heal. It also probably isn’t a terrible thing that Kentucky doesn’t play until the final window on Friday night, nearly a full two weeks since the injury happened. Even an extra day or two (as opposed to playing on Thursday) could help with the recovery process.

Of course we won’t really know anything until Kentucky takes the court Friday night in Kansas City. Until then it’s wait and see. It’s also wait and wonder: Can Kentucky advance without Washington?

Was Sunday a Sign of Things to Come for Tennessee?

While Duke-UCF was probably the most entertaining game of the weekend, to me, the most fascinating was Tennessee-Iowa. Not just because the Vols blew a 25-point lead and had to win it in overtime, but because of the storyline that came after, when we learned that Admiral Schofield elected to bench himself because he believed his teammates were playing better and deserved to be on the court. While it was a great story, one that everyone (including me) was quick to praise Schofield for, I wonder what the reaction would have been had the Vols lost. Can you imagine Rick Barnes having to explain to the media why his All-SEC star was on the bench had they lost? Or what Schofield would have been like if his team went down with him on the sidelines? Especially considering that he’s a senior?

Regardless, the Vols advanced, but I think it’s fair to question where we are with Tennessee. On the one hand, this team finished second in the SEC regular season and was tournament runner-up. Their losses are all completely explainable, with their four SEC defeats all coming to teams who are playing in the Sweet 16 (at Kentucky, at LSU, at Auburn, Auburn in the SEC Tournament). Still, they are just 8-4 overall in their last 12 games, and even in their wins, there have been a couple (at Ole Miss, Iowa) that have been a little too close for comfort.

Add it up and it leads to a fascinating question: Was Sunday’s near-loss to Iowa the proverbial “tough game that every team needs to get past to make a run in the NCAA Tournament?” Or a sign that maybe this team is good, but not elite?

We’ll begin to find out on Thursday when the Vols face Purdue in Louisville.

Will Auburn-UNC Be the Greatest Game Ever?

No, it won’t be. But it will probably be the most entertaining game of the tournament so far.

You know, since it features two of the three highest-scoring teams in the tournament, as UNC has averaged 84.5 points per game in their two tournament wins and Auburn has averaged 83. Only Gonzaga has scored more points per game in their tournament victories than these two teams.

If you like fast-paced, well-played, hard-fought basketball, with lots of points and three-pointers, this will definitely be the game for you.

(Photo by Chuck Cook, Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)

Can LSU Keep Rolling?

While Tennessee-Iowa was maybe the single most fascinating game of the weekend, is there a more fascinating story than LSU? It really is incredible that a team that lost its head coach with one game left the regular season, is coached by an interim and is under constant media scrutiny just continues to pick up wins.

And their most impressive was last Saturday against Maryland. Despite blowing a double-digit second half lead against a really good Terps club, the Tigers did enough to hold on and get the win.

Now, it’s on to the Sweet 16. And the question now: Is this where the road ends for the Tigers?

Look, I know it’s easy for opposing fan-bases to root against LSU, given how umm, some of their player’s recruitments may have gone down.

But I can’t lie, I’m enjoying seeing these kids have success. And I’ll be curious to see if it can continue this Friday against Michigan State.

Can Virginia Survive a Deceptively Tough Sweet 16 Game?

Let’s be honest here for a second: At about 3:30 eastern time on Friday afternoon we were all dusting off our best “can you believe Virginia lost to a 16-seed again??” jokes. The Cavaliers ended up holding on, but can you imagine if they lost? I mean they would be the punchline to end all punchlines sports from now until the end of time in all of sports. Think the Buffalo Bills losing four straight Super Bowls was bad? Think Michigan losing to Appalachian State was a tough pill to swallow? Imagine Virginia losing twice to No. 16 seeds. They would have never lived that down.

Yet to the Hoos credit (wait, can we give credit to a one-seed credit for beating a 16 seed?) they held on, and advanced through the weekend after beating Oklahoma on Sunday. And now, they have a meeting with a 12 seed to get to the Elite Eight, and a chance for the first trip to the Final Four of the Tony Bennett era.

Seriously, you can’t ask for a much easier path to the Elite Eight than playing a 16-seed, a nine-seed and a 12-seed. It doesn’t get more advantageous than that.

Then again, the Ducks obviously aren’t your typical 12-seed. They are of course a power conference champion that began the season in the Top 25, only to struggle with injuries and inconsistency before getting hot late. They feature a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans on their roster, a future first round draft pick in Louis King (with Bol Bol on the bench) and a 10-game winning streak dating back nearly a month. That streak includes two victories over Washington and a dusting of Wisconsin in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

So that also leaves a zero-sum game for Virginia. Yes, you’re playing arguably one of the best 12 seeds in NCAA Tournament history. But you are also in fact playing a 12 seed.

At some point you’ve got to play tough teams and for Virginia that time is now. There are no excuses. If the Cavaliers really are a title contender this is a game they simply have to win.

How Will the West Be Won?

When the NCAA Tournament bracket was revealed a few weeks ago, all the bracket enthusiasts out there may have noticed something interesting: There was a very real possibility that Gonzaga, Michigan and Florida State could all advance to the West Regional semifinals in Anaheim. This, after…. Gonzaga, Michigan and Florida State… all advanced to the West Regional semifinal last year.

That’s right, Florida State beat Gonzaga in last year’s Sweet 16 where they advanced to face Michigan. The Wolverines ultimately won the regional and advanced to the Final Four in San Antonio. And the exact same scenario could play out this year.

It also makes for maybe the single most wide open of all the regionals, where it feels like all four teams have a legitimate shot to advance to Minneapolis through Anaheim.

Gonzaga is absolutely loaded, with three future NBA guys in their front-court, while in maybe the craziest stat that no one is talking about, Florida State has won 16 out of its last 18 games (the only losses came at UNC and against Duke in the ACC title game). You mean to tell me that team can’t win two games to advance to the Final Four? Meanwhile we know that Michigan has Final Four credentials, and Texas Tech has plenty of NCAA Tournament cache as well after advancing to the Elite Eight last year. Could they go one step further?

It’s just one question that will be answered in a fascinating regional, in what has set up to be a fascinating group of Sweet 16 matchups.

It’s been four full days since we got college hoops – and it’s good to have it back.

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 134: Recapping the First Weekend of the NCAA Tournament

The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is in the books — and oh what a weekend it was, as 68 teams are now down to just 16. Relive it all with an Aaron Torres Sports Podcast taped immediately following Sunday night’s action. After 96 straight hours of basketball, Aaron is here to discuss the entire weekend, including:

All the Top Seeds Advance: Aaron opens the show by discussing the biggest topic of the weekend — we have an NCAA Tournament where all the best teams advanced. Kentucky, Duke, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and more are onto the second weekend and Aaron says this is great for the sport. He also explains that while everyone claims to love the upsets, we should be rooting for more tournaments like this one.

Duke’s Wild Win over UCF: Next Aaron hits on the most controversial finish of the weekend, which came in the Duke-Central Florida game. Aaron recaps it all and says you shouldn’t blame the refs for Duke’s win. At the same time, is this game further proof that Duke won’t actually win the title? Aaron thinks so.

Big Victories for Tennessee and Kentucky: Finally, Aaron wraps by talking about the wild victories that Tennessee and Kentucky got this weekend. He discusses Admiral Schofield deciding to bench himself – and why that’s further proof of what makes this team special. Speaking of “special” how about Tyler Herro’s defensive effort against Fletcher Magee?? Aaron says that is a full credit to John Calipari, who stuck with Herro through the tough times.

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.

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 133: A Full Recap of the First Day of the NCAA Tournament

The NCAA Tournament tipped off on Thursday, and in a VERY special edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, Aaron recaps the entire Day 1 of the Big Dance. He also discusses the surprising departure of Avery Johnson at Alabama. Let’s get to the recap:

The Biggest Stories from Day 1: Aaron looks back at all the big stories from Day 1. He explains why he regrets picking Nevada – and how the Wolf Pack were the one “emotional” pick gone wrong for him. He also discusses Kentucky’s huge win without PJ Washington, and why it taught him a lot about these young Wildcats. Also, is Wofford an ideal matchup for Kentucky if Washington can’t play in Round 2?

The Arrival of Ja Morant on the national scene: Aaron wraps up the Day 1 coverage by discussing Ja Morant’s incredible, triple-double performance against Marquette on Thursday. Aaron explains why he was happy to see Morant play this way, as proof that more mid-majors deserve a shot at the Big Dance, and also proof that college basketball has major benefits for players like Morant.

Finally, a short preview of Friday’s games and a conversation on Avery Johnson’s departure from Alabama: Finally, Aaron ends the show by discussing Friday’s games. Why he can see an upset out West, and is also excited to see the other big-name teams like Tennessee, Duke, Virginia and UNC in action. Also, more on Avery Johnson’s stunning departure from Alabama. Aaron explains why he doesn’t blame Crimson Tide faithful with their frustration, and why it might have been time for all parties to move on. Also, could this have a huge trickle-down effect on the coaching carousel, and send one big-name to an unexpected location?

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.

Five Double-Digit Seeds Who Can Pull an NCAA Tourney Upset

Besides rooting for your own team, the best part of the NCAA Tournament is the upsets. At the end of the day, and at the end of the tournament, it’s basically all we remember besides the national champion. In six months or five years, no one (outside of each team’s fans) will remember if Syracuse made the Sweet 16 or Texas Tech the Elite Eight. But we always remember the Loyola of Chicago’s and Nevada’s and George Mason’s.

Therefore, with the brackets now a couple days old, it’s time to talk upsets. Everyone wants to know which lower seeded teams could pull of a surprise win or two – which is exactly why I’m here today.

To be clear, I’m not saying all these teams will pull an upset, just that they are capable of it.

Here are five double-digit seeds that could win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament.

Midwest Region: No. 12 New Mexico State vs. No. 5 Auburn (Thursday, 1:30 p.m. ET)

The Aggies have one of the wildest stories in all of college basketball this season. After making the NCAA Tournament last year (where they lost to Clemson in the first round), New Mexico State lost basically their entire team – 10 players in total. Head coach Chris Jans brought in a bunch of guys, but by the time the season started he still really had no idea who was good and who wasn’t. No one had separated themselves in practice, no one had emerged as a star. Nothing.

So he decided to play just about everybody on his roster, assuming it would sort itself out. But then a funny thing happened: Nobody really stood out, but the Aggies kept winning. So Jans stuck with it.

It led to where we are today, where the Aggies have fourteen different players – FOURTEEN – who average at least 10 minutes of playing time a game, with just one player averaging double-figures in scoring. It’s also what makes New Mexico State a logistical nightmare to prepare for: They have so many guys, that you never really know who can beat you on any given night. They also aren’t susceptible to foul trouble, and aren’t really susceptible to one bad game from one player costing them. If one guy has an off night, there are five ready to step into his place.

Add it all up, and New Mexico State is a team that won’t be worn down by Auburn’s fast-paced style and won’t be scared if the Tigers knock down a few threes – since New Mexico State plays nearly as fast, and shoots nearly as many three’s as Auburn. On the season, Auburn ranked fourth nationally in three-point shot attempts. New Mexico State, eighth.

New Mexico State has been to seven of the last eight NCAA Tournaments, but has yet to pick up a win.

Is this the season it finally happens?

West Region: No. 12 Murray State vs. No. 5 Marquette (Thursday, 4:30 p.m. ET)

Look, we all know the story of this game: It’s Marquette’s Markus Howard vs. Murray State’s Ja Morant. They’re arguably the two best guards in this tournament and are certainly the two highest scorers. Howard averaged 25 points per game this season, while Morant averaged 24.6. That, to go along with 10 assists per game, which led the nation.

That’s also why I like Murray State so much: They have the best player on the floor, and arguably, the best player in this tournament not named “Zion Williamson.” Morant has proven time and time again that even when teams have time to game-plan for him that he is still unstoppable. Remember, he had 36 points in the Ohio Valley Championship game against Belmont (an NCAA Tournament team), and also played arguably his two best games against the two Power 5 teams that Murray State played this season. Morant dropped a staggering 38 points against Alabama (to the point that he got a standing ovation from the crowd at Coleman Coliseum when the game ended), and had 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists at Auburn as well.

So if Morant can do that against Auburn and Alabama, why can’t he do that against Marquette? Especially when you consider that Marquette has been abysmal down the stretch, losing their last four regular season games and five of six overall.

Honestly, I’m not even sure this would be an “upset” at this point.

South Region: No. 11 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 6 Villanova (Thursday, 7:20 p.m. ET)

Saint Mary’s shocked the college basketball world when they upset Gonzaga to clinch the WCC automatic bid. In the process they sent Twitter into a frenzy, with America demanding to know how Gonzaga could possibly get a No. 1 seed after that game.

But while the story became about the Zags, what it overshadowed was that Saint Mary’s has been playing insanely well of late. Prior to that win, they had won nine of their previous 11 games, with the only losses coming to Gonzaga. Literally, against everyone other than Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s had won every game since late January. And they avenged that loss in big-time fashion, putting on the best defensive effort of the season against the Zags. Not bad, considering Gonzaga played North Carolina, Duke and Tennessee in the regular season.

On the flip side, I know it feels weird to bet against the defending national champions at Villanova, but just know this: In each of the last two seasons, the defending champion hasn’t gotten out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Last year North Carolina (the 2017 champ) lost to Texas A&M in the second round of the Big Dance, and in 2017, Villanova (which won the title the season before) lost in the second round to Wisconsin.

And when you add that in with the fact that Villanova lost four of its final six regular season games, and that Jay Wright has only gotten out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament twice in the last 10 NCAA Tournaments (incredibly, he went on to win the national title in each of those instances), this one feels like it’s way more probable than a lot of people realize.

South Region: No. 13 UC-Irvine vs. No. 4 Kansas State (Friday, 2:00 p.m. ET)

If you’ve been following me on Twitter (and if you haven’t, shame on you) you know that I think the world of UC-Irvine coach Russell Turner. “Man-crush” might be a bit strong. But I did have to restrain from sending him a card on his birthday.

Yes, I’m kidding. I think.

Honestly though, on the court the guy is just a stone-cold stud. He’s won 20 or more games in six of the last seven years, an insane run for a mid-major coach. He has also finished in first or second in his league each of the last five seasons. Usually a coach gets a bigger job before he can have that kind of sustained success.

Of course there’s a reason that he hasn’t gotten that big job yet: The Anteaters (yes, that’s UC-Irvine’s nickname) only made one NCAA Tournament during that stretch, where they lost to Louisville in the first round (they’re the team with Mamadou N’Diaye. Remember him?). And really, that is UC-Irvine’s problem: If you’re a mid-major, it’s hard to get noticed if you don’t make the NCAA Tournament and win games.

That’s also why I’m so bullish on them this season: This is a veteran team, with five senior starters, who have won a ton of games and aren’t afraid of anyone. And they’ve finally broken through in the NCAA Tournament, after years of knocking on the door but not quite getting there.

Two other reasons why I like this pick: One, Kansas State is less than 100 percent, as forward Dean Wade is still recovering from a foot injury. As it stands, it looks like he won’t play in this game.

And two, this game tips off at 11 a.m. local time in California. Kansas State probably already doesn’t want to be in San Jose, and certainly doesn’t care about the opponent. And now they have to play at 11 a.m.? I can’t imagine they’ll be too excited for that.

South Region: No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 5 Wisconsin (Friday, 4:50 ET)

It’s funny because in a vacuum I really do like Wisconsin, and thought they were a team which could make a nice, solid run to the Sweet 16. Then I saw their draw. And I hate everything about it.

The bottom line is that Oregon is red-hot after taking home the Pac-12 title and winning eight straight games, and is the exact kind of team that will give Wisconsin problems. They are hyper-athletic, with NBA bodies and play lights out defense. Incredibly, they have opponents to just 54 points per game during that eight-game win streak, a number which actually skews high after going to overtime in the Pac-12 semifinals. Take that game out, and they’re allowing just 51 points per game over the same stretch.

Point being, Oregon is hot, playing its best ball of the season and is a stylistic nightmare for Wisconsin.

I’m not calling the upset 100 percent.

But it’s absolutely in play here.

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 132: NCAA Tournament Picks

It’s the moment America we’ve been waiting a year for — the bracket is out, and our college basketball insider Aaron Torres makes his picks. Aaron goes region by region, game by game and tells you who he likes and why.  Highlights:

A Game-by-Game Tournament Breakdown: Aaron goes through each individual game and tells you who he likes, why, and what the key matchups will be. What players do you need to know? What teams could be Cinderella? Aaron has all the answers.

Upset Picks: Aaron has a bunch of upsets that could potentially shake up your bracket. He has two No. 12 seeds upsetting five-seed, and one four-seed that he is positive won’t get out of the first round. Also, could the defending champion Villanova Wildcats be in trouble?

Who’s going to win it all? Finally, Aaron makes his Final Four and national championship picks. He tells you the one reason Duke won’t win the title, and why Tennessee-Virginia might be the game of the tournament. Is Kentucky in the Final Four? Who wins the title? Stay tuned for Aaron’s final picks!

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.

25 Facts To Know Before Filling Out Your Tournament Bracket

Well folks, we’ve made it. We are here. The best Monday on the entire calendar year. Selection Sunday has passed, brackets are in hand, and we are roughly 72 hours from the tip of the first full day of the NCAA Tournament.

This is basically Christmas morning for everyone who loves college basketball.

But of course, now that your brackets are in hand, your mind is probably racing in a million different directions. You’re probably thinking weird thoughts that you never imagined you would like, “Wait, didn’t I watch a Northeastern game back in January or was that Northwestern?” and “Colgate, is that a dental school?” (Get it, Colgate University… Colgate toothpaste… Ok, bad joke)

Thankfully, I’m here to help.

I don’t claim to have all the answers when it comes to filling out your bracket – nobody does. But I do feel confident saying that I watch about as much college basketball as anyone and probably know more about these teams than most.

Which is why I am here today.

Below are 25 tips to filling out your bracket. These aren’t picks (I’ll put those out later on my Twitter feed @Aaron_Torres) but instead just information that you should know ranging from historical trends, to teams who are playing well and poorly, and other little nuggets that might come in handy over the next few days.

So what do you need to know before filling out your bracket. Here are 25 things: (more…)

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 130: A Complete Championship Week Preview

It is the greatest week of the year, and on this episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, Aaron gets you ready for all the major conference tournaments. Who will end up with No. 1 seeds? What bubble games matter? And what to make of the race in the SEC? Aaron’s got you taken care of. Here is a rundown of the show:
Will Zion Be Back? How Does it Impact the No. 1 Seed Picture: It’s the question everyone in college basketball wants to know — will we see Zion Williamson back on the sidelines in the ACC Tournament? Aaron explains why he’s still not sure if it’ll happen and what it will mean for the No. 1 seed picture. Aaron also explains why the ACC won’t get three No. 1 seeds.
Major Conference Tournament Preview: Aaron previews all of the big storylines ahead of the Big 12, Big East, Pac-12 and Big Ten Tournaments. What are the big bubble games? Will the Pac-12 only get one bid? And is the Big 12 over-hyped by the media?
What Will Happen in the SEC? Aaron wraps by talking SEC Tournament. He discusses the impact that Reid Travis has on Kentucky, when he expects Travis back and what it means for UK. Also, why LSU is the most fascinating team in Nashville, why Florida and Alabama still have work to do, and is there one bubble team no one is talking about?

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.

The Biggest Questions Surrounding “Championship Week”

The Biggest Questions Surrounding “Championship Week”

Champ Week is here, and if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you 1000 times: This is the best week on the entire sports calendar! Take the urgency of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, add in the fact that your favorite team is playing 3-4 times (against quality competition) and that we get wall-to-wall basketball from noon until after midnight, Tuesday-Saturday, ending with a bracket on Sunday, and honestly, it doesn’t get much better than this.

To loosely quote the movie Field of Dreams: “Is this heaven.” No, it’s Champ Week people!

Of course while the excitement of Champ Week trumps pretty much everything else of importance these next few days (most notably: actual work responsibilities) it’s easy to forget that what happens over the next week will shape everything to come in the NCAA Tournament. There are a million little questions that will be answered this week, that will clarify the picture going into next weekend.

So what are the biggest questions in Champ Week that will impact what’s to come in the NCAA Tournament? Let’s take a look:

What’s the Deal With Zion?

I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again: While “What’s the Deal with Zion?” sounds like the opening to a bad Seinfeld episode, it really is the single most important question of Champ Week. Zion’s presence in Duke’s lineup (or lack of presence) shakes up the entire bracket, from the No. 1 seed line on down, and sways the national championship odds as well. If Zion is back and clicking with Duke, they are the best team in college basketball. If he isn’t, then the tournament is relatively wide open, with probably 6-10 teams capable of winning the title.

The question now: Will we see Zion this week?

The answer feels like it should be a “yes” since Coach K said he expects Zion back for the ACC Tournament. Then again, Coach K has changed the timeline on Zion’s return roughly 87 times since he went down with his original knee injury four weeks ago. It’s ranged from “He’s not even close to ready” (following the Virginia Tech game), to “He’s at a 4 out of 4 in the recovery process” (following a win over Miami) to “He still hasn’t practiced at full speed” (after a near loss to Wake Forest).

I don’t want to say that Coach K’s nose grows every time he discusses Zion, but let’s just say that umm… this time-frame has changed quite a bit.

Ultimately though, this question is pretty straight-forward and won’t take all week to figure out. Duke tips off Thursday at 9:30 p.m. ET, and if he is back in the lineup Duke is more than capable of making a run in the ACC Tournament and potentially locking up a No. 1 seed. If he isn’t, Duke isn’t making it out of the semifinals against North Carolina and may very likely lose their opener to Syracuse.

Zion is that important. And we should finally get some closure on his status in the coming days.

Will the ACC Get Three No. 1 Seeds?

Let me just go ahead and squash this one right away: If either Kentucky or Tennessee wins the SEC Tournament the answer is “no.” No, the ACC will not get three No. 1 seeds. So we can just go ahead and stop talking about it right now.

As things stand, we know how the No. 1 seed picture looks. Virginia is a lock to get a No. 1 seed and Gonzaga will clinch one if they clinch the WCC Tournament this evening. I believe that either Duke or North Carolina will get one, depending on how the ACC Tournament shakes out. And I believe that the winner of Kentucky-Tennessee in the semifinal of the SEC Tournament will get one as well. Michigan State could also sneak onto that top line if the win the Big Ten Tournament.

Now look, is there some far-flung scenario where it could possibly happen? Yes, sure. If Tennessee and Kentucky both get upset early in Nashville, then maybe. If Zion returns and Duke looks awesome – and still loses to Carolina, then maybe Duke will creep back in the conversation if there are upsets in the SEC or Big Ten.

But this isn’t rocket science and shouldn’t need too much explanation: If nothing wacky happens, the ACC won’t end up with three No. 1 seeds come Selection Sunday.

© Justin Ford | USATSI

Can LSU Get a No. 1 Seed?

Unless pigs fly, hell freezes over or Will Wade is reinstated as LSU’s head coach, the answer is no.

The bottom line is that I wasn’t totally sure that LSU could get a No. 1 seed even before Wade and guard Javonte Smart were both sidelined indefinitely. As great as the Tigers’ resume is, they have two losses (home to Arkansas and Oklahoma State on a neutral court) that are worse than any losses any other No. 1 seed contenders took.

And that was before Wade and Smart were suspended indefinitely with no time-frame to return.

Remember, the NCAA has to judge teams based on who they will be in the NCAA Tournament – in other words, what players will be available and in LSU’s case, whether their head coach will be there. Well, LSU won’t have its head coach and likely won’t have one of its key players unless things change.

So unless they do, we can go ahead and assume that LSU won’t end up with a No. 1 seed. Even if they win the SEC Tournament.

Will Indiana Play Themselves Off the Bubble and Into the NCAA Tournament?

To me, the Indiana Hoosiers are the single most fascinating team on the bubble right now. And to be blunt, I actually see both sides of the conversation on them. On the one hand, I’ve been a big advocate that we should let in the small schools of the world into the Big Dance (the Lipscomb’s and Belmont’s) over lousy Power 5 teams. Considering Indiana currently sits at 17-14 overall and lost 12 of 13 at one point, this should be a no-brainer.

At the same time, I will give Indiana credit for this: Unlike other lousy bubble teams from power conferences (I’m looking at you, TCU, and everyone in the Big East), the Hoosiers actually have good wins to fall back on. To their credit Indiana played one of the toughest schedules in college basketball, and did pick up some nice wins, including a season sweep of Michigan State, and victories over Wisconsin, Marquette and Louisville. Also to their credit, the Hoosiers have been playing well of late. They have won four straight headed to the Big Ten Tournament.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Indiana has work to do. The Hoosiers open the Big Ten Tournament with what is essentially a “Loser is out of the Big Dance” showdown with Ohio State on Thursday afternoon. Indiana probably needs to win that one just to get back in the picture – and they probably need to beat Michigan State in the Big Ten quarterfinals to feel really good about a bid.

Win those two and they’re in. Lose in either game, and it’s probably off to the NIT for the folks in Bloomington.

Which Will the Committee Prefer: Small Schools with Great Records? Or Average Power 5 Schools?

This has been the great debate within college basketball this season, as time has gone on and the bubble has gotten softer and softer. Will the committee value really good mid-major teams who don’t win their conference tournaments? Or average to below-average Power 5 teams, who have worse records but clearly play tougher schedules?

To me, the answer seems simple: I believe that winning should have to matter and I don’t believe we should reward mediocrity. It’s why I wouldn’t have Indiana (17-14) in, unless they win a few more games. It’s why I wouldn’t have Texas in at all, after they finished the regular season at 16-15 overall. I wouldn’t have TCU (19-12, 7-11 in the Big 12) or Creighton, which went 18-13 this season. Instead, I’d take Belmont (which is 26-6 and lost in the OVC Final to Murray State) and Lipscomb, which lost in the Atlantic Sun final on Sunday, but also beat TCU and a couple other high-major teams this season.

Ultimately we’ve seen what the TCU’s and Creighton’s and Clemson’s can do against high-major competition – and it ain’t pretty. So unless one of those teams makes a major run in a deep conference, I say send them to the NIT and send the little guy to the Big Dance.

What Are the Key Bubble Games?

Since we’re talking bubble, and teams that are playing themselves on and off, let’s hit a few of the big ones.

Indiana vs. Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament (Thursday, 12:30 p.m. ET) is a huge one. Neither team is guaranteed a tournament spot if they win, but the loser will almost certainly be out. NC State-Clemson (Wednesday, 12:00 p.m. ET) is a huge one in the 8-9 game in the ACC. To me, a loss would eliminate Clemson from tournament consideration. I’m not positive a loss would eliminate NC State, but they would certainly be sweating come Selection Sunday. In the SEC, Florida probably needs to beat Arkansas to feel comfortably in, and Alabama would probably need at least two wins – against Ole Miss and Kentucky – to get themselves on the right side of the bubble. Good luck with that.

And finally there is the Big East, where there are five teams that could legitimately play themselves onto the bubble or off depending on how they perform in New York. If St. John’s wins their opening round game they will be in – but if they lose, they will be sweating come Selection Sunday. Butler also plays in the opening round, and probably needs to make it to the title game to get into serious bubble conversation. Creighton likely needs to beat Xavier to secure their spot, and Xavier likely needs to beat Creighton and win one more game just to get on the bubble. And finally there’s Georgetown which also probably needs two wins to get into Big Dance conversation.

Get it? Got it? Good.

The bubble is as fluid as its ever been, and a couple teams will surely get bounced.

Is the Pac-12 a One-Bid League?

This began as a tongue-in-cheek joke to start the season, when Pac-12 teams took some terrible losses out of conference (Oregon to Texas Southern, USC to Santa Clara, UCLA by 15 to Liberty) but it has become reality now that we’re in March: Is the Pac-12 a one-bid league?

If Washington wins the conference tournament, the answer is probably a “Yes.”

On the surface, the Huskies look like they’re comfortably in – but even they would be dangerously close to the bubble if they lost their Pac-12 Tournament opener. They will face the winner of Wednesday’s Arizona-USC tilt (the fact that USC and Arizona – the top two seeds last year, are playing in the 8-9 game should tell you everything you need to know about the Pac-12 this year). But assuming Washington is not only in, but wins the conference tournament, there’s only one other team (Arizona State) that is even in the conversation for an at-large berth. And the Sun Devils probably need two wins in Las Vegas to feel really safe.

What has been a bad year out West could become embarrassing this week. Can you imagine if a Power 5 conference got just one bid to the Big Dance?

Is this Sean Miller’s Swan Song at Arizona?

Following Arizona’s loss to Arizona State on Saturday, a wild video circulated on Twitter with Sean Miller addressing the crowd at the McKale Center. In it, he thanked his seniors and then dropped the following commentary:

“There’s no place that’s more magical than McKale Center,” Miller said. “There’s no fans in the world that are more loyal. It has been an amazing honor to coach in McKale Center for the last 10 years. Thank you for everything.”

Immediately, social media blew up with many wondering whether Miller was unofficially acknowledging that he has coached his final home game at Arizona. The FBI probe has been hanging over him for close to two years now, and as we all know, he has been subpoenaed to appear in court on April 22nd.

Still, after doing some digging, I don’t necessarily buy that this was Miller’s swan song. One, I was told that Miller regularly addresses the crowd at McKale Center after Arizona’s final home game. I also think he actually does feel indebted to Arizona fans who have stuck by him throughout this whole controversy. And finally, Arizona’s top two recruits, McDonald’s All-Americans Nico Mannion and Josh Green were at the game. Even if a coach knows there is a chance he could be gone, is he really giving that kind of speech in front of his two most high-profile recruits?

Mannion basically confirmed as much on Twitter following the game.

So yes, in theory, this could be Miller’s final week walking the sidelines as head coach at Arizona. But as of right now, I believe that he expects to be back next year.

What Other Coaches Are Coaching for Their Jobs?

Miller isn’t the only one who could be coaching his final meaningful games at his current school. There are a handful of others who will probably either stay or go at their current jobs, depending on how the next few weeks go.

To put it simply, Richard Pitino probably needs to make the NCAA Tournament to keep his job at Minnesota. A win over Penn State on Thursday should seal that bid. But a loss could put the Golden Gophers on the wrong side of the bubble and send Pitino to the unemployment line. On the other sideline, Penn State’s Pat Chambers is probably done at the school, but could a good run save him?

Across the rest of college basketball, Cal’s Wyking Jones, Boston College’s Jim Christian and Wake Forest’s Danny Manning are all hanging onto their jobs for dear life. Manning already lost his ACC Tournament opener on Tuesday afternoon, and if Wake decides to make a move, they could do it soon. A few more wins might buy Jones and Christian some time. But they might also be out of time as well.

And finally in the SEC, it seems like Billy Kennedy’s run at Texas A&M is coming to an end. Despite making two Sweet 16 runs in the last four years, the Aggies seem ready to move in a new direction.

What else will pop up?

The great thing about Championship Week is that just when we think we know all the storylines going in, new ones emerge.

Which schools will take unexpected losses and see their bubble burst? Which others will play themselves onto the bubble and maybe into the NCAA Tournament? And which leagues will provide us a bid stealer or two?

We’ll find out soon enough.

Go ahead and enjoy Champ Week – the best week on the sports calendar.

Everything You Need to Know About College Basketball’s “Championship Week”

Everything You Need to Know About College Basketball’s “Championship Week”

Well folks, we’ve made it. It…is…officially… Championship… Week!! For my money, the best week in all of sports.

That’s right, while some will (falsely) make the claim that the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is the best sports week of the year, I disagree. In Champ Week we get wall-to-wall basketball from noon until well after midnight eastern, pretty much every day from Tuesday to Saturday. Plus, we get to see the best teams three and sometimes four times, as opposed to just once or twice in the NCAA Tournament. And we’ve got all the same desperation that comes with the first weekend of March, as small schools battle for automatic bids and bubble squads fight to secure tourney spots.

So all of that is my nice way of say…. BUCKLE UP, because these next few days are about to get crazy. The major conference tournaments start tomorrow (Tuesday) when the ACC Tournament begins, and the non-stop hoops will run pretty much straight until the bracket is revealed late on Sunday evening.

The question now: What do you need to know heading into Champ Week? Here is a preview guide of the week ahead, featuring all the big storylines, heading into all the bit tournaments.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 129: The Latest on LSU + Why the ACC Won’t Get Three No. 1 Seeds

The final weekend of the college basketball season has come and gone, and oh boy, there is a lot to talk about on this Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Aaron discusses the entire weekend that was, including:

The Latest at LSU: Aaron takes a deep dive into LSU. Why suspending Will Wade was the wrong move for LSU and why Aaron would have let him keep coaching. Also, why he likes LSU embracing the role of college basketball’s “bad boys.” Aaron also explains why if you’re mad at LSU for cheating, you better be mad at Kansas, Duke and Arizona as well.

Why the ACC Won’t Get Three No. 1 Seeds: Aaron talks about the idiotic new storyline the ACC will get three No. 1 seeds. He wonders why everyone is so positive that Zion Williamson comes back and why, even if he does, that doesn’t guarantee Duke will win enough to get a No. 1. Also why Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan State are all more likely to get a No. 1 seed than a third ACC squad.

A Crazy College Basketball Weekend: A look at the rest of the weekend includes why 2019 might be one of John Calipari’s best coaching jobs yet, the incredible story of Texas Tech’s rise to Big 12 champ under Chris Beard and Sean Miller’s bizarre comments following Arizona’s season finale on Saturday. Did Miller’s speech hint that he expects to be gone this off-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 Pod Paradise.  Don’t forget to follow the show on Instagram too.

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 128: LSU Bombshell + David Padgett

It’s a new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, and oh what an episode it is, as Aaron is joined by former Louisville head coach David Padgett. He and Aaron discuss his one tumultuous year at Louisville, as well as what his future holds. But first, Aaron welcomes on his buddy Nick Coffey, as they discuss the bombshell report on LSU Thursday. Here is a rundown of today’s topics:
LSU could be in BIG trouble: Just minutes before taping, Yahoo put out a report in which LSU head coach Will Wade is alleged to have set up payment for a current player, believed to be freshman guard Javonte Smart. Aaron and Nick react in real time: Why this is such a bad look for LSU and what does the team do going forward? Will this impact the program? Will it impact the locker room? And why this hasn’t changed Aaron’s opinion that Wade has done an excellent “coaching” job this year, no matter how Wade got his players.
David Padgett joins the show: Next up, Aaron is joined by former Louisville coach David Padgett. He discusses his wild, one-year ride as Louisville head coach. What was the whirlwind like the day he got the job, what are his best memories and what does he wish he could do differently? Finally, how is he enjoying his new career in media? And does he plan on getting into coaching again?

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