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Aaron Torres’ Take

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

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

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


Why the new G-League Setup Probably Won’t Have An Immediate Impact on College Basketball

Why the new G-League Setup Probably Won’t Have An Immediate Impact on College Basketball

Since the FBI first began investigating the dark side of college basketball recruiting a year ago, it seemed like some sort of change was coming in the path that elite players took from high school, to college (for a “one and done” season) to the NBA. Whether it was the removal of the “one and done” rule all together, or simply adding a more incentive based G-League alternative during that one season between high school and the NBA Draft (when most of the top players end up in college), the tea leaves seemed to indicate something was indeed coming.

And on Thursday we finally found out what that “something” was.

In a rule that could alter college basketball going forward, the G-League will now offer one-year, $125,000 contracts to elite high school basketball players who are not yet eligible for the NBA Draft. Remember, the NBA states you need to be one year removed from your high school graduation and at least 19-years-old to be draft eligible – and most players (with the exception of a few) have elected to spend that one season in college.

Now, they can spend that one season in the G-League, making $125,000. ESPN had the full report, and my buddy Drew Franklin gave the details here earlier. But for those who missed it, here are some of the important notes:

  • Players who are identified as elite high school prospects, but are not yet eligible for the draft, will have an opportunity to play in the G-League for their one season that would otherwise be used as a one-and-done college player. They will be paid $125,000 for that one season.
  • Since they are professionals, they will be allowed to sign with agents and in turn use their likeness to sign endorsement deals.
  • The NBA will help the players into off-the-court developmental programs and also allow them access to NBA training facilities and coaching between the end of their high school season and the start of the G-League season.
  • To be clear, the program isn’t open to anyone who wants to enter, but the G-League will determine who they believe are the right fits, with an emphasis on character and maturity.
  • According to the head of the G-League, it is only for players who have no interest in the college game. They will not pursue players who are already committed to colleges. If players ultimately decommit, then the G-League would consider them.

So there ya have it. The top high school players can now earn six figures to play professional basketball right here in the United States. And as soon as this measure was announced it was deemed to be a death blow to college ball, the first step in what is a vast, rapid exodus of the top players for the professional ranks.

However, the more I dig into this program and the more I think about it, the fact remains that I’m not sure it has a massive impact on the sport as we know it. At least not right away.

Now again, to be clear, will this program impact some kids? Absolutely. I have no doubt that – if offered – a lot of kids will absolutely consider this path. They all should. If it was my son, I would unquestionably weigh the pros and cons of an opportunity to make $125,000 at 18-years-old to play professional basketball.

However, when you dig deeper, and ask the real tough questions, the path isn’t as glamorous as its made out to be.

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Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 88: Peter Burns and SEC Hoops Preview

It is a jam-packed episode of the Aaron Torres Sports, as he spans the college football and basketball worlds in a way that only he can. The SEC Network’s Peter Burns joins Aaron to discuss Kentucky’s SEC East title hopes, Notre Dame’s shot at the CFB Playoff and the rest of college football landscape.  After SEC Football talk, Aaron provides a few SEC Basketball predictions. But first, Aaron welcomes on Nick Coffey to discuss a wild week of courtroom drama on the FBI case.
Should Bill Self Be Fired? The guys break down all the testimony from court this week and ask the question: Should Bill Self be out at Kansas? Aaron explains why — after a year of the NCAA saying they want to remove sneaker company influence — they need to step up, but the guys also question if there is enough to cost Bill Self his job.
Coach K’s comments and Zion Williamson: Aaron defends the Hall of Famer after Coach K said the FBI trials are just a “blip” on the college basketball radar. He also explains why it isn’t so obvious that Zion Williamson definitely took extra benefits to go to Duke. The guys also discuss friend of the podcast Will Wade and his potential involvement in the case.
Next up the SEC Network’s Peter Burns joins the show. Peter discusses a number of topics, including:
Is Notre Dame a legit title threat? Peter made some headlines earlier in the week when he said that he thinks Notre Dame will get crushed if they go to the playoff and he isn’t backing down.
Why Kentucky will win the SEC East: Burns believes Kentucky will win the SEC East and face Alabama in the SEC Championship. He explains why he believes the Wildcats have the goods to get to Atlanta. They also talk about LSU’s surprise run, Texas A&M and more.
Finally, Aaron wraps the show withSEC basketball predictions. After an extensive article here, he breaks down who he likes, who he doesn’t and who will finish where in the final league standings.

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


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

SEC basketball media day is today, a moment to look at what’s ahead, while celebrating all that the league accomplished last season.

And if we’re being perfectly honest, boy did that league accomplish a lot last season. By any tangible measurement, 2018 was the single greatest season in the history of SEC basketball, with a record eight teams making the NCAA Tournament, and an argument could also be made – at least by me, anyway – that on a night-in, night-out basis it was the single toughest conference in the sport. While the league didn’t produce a true national title contender (although you could argue that with the way that Villanova blitzed through the tournament there were no true “contender” other than Nova) every team was competitive, every single night. As an example, Ole Miss – which finished in last place – beat three different teams which ended up in the Big Dance. No conference in America could claim depth anywhere close to that.

Still, as good as the SEC was in 2018, the best just might be yet to come in 2019.

The league probably won’t have the top-to-bottom depth like it did a year ago, but unlike last season (where only two teams made the second weekend of the Big Dance) there are true national title contenders at the top of the league. Kentucky, Auburn and Tennessee have the goods to make it all the way to the Final Four (and beyond), and Mississippi State, LSU and Florida also have second weekend NCAA Tournament potential as well. Alabama and Vanderbilt also should compete for NCAA Tournament berths, and Missouri and Arkansas should be tough outs.

So with media day about to kick off, it’s only fair that I put out my preseason predictions. Here they are:
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Why the NCAA Must Come Down on Kansas After Monday’s Court Testimony

College basketball’s FBI trial is now three weeks old, and if we’re being perfectly honest, it’s been a bit of a tamer process than most of us were expecting. Outside of Brian Bowen Sr. admitting that former Louisville assistant Kenny Johnson gave him $1,300 for rent, not much earth-shattering has happened. Sure, a bunch of programs have been loosely implicated – Oregon, Creighton, Texas, Oklahoma State – but we still haven’t gotten anything tangible that truly links anybody or anything to obvious NCAA violations or illegal activities. There have been no shocking text messages. No salacious e-mails. No wire-tapped calls indisputably linking a big-name coach or program directly to illegal activity or major violation of NCAA rules.

To be blunt, most of this trial has been a whole lot of sizzle and not all that much steak.

Or at least that was the case until Monday, where umm, some interesting text messages were shared between the Kansas basketball coaching staff (including head coach Bill Self), Adidas exec T.J. Gassanola and the guardian of Silvio de Sousa, a man named Fenny Falmagne. And while nothing directly, unquestionably links Self to payments, there a whole lot of red flags. And it’ll be fascinating to see what the NCAA does in response.

My colleague Jack Pilgrim did a great job of breaking everything down last night, but let’s take a deeper dive here and make sense of it all.

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Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 87: The Return of Corey Brewer

It’s a new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, with the return of former NBA star Corey Brewer! Brewer joined the show during the summer and is here to talk about the season ahead. But first, Aaron welcomes in his buddy Nick Coffey, as the guys discuss:
A wild, upset filled Saturday in college football: Six of the Top 16 teams in country fell and the guys answer the question: What was the biggest upset? Also the guys show love to Coach O after a big win, and wonder just how good Georgia is after the loss? Finally, why isn’t Michigan getting more love after dominating Wisconsin for their sixth straight win?
What does the playoff picture look like? The guys break down the playoff picture after all the upsets. Why the SEC’s dream of getting two teams in is dead, but all of a sudden, the Big Ten is in play for multiple bids. Also, why Notre Dame is in great shape but the Big 12 and Pac-12 are in big, BIG trouble.
Next up, it’s the return of former NBA star Corey Brewer. Brewer played last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder and LA Lakers and is currently a free agent, and after joining the show in the summer he is back to talk about…
The Jimmy Butler insanity: The guys recorded late last week in the middle of the Jimmy Butler melodrama in Minnesota. Brewer explains why Butler crossed a line. He also describes what it’s like to be an NBA player in the middle of front office drama similar to Butler’s right now.
His thoughts on the season ahead in the NBA: Brewer shares his thoughts on all things NBA this season. After playing with the Lakers last year he discusses the LeBron/Lonzo dynamic in LA, as well as his thoughts on some of the league’s best young players. He explains why he believes Donovan Mitchell and Brandon Ingram are the next big stars in the league.
Finally, some Florida Gators talk: Brewer shares some thoughts on his alma mater, the Florida Gators. He discusses his relationship with head coach Mike White (who was hired after his coach, Billy Donovan left) and whether Dan Mullen’s Gators are “back” on the football field.

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


No, Louisville Isn’t Getting the Death Penalty

I’m always 100 percent transparent with you guys, so let me tell you a quick story.

It all starts on the day that the FBI/college basketball probe broke back last September, when I sent out this tweet, embedded below.

Honestly, once I hit send, I didn’t think anything of it. Anyone with even a surface-level understanding of NCAA rules should have known that it wasn’t a stretch to say that Louisville’s actions warranted the death penalty – even if they would almost certainly never receive it.

That’s also what made what happened next so surprising. After logging offline for a few hours, I returned to Twitter to find a private message from a prominent college basketball writer. I had just started working for KSR at the time, and apparently he thought that my tweet was supposed to be some sort of way of throwing my weight around in the Kentucky community.

I no longer have the direct message, so I don’t have the quote. But it loosely translated to, “Bro, stop trying to impress the KSR crowd by bashing Louisville. You’re embarrassing yourself.”

Well, fast-forward a little more than a year, and that tweet – the first by any prominent college basketball writer referencing Louisville and the death penalty – has come full-circle.

In the midst of the FBI cases now going to court, Brian Bowen Sr. took the witness stand on Tuesday and admitted that Louisville assistant Kenny Johnson gave him $1,300 to help pay for his rent. Louisville is now back in the cross-hairs, and when you combine this obvious (but still alleged) NCAA violation with the Andre McGee/Stripper-gate fiasco from a few years ago, it means that Louisville could be looking at its second, big-time NCAA infractions case. It has also led many people to now suggest what I did a year ago: To give the Cards the death penalty. The most prominent voice to suggest the topic is Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel and others have piggybacked from there.

Still, a lot changes in a year, and even though I was the first person to publicly link the terms “death penalty” and “Louisville basketball” together, I actually feel the exact opposite today as I did a year ago. For those wondering, no, Louisville won’t get the death penalty. While it makes for a splashy, sexy headline, it just isn’t going to happen.

Now before we get to the “why” of it all, it’s important to understand exactly what the NCAA’s death penalty is.

The death penalty is basically the NCAA’s “repeat violator” policy, a rule only used when a program that is already on probation once again violates NCAA rules. In other words, it’s basically the NCAA’s way of saying “You can’t control your program, so we need to tear it down to the ground and start back over.” The death penalty was most famously used with SMU football in the late 1980’s. At the time, SMU got caught paying dozens of players – after they were already on probation for, you guessed it, getting caught paying players. And it was only at that point that the NCAA stepped in, said “enough is enough” and shut down the program for two years.

In theory, that situation mirrors what happened at Louisville, where just months after the NCAA hit Cards basketball with penalties for the stripper-gate scandal, Johnson is alleged to have paid over a thousand dollars of Bowen’s rent. That’s also why, once again, talk of the death penalty came up again this week around the program.

However, anyone who knows a little bit about the SMU situation (and many of you do because of the documentary) knows why the death penalty probably will never be used again in college sports. It’s because, to use a bad pun, it basically killed SMU’s football program as we know it. What was once one of the best programs in the 1980’s has never again been the same, and other entities, such as the conference it was in and the city of Dallas were impacted as well.

And that’s a big part of the reason why the NCAA will probably never hand out the death penalty again: Even if the program (in this case Louisville basketball) is deserving of the penalty, it is too crippling to too many people. If Louisville were to get the death penalty it wouldn’t only impact them, but also hurt other ACC programs, TV networks that broadcast Louisville games like ESPN and CBS, and the city of Louisville and state of Kentucky as a whole. Can you imagine the loss of revenue just at the Yum Center/Rupp Arena if we went a season without a Kentucky-Louisville game?

So that’s part of why Louisville will never receive the death penalty. And here’s the other thing: If we’re being perfectly honest, Louisville’s situation is nothing like what happened at SMU.

Look, I know it’s probably going to upset some people here, so forgive me, but I’m going to defend Louisville a tiny bit for a second. While any NCAA rules violation is bad, let’s not just completely compare apples to apples here. Remember, SMU had a private fund set up which was literally paying dozens of players, thousands of dollars every month. Those payments – again, dozens of payments a month, for thousands of dollars – wouldn’t have stopped if the NCAA hadn’t stepped in. in Louisville’s case, Kenny Johnson broke NCAA rules by helping Brian Bowen Sr. with his rent. But let’s not act like a coach giving a player’s dad a little over $1,000 and then saying “this is a one-time only deal” (like Johnson did) is the same thing as boosters providing thousands a month in extra benefits for dozens of players. I’d hope everyone reading can see the different here.

More importantly however, there’s a point that I think everyone is missing: What is going on right now –  the threat of the death penalty – is the exact reason that Louisville immediately fired Rick Pitino after the FBI arrests. It’s why they didn’t give Pitino due process, didn’t wait for the facts to come to light. In essence, they fired Pitino to save the program.

Think about it.

Had these allegations come out and Louisville had stood by Pitino, can you imagine how bad – or in this case, worse – the school would have looked? This is a coach who had an assistant shuttling prostitutes into dorms just a few months before, and now the school was going to stand by him when a player was alleged to be receiving upwards of $100,000 in cash? How much Pitino did or did not know at that point would’ve been irrelevant (differing opinions have come out during the trial on this very topic). But had Louisville stood by him, it would look like they were defending his behavior. And it would have put the whole program in the crosshairs if Pitino had been found guilty in this case. Can you imagine how bad Louisville would have looked if they stood by Pitino, and then found out that he knew about payments to Bowen? That my friends, would’ve been worthy of the death penalty.

Instead, they fired Pitino, fired his staff and fired Tom Jurich. At that point, it wasn’t about waiting for all the facts, it was about proving to the NCAA that whatever went wrong would be fixed immediately, and whoever was to blame would be punished for it. Which is exactly what happened. There currently isn’t anyone at Louisville that had anything to do with the scandal, not Pitino, not Kenny Johnson, not Jurich, not the Bowen’s, no one. To Louisville’s credit, they showed a little over a year ago that they were serious about cleaning things up.

That’s also why the death penalty isn’t coming to the Cards.

Rick Pitino had to be spared to save the program.

That’s exactly what happened.

And why Louisville is safe from the NCAA’s worst possible punishment.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 86: Corey Evans and more on the FBI Case

It’s a new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, as Rivals.com‘s Corey Evans joins the show to break down all the big storylines in college basketball recruiting. But first, Aaron is joined by Nick Coffey, as the guys discuss:
The latest on college basketball’s FBI probe: The guys dive deep into the FBI probe. What does Brian Bowen Sr.’s testimony mean for Louisville, and do Louisville’s actions actually warrant the death penalty? Also, the guys wonder: Does this trial prove that cheating in college basketball is actually less prevalent than everyone thinks it is?
A College Football Week 7 Preview: After the lengthy FBI chat, the guys briefly skim the Week 7 college football slate. Is there any cause for concern for Georgia entering their big game against LSU? Also, is Michigan being overlooked after just one loss to a really good Notre Dame team?
Next up, Aaron is joined by Rivals.com’s Corey Evans for all the big recruiting headlines. The pair discuss:
The Emergence of Isaiah Stewart: The guys discuss last weekend’s USA Basketball Camp, where Isaiah Stewart emerged as the breakout star. Kentucky is perceived to be the leader, but Corey gives a new, interesting name to look out for in Stewart’s recruitment.
Surprising Cole Anthony News: Corey also has some surprise developments in the recruitment of the nation’s top point guard, Cole Anthony. Anthony has long believed to be a North Carolina lean – but is a new school ahead?
James Wiseman Update: The big man has seemingly been down to Memphis and Kentucky for months. Does an early commitment change anything? And is there anything either school can say at this point in the recruitment that could sway him one way or the other?

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


Some Additional Thoughts on Kentucky’s NBA Pro Day

Photo by UK Athletics

While I wouldn’t quite call Sunday “Christmas Day for college hoops fans” it was somewhere close, with Kentucky’s Pro Day taking center stage last night. Admittedly, this wasn’t the first look at this year’s Kentucky Wildcats (that came in the Bahamas), but it did whet the appetites of everyone craving some basketball, and really was the first sign that – like the groundhog ducking his head out of the ground in February –the season is right around the corner.

Looking back on last night, it’s obviously hard to take too much out of the festivities. Most of the evening was spent running through drills and with player interviews and a camera basically permanently fixated on John Calipari our attention was regularly taken away from the play on the court.

Still, there were some things that we learned. And after my colleague Jack Pilgrim gave his five quick takeaways following the event, I decided to piggyback and add some thoughts as well.

Enjoy!

Reid Travis was the best player on the floor Sunday night

If you read my preview piece on Sunday afternoon (and if you didn’t, shame on you), you know that for me, Reid Travis’ performance was one of the more intriguing subplots heading into the event. That’s because despite averaging a double-double, Travis had an up-and-down performance in the Bahamas. In his defense, it wasn’t entirely Travis’ fault though as he arrived on campus just a few weeks before the trip itself. He didn’t have a ton of time to acclimate with his new teammates, and it showed.

Well, with the Pro Day now complete, let me say this: If Sunday night was any indication of what’s to come, it could be a MONSTER season for Travis. At the very least, he showed during the Pro Day why he was a two-time All-Pac 12 performer at Stanford, and why he was one of the most coveted grad transfers in the history of college basketball.

In watching Travis, what stood out was that he both stayed true to himself, while expanding his game. It’s clear that Travis has lost weight since the trip to the Bahamas, which has made him more agile and athletic. It showed in his ability to guard perimeter players 20 feet from the basket (more on that coming) and he even stepped out and hit a couple three-pointers during the live scrimmage portion of the event. At the same time, he also stayed true to his roots and bruised and banged down low, with a bunch of solid moves and finishes in the low post.

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that if Travis can keep up what he showed on Sunday, he could end as an All-SEC type performer.

E.J. Montgomery looked much improved as well

Coming out of the Bahamas trip Montgomery was a question mark as well, but for an entirely different reason. Unlike Travis – who got significant run while in the Caribbean – Montgomery barely saw the court, thanks to a back injury. And it left everyone wondering exactly what he was capable of once fully healthy.

Well, those questions began to be answered on Sunday night.

During the Pro Day, Montgomery showed why he was such a coveted recruit and why so many folks believe he can be a first round NBA Draft pick. He showed off nice moves in the post, while also stepping out and hitting a couple threes. He also had a nice pass out of a double-team in the post that led directly to a wide open three-pointer for Reid Travis.

Even with his limited playing time it seems like Montgomery just might be Kentucky’s most versatile big guy. And it will be fascinating to see how John Calipari tries to use him this season.

Jemarl Baker is more of a work in progress

In addition to Montgomery, the other player who missed significant time in the Bahamas was Jemarl Baker. Actually, let’s get a correction. Baker didn’t just miss significant time in the Bahamas, but the entire trip altogether. It was a continuation of a disappointing trend since he arrived in Lexington last summer, as Baker had to sit out all of last season with a knee injury as well.

The good news is that Baker does appear to be finally healthy. But the bad news is the rust was obvious on Sunday night.

While Baker didn’t look completely out of place or anything, he did catch the ire of John Calipari for missed defensive assignments and other little things. He also struggled to hit open shots, and shooting was supposed to be his strength and the one thing that would guarantee him playing time.

Now in Baker’s defense I really do wonder how much of it was simply that he has missed so much time because of injury. If he’s behind, it’s completely understandable – he hasn’t played competitively in over a year. And jumping into a practice with seven McDonald’s All-Americans and a bunch of future pros is a tough way to reacclimate yourself.

I’m guessing that once he gets more comfortable with the size and speed of the game Baker will be just fine.

And that’s a good thing – Kentucky needs his shooti —

Wait a second now…

It’s #FakeNews to say that shooting is this team’s weakness

I’m just gonna be a 100 percent real here for a second: If I hear any analyst, writer, whatever argue that this team’s weakness is shooting, my head is going to explode. That might have been a cute little narrative six months ago when this team was being formed, but it’s simply not the case anymore. Anyone who is still saying that is completely uneducated. It’s fake news.

As a matter of fact, I’d argue that this could be one of the better shooting teams Kentucky has had in a while. Tyler Herro is a straight assassin, a guy with an ability to score from all over the court, but also a guy who is especially deadly from behind the arc. Did anyone else see him drop about 20 straight three’s during one of the full court drills? Quade Green is vastly improved from behind the arc and Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson are both better than most folks realize. Not to mention that P.J. Washington has showed expanded range, it appears as though Reid Travis has as well. Oh, and let’s not forget that once Baker is healthy, he might be the best long-range shooter on the entire roster.

So to all the analysts who claim that shooting is this team’s weakness, just stop. Get a new schtick. Or just watch last night’s film. This team has the potential to be lethal from behind the arc.

Anyone who thinks John Calipari just rolls the ball out is an idiot – and only needed to watch this practice

I’ve been lucky enough to sit in on a few John Calipari practices during my time covering college basketball. And as someone who has been in the gym with Coach Cal, I can tell you that there is no dumber narrative than “Calipari just recruits great players and rolls out the ball.” It is tired and factually incorrect.

And if anyone ever needed proof that John Calipari is a great teacher of the game, and yes, a great “coach,” all they needed to do was watch on Sunday night. During the brief, two-hour broadcast, Coach Cal was the constant teacher, jumping out of his seat every few minutes to stop practice and make a teaching point. Poor Seth Greenberg and Jimmy Dykes didn’t know what hit them half the time – and neither did the players. But Coach Cal never hesitated to stop practice if it was needed. Just that alone should have made it clear that this is a guy who cares about the development of his players and their overall improvement. It also shouldn’t be a surprise that his guys constantly get better throughout the season.

By the way, you know what my favorite moment of the whole night was? It was when Coach Cal lined up Reid Travis in the backcourt and made him guard Immanuel Quickley during four-on-four drills. When the commentators asked Coach Cal why he did it, he explained that during the season his big guys would end up being switched onto perimeter players in the pick-and-roll and they had to adjust. If guys like Reid Travis and P.J. Washington can guard those pesky little guards 30 feet from the basket in practice, doing it from 20 feet away in games will be no big deal.

To which I ask, is that not fantastic “coaching” or what? I mean after all, part of coaching isn’t just teaching offense, defense or out of bounds plays, but preparing your team for every possible scenario they can be in. if you practice it, then it becomes second nature in a game. If you don’t, you’re bound to get exposed.

One thing you can definitively say about Kentucky is that they’re always prepared. And it starts with the coaching they get in practice.

It was a quiet night from P.J. Washington, Keldon Johnson and Quade Green – and that’s a good thing

One thing that was a little bit disappointing was that we didn’t see much out of a couple guys that we all expect to do big things this season. No one improved more over the course of the Bahamas trip than Quade Green, and P.J. Washington and Keldon Johnson might be this team’s two best players. Only all three were quiet Sunday night.

And honestly, that might be a good thing.

No, Green, Washington and Johnson didn’t stand out Sunday (well, except when Johnson rolled his ankle – thank goodness he’s OK). But the good part was that in their absence, others like Reid Travis, Tyler Herro and E.J. Montgomery all stepped up in their place.

That is also a great sign heading into the season. No matter how good your players are – and I believe Johnson and Washington have a chance to compete for All-SEC First Team honors – every once in a while they are going to have a bad game. And it’s nice to know that if Washington or Johnson isn’t the superstar we expect, or Green, the instant impact scorer he was for the final three games in the Bahamas, there are other guys ready to go.

Finally, did anyone else notice that things looked easier for Kentucky in the Bahamas than they did at practice on Sunday night?

Again, this feels like a great thing to me.

Look, we all watched the games in the Bahamas and we were all surprised at how easily Kentucky’s players all adjusted to playing against professionals. Against some really good competition (including Mega Bemax, one of the best teams in Europe) the Wildcats absolutely dominated. The crazy part was that in watching last night, some of these Kentucky guys seemed to struggle more against their own teammates than seasoned pros.

Now look, part of it is simple deductive reasoning: Kentucky’s entire roster has all been on campus for months now, and basically play pick-up as a group non-stop. They all know each other’s games, strengths and weaknesses. No one is fooling anyone. That is probably part of the reason that Kentucky’s offense flowed much more fluidly in the Bahamas than it did Sunday night.

At the same time, maybe just maybe it’s proof that UK might just have a roster full of (to quote the players themselves) “Dogs,” a bunch of guys who simply get after it – whether they’re playing each other or an opponent. And that maybe just maybe, their toughest competition so far wasn’t in the Bahamas, but instead every day at practice.

After watching Sunday night, how could you not feel the same?

It also leads me to ask the same question I did after the Bahamas trip: If the Wildcats can do that to grown men, what will it be like once they face kids their own age?

It’s a fair question, and with a loaded schedule, things won’t be easy. There will be nights where things don’t come as naturally as they did in the Bahamas.

But it’s also no secret that this team is way ahead of schedule.

And it’s scary to think how good they might be by March.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 85: UK-Texas A&M and How Hot is Petrino’s Seat?

A new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast is live with a full, hour-long recap of Week 6 of the college football season. Topics include:
Reaction to the two big games in Texas: The guys discuss the two big games in Texas – Texas’ big win over Oklahoma and Kentucky’s heartbreaking loss at Texas A&M. How surprising was the Longhorns victory? How much is Kentucky’s play-calling to blame for their loss? And even with the loss, just how high is Kentucky’s ceiling going forward?
The College Football Playoff picture as it stands: With another week in the books, it really does feel like the playoff picture is starting to take shape. Why Notre Dame is the team that could screw up everything and are we sure that Georgia will be undefeated heading into the SEC title game? Also, the biggest hypothetical going forward…Who would get in: A one-loss Notre Dame or a one-loss Michigan team, with that one loss to Notre Dame?
Just how hot is Bobby Petrino’s seat? The guys wrap up with an extensive talk on Bobby Petrino’s future at Louisville. After another embarrassing loss, just how hot is Petrino’s seat? What would it take for him to be fired? Nick Coffey explains why no one will be sad to see him go.

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


© Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch for in Tonight’s NBA Pro Day

© Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Incredibly, we are officially less than a month from the start of the college basketball season (get here soon please, Kentucky-Duke). But as far as I’m concerned we’re just hours away from the unofficial kickoff of the college basketball season: Kentucky’s Pro Day.

That’s right, every year there are signs that college basketball is near – the changing of the leaves, flipping back clocks, a couple key players suspended a game or two for vague “violations of team rules” offenses – yet nothing really makes it feel like its basketball season is right around the corner quite like seeing UK line up in the practice gym/Rupp Arena with a bunch of scouts encircled with pens, pads and stopwatches taking in the whole thing.

This year, the buzz of the combine is down a little bit. The combination of a potentially historically great football team with the fact that we already saw these Wildcats in the Bahamas has killed some of that buzz.

Still, there are things to watch out for. And as we get set for the combine on Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET on SEC Network, here are the things that I find intriguing heading into the event:

Has P.J. Washington continued to develop?

It’s no secret that I love P.J. Washington more than I do some of my own family members. I was buying PJW stock after last year’s draft combine and I doubled down (or was it tripled down?) after Washington decided to return to college for his sophomore season. As I said throughout the summer, I truly believed if Washington just took care of the things he had to, I could see him as an SEC Player of the Year candidate in 2019 and kid who could go in the Top 15 of next year’s draft.

Well clearly, Washington hung on every word I wrote (or maybe he’s just self-motivated, who knows?) and in the Bahamas we saw the overall development of his game we were all expecting. He’s still menacing down low (he averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game) but also showed a much improved outside shot (3 of 7 from behind the three-point line during the trip) and an ability to put the ball on the floor.

Still, as good as he was in the Bahamas, NBA scouts are still going to want to see him prove that his play in the Caribbean wasn’t a fluke, and this is who he “is” as a player now. There is a long way between now and next year’s draft, but if he can consistently do that, again, don’t be surprised to see Washington flirt with the lottery next season.

Will Tyler Herro stay hot

Outside of the emergence of Sophomore Nick Richards (cc: Drew Franklin) there wasn’t a bigger stunner in the Bahamas than watching Tyler Herro emerge as quite possibly this team’s best scorer. Herro finished the trip averaging 17 points a game, on 57 percent shooting. Considering how many of his shots came beyond 15-feet, it was a staggeringly good performance.

Now, like so many others on this roster, Herro has to translate what he did in the Bahamas to the hardwood of Rupp Arena Sunday night in front of NBA scouts.

The important thing about Herro’s Bahamas performance is that he showed that he wasn’t just a cliched “shooter” but instead, a complete scorer. Yes, he can pull up from 20 feet and drain the deep three whenever he wants. But he is also so much more than that. He’s a guy who also has a nice mid-range game, can take people off the dribble and score at the rim as well.

Like Washington, if Herro can translate his Bahamas performance to Sunday night (and in turn, the regular season) he will end up drafted much higher than most of the mock drafts currently have him projected.

What will we get from Reid Travis?

So I know I’m going to throw out a bit of an unpopular opinion here, but I was somewhat underwhelmed by Reid Travis in the Bahamas. Now I know what you’re already thinking: “Torres, the dude averaged a double-double. What are you talking about?” And I get it, I really do. Unfortunately it also seemed like he was a bit overwhelmed in the early portion of the trip, before finding his sea legs (terrible pun!) late.

Now in Travis’ defense, it’s important to note that he was the last guy to join this Kentucky team, and that he was thrust into the process relatively late. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that his younger teammates had – quite literally – months of experience playing and practicing together before the trip that Travis just wasn’t privy too. At the same time, Travis is also the most experienced player – by far – on this roster, so I don’t know how much that excuse holds water.

Looking ahead to this weekend, it’ll be important to see not just how good Travis looks on Sunday night, but also what his game looks like. Remember, this is a guy who has already been an All=Pac 12 caliber player. He didn’t come back to college just to put up stats, but to continue to evolve his game. Like Washington, if he wants to make it to the NBA, he’s got to be better from beyond the arc, more comfortable handling the ball and taking people off the dribble.

Those are skills that Travis really didn’t show in the Bahamas, but ones that will certainly be critical in getting him drafted next spring. The good news is, he’s got plenty of chance to show that his game has evolved – starting on Sunday night.

What about Ashton Hagans?

Hagans is another one who joined the team late, and another one who – to be blunt – looked a little lost out on the court during his time in the Bahamas. While there is no doubt that he’s a sparkplug defensively that is going to give opposing team’s backcourts some bad nightmares, he is also wildly raw offensively. Hagans averaged just five points per game during the trip, and his entire offensive game basically consisted of “driving recklessly to the hoop and throwing up a wild layup hoping to get fouled.”

While you can get away with that at the high school level (especially when you have the speed and athleticism of Hagans) you can’t at the college level.

And if Hagans wants to reach his NBA potential and be a major contributor to this year’s Kentucky team (which he’s certainly capable of being), he’ll need to get better on the offensive end of the court.

Is Sophomore Nick Richards still a thing?

As mentioned at the top, the emergence of Sophomore Nick Richards was the single most stunning development of the Bahamas trip. Had you asked me for the 1,000 most likely storylines to come out of that trip, “Nick Richards evolving into a combination of Shaq, The Incredible Hulk and Spike from the movie ‘Little Giants’” wouldn’t have been one of them.

To Richards’ credit however, it’s a testament to a few things. Specifically it showed that its ok if every high school superstar isn’t a finished product by the end of his freshman year. Sometimes it takes more time to develop. Sometimes it takes time to get more confident and build up faith in yourself.

That’s why it was so great to Richards evolution in the Bahamas. A few months after wrapping up a freshman year where he was shy and timid on the court, there he was in the Caribbean confidently flying all over the court, grabbing monster rebounds, throwing down thunderous dunks and blocking shots with two hands.

If he can keep that up, he will be one of the fastest risers of all NBA Draft prospects this season.

Will Keldon Johnson take anyone’s soul?

I really don’t have much to add here about Johnson that you don’t already know. The bottom line is that he is already projected as the best NBA Draft prospect on this team, and he showed why in the Bahamas. He not not only played well in the four-game exhibition slate, but exceeded expectations. In the process, he also threw down a couple of the most ridiculous dunks we’ve seen in a long time, and basically took the soul of anyone who dared to step up to him. Hopefully he takes it a little easier on his own teammates on Sunday.

And since there really isn’t all that much else to say about Johnson, let’s just watch more videos of his awesome dunks.

How is the health of Jemarl Baker and E.J. Montgomery?

Unfortunately, we really didn’t get to see all that much of either of these guys during their stay in the Bahamas. Baker didn’t play at all and Montgomery was limited to just a few minutes in the first game before getting shut down for the rest of the week.

Ultimately both have NBA dreams (even if Montgomery’s are a bit more realistic at this point), and it’s important for both to get on the court in front of NBA scouts – and more importantly, look healthy – for those dreams to come true.

With Baker specifically, let’s just hope he’s healthy at all, as it’s been a struggle for that poor kid to stay on the court.

Finally, who will emerge as a leader?

When you look at this Kentucky team as a whole, there isn’t a whole lot to pick apart. They have size, shooting, physicality, athleticism and mental toughness. Their sheer force of will melted other teams during their trip to the Caribbean and that will likely continue against a lot of opponents during the season.

However at some point the Wildcats will actually be tested – maybe in the opener against Duke, maybe down the road against UNC or Louisville, or maybe in the SEC in a hostile road environment at Auburn or Tennessee.

And what will be interesting to see is who is the guy who will step up and take control of the huddle. The guy who says “I got this… we got this” and then goes out and delivers.

We won’t get the entire answer on Sunday, but we should get signs of who the leaders will be and who will be counted on the most.

College basketball’s unofficial tip-off is this weekend, and I for one couldn’t be more excited.


The FBI Trials Have Begun and College Basketball’s Day of Reckoning is Here

For months, the buzz around college basketball’s FBI probe has essentially centered on one simple question: Is that really all the FBI has?

If you can remember back to the day this story broke last year, a morning in which a bunch of sneaker company executives, agents, runners and college basketball assistant coaches were nabbed by the FBI, virtually everyone who covers college basketball – including me – gave a warning to those who love the sport: This was just the tip of the iceberg. It seemed inevitable that other programs would become involved. It seemed certain that other big-time coaches would lose their jobs. Yet outside of Maryland, Kansas and NC State being loosely implicated in the probe back in April, there has been relatively little “news” out of the case.

Still, whenever anyone asked me why there was no news, and if anything was actually going to happen, I continued to tell them to be patient. That once these cases went to trial, we’d get news. Lots of it. And there’d be new teams, new coaches and new players implicated.

Well folks, welcome to that day. The trials opened in earnest on Tuesday and college basketball has already been completely flipped on its head. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that when all the trials wrap up in the coming months, complete carnage could overtake the sport.

Things began on Monday {albeit in a quiet fashion), where a list of potential witnesses who could be called to the witness stand in the trial was released. It included a handful of names you’d expect from schools who have been tied to the probe (Arizona’s Sean Miller, Kansas’ Bill Self) but also a bunch of schools who hadn’t before been implicated. Among those schools was Oregon, Creighton and DePaul, three schools which actively recruited Brian Bowen before he committed to Louisville. It also included LSU, whose association isn’t completely obvious at this point.

Still, if Monday was the day where the tip of the iceberg was within sight, Tuesday was the day the whole damn boat crashed at full speed.

That’s because Tuesday was the day where the lawyer for former Adidas executive Jim Gatto (the guy alleged to have arranged for the payment of $100,000 to get Brian Bowen to Louisville) made his opening statements. And in making those opening statements, Gatto’s lawyer went nuclear on the sport of college basketball.

In the process, he wanted to make one thing clear: His client wasn’t acting alone. Giving out $100,000 to players is simply the world that Gatto lived in.

Among the allegations that Gatto’s lawyer dropped in his opening statement:

  • The reason Adidas gave $100,000 to Brian Bowen’s dad was to outbid Oregon his son’s services. According to Gatto’s lawyer, they have proof that Oregon was willing to pay “an astronomical amount of money” to get Bowen to Eugene.
  • That Adidas helped NC State get $40,000 to Dennis Smith Jr.’s family during his time at the school.
  • That Adidas did in fact give $20,000 to current Kansas forward Silvio de Souza. The payment was to outbid Under Armour, which was willing to pay an undisclosed amount to get him to Maryland.
  • That Arizona was ready to pay $150,000 – 150K!!! – to land five-star forward Nassir Little. Because of Arizona’s bid, Miami, an Adidas school, reached out to Gatto to try and raise more funds to match the Wildcats’ offer. Little hadn’t yet committed when the FBI probe hit last September, and ultimately ended up at North Carolina

So yeah, to quote your favorite tanned, Jersey Shore personality: “Wooooooooooooah buddy.” Boy did things just get interesting.

And to be abundantly clear, things are just getting started.

Remember, Tuesday was simply the opening remarks of Gatto’s trial, the chance for his lawyer to explain the case that they planned on presenting to the court. Meaning that if you think about the trial as a long distance marathon, we are barely out of the first mile yet. No witnesses have been called. No testimonies have been taken. No evidence – those mounds of e-mails, texts and wire-tapped phone calls that the FBI collected – have been submitted into evidence.

That also means that there is little doubt that by the end of the trial, we will in fact have a whole new set of names and coaches who are directly implicated in this case. Considering that Arizona’s Sean Miller and Kansas coach Bill Self are on the witness list, we could hear some big names called to the stand before this is all said and done.

Add it all up, and it leaves me asking a lot of questions about “what’s next.” Not just in these trials, or with the people involved, but for the future of college basketball. And considering so many of you do in fact love this sport, that last part is what I’ll focus on.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that Gatto and his lawyers will use this trial to basically argue that while they did commit major NCAA violations – something they’ve literally already confessed to– that no federal laws were broken. I’m no legal scholar, but it seems like they have a pretty good argument, especially if they can prove that Gatto’s actions (paying players) were pretty much part of his job description. In essence, what his lawyers will say is that paying $100,000 to Brian Bowen was just part of his job description. College basketball’s version of “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Still, while it will make for an interesting case at trial, in the NCAA’s eyes it doesn’t matter. While the FBI might have a tough case to prove, if people admit under oath that they broke NCAA rules, it could mean absolute carnage in college basketball. For example, let’s say Sean Miller is called to the witness stand to testify about arranged payments for Nassir Little (I’m not saying that will happen, nor that Miller definitively knew. This is all a hypothetical). While Miller won’t be looking at jail time, that is a major, egregious NCAA rules violation. And of course he would be fired the second he made the confession. Same if Bill Self if he admits to having any knowledge of a payment to Silvio de Souza.

Now many of you are probably thinking the same thing: Yeah right. Fat chance either of them confesses to anything. Except remember, this isn’t an NCAA investigation. This is a court of law. And if either of them – or any other witness – gets caught lying under oath that’s called perjury. And they’ll go to jail for it. If any of those coaches are called, we will get the truth.

More importantly, there is also one other thing to consider: This is just the first trial and right now we’re only going through Gatto’s rolodex. The assistant coaches (Arizona’s Book Richardson, Auburn’s Chuck Person etc.) have their own separate trials in the coming months. How many other players, parents, agents, runners and head coaches could be caught up in that? Considering that – as I pointed out last week – just about every big-time recruit in last year’s class was somehow linked to the schools caught in the FBI probe, it could be a lot.

That’s also why the point that I made the day this scandal broke a year ago is now coming to fruition: Those handful of schools involved were just the tip of the iceberg here. There could be dozens of others involved as these trials play out.

College basketball’s day of reckoning is here.

And until those trials wrap up, no major program, coach or recruit should feel 100 percent safe.


Ep. 83 Aaron Torres Sports Podcast: "Thunder" Dan Majerle

It’s a new episode of “The Podcast That is Sweeping America” — the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast.  Aaron is joined by former Hall of Famer and current head basketball coach at Grand Canyon, Dan Majerle. First, Aaron is joined by Nick Coffey to talk some college football, starting with:

Penn State’s meltdown against Ohio State: The guys break down Penn State’s epic collapse against Ohio State. Why did everyone focus on the final play instead of the complete meltdown? Where does Penn State go from here? And why doesn’t the public like James Franklin?

What’s next at Clemson? The guys react to the stunning the development at Clemson, where the Tigers starting QB left the program, the new starter got hurt and no one knows what to expect next. Aaron explains why Saturday’s injury proved that Kelly Bryant was right to leave the team, and Aaron and Nick argue over whether Clemson is a legitimate playoff threat without Bryant.

Finally, thoughts on Notre Dame’s win and another dominant Kentucky performance: With Notre Dame’s win over Stanford, are they a sneaky playoff contender? Also, the guys break down Kentucky’s win = and the stunning sight of seeing a Will Muschamp team bullied into submission.

Next up, Aaron is joined by the legend himself, Thunder Dan Majerle. Majerle is the head coach at Grand Canyon University right now, but takes fans back to his days as an NBA All-Star. The guys chat about:

Where did the Nickname “Thunder Dan” come from? Aaron opens with the question everyone in America wants to know: Where did Majerle get the nickname “Thunder Dan?” Majerle tells the story, as well as how and why he was booed by Suns fans the night of the NBA Draft.

Thunder Dan’s best memories of playing in the NBA: Majerle discusses his time in the NBA. What was it like to go up against his idol Larry Bird? What was it like to guard Michael Jordan? And finally, Majerle settles the debate once and for all: MJ or LeBron.

The future of Grand Canyon basketball: Finally, Majerle wraps by discussing his expectations for Grand Canyon this season and beyond. He talks about building the program, and what it was like to fall one game short of the NCAA Tournament in the Lopes first year eligible. Also, what is the ceiling for this program during his time as head coach?

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


Ep. 82 Aaron Torres Sports Podcast: Gary Parrish on the Future of College Basketball

It’s a new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports, as Aaron has an extensive conversation on the future of college basketball with CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish. First though, Aaron is joined by his buddy Nick Coffey, as the guys discuss the following:
The one-year anniversary of college basketball’s FBI probe: It’s been one year since the FBI shook college basketball to its core, and the guys debate just how much has changed in college basketball. Aaron thinks the answer is yes and Nick isn’t quite sure. Also, will any other big name coaches get lumped into the probe before its all said and done?
Transfer talk in college football + Week 5 preview: The guys react to the news that Clemson QB Kelly Bryant is leaving the team thanks to a new transfer rule. Will this be the norm in college football going forward? And was Bryant unfair to his coaches and teammates? Plus the guys talk all the big games of Week 5: Ohio State-Penn State, Stanford-Notre Dame and South Carolina-Kentucky.
Next up, CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish joins the show, for an all-encompassing, hour-long talk on the state of college basketball. Specifically, Parrish and the CBS Sports team have been evaluating the big programs (Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina) and asking “who will be the next coach at those schools.” The guys discuss:
What the future looks like at all the big schools: What is next at Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas, and how much say will the current coach have in his replacement? Also, how important is it to “keep it in the family” at a place like Duke and Carolina? Or should the schools just go get the best coach?
Which current coach has the biggest shoes to fill: The guys wonder who will have bigger shoes to fill: The man who replaces Coach K or John Calipari? Also, Gary explains why he believes the Kentucky job is the most unique in all of basketball – not just college, but the NBA.
Finally, Gary’s thoughts on Penny Hardaway: Gary hosts radio in Memphis and talks about Penny Hardaway’s first six months on the job. He explains why Penny has exceeded even the highest expectations for him, and why Gary believes he’s already done more for the program than any new coach in college basketball.

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