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Aaron Torres’ Take

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 118: Pat McAfee + Who’s the Bigger Disaster: Indiana or Kansas?


Get ready for a completely different show than any you’ve heard on the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast! Aaron is joined by former NFL kicker Pat McAfee to talk football and the Super Bowl. But first, Aaron is joined by Nick Coffey where they talk about the “Fyre Festival” documentaries, who is the “Fyre Festival” of college hoops Indiana or Kansas, plus, who would win if they played tomorrow: Kentucky or Tennessee?

Here is a full rundown:

Who is the “Fyre Festival” of College Basketball: As promised, the guys take a deep dive into the “Fyre Festival” documentaries. They examine the differences between the two documentaries and the impact social media has on the world we live in. They answer the question, Who is the Fyre Festival of college basketball, the team that looked great on paper, but has ended up a total disaster? Is it Kansas or Indiana?

Kentucky-Tennessee: Who would win if they played tomorrow?

Pat McAfee: Former NFL punter and current comedian and podcaster Pat McAfee joins the show for an abbreviated visit. He discusses his rookie season which included a trip to the Super Bowl, what it was like to play with Peyton Manning and he gives a Super Bowl pick. He also lets you know how you can get free wings if Sunday’s game goes to overtime.

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.


Part I: How Does Kentucky Matchup with the Other Title Contenders

At this point, there really is no other way to put it: After seven straight wins, a dominant victory over Kansas on Saturday and a bludgeoning of Vanderbilt on Tuesday night, Kentucky is very much back in the national championship conversation. Admittedly, it probably didn’t take until Tuesday to establish that. But if there was any doubt, a 25-point lobotomizing of Vandy at Memorial Gym proved it.

That’s right, it hasn’t always been easy for the Wildcats, but here we are in mid-January, the Wildcats are ranked No. 7 nationally, arguably the hottest team in the country and the proverbial “club no one wants to play right now.” And it’s time to begin discussing them among the best teams in college basketball, and figuring out how they match up.

Which is exactly what I am here to do today. Right now, most experts (myself included) believe there are six teams outside the Wildcats who are capable of winning the title, Duke, Gonzaga, Tennessee, Michigan, Virginia and Michigan State. Maybe one or two others (Nevada?) but that’s essentially it.

So how do the Wildcats match up with each? I will spend the next two days breaking each team down, discussing their strengths and weaknesses and how Kentucky might be able to exploit them.

We will start today with three teams – Michigan State, Virginia and Gonzaga. Then tomorrow, we will get to Duke, Tennessee and Michigan.

Here is Part I of a two-part series I like to call “How does Kentucky match up with the contenders”

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Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 117: Kansas-Kentucky Reaction + CBS Sports’ Khalid El-Amin

It was another wild weekend of college hoops, so what better way to get caught up than with a new edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast? Aaron is joined by Nick Coffey to wrap up Kentucky’s win over Kansas, Indiana’s struggles and try to figure out just how good Louisville is. Then Aaron is joined by former UConn legend and current CBS Sports analyst Khalid El-Amin.

Kansas-Kentucky Recap: Are the Wildcats officially back in the national title conversation after the win (if they weren’t already) and after struggling shooting the three, did Kentucky even play its best game Saturday? Plus, just how bad is Kansas?

The weekend in College Hoops: The guys continue to break down Indiana’s embarrassing losing streak — how much is Archie Miller to blame? And how about Romeo Langford? Finally, just how good is Louisville right now?

Khalid El-Amin joins the show: Next up, Aaron is joined by UConn legend and current CBS Sports analyst Khalid El-Amin. El-Amin breaks down his thoughts on the college hoops season to date, before discussing his time as a player. He recalls playing AAU ball with Lamar Odom and Rip Hamilton, his controversial decision to attend to UConn, and winning the national title back in 1999.

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.


An Opposing Coach Gives a Scouting Report on How to Beat Kansas

It’s late January and you know what that means: A John Calipari-coached team is starting to turn a corner. Crazy, I know. Yet along with Tom Brady and the Patriots making the Super Bowl, it really is the most predictable thing we see this time of year. You can basically set your watch to it.

Still, for as good as Kentucky has played over the last three weeks (and they’ve been phenomenal), the Wildcats will once again face a tough test when they welcome the ninth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks to town on Saturday. At 16-3 overall and 4-2 in their last six games, this isn’t a vintage Kansas team destined for a No. 1 seed and deep NCAA Tournament run. But it is still a truly good squad capable of coming into Rupp Arena and getting a win if Kentucky isn’t ready to go on Saturday (which honestly shouldn’t be an issue).

So what will it take to beat Kansas on Saturday? Well, I’m glad you asked. For the last two big games on Kentucky’s schedule (North Carolina and Auburn), I’ve called up an opposing coach who has faced Kentucky’s opponent, and had them give a scouting report on what the Wildcats can expect when they take the court. And since it worked out so well (Kentucky is 2-0 in those games) and it’s clear that John Calipari is in fact reading them and hanging on my every word (I’m kidding… I think) I decided to do it again.

Here is a scouting report an anonymous Division 1 coach gave us on how to beat Kansas:

Kentucky got lucky at the point that they caught Kansas in the schedule

They say that sometimes “it’s better to be lucky than good” and that’s certainly the case with Kentucky coming into this game. That’s because the Jayhawks enter this game without 7’1 center Udoka Azibuke and it has completely changed Kansas’ season.

Had Kentucky played Kansas in November, this matchup would have a completely different feel than it does now. Instead, the Wildcats welcome in an opponent that has had to completely change everything they do – especially on offense – since Azibuke, who was averaging 13 points and seven rebounds per game, went down.

“X’s and O’s wise, [Bill] Self has always gone high-low with trying to feed that post,” the coach said. “And now without Azibuke, that changes things for them.”

This coach happened to play the Jayhawks prior to Azibuke’s injury, at a time that the Jayhawks were at full-strength and as he mentioned, they are a totally different team without him.

With Azibuke in the lineup Kansas could go high-low with fellow forward Dedric Lawson (Kansas’ best player) feeding Azibuke in the post. It also left the opposing team in a tough place defensively. If they tried to play Azibuke one-on-one, he almost always had the size (at 7’1, 270 lbs.) to overpower his man. If they tried to double-team him, it created open opportunities for Kansas’s three-point shooters.

Now without him gone, it has completely changed their team. Which leads us to…

Dedric Lawson has emerged into an All-American – the question is, who else is behind him?

With Azibuke out it has led to shifting minutes and roles. It has also led to the emergence of junior forward Dedric Lawson as the team’s unquestioned leader and best player. The Memphis transfer (who Tubby Smith just let walk out the door) has emerged into a legitimate first-team, All-American type player, averaging just under 20 points and 11 rebounds per game. He is coming off a dominant, 29-point, 15-rebound effort against Iowa State the other night.

“He’s multi-skilled, [has] legit size, great body control,” the coach said. “He is a multi-dimensional, hybrid forward. He is a problem.”

So now the question of course is, how do you slow Lawson down?

Ironically, the coach believes that by asking that question, you’re actually taking the wrong approach. With Azibuke out of the lineup he believes that getting a big game from Lawson isn’t the problem.

It’s making sure no one else behind him has one.

“The thing that we would do there in all likelihood is, ‘let’s make sure no one else beats us,’” the coach said. “We’d say, ‘let him get his 29 but we can’t have [LaGerald] Vick make five threes. We can’t make [Quentin] Grimes into a great player.’ We would guard him to try and keep him under control but not allow other guys to beat us.”

It’s an interesting strategy, which brings us to maybe the most interesting thing about Kansas this year…

They’re a terrible three-point shooting team

This is not an exaggeration. The Jayhawks are miserable from behind the three-point line.

Now yes, part of this is Azibuke’s absence and the fact that when he was on the floor, it created open space for everyone else along the perimeter. But part of this is also the fact that some guys on Kansas just haven’t played up to their potential. McDonald’s All-American Quentin Grimes – a known three-point shooter and all-around elite scorer – is averaging just eight points per game on 31 percent shooting. Transfer Charlie Moore is averaging just three points per game in a Kansas uniform. He averaged 12 points per game at Cal two seasons ago.

And their struggles have especially impacted the Jayhawks from behind the three-point line.

Put simply, there is no Svi Mykhailiuk or Malik Newman walking through that door, and the result is that Kansas is a miserable three-point shooting team in 2019. They are currently hitting just 35 percent from behind the arc, a low number when you consider that they’ve hit over 40 percent in each of the last four seasons. And if you take out one player, LaGerald Vick, they are shooting just 30 percent as a team.

Woof.

And that’s also why a big part of this game simply comes down to whether Kentucky can continue to defend the three-point line the way that they have over the last few games. To the Wildcats’ credit they have play great perimeter defense in the last two weeks, limiting Vanderbilt, Georgia, Auburn and Mississippi State to just 26 percent shooting from three.

Can they do the same to Kansas: It could be the difference between a win and a loss.

“If they let [Kansas] get in 12, 13 made threes, Kentucky might be in trouble,” the coach said. “But if they hold them to seven threes, two of which [Dedric] Lawson makes, Kentucky will be in good shape.”

Which brings us to another important point…

Kentucky can’t let LaGerald Vick get hot

Outside of Azibuke, there was one player who came up more than any other during the conversation with the coach: Senior guard LaGerald Vick.

“I really think Vick is such an X-factor for them,” the coach said.

And with good reason.

That’s because as mentioned up top, Vick is the Jayhawks best three-point shooter, making 45 percent of his three-point attempts. What’s wild though is that Vick isn’t necessarily their most consistent threat, as he’s prone to wild hot and cold streaks.

On the positive side (for Kansas anyway), Vick has hit five or more three-pointers in six different games this season, including a staggering 8 for 8 performance from downtown against Vermont and a 7 for 11 three-point barrage against Stanford. On the flip side, he has hit two three-pointers or less in 10 of Kansas’s games with three separate zero three-point performances.

In other words, Kentucky can’t let Vick get on those old-school, NBA Jam “Heeeeeeee’s on fiiiiiiiire” three-point barrages. If they can limit Vick, it increases the likelihood that they win this game exponentially.

Furthermore…

If you can create pressure on the Kansas backcourt, chances are they will make mistakes

Perimeter defense is going to be a key in this game, not just because Kansas struggles to shoot the three-point shot (barring the random, Vick-led explosion) but also because there is just so much youth in the backcourt.

While it’s no one player’s fault in particular, the bottom-line is that the Jayhawks lost Devonte Graham, Mykhailiuk and Newman from their backcourt last season, a group that included two fourth-year seniors and a third-year sophomore.

Although the new guys are playing well, they simply can’t live up to the expectation-level created by the guys they replaced.

“Devon Dodson, he’s nowhere near Devonte Graham, Frank Mason,” the coach said.

And it shows when they take the court.

While Dodson is averaging a respectable 10 points, three assists and 1.5 steals per game (not bad at all for a freshman), he is also averaging nearly 2.5 turnovers per game as well. Lawson – who is asked at times to create offense on the perimeter – is averaging over two turnovers per game as well, and the same with Vick. Grimes is averaging 1.9 turnovers per game, but is also playing fewer minutes (about 25 per game) than expected.

Point being, if you can create pressure on the perimeter, chances are pretty good that Kansas will turn the ball over.

Ashton Hagans and Keldon Johnson, are you listening?

Finally, try to get the Jayhawks into foul trouble and get Kansas into their bench

Of all the strange things with Kansas this season, maybe the most perplexing (outside of Grimes’ inability to shoot the three-point shot) is that their bench isn’t nearly as deep as once anticipated. Coming into the season, there was a narrative that this was the deepest team Self has had in years, with some saying “Kansas’ second team could be a Top 25 team.”

Unfortunately for Kansas fans (and fortunate for their opponents) that narrative simply hasn’t held up. As a matter of fact, when looking at Kansas’s most recent games, it’s jarring how little they use their bench.

In Monday’s win over Iowa State, Lawson, Dodson, Vick and Marcus Garrett all played 37+ minutes, with only one player – the previously unused Ochai Agbaji – getting a few minutes off the bench.

Incredibly, David McCormack (a McDonald’s All-American from last season), Moore (the Cal transfer who averaged double-figures two seasons ago) and Mitch Lightfoot, a junior and former Top 100 recruit combined for four minutes total on Monday night.

“If you look at [Monday] night’s box score,” the coach said, “Charlie Moore, Quentin Grimes and David McCormack basically had all zeros last night.”

He continued.

“[At this point] They’re so dependent now Dedric Lawson bringing it every night.”

It seems so.

And it seems like if Kentucky can control the three-point line and make sure Lawson doesn’t go crazy, they can win this game.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 116: Tennessee-Vanderbilt Controversy + Man, Indiana Stinks

Welcome into your regular mid-week edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, as Aaron breaks down the biggest topics in college hoops — and boy were there some big ones this week. Aaron hits on two big things, before sharing his midseason All-American team.

A rundown of today’s show:

Why the refs DID NOT cost Vandy a win against Tennessee: Aaron opens up by talking about the big story from Wednesday in college hoops: Tennessee’s controversial win over Vanderbilt. Aaron explains why the refs did NOT cost Vandy the win, and why the Commodores have no one to blame but themselves.

Indiana’s Awful: Next Aaron turns his attention to Indiana. The Hoosiers have now lost five in a row, and Aaron is blunt in his assessment: He is not sure what Indiana does well and is not sure if there is a fix. Even with Romeo Langford, are the Hoosiers an NIT type team? Do they have a chance at turning things around?

Aaron’s Midseason All-American list: Finally, Aaron goes through his mid-season All-Americans. He explains why he’s made a few changes over the last week, and added two names he’s previously left off. He also explains why Zion Williamson is NOT his National Player of the Year at this point in the 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.


Why Tomorrow’s Mississippi State Game is the Most Important of Kentucky’s Season

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

The rollercoaster that is the 2018-2019 Kentucky Wildcats season took another wild spin this weekend, when the Wildcats picked up a massive road win at Auburn on Saturday night.

The victory was everything that any Kentucky fan could have hoped for when the season began. Ashton Hagans was the fiery (and at times, potty-mouthed) leader that this team needs. Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson made clutch shot after clutch shot, and PJ Washington did all the little things needed down low to help the team win. Most importantly, Kentucky was a team that showed no fear. Auburn didn’t get back in the game because of some Kentucky meltdown, but instead because they are a big-time team that made big-time plays. But to Kentucky’s credit, every time the Tigers threw a punch, the Wildcats took it on the chin. Then they threw their own counterpunch until they knocked Auburn out for good and emerged with a massive victory.

Ultimately that was a gutty performance, and one that showed just how far this team has come. It also showed that when this club is locked in, there really aren’t any teams in college basketball they should fear. Kentucky already has a resume that includes wins at Auburn, at Louisville and against UNC on a neutral court, and by the way, that early win against UNC-Greensboro is better than most realize (Greensboro is currently sitting at 17-3 overall this season and in second place in their league standings). And with games this week against two more ranked foes, Mississippi State and Kansas, it isn’t inconceivable that the Wildcats could look up at this time next week and have just about the best resume in all of college basketball. Seriously, wins against Mississippi State and Kansas to go along with at Auburn, at Louisville and North Carolina would give the Wildcats just about the best resume in college hoops.

Of course to get that resume, they need to win both of those games.

And that my friends, brings me to the point of this article: To me, the Mississippi State game tomorrow night at Rupp Arena might just go down as the most important regular season game the Wildcats play all season long. That game will show us “who” this team. And what their ceiling truly is.

Now before we go further, I already know what some of you are thinking: “Torres, you so crazy!” Mississippi State isn’t even close to the biggest game on Kentucky’s schedule. The Wildcats have already played Duke, UNC and Louisville. They still have Kansas and two games left with Tennessee. How in the world is Mississippi State more important than those?

Well, the answer is simple really. No, Mississippi State isn’t Duke, UNC or Louisville. They certainly aren’t Tennessee or Kansas either. But what they are, is a good, veteran team that isn’t afraid to come into Rupp Arena and won’t be afraid of the “Kentucky” across the front of the Wildcats jerseys. The Bulldogs are a veteran, battle-tested team, with a senior point guard and four starters who are juniors or seniors. More importantly, at just 2-2 in the SEC with a gauntlet of games ahead, they absolutely have to win this game.

And to me, that’s why this game is so important for Kentucky, and why it will teach us so much about this team’s psyche and makeup: Will the Wildcats come out tough and hungry to pick up a win? Or coming off a massive road victory, will they come out with a sense of accomplishment and be too busy looking ahead to the weekend game against Kansas? Because I’ll tell you this: If Kentucky doesn’t come out focused tomorrow night, Mississippi State is good enough to pull off the upset.

That’s also why this game carries so much weight for the rest of the season. It isn’t about any one individual game, but instead, showing what the identity of this team is.

The bottom line is at this point, we already know Kentucky is a big game team. In their last three major games, against major teams, in major hostile environments, the Wildcats proved to be fearless. Wins at Louisville and Auburn are no joke, nor is a victory over North Carolina in Chicago. As we’ve learned, when the lights are bright, Kentucky comes out ready to go.

On the flip side, what we’ve also seen is that when it isn’t a major game and when the opponent isn’t quite so marquee, the Wildcats can also come out a little… meh. Remember, for all the excitement about the win at Auburn, this is also a team which fell behind 10-0 to Texas A&M before rallying back to win. This is the same team that fell behind to Vanderbilt as well. The Wildcats are also the same team that came out completely flat at Alabama and lost. Again, Mississippi State is not the kind of team you want to come out flat against, or fall behind by 10 or 12 points to. Do that and you will walk out of the arena with a loss.

And by the way, that doesn’t just go for Mississippi State, but just about everyone in the SEC. Sure, the focus right now is on Tennessee at the top of the standings. But make no mistake, there are plenty of others who will hand you a loss if you don’t come out ready to go, whether it’s LSU or Ole Miss, Florida, LSU, you name it. It also means that just as quickly as the good vibes of a win over Auburn or North Carolina can come, they can go with a two or a three game-losing streak. This Kentucky team is really good. But they aren’t invincible.

So who are the 2018-2019 Kentucky Wildcats?

A group who gets up for big games but can look past the lesser opponents?

Or a group full of dogs, who come out focused and ready to do whatever it takes to win every single time they take the court?

We’ll begin to find out on Tuesday night against Mississippi State.

(By the way, we spoke quite a bit about the Auburn game and what lies ahead for Kentucky on Monday’s Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Click here to download today’s episode, and go back and listen to Episode 104 when Mississippi State coach Ben Howland joined the show)


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 115: A Wild NFL Championship Sunday and College Basketball Saturday

We have ourselves one heck of an Aaron Torres Sports Podcast on Monday. Aaron and Nick are back, with a twist. The guys recorded just minutes after the end of the AFC Championship game, so whether you want it or not, you’re going to get some NFL talk in addition to all the college hoops that went down over the weekend. Highlights:
A quick look back at a wild Sunday in football: The guys couldn’t help but talk about an insane day of football before getting to hoops. Why, love or hate the Patriots you’ve got to respect Tom Brady after Sunday night’s wild comeback win. And, who is more hateable — Tom Brady or Bill Belichick? Also, why Aaron doesn’t blame the refs for the Saints loss to the Rams in the early game.
Now to the college hoops: The guys recap a wild weekend of college hoops. Why Kentucky’s win against Auburn was more impressive than most people realize — and just how high is the Wildcats ceiling going forward? Did we actually learn anything about Duke and Virginia following their game and is Virginia really any better-positioned to make the Final Four this year than in previous years? Also, is the honeymoon officially over for Archie Miller after a fourth straight loss for Indiana?

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.


An Opposing Coach Gives a Scouting Report on How to Beat Auburn

© Justin Ford | USATSI

While it’s probably a bit too early to say that the Kentucky Wildcats have “turned a corner,” there have been a lot of positive signs during their current three-game win streak. The Wildcats have ramped it up on defense allowing just 48 points per game over the last two, and Ashton Hagans is quickly emerging into the “next great John Calipari point guard.” It’s only mid-January and Kentucky is far from a complete team. But again, there are plenty of signs this group is headed in the right direction.

Still, we’ll find out just how far Kentucky has to go over the next eight days, with a brutal three-game stretch which includes three ranked teams. Kentucky will travel to Auburn this weekend, before facing Mississippi State and Kansas at home next week. There is no “magic number” on what their record needs to be over that stretch. But if they’re to be taken seriously as a team that can make a run to the Final Four, they probably need to win two out of three to feel good. If they win all three, it’s inarguable that Kentucky has arrived as a legit contender.

Ultimately though you can’t win all three unless you win the first one, which makes this weekend’s game at Auburn so crucial. To beat a Top 15 team on the road gives the Wildcats a resume boosting win they can carry all season. Add it in with wins that Kentucky already has at Louisville and against North Carolina on a neutral court and all of a sudden you’re talking about a nice little resume for the Wildcats.

So with that said, what will it take to beat the Tigers? Well, I’m glad you asked, as I decided to reach out to a coach who has faced Auburn this season to get a scouting report on them. Remember, I did this before the North Carolina game and, I hate to brag, but it seems pretty obvious that the Wildcats staff read my article. You know, since they dominated the Tar Heels from start to finish after all.

Can I go 2-for-2 and take Kentucky’s season to another level (Yes, I’m kidding)? We’ll find out, as here is what one anonymous coach who has faced Auburn this season said about the Tigers.

Ashton Hagans and Keldon Johnson will play a massive role on Saturday – but it will come on the defensive end

Hagans had a breakout game offensively in his return to Georgia Tuesday (where I’m not sure if you heard, but the home fans booed him) and Johnson is the team’s best long-term NBA prospect.

But while each has the ability to light up the opponent defensively, the key for Kentucky might be what Hagans and Johnson do on the other end of the court. Slowing down Auburn’s guards is key to success against the Tigers.

“What they really do, especially at home is they make so many transition three’s,” the coach said.
“They start hitting those transition threes and it ramps up their defensive energy and they just go on these runs, man. You’ll be in the game with them and then you’ll be down 20 because they went on a 12-0 run and made four threes. It’s amazing.”

While it’s impossible to know just how many of Auburn’s threes have come in transition, what is indisputable is that the Tigers are one of the best shooting teams in college basketball. Auburn is making just under 11 three-pointers per game, which is sixth most in the country and are doing it while shooting 36 percent as a team. Although that percentage isn’t through the roof, it’s pretty darn good when you realize just how many three’s they’ve actually attempted. Overall, five different players have hit at least 17 three’s this season for Auburn (in comparison, Kentucky has just two guys who have hit that mark, Johnson and Tyler Herro) with Bryce Brown and Jared Harper combining for 92.

For what Auburn does, the coach believes Harper is the best point guard in the country (“If I’m taking any point guard in the country, I’m taking him,” the coach said) and therefore it’s key that Hagans picks him up just as soon as he touches the ball.

Equally important is who picks up Brown, and where. That responsibility will likely fall on Johnson at least to start the game.

“To me, you’ve almost got to designate someone to find Bryce Brown in transition,” he said. “You’ve got to find Brown because if you watch the film, he’s so good at running and catching hit aheads in space.  And his range is unlimited.”

But it’s not just the guards who hit threes

While Brown and Harper key the offensive attack, what makes Auburn so deadly is that – depending on the lineup – just about anyone on the court can beat you with the deep ball.

The Tigers are the rare team that has big guys that can run the floor and hit three’s, meaning that picking up the big guys in transition isn’t just about the guards – but the post players as well.

“[Anfernee] McLemore can step out and hit threes,” the coach said. “Obviously [Chuma] Okeke can step out and hit threes. Horace Spencer isn’t a great shooter but he can step out and make some.”

The numbers back up the coach.

On the season, Okeke, a 6’8 forward has tallied 17 made three-pointers and McLemore – who is battling back from a season-ending injury from last year – has made seven. He made 18 last season while shooting 39 percent from behind the arc.

So Okeke and McLemore are the big guys who can really hurt Kentucky. Which is also why they better pray…

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Why It’s Idiotic To Tell Zion Williamson to “Shut It Down” For the Season

Why It’s Idiotic To Tell Zion Williamson to “Shut It Down” For the Season

One of the frustrating things about covering college sports is that we spend way too much time arguing about stupid debates that never have a clear-cut solution. Should college athletes be paid a salary? Is it time to expand the College Football Playoff to eight teams? How the hell did Tom Crean get himself another good job so quickly?

Ok, that last one isn’t really a big-time debate, but the rest are, and the latest debate that we can’t seem to escape is the one about players sitting out games to protect their health and draft stock. We’ve seen it across college football these last few years, where plenty of guys have elected to skip meaningless bowl games to protect their health (Of course what no one talks about is the number of guys who do elect to play in meaningless bowl games. You know, like Kentucky’s Josh Allen, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and LSU’s Devin White. Just as an example).

And now apparently we’re seeing the debate extend to college basketball too.

That’s because on Wednesday, Scottie Pippen dropped an all-time awful take when he said that Zion Williamson should sit out the rest of the college basketball season to protect himself. Here’s what Pippen said:

“I think he’s locked up the biggest shoe deal, I think he’s definitely going to be the No. 1 pick, I think he’s done enough for college basketball that it’s more about him personally. I think for him as a young player, I would shut it down. I would stop playing because I feel he could risk a major injury that could really hurt his career.”

https://twitter.com/Rachel__Nichols/status/1085590673510653952?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1085590673510653952&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cbssports.com%2Fcollege-basketball%2Fnews%2Fscottie-pippen-thinks-dukes-zion-williamson-should-shut-it-down-and-prepare-for-draft%2F

This take is so dumb, for so many reasons that I’m going to get to here in a moment.

But before I do that, let me say one thing: I really hate this crap. I really hate when adults (especially those who don’t cover college sports) project themselves onto kids that they’ve never met, and act like they know what is best for them. The bottom-line is that Zion Williamson has two more months and about 20 games of college basketball where he can enjoy being a kid. Then he will be thrust into a grown man’s world in the NBA where there are contract demands to meet and sponsors to please. And because of it, I wish Pippen and all the other “experts” who think they know what’s best for Williamson would just leave him alone and let Zion enjoy these final few moments of being a kid.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to all the reasons why Pippen’s take is idiotic. To use the famous quote, “Let me count the ways.” And believe me, there are many.

For starters, the number one thing that drives me crazy about this “injury debate” is that there actually is no “debate” at all. The bottom line is that I’ve been watching college basketball for well over 20 years now, and unless I’m forgetting something, I literally can’t remember one instance of a player suffering a career-ending injury in college. There have been nicks and bumps and injuries that have cost players a game, or the remainder of a season, but never their entire career.

I’ll go ahead and avoid going into each gruesome injury one by one, but I feel pretty confident saying this: There isn’t a single injury that Zion Williamson could suffer on the basketball court that would end his career. Not one. This isn’t 1968. It’s 2019. Modern medicine is too good. So let’s stop with the “injury risk.” There is no real risk at all.

As a matter of fact, I’ll take it a step further: Not only is there not an injury that Zion can suffer that will end his NBA career, I also don’t think there is a single injury that could even hurt his draft stock. Even if, God forbid something bad happened to him on the court (and again, I’m not going to get into particulars) I see absolutely zero scenario where he would fall beyond the second pick in the draft. None.

Sound crazy? Let’s back it up with a little thing I like to call “facts.”

And those facts are this: Does anyone remember what happened during the 2013 college basketball season? When Nerlens Noel went down with a season-ending ACL injury. It was an injury which in 1968 would have cost Noel is his career, but thankfully was easily fixable 50 years later. It was such a non-issue as a matter of fact, that despite Noel missing the end of his college season and the risk that he wouldn’t be ready for his rookie year, he still went No. 6 overall in the NBA Draft. A major injury literally had no impact on his draft stock at all. Same thing a year later with Joel Embiid. He missed all of the Big 12 Tournament for Kansas and their two NCAA Tournament games that year too. By the time the draft rolled around it was clear that he would miss his rookie year as well. And he still went No. 3 overall. And some people still thought at that time it was too low.

So again, the narrative that Zion could suffer an injury that could cost him his career just isn’t accurate. Even if something bad were to happen (and again, we’re all praying it doesn’t), he has too much talent and too much marketability go any worse than No. 2 in the draft. And that’s only if some team is head over heels in love with R.J. Barrett.

Now, beyond just the fake “injury debate” that doesn’t exist, let’s also consider another thing that Pippen seemed to miss on. I’m going to assume that part of his “Hey, Zion should shut it down” hot take comes from seeing all those football players sit out bowl games.

Except here’s the thing: Let’s never forget that while we’ve had plenty of guys sit out meaningless bowl games, we still haven’t had a single player sit out of a College Football Playoff game. So you’re telling me that football players, with less market value and greater risk of injury, are willing to play for a championship, but Zion shouldn’t be? Get the hell out of here.

Now look, it’d be one thing if Zion had a growing list of nagging injuries or there were real concerns about his ability to stay healthy. I’d never blame him if he wanted to protect his future if that were the case.

But those things don’t exist. So asking him to sit out when his team has a shot to compete for a championship basically goes against everything that every athlete has ever been taught. I’m not trying to get on my whole “Put the team before yourself” soapbox, because I don’t buy that. I do think however it’s easy for Pippen to sit in a TV studio and say things that he doesn’t really believe. For example, Pippen has a son who just committed to Vanderbilt. Let’s say one day his son is good enough to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Assuming his son is healthy, do you really think there is any chance that Pippen would tell his kid to shut it down and get ready for the draft?

I’m sorry, but I just don’t think he would. Which makes the take even worse. It’s disingenuous and it was said to make a headline rather than because it’s what he really believed.

The good news is that by all accounts, Zion doesn’t seem like that kind of guy. He seems to genuinely enjoy playing at Duke and genuinely enjoy playing with his teammates. And I just can’t imagine any world where he decides to shut it down unless something unexpected happens.

Which makes me happy.

Not just because I enjoy watching him play. But because as I said at the top, Zion only has about 20 games and two months to enjoy being a kid, before he will be off to a grown man’s world.

And I hope he enjoys every last second of it.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 114: College Hoops with Jon Rothstein


It’s the middle of January and college hoops is in full swing, which means it’s the perfect time to download the podcast that’s sweeping America, the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast! Aaron welcomes on CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein to the show to talk all the biggest topics in the sport. But first, Aaron rides solo, hitting on a few topics the guys missed. Today’s rundown:

— Can Duke win a national title without point guard Tre Jones who went out with injury?

— Why Kentucky has a lot of positives heading into this weekend’s showdown with Auburn.

— Aaron goes after Penny Hardaway for his idiotic comments on Rick Barnes.

— Rothstein explains why Virginia might FINALLY be different this year; but different enough to make the Final Four?

— Jon explains why the Pac-12 is such a mess, and what needs to be fixed before it joins the rest of the elite conferences. Also, is UCLA headed for a disappointing hire for its new head coach? Jon thinks so.

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. 113: Louisville and Kentucky win + Tennessee does the Gator Chomp

We are officially in the heart of college hoops season and there’s no better way to take it all in than by listening to a new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Aaron is joined by his buddy Nick Coffey to talk about all the big topics from the weekend, like…
Louisville Beats North Carolina — Does it say more about the Cards or the Tar Heels, who are struggling right now?
Where’s P.J.?  Kentucky won, but P.J. Washington had another poor performance. Will Washington ever figure it out before he departs Lexington?
Gator Bait — Do they have a problem with Tennessee’s postgame Gator Chomp in Gainesville?  Nick and Aaron also talk about Duke’s wild win, why Gonzaga is just different this year and Kyler Murray’s future.

Get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.  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 SEC is Better Than Expected: Here’s What it Means for Kentucky

As we reach the midway point of the college basketball season, there have been no shortage of stunning results so far. Villanova lost to Furman. New Mexico walloped Nevada the other night. Texas Southern, coached by the immortal Johnny Jones, has beaten Baylor, Oregon and Texas A&M.

Wait… WHAT????? Yes, that actually happened. And the list goes on and on.

Yet I can genuinely say that one of the most stunning results that I’ve personally seen this season came Wednesday night when Auburn traveled to Ole Miss. The Tigers came into the game ranked No. 11 in the country and had won eight of their previous nine entering the game. They walked out with an 82-67 loss to an Ole Miss team that was picked to finish last in the SEC preseason polls. Yes, the team that was picked to finish last in the SEC standings, just kicked the #&#*%&$ out of a team that many (or at least me) thought was capable of going to the Final Four.

And as I look at that result, I realize that it might be a reflection of something I could have never seen coming, even as recently as last week. Understand, I’m the guy who just seven days ago said that the SEC had a clear Top 4 of Tennessee, Kentucky, Auburn and Mississippi State and then a big drop-off after that.

Now, one week into SEC play I can say I was definitively wrong. The SEC is way deeper than I imagined. And since this is a Kentucky fan site, it brings me to this: If Kentucky doesn’t come out focused and ready to play in just about every conference game they play, they are capable of being beaten.

Again, this isn’t something I envisioned, and to be blunt, there were reasons to doubt some of these teams just a week or two ago. Beyond the clear-cut Top 4 (Tennessee, Kentucky, Auburn, Mississippi State) everybody else looked wishy-washy at various points throughout the preseason. Some, like Alabama took bizarre losses (in their case, Northeastern and Georgia State). Others, like Ole Miss just didn’t have any good wins (outside of Baylor, nothing moved the needle). And still others were just bad. Yeah, I’m looking at you, South Carolina.

Only fast-forward to the beginning of conference play and it’s clear that the rising tide of conference play has lifted all boats. Again, the stats back me up on this. Of the 14 teams in the league, 10 have already taken at least one loss through one or two games in league play. Only three teams who have played two games have started 2-0. They include Tennessee, the preseason favorite, but also South Carolina (which was picked to finish 12th in the league) and Ole Miss (picked to finish 14th).

Yes, the teams that were picked to finish 12th and 14th are a combined 4-0 in league play. Meanwhile, three of the four teams who were ranked in this week’s AP Poll (Kentucky, Auburn and Mississippi State) have already taken at least one loss in league play.

Welcome to the SEC, where it just means more. And where no one is safe.

(By the way, one quick random side note and I’ll get back to Kentucky. But let me start by saying: Shout out to Kermit Davis and Ole Miss. Look, we all thought that the Rebels would be improved this year… but nobody thought it would be like this. Ole Miss finished last season at 12-20 overall and in last place in the SEC. They have already matched that win total and thanks to the Auburn win and now sit at 12-2 overall. I still don’t think that Ole Miss will end up in the NCAA Tournament, but if they do, just hand Kermit Davis National Coach of the Year. Because NOBODY saw this coming)

Ok, now back to Kentucky, and why I am bringing this all up: It’s because if the Wildcats take the court with the intensity they have against Alabama and early against Texas A&M (before they got right) they will be beat on most nights.

Again, it was hard to see this coming. Entering into SEC play, I really did think that outside Tennessee and maybe Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State, Kentucky could basically “out-talent” anyone in the league.

Now? Not so much.

We’ve already seen the Wildcats lose to Alabama, LSU is really good and all of a sudden, Ole Miss is no pushover. Missouri played Tennessee tough at home the other day, and Kentucky will have to travel to Columbia to face the Tigers on the road. Florida is one of the top defensive teams in college basketball (not the SEC, college basketball) and Kentucky will play them twice, which is no easy feat. The Wildcats will also play Tennessee, Auburn and Mississippi State twice as well, a sign that maybe the SEC office cares more about making marquee TV matchups than what’s best for its leagues teams (seriously, sticking Kentucky in home-and-homes with the league’s three top teams including non-traditional rivals will almost certainly only hurt the Wildcats and their seeding come March).

It also means that Kentucky needs to bring their best game every night, because realistically there don’t appear to be a ton of wins if the Wildcats don’t show up ready to go. Here are the teams that are just plain bad in the SEC: Texas A&M (who Kentucky has already played for the only time this season, Vanderbilt (who Kentucky plays this weekend. They then travel to Memorial Gym later in the year), Georgia (the Wildcats travel to Athens next week) and maybe Arkansas. That’s really it. And I’m not even totally sure Arkansas is bad at that point.

So that’s basically five games that should be no-doubt-about-it, roll-out-the-ball-and-do-your-thing wins. Every other game will likely be an absolute dog fight.

On a positive note, the schedule does open favorably for UK. Of those five seemingly winnable games, three will come in the first four games of SEC play. Kentucky should take care of Vanderbilt and Georgia in the next two days, and should enter Auburn at 3-1 in league play next Saturday.

But after that…. Man do things get hard, and they don’t really get any easier at any point going forward.

The good news is that I still believe Kentucky is talented enough to beat anyone left on the schedule (yes, even Tennessee).

But they also better buckle their chinstraps, because if they’re serious about winning an SEC title, the road won’t be easy.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 111: College Football Championship + College Hoops Recap

Just as college football winds down, college hoops is heating up.  It’s the perfect time for a new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast! Aaron is first joined by Nick Coffey to talk Monday night’s title game, before he rides solo to talk Kentucky, Tennessee and all the big college hoops topics. Here’s what you need to know about today’s show:
A recap of the College Football National Championship: Yes, the game is now 24 hours old, but it’s never too late to talk about Clemson’s stunning win against Alabama on Monday night. Aaron explains why this was a once-in-a-generation team at Clemson, and why no one should be surprised by Monday’s result. Also, is Trevor Lawrence the best college QB prospect they’ve ever seen? And Aaron explains why it’s idiotic to say Alabama’s dynasty is “dead.”
College Hoops Recap After a Big Tuesday: Next, Aaron recaps all the big storylines in college hoops from Tuesday night. He discusses Kentucky’s win, what the biggest positives were and the one, big negative that NEEDS to get figured out. Aaron also explains why Tennessee proved that they’re the best team in college basketball Tuesday night. And finally, do both NC State and UNC have positives to take out of the Tar Heels win in Raleigh on Tuesday night?

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.