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Aaron Torres’ Take

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

A Crazy College Basketball Weekend: A look at the rest of the weekend includes why 2019 might be one of John Calipari’s best coaching jobs yet, the incredible story of Texas Tech’s rise to Big 12 champ under Chris Beard and Sean Miller’s bizarre comments following Arizona’s season finale on Saturday. Did Miller’s speech hint that he expects to be gone this off-season?

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

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

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

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

Here is Everything We Know About the LSU Report Right Now

Getty Images

Since the day the first reports came out over a year ago about the FBI’s investigation into college basketball, we’ve been waiting for the bombshells that would tear apart the sport. Yet outside of Rick Pitino’s firing, a few assistants losing their jobs, and some text messages that Bill Self sent to an Adidas bag man that no one besides me seems to care about, it’s been a relatively bombshell-less few months as this has all played out.

But finally it seems as though we might be getting somewhere in this investigation. A few weeks ago we found out that both LSU head coach Will Wade and Arizona coach Sean Miller could be subpoenaed to appear in trial in April.

And then today, even bigger news: Yahoo Sports released a transcript of a conversation that Wade had with Christian Dawkins (the man at the center of the whole investigation) that was caught on wiretap, where he is caught allegedly discussing a “hell of an offer” to a player, who appears to be freshman guard Javonte Smart.

This could be potentially damning news for LSU as it pursues an SEC regular season title and No. 1 seed in Nashville come next week, and completely shake up the college basketball world as we know it.

Details are scarce right now, but here is what you need to know, and what could happen (or not happen) to LSU going forward:

(Also, the Will Wade/LSU news broke right before we taped the newest Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. To hear live, in the moment reaction, click here to download today’s show)

What are the nuts and bolts of the story:

Put simply, Wade is caught on a wiretap talking to Christian Dawkins (a runner for a sports agent) about a player. Wade is frustrated because he thought that he had a deal done – a “hell of an offer” as he described it – for the player. But now there is a hiccup and it’s not getting done.

That hiccup was apparently this: Wade made the offer to a third-party guy, with some of the “offer” intended to go to the player and his family, and some of it going to the third-party guy. Wade believes that the problem is simple. Too much of the “offer” was intended for the player and his family. And now the third-party guy is upset he isn’t getting enough of the cut.

Here is what he says, per Yahoo:

“The problem was, I know why he didn’t take it now, it was [expletive] tilted toward the family a little bit,” Wade continued. “It was tilted toward taking care of the mom, taking care of the kid. Like it was tilted towards that. Now I know for a fact he didn’t explain everything to the mom. I know now, he didn’t get enough of the piece of the pie in the deal.”

The “piece of the pie” is obviously whatever was being offered, and the “he” is the third party.

Who is the player involved:

While Wade doesn’t reference any player by name, he calls the whole situation the “Smart Thing,” which would lead most to assume that the alleged player is freshman guard Javonte Smart. Smart is a former Top 50 recruit, who is currently balling the heck out for LSU. He is averaging 18 points per game since getting moved into the lineup after Tremont Waters went down with an injury a few weeks back. That included a 29-point performance against Tennessee two weeks ago.

Here is what Wade said, again, per Yahoo:

“I was thinking last night on this Smart thing,” Wade said. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m [expletive] tired of dealing with the thing. Like I’m just [expletive] sick of dealing with the [expletive]. Like, this should not be that [expletive] complicated.”

Again, while we have no proof that it is definitively Smart. But the dates in the piece do line up with Smart’s recruitment.

Per Yahoo, Wade called Christian Dawkins four times between June 19th and June 30th in 2017.

Smart committed to the Tigers on June 30th of 2017.

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

What was offered?

That’s where it gets interesting – and what actually might be Wade’s saving grace… for now. There are no specifics about what the offer might be.

While we can all assume that Wade’s description of the deal being “A hell of an offer” isn’t code for room, board and tuition, there is nothing explicit that discusses money, housing or anything that constitutes a violation of NCAA rules.

Which leads us to…

What is the next step? And what do we ACTUALLY know?

It’s honestly hard to know.

On the one hand, this is a really, really, REALLY bad look for Wade. You don’t need to be one of the Hardy Boys to figure out that something wasn’t on the up-and-up here. Heck, you could have probably made those assumptions before today, when LSU signed the No. 3 recruiting class in the country last year, led by a star player from New Jersey (Naz Reid). This after they signed the top player in Connecticut (Tremont Waters) a year before. I’m not accusing anyone of anything. But admittedly that does, umm, look interesting to say the least.

At the same time, what do we actually know?

We hear Wade talking about an “offer” but there is no clarification on what is involved. We assume it’s money and extra benefits, but there is no proof.

Heck, we’re not even sure if when Wade says “The Smart thing,” that he is talking about Javonte Smart.

So what will the NCAA do?

When NCAA President Mark Emmert put together the Condoleezza Rice Commission on college basketball, the NCAA rulebook was altered for this exact situation. Under the old rules, even if an allegation came out in the media or in public records (like FBI wiretaps) the NCAA had to do its own investigation. Now, the NCAA can use those public records and enforce a punishment without their own investigation. It’s why Silvio De Sousa is in the midst of a two-year NCAA ban at Kansas (while Bill Self somehow keeps coaching. But that is neither here nor there).

Yet at the same time, what we got today wasn’t something that came out in trial. It is a report from Yahoo, on what they’ve been told happened.

My guess is that Yahoo has actually heard the wiretaps and that they do exist – otherwise I don’t think they would report this. But until they get played at trial, I’m not sure the NCAA can do much.

Plus, it’s not like all the media reports that have come out about this case have been air-tight. Never forget, ESPN came out with a report last year that Sean Miller was caught on a wiretap setting up a payment to DeAndre Ayton. A report that was later proven to be 100 percent false.

Point being, I’m not sure what the NCAA does.

What about LSU?

My guess is that LSU says “We’ll continue to investigate this” and nothing happens with Smart or Wade. At least not Wade. At least not right now.

At this point, what can they really do?

All they have is a report, that claims Wade was caught on wiretap setting up a deal.

But again, we’re not sure what the deal was for, or who it was intended for. And we haven’t heard the actual tape. It is in fact just a report.

If anything, I think it’s more likely that Javonte Smart has to sit out while LSU “investigates” the situation, but I’m not sure LSU can even do that. What proof do they really have that Wade was talking about Smart?

Still, while Smart is probably 50/50 on whether he continues to play, expect Will Wade will keep coaching until the end of the season, which leads me to…

Wade is set to appear in court in late April

And it’s at that point that we should know exactly what will happen. It’s also very likely that is when Wade will lose his job.

Remember, if Wade does get called to the witness stand he will be put under oath. And when he goes under oath he has no choice but to tell the truth. If he doesn’t, that’s called “perjury.” And perjury carries jail time if you’re guilty.

And depending on what Wade says under oath, that might be when LSU ends up firing him.

Right now, there is no reason to fire him because they don’t have proof he broke the rules. In other words, they don’t have “cause” which means that if he was fired, he’d have to be paid his full buyout.

Wait until he gets busted breaking NCAA rules on the witness stand, and that will be the time to get rid of him.

A couple random thoughts, starting with: What was Will Wade thinking?

No, I’m not mad at him for breaking rules. But if Rick Pitino taught us anything, it’s that the head coach can never get caught making the deal himself. Heck, how many assistants have fallen on the sword for Pitino, who to date, has not been found guilty of committing an NCAA violation himself?

Yes, we know Pitino is dirtier than a rest stop toilet (sorry for the graphic detail), but give the man credit for this: He is smart enough to make sure his name can’t be directly tied to anything.

And he’ll probably get another college basketball coaching job because of it.

A quick thought on cheating in college sports

Another thing that caught my attention in this story was that Wade references specifically that it was a “hell of a deal” in part because the player (likely Smart) was going to be a 2-3 year college player.

“It was a [expletive] hell of a [expletive] offer,” Wade continued. “Hell of an offer.”

“Especially for a kid who is going to be a two- or three-year kid,” Wade said.

And with that quote, it made me think of something: The three players who were most caught up in this “Pay for Play” deal were Brian Bowen, Silvio De Sousa at Kansas and now, allegedly Javonte Smart. None of them was a one-and-done college player.

I only bring that up because of this: I know that this isn’t the time or place to argue about paying college players, or removing the one-and-done rule.

But at the same time, if we think that letting the top players go straight to the pros out of high school will eliminate cheating in college basketball, think again. Remember, Bowen, De Sousa and Smart weren’t even the elite players in their respective classes. There’s no telling what other talent went for.

And what people will continue to be willing to pay for elite players.

What was the great irony of this whole story?

Want to know what the craziest thing was about this story to me? Reading it, it seems pretty clear that Christian Dawkins had nothing to do with Javonte Smart’s recruitment. It was simply Wade calling up a buddy to vent to him, no different than how you would call a friend when something wasn’t going right for you at work.

That leads to…

Has LSU’s luck finally run out?

The Tigers got an advantageous call to seal a win at Rupp Arena, and a couple of questionable calls to win the Tennessee game. Both Wildcats and Vols fans have called LSU “lucky” throughout the season.

It looks as though Wade and LSU’s luck might have finally run out.

An Updated Look at the No. 1 Seed Picture After This Week’s Games

An Updated Look at the No. 1 Seed Picture After This Week’s Games

It’s March, and I’m a nice guy, and because I’m a nice guy, and because it’s March, I decided that it is time for the latest installment of “The Race for the No. 1 seeds.”

For you astute readers, over the last few weeks I’ve kept you updated on which teams are in position to get those No. 1’s, and what it will take for each team to secure a spot on the top line. And as we head into the final weekend of the regular season, it only seems appropriate we update that picture.

Here is what I wrote last week on the subject, and at this point, it doesn’t feel like a ton of explanation is needed. Right now I believe that one team has firmly clinched a No. 1 seed and one team is reeeeeeeeeeally close, leaving six schools battling for the final two spots.

Let’s take a look at the No. 1 seed race.

Before we get there, a quick reminder:

First, a few simple parameters before we get started

One, when I reference “Quad 1” and “Quad 2” wins and losses below, those are all according to the NCAA’s new “NET” rankings which will help put together the field of 68 and seed those teams. Games, wins and losses are broken up into “Quads” with the biggest games, against the best teams falling into “Quad 1” and so on so forth. The worst wins, against the worst teams in college basketball, fall into “Quad 4.”

Not surprisingly, the more Quad 1 wins and fewer Quad 1 losses you have, the better your resume will look.

Here is how the Quads break down, per the NET rankings:

  • Quadrant 1: Home Game 1-30; Neutral Site 1-50; Away Game 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home Game 31-75; Neutral Site 51-100; Away Game 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home Game 76-160; Neutral Site 101-200; Away Game 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home Game 161-plus; Neutral Site 201-plus; Away Game 241-plus

Here are the overall NET rankings for those who are so inclined to dig through each individual team’s “Team Sheet.”

Now with that, let’s look at the competition for No. 1 seeds:

A No. 1 Seed Has Officially Been Locked Up

Virginia Cavaliers
Overall Record:
27-2, 13-2 in the ACC
Remaining Games: Louisville, ACC Tournament

There really is nothing else to be said: With what they’ve over the last few weeks – and entire season really – Virginia has locked up a No. 1 seed. Their resume really is staggering, as they have 10 Quad 1 wins (tied for the most in college basketball) including a wild collection of road victories that includes wins at North Carolina, at Syracuse, at Virginia Tech, at Louisville and at Maryland. Love Virginia or hate them, there really is something to be said about a team whose only two losses came against Duke, when Duke was at full-strength.

Ultimately, we’ll spend the next few weeks debating whether this is the year Virginia might actually be good enough to win the title (for the first time in forever, I actually think the answer might be “yes.”). but right now, there is no debate: Virginia will be a No. 1 seed. Even if they lose to Louisville at home this weekend and in their ACC Tournament opener (which is unlikely) they are still a lock to end up on the one-line come Selection Sunday.

Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally Close to Locking Up a No. 1 Seed

Gonzaga Bulldogs
Overall Record:
29-2, 14-0 in WCC play
Remaining Games: WCC Tournament

A week ago I fell under the camp of, “Even if Gonzaga wins out, I think there’s a chance they could get jumped by other teams on the No. 1 seed line.” But after Kentucky lost to Tennessee and Michigan State lost to Indiana, I think the possibility of Gonzaga getting jumped if they win out is next to impossible. Basically, if the Zags just win the West Coast Conference Tournament (which starts Friday and ends next Tuesday) you can go ahead and put them in pen for the No. 1 seed out West.

Now quickly, this is the part where I have to again put out the disclaimer: If you want to criticize their league, go ahead. To me, if Gonzaga wins out, they will have earned the No. 1 seed based on their wins over Duke, Washington and at Creighton, not to mention three likely wins against Saint Mary’s, which is a bubble team in its own right (assuming they play Saint Mary’s in the title game). Plus, I think there’s something to be said about a team that gets everyone’s best shot on any every night… and still kicks the crap out of them. Which is exactly what Gonzaga did this season. I don’t care how bad Gonzaga’s league is. They are a damn good team.

And independent of what your thoughts are on Gonzaga, what I can tell you is: If they win the WCC Tournament, they will be a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday.

Control Their Own Destiny

Duke Blue Devils
Overall Record:
25-4, 12-3 in the ACC
Remaining Games: at UNC, ACC Tournament

Duke is in the weird spot. And I actually both sides of the for and against “Should Duke be a No. 1 seed” argument.

On the “Duke deserves a No. 1 seed” side of the argument, their list of wins is absolutely staggering. The Blue Devils are the only team to beat Virginia – and have done it twice. They beat Texas Tech, which might win the Big 12. And they beat Kentucky, which is probably one of the five best teams in college basketball right now. And that doesn’t even include victories over second-tier tournament teams like Auburn, at Louisville, at Syracuse and at Florida State.

That is a WILD resume.

Still, we also can’t just erase what has happened the last two weeks since Zion Williamson got hurt. They are 4-2 overall, with a loss to Virginia Tech, when the Hokies were without their starting point guard (Justin Robinson). And it includes a near home loss to Wake Forest on Tuesday, the same Wake team that has lost to Houston Baptist, Richmond and Garner-Webb this season. This is clearly not the same team without Zion Williamson.

And it feels fair to ask: What if they lose at North Carolina this weekend? And what if they lose again early in the ACC Tournament, say to North Carolina again in the semifinals? That would three head-to-head losses with North Carolina, and a 5-4 record in their final nine games. Does that really sound like the resume of a No. 1 seed? Not to me.

That also doesn’t factor in another aspect: We have no idea what’s going to happen with Zion Williamson. I know that Coach K said that he expects him back for the ACC Tournament – but what if he doesn’t come back? At that point, the NCAA Selection Committee really must ask themselves: Do we really believe Zion will be back, and do we seed Duke appropriately? Or do we have to assume that Zion might not play in the NCAA Tournament?

(FYI: We spent a TON of time talking Zion Williamson conspiracy theories on the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast on Monday, and we discussed the very real possibility that Coach K is lying about Zion’s injury to protect Duke’s pursuit of a No. 1 seed. You can listen to the show by clicking here)

All of that is a long-winded way of me saying that if Duke wins at North Carolina this weekend they lock up a No. 1 seed. If they beat North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semifinals, they lock up a No. 1 seed.

But if they lose both? It’s going to put the committee in an interesting pickle come Selection Sunday.

Which brings us to…

North Carolina Tar Heels
Overall Record:
25-5 overall, 15-2 in the ACC
Quad 1 Games Remaining: Duke, ACC Tournament

Considering I just spent a ton of time talking about North Carolina’s scenarios relative to Duke’s, it feels kind of repetitive to go too deep on the Tar Heels here.

But what you need to know is this: The only way for Carolina to guarantee themselves a No. 1 seed is to win out – beat Duke this weekend and win the ACC Tournament. If they beat Duke, and lose in the ACC Tournament final to Virginia I think it’s possible they could get a No. 1. If they lose prior to the ACC finals, they will be a No. 2. If they lose to Duke this weekend, they will be a No. 2 seed as well.

Right now, the most interesting scenario is what if Carolina beats Duke this weekend and in the ACC Tournament, but then loses to Virginia in the final? At that point, the committee would have to ask themselves, what is more important: North Carolina’s three head-to-head wins against Duke? Or Duke’s overall body of work (assuming we know for sure Zion Williamson will be back for the NCAA Tournament)?

It will be fascinating to follow straight through Selection Sunday. But as I said, North Carolina does control their own destiny. Win out, and they will get a No. 1.

The Same Path to a No. 1 Seed

Kentucky Wildcats
Overall Record:
25-5, 14-3 in the SEC
Quad 1 Games Remaining: Florida, SEC Tournament

Tennessee Volunteers
Overall Record:
27-3, 15-2 in the SEC
Quad 1 Games Remaining: at Auburn, SEC Tournament

To me, Kentucky and Tennessee basically have the same path to a No. 1 seed. And it’s really pretty simple.

First off, each team must win this weekend. For Kentucky, that means beating Florida at home. And for the Vols, it means a win at Auburn. That’s the first step. Then, after LSU’s wild win at Florida on Wednesday night, it seems almost certain that LSU will get the No. 1 seed at the SEC Tournament (they close with Vanderbilt this weekend) and that Kentucky and Tennessee will play in the SEC Tournament semifinals.

Which brings me to the second part of this scenario.

If both teams win their game this weekend, and both teams win their opener in SEC Tourney play, then I believe that whoever wins that SEC Tournament grudge match gets the No. 1 seed. Yes, even if they lose to LSU in the final. Obviously if either team wins in the final, that clinches the No. 1 seed.

Now sure, there are other variables at play here. What if either Big Ten team in contention for a No. 1 seed (Michigan or Michigan State) wins out? Even then, I’m not sure the committee would give the nod to either over Kentucky or Tennessee.

Many of you are also probably wondering: What if LSU wins the SEC Tournament title? Wouldn’t they get a No. 1 seed over Tennessee and Kentucky? With all due respect to the season Will Wade’s team is having, I’m not sold they can climb up to a No. 1 seed – even if they win the SEC Tournament. Believe it or not, they have three Quad 2 losses (Kentucky and Tennessee have one combined) including a loss to the worst team in the Big 12 (Oklahoma State) and one of the worst teams in the SEC (Arkansas). Those losses to me, would outweigh the great wins they have in the committee’s mind.

By the way, I also think there’s an outside possibility that both Kentucky and Tennessee get No. 1 seeds, but that would take something truly crazy happening – like North Carolina and Duke both losing in the ACC Tournament, or Gonzaga losing in their conference tournament.

Therefore the bottom line is simple for both teams: Win this weekend and win in the SEC Tournament semifinals, and you’re headed to the land of No. 1 seed.

Hanging Around on the Fringes

LSU Tigers
Overall Record:
25-5, 15-2 in the SEC
Remaining Games: Vanderbilt, SEC Tournament

I already dove into LSU above, so I won’t dig too deep here. But I do believe that those bad losses (Arkansas at home, Oklahoma State on a neutral court) will be too much to overcome. Even if LSU wins the SEC Tournament.

LSU has had an incredible season and deserves all the acclaim they’re getting. And while I think they’d have an interesting case for a No. 1 seed if they win out, I ultimately think they’ll settle on the No. 2 or 3 seed line.

Michigan State Spartans
Overall Record:
24-6, 15-4 in the Big Ten
Remaining Games: Michigan, Big Ten Tournament

Michigan State did itself no favors by losing to Indiana last week – a loss that has all but eliminated them from serious No. 1 seed discussion. To their credit, the Spartans still have 10 Quad 1 wins (tied for most with Virginia) and could pick up more this weekend. But they also have two Quad 2 losses (a home loss to Indiana and at Illinois) and a season sweep at the hands of Indiana.

If the Spartans were to win out (a home win over Michigan this weekend and sweeping the Big Ten Tournament) then things would get interesting come Selection Sunday. But even then, I’m not sure it’s enough. I think they would need help somewhere, be it an upset in the SEC Tournament, or Duke and North Carolina both getting knocked out early in the ACC.

Expect Michigan State to settle in on the two-line come Selection Sunday.

Michigan Wolverines
Overall Record:
26-4, 15-4 in the Big Ten
Remaining Games: at Michigan State, Big Ten Tournament

So again, Michigan travels to Michigan State this weekend and the loser is obviously eliminated from No. 1 seed consideration. Considering that Michigan already lost to the Spartans at home, and considering that three of their losses have come on the road (including at Penn State, one of the worst teams in the Big Ten) it seems reasonable that Michigan might not even make it out of this weekend with hopes of getting a No. 1 seed.

But if they do win at Michigan State, it sets up a fascinating week for them at the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago. Right now, the Wolverines have one of the weaker overall resumes (8-4 in Quad 1 games) and 4-3 in Quad 1 road games, buuuuuuuut, a win at Michigan State would improve that resume, with SEVERAL opportunities to pick up Quad 1 wins at the Big Ten Tournament. Currently, there are a staggering seven teams in the Big Ten that would be considered Quad 1 wins on a neutral court, and there’s the possibility that Michigan could pick up three more Quad 1 victories in Chicago.

Ultimately, it feels a little far-fetched to me that Michigan will both win at Michigan State this weekend, and then sweep the Big Ten Tournament, but then again, stranger things have happened. Even then, Michigan would still simply be in the conversation for a No. 1 seed, along with the top SEC team (Tennessee or Kentucky) or the second ACC team behind Virginia (to their advantage, Michigan does have a head-to-head win over North Carolina from early in the season).

In the end, if you’re a Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina or Duke fan, you’re rooting for Michigan to lose this weekend. If they win out, it makes things interesting come Selection Sunday.

I do however think the Wolverines will end up as a two-seed.

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 127: Tennessee-Kentucky, Nevada Fight, Will Zion Play Again?

We are about to enter the final weekend of the college hoops season, and the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast has you ready to go — recapping another wild weekend in the sport of college basketball. Aaron is re-joined by his buddy Nick Coffey to discuss:

Kentucky-Tennessee Part II: The Cats and the Vols met again in Knoxville on Saturday, and this time it went in favor of the Vols. Aaron explains why he isn’t worried from Kentucky’s perspective and why the Cats need to move on to the final two games of the season. Also, why it was dumb to ever give up on the Vols when they lost two straight. Also, would Kentucky prefer the two-seed in Louisville with Duke as their No. 1? Or to be a No. 1 seed elsewhere?

Zion Williamson Conspiracy Theories — Aaron and Nick show their thoughts on the latest with Zion Williamson. Aaron is convinced that we won’t see Zion again until the NCAA Tournament, while Nick wonders if Zion is completely done. Is Coach K hiding the injury so it doesn’t impact Duke’s NCAA Tourney seeding?

College Basketball Weekend Recap: The guys wrap up by talking about the other big stories in college hoops. What is to make of the fight between Nevada and Utah State, and why does everyone still doubt Gonzaga after they wrapped up another dominant regular 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.

It’s No Longer a Debate: Duke Can’t Win a Title Without a Healthy Zion Williamson

It’s hard to believe that it was just one week ago that Zion Williamson’s foot burst through his shoe, he went down with a knee injury and the entire sports media world went into a frenzy.

For two days straight, Zion was the center of the sports world. Should he shut it down? Should he keep playing? It was all anyone was asking.

Since the initial injury we have gotten the answer to that question: Yes, Zion Williamson is expected to play college basketball again. Coach K has been adamant that the injury is day-to-day, and when Zion is fully healthy he will be back on the court.

But in the process of answering that question, we were forced to ask another question all together: If for some reason Zion Williamson can’t come back, can Duke win a national title without him?

Now three games into the “Life without Zion” experiment, it seems like we have a pretty clear answer: No, Duke can’t win a national championship without a fully healthy Zion Williamson. The Blue Devils are now 1-2 without him, and also nearly lost a game against Florida State in January when Zion sat the second half with an eye injury. Add it up, and it’s clear that Zion isn’t just that National Player of the Year, but the single most important player to his team in college basketball as well. Duke looks completely lost without him, a shell of the dominant juggernaut they are with him on the court.

Admittedly, part of that last paragraph seems like common sense. Some would say that it’s obvious that any team that loses the eventual No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft is going to struggle without him. Then again, how many No. 1 overall picks even impact wins and losses in college to begin with? Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons were both No. 1 picks and didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament. DeAndre Ayton was the No. 1 pick last year and didn’t make it out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Zion Williamson has more help than those guys. But he has also proven to be more valuable.

As a matter of fact, this injury proves just how valuable Zion really is, and just how expendable most other freshmen are in college basketball. Duke has two other guys who likely be selected in the Top 5 picks of the next NBA Draft (R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish) and another who will likely go in the first round (Tre Jones).

Duke was supposedly built to survive an injury like this. Instead, it has only heightened the importance of what Zion means to this team.

(By the way, remember when people were saying that Tre Jones was the most important player on this team? That might win the award for “Worst Take of the 2019 College Basketball Season.”).

Yup, this injury shows just how important Zion is to this team, and also shows that his value goes well beyond big dunks and YouTube videos. Just watching Duke with and without him, it’s like night and day, and has unique skills that aren’t replaceable with the guys they have on this roster – again, a roster that includes at least three players who will be drafted in the NBA this season. Zion is Duke’s only real low-post scorer, a guy who – while he is certainly MORE than a low-post scorer – can pretty much just get you 10 or 15 points just by hanging around the rim and getting second and third chance rebounds and opportunities. He’s also by far Duke’s biggest defensive presence and rim protector.

Add it up, and it’s obvious just by watching Duke how much Williamson’s absence is felt. But the numbers back it up too.

On offense, Duke is averaging 85 points per game, good for fifth nationally. Not surprisingly, they aren’t as good without Zion, averaging just 73 points per game. That drop of 12 points per game without Zion would rank them around 170th nationally, a similar scoring output to what Virginia puts up this season. Ewwwwwwwwww.

More than just the raw numbers though, is the fact that Zion completely changes the way Duke plays. Of all the jarring stats surrounding Williamson this year, this is maybe the wildest one: He is shooting 75 percent on 2-point field goal attempts. SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT!!! For comparison’s sake, Tennessee’s Grant Williams is shooting 60 percent from 2-point range. P.J. Washington – who has maybe been the best player in college basketball the last month – is shooting 55 percent on two point attempts. Zion is shooting 75 percent on those same shots! Just insane.

It also makes Zion’s absence that much more glaring, and again, impacts the way that Duke has played since he went down with injury. With Zion in the lineup, Duke takes an average of 42 two-point field goal attempts per game, and just 26 three-point attempts per contest. With Zion out however, they are taking just 31 two-point field goals per game, with an uptick to 30 three-pointers per game.

Read that again.

With Zion out, Duke is taking 11 fewer two-point attempts per game, and four more three-pointers. You don’t need to be John Wooden to know that when you’re taking fewer easy shots (especially when you’re making such a high percentage) and increasing the volume of difficult ones, it’s generally not going to work out well in your favor. Which is exactly what Duke has seen happen the last three games.

Yet as impactful as Zion is on the offensive end of the court, you could argue his impact is greater felt on defense. We all obviously know about his shot blocking abilities, which – as Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter found out – are otherworldly. But what folks probably don’t realize is that Zion also leads Duke with 2.2 steals per game as well, which is ahead of Tre Jones, who is considered one of the elite on-ball defenders in college basketball. With Zion in the lineup it’s not just a nightmare for opponents to try and score, but even run an offense. The Blue Devils have forced an average of 15 turnovers per game with Zion in the lineup. They have forced an average of just nine per game without him, including just six at Virginia Tech on Tuesday night. Did I mention that Virginia Tech was without its starting point guard?

Oh, and one more thing. Let’s not forget that Zion is by far Duke’s most prolific rebounder, ripping down nearly nine rebounds per game, including three offensive rebounds a contest. With him in the lineup, they have a +6.6 rebounding advantage, meaning that they are outrebounding opponents by an average of nearly seven per game per game. That rebound margin is down to zero without him. Yes, you read that correctly. Even with Marques Bolden, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Javin Delaurier etc., Duke has gotten the same number of rebounds as their opponents the last three games.

And that, in a nutshell, speaks to the value of Zion’s presence. Duke is forcing six fewer turnovers per game, and averaging six fewer rebounds per game without Zion Williamson – can you imagine how many extra possessions he creates? And can you imagine how much Duke is hurt without him?

It also proves beyond a reasonable doubt, that even in a sport where we hype up freshmen every single fall, Zion is the outlier of all outliers. Outside of Anthony Davis, maybe Lonzo Ball and a few others, it’s hard to think of many guys who completely altered a team’s entire season with their mere presence. For every 30 guys like R.J. Barrett, Romeo Langford, Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons– ones that come into college hoops with a lot of hype but don’t truly alter games and seasons – there is just one Zion Williamson or Anthony Davis. Players who truly alter their team’s entire season.

The good news for Duke is that by all accounts Zion will be back at some point this season.

And they better hope he comes back.

They can’t win a title without him.

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 126: One-Seeds, Coaching Carousel and ESPN’s Robbie Hummel

We’ve got ourselves a MASSIVE Aaron Torres Sports Podcast.  Aaron answers all the big questions heading into the final few weeks of the season, like, ‘Who will get No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament and where is the college basketball coaching carousel?’ ESPN’s Robbie Hummel also joins the show. Here is a rundown of what you need to know:

Who will get the No. 1 seeds? Rather than breaking down the results of this week’s games, Aaron takes a deep dive into the No. 1 seeds. He explains why Duke is in real danger of losing a No. 1, but does it matter? Also, why this weekend’s Tennessee-Kentucky game isn’t as important as you think. Plus, the surprise team that could steal a No. 1 if they win out.

ESPN’s Robbie Hummel: The college basketball analyst and former Purdue Boilermaker joins the program. He talks about what it’s like to be a player this time of year — does the grind of the schedule wear you down? Also, is there really a title contender in the Big Ten? And what’s the biggest story in his mind in the final few weeks of the regular season?

Coaching Carousel: After talking to people he trusts all over the country, Aaron gives you an update on what he is hearing from the coaching carousel. He explains why the UCLA job may be tougher to fill than people think, and is Arizona set to open up with Sean Miller in more hot water? Who would be the best candidates there? Then he discusses a seemingly inevitable departure at Texas A&M and the big name who could come in there, and is it time to start talking about Mike Anderson at Arkansas?

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 Updated Look at Where the No. 1 Seed Picture Stands Entering the Weekend

We are officially in the final two weeks of the college basketball regular season, which means two things. One, we’re all wondering : Where the hell did the season go? And two, every fan-base is trying to figure out what their team’s fate will come for Selection Sunday.

For some teams, they’re just fighting for bubble spots. Some know they will need to win their conference tournament to realistically make the NCAA Tournament. And for a select few, they are truly in position to capitalize on a season of success and get a No. 1 seed.

Which is exactly why I am here today.

Last week I went ahead and did a way-too-in-depth breakdown of where the No. 1 seed picture stood heading into the weekend. It was a fun exercise for me and readers seemed to enjoy it, so let’s take a fresh look at the No. 1 seed picture after last weekend’s games.

Especially with all the craziness that has happened since last week’s update.

Since that update oh boy have things changed, with Duke taking a second loss without Zion Williamson, Tennessee losing to LSU but bouncing back with a pseudo-miracle win at Ole Miss and Kentucky holding on for dear life against Arkansas.

Going into the final 10 days of the season, I believe there are eight teams that can realistically get No. 1 seeds. Here they are:

Before we get there, a quick reminder:

First, a few simple parameters before we get started

One, when I reference “Quad 1” and “Quad 2” wins and losses below, those are all according to the NCAA’s new “NET” rankings which will help put together the field of 68 and seed those teams. Games, wins and losses are broken up into “Quads” with the biggest games, against the best teams falling into “Quad 1” and so on so forth. The worst wins, against the worst teams in college basketball, fall into “Quad 4.”

Not surprisingly, the more Quad 1 wins and fewer Quad 1 losses you have, the better your resume will look.

Here is how the Quads break down, per the NET rankings:

  • Quadrant 1: Home Game 1-30; Neutral Site 1-50; Away Game 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home Game 31-75; Neutral Site 51-100; Away Game 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home Game 76-160; Neutral Site 101-200; Away Game 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home Game 161-plus; Neutral Site 201-plus; Away Game 241-plus

Here are the overall NET rankings for those who are so inclined to dig through each individual team’s “Team Sheet.”

Now with that, let’s look at the competition for No. 1 seeds:


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 125: Recapping a Wild Weekend of College Hoops

It was arguably the best Saturday of the college hoops season.  It’s time to recap it all on the latest episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Here’s what’s on today’s show:

What does LSU’s win over Tennessee say about both teams? Aaron opens the show by discussing LSU’s wild, ugly, sloppy win over Tennessee. Aaron explains why his opinion hasn’t changed on Tennessee, and why this game actually made him feel like they can get back on track heading into the backstretch of the season. Plus, after beating Kentucky and Tennessee in one week, is LSU a title contender? And is Will Wade the frontrunner for National Coach of the Year?

Kentucky’s Bludgeoning of Auburn: Next up, Aaron takes a deep dive into Kentucky’s destruction of Auburn. He talks about the rise of P.J. Washington — what has allowed him to improve so quickly this year, and is he now the front-runner for SEC Player of the Year? Also, is Kentucky the second-best team in college basketball behind a fully healthy Duke right now? If Zion Williamson doesn’t come back, should the Wildcats be the favorites?

Everything else from the College Hoops Weekend: Aaron gives a quick shout out to Texas Tech after crushing Kansas — and he explains why even as good as people think Tech coach Chris Beard is, he’s actually better. Plus, Aaron believes this is the year that Kansas’ Big 12 title streak may actually come to an end. Finally, he talks Michigan State’s gutsy win over Michigan — are we sure Michigan should be mentioned among the elite teams 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 on Instagram too.

The Path to a Kentucky No. 1 Seed Isn’t as Complicated As Most Think

It’s amazing how quickly the conversation in college basketball can change.

Shortly after Kentucky’s win over Tennessee on Saturday, I pitched our editors here a piece on the overall, No. 1 seed picture. Obviously most folks reading here are Kentucky fans and I actually thought that the Wildcats had a better shot at a No. 1 seed than most were projected.

We agreed that we would go ahead and wait until after Tuesday night’s games to be safe. Assuming Kentucky took care of business against Missouri and Tennessee handled Vanderbilt, it would be safe to run Wednesday morning. What could possibly go wrong?

Quite a bit actually. In no particular order, here is what has changed in the race for the four No. 1 seeds, just since late Tuesday night:

— Reid Travis left Kentucky’s game with a knee injury – sending Big Blue Nation into a frenzy. Thankfully it was just a sprain and Travis will hopefully be back in just a few weeks. Still, with several big games ahead and Travis likely on the sidelines, Kentucky’s path to a No. 1 seed isn’t nearly as clear as it looked when I began this article Tuesday morning. I still think they get one, but this is a major road block.

— Tennessee looked terrible in a win against the SEC’s worst team, Vanderbilt. Ultimately it had no bearing on the Vols pursuit of a No. 1 seed, but with Tennessee facing five straight games against NCAA Tournament caliber teams to close the regular season, it feels fair to wonder if the Vols can finish as strongly as they started.

— Nevada lost on the road at San Diego State on Wednesday night. While the Wolf Pack were a long-shot to get a No. 1, this officially eliminated them from any such talk.

— Zion Williamson went down with a knee injury – flipping the sports world on its head Thursday. Zion is OK, and we can put to rest talking of him “Shutting it Down” for now. At the same time, Duke took a loss no one saw coming, and now they aren’t nearly as much of a lock for a No. 1 as they were before the Carolina game.

— Duke’s unexpected loss resulted in an unexpected North Carolina win – and now the Tar Heels have a realistic, albeit small shot at a No. 1 seed. It would take a minor miracle, but North Carolina does in fact have life in the No. 1 seed debate.

And again, that’s only what happened since Tuesday afternoon when I officially finished the first draft of the article below – can you imagine how much will change in the final two weeks of the regular season?

Ultimately however, the gist of the article didn’t change, and I still believe Kentucky is in prime position to get a No. 1 seed.

Let’s go through all the scenarios and all the teams involved, to give you a clearer picture of where we are, and how the Wildcats fit in.


Why Zion Williamson Shouldn’t Shut It Down

Photo: Rob Kinnan/USA Today

Duke and North Carolina played on Wednesday night. But as we all know by now, the story wasn’t the game itself, but instead, what happened 33 seconds in.

You don’t need me to tell you, but it was at that moment, when Duke star Zion Williamson made a sharp cut – and his foot literally burst out of his shoe. In the process, he went down with a knee injury which caused him to miss the rest of the game.

Of course, before Zion even got up off the floor and walked away under his own power, it sent the internet into a frenzy, re-instigating all the same, tired debates about college sports that never seem to end. And even after the game, even after Coach K came out and said that it was a minor knee sprain, one that wouldn’t keep Zion out for very long, it didn’t stop people from engaging in those same arguments again. People love to complain on the internet (who knew) and man oh man were they on a heater Wednesday.

People were complaining about amateurism. About paying college athletes. And about how it pertains to Zion Williamson specifically. The conversation wrapped with the single biggest talking point in all of college sports today: Should Zion Williamson sit out the rest of the season and get ready for the NBA Draft?

The honest answer is “Zion should do whatever the hell he wants,” and anyone who tells you any differently is just spitting out what side of the narrative they fall on. At the end of the day, whatever Zion Williamson decides is best for him, we should all support it. He’s earned that right after four months of college basketball.

However, if he were asking me for advice, I’d tell him this: Not only should he not shut things down for the season, there isn’t actually one, genuinely good reason why he should. Assuming he is healthy and can’t further damage that knee, he should go play his heart out, chase a championship, and enjoy his final weeks as a kid before he enters a grown man’s world in the NBA.

For starters, let’s get one important notion out of the way right off the top: The biggest reason for Zion to shut it down is “fear of injury.” The problem is, that as I said when Scottie Pippen first suggested this a month ago, the “fear of injury” risk, isn’t any real risk at all. There is literally no injury that Zion could suffer on the court that will hurt his draft stock. Not a single one. And if the reason for him to shut it down is “fear of injury” well, he’s just as likely to get hurt training and getting ready for the draft as he would be to play in actual games.

Don’t believe me? Well, recent history is littered with guys who suffered injuries during their college careers without it impacting their draft stock one bit. Remember, Kyrie Irving missed most of his only season at Duke – he still went No. 1 overall. Joel Embiid missed his final few weeks at Kansas and it was clear he’d miss his entire rookie year – and he still went No. 3 overall. Nerlens Noel suffered an ACL tear in February – he still went No. 6 in that year’s NBA Draft.

And keep in mind that none of those players was nearly the prospect that Zion Williamson is. None was as nearly as safe of a bet as Zion is at this moment – and yet none of those injuries hurt the individual player’s draft stock. That’s also why I feel confident saying that no injury will keep Zion from going No. 1. He has proven to be too good and way too valuable to a franchise to ever pass up in the draft. Even if God forbid an injury happened, there isn’t a single GM who is risking his entire career by passing on Zion Williamson. If you pass on Zion and he develops into the star we all think he can become, you are never living it down. Again, no one is taking that risk.

Still, let’s take this a step further. Let’s say that hypothetically that major injury did happen to Zion and it caused him to tumble down draft boards. None of us want it to happen obviously, but for the sake of argument, let’s play that game.

You know what would happen? Zion would still become a millionaire.

That’s because according to Darren Rovell, before the season Duke took out an insurance policy for Zion. It will pay him $8 million dollars if he suffers a major injury. So even if he goes down, he will still be a millionaire.

To which I ask: If he will become a millionaire regardless of what happens, what is the actual reason for him to sit out?

I guess a case could be made that “what’s the point of playing if he isn’t getting paid right now.” Putting aside the fact I’m pretty sure that agents and shoe companies are, ahem, providing “guidance” to the family behind the scenes (I doubt anyone is scraping quarters out of the couch cushions to pay for meals), we already went over this a few weeks ago. When Scottie Pippen first suggested Williamson “shut it down” Zion eloquently explained that it was a non-starter. That he came to Duke to play for Coach K. And that he wants to finish what he started.

We also need to give credit where it’s due to Duke as well. I know the media hates to say anything nice about college basketball, but the bottom-line is that Duke has played in a role in Zion Williamson’s success as well. No one had Zion Williamson the consensus No. 1 pick in this NBA Draft before he arrived at Duke, and I’ve seen mock drafts from the spring and summer that had him as low as No. 4 or No. 5 in the draft. While it doesn’t seem like much, the difference between being the No. 1 pick in the draft and No. 4 is over $12 million in salary over the course of the rookie contract. Therefore, for everyone saying “He could lose millions” by continuing to play college basketball, I’d say that’s simply not true. To take things a step further, the facts are, he’s actually made millions more than he would have had he been allowed to go to the NBA straight out of high school.

And that doesn’t even include his increased endorsement value, which leads me to this: I actually think the more Zion plays basketball for free in college, the more it will help continue to expand his brand as he inches towards the NBA. Yes, the player with the biggest brand we’ve seen in college basketball in years, could get even bigger.

Think about it.

Over the last couple months, Zion Williamson has gone from a name that basketball junkies and YouTube/Instagram followers knew, to a household name, thanks to college basketball and the exposure he provides. He has become one of the biggest stories in all of sports, someone that isn’t just discussed on basketball podcasts and by Jay Bilas and Seth Greenberg, but a real, legitimate talking point among Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless and pretty much anyone who talks sports for a living. At this point, Duke games regularly out-rate NBA games (Duke-Virginia actually had more viewers than Rockets-Thunder that same night). At this particular moment, people are as interested in the future of the NBA as they are in the present.

Zion is already a household name, but as big as he is, but isn’t it fair to say he can get even bigger by sticking it out and playing in the NCAA Tournament? Can you imagine him being the biggest talking point in sports for a whole month through March?

It seems like something that shouldn’t matter, but it does. Keep in mind that the Duke-Virginia game drew a little over 2 million viewers – which is absolutely awesome, but pales in comparison to big NCAA Tournament games. As an example, last year’s title game drew nearly 17 million viewers – 17 MILLION – and that was considered a low, bad rating for a title game. North Carolina against Gonzaga did 26 million viewers the year before. That’s 13 times the number that Duke-Virginia did.

It’s insane to think about, but as big as Zion Williamson’s brand is, it could get bigger.

At the end of the day, it’s up to Zion to decide what is best for him.

But as long as he’s healthy, I’d advise him to stick things out and finish what he started at Duke.

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 123: Kentucky Beats Tennessee + What’s the Worst City in America?

It’s Monday, it’s college basketball season and you know what that means: We’ve got ourselves another edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast! Aaron is joined by Nick Coffey to discuss Kentucky’s massive win over Tennessee, mid-majors vs. big schools on the bubble, plus the most important question in the history of the podcast: What is the worst city in America? Highlights:

Tennessee-Kentucky Recap: The guys discuss the game of the weekend in college hoops, Kentucky’s triumphant and dominant win over Tennessee on Saturday at Rupp Arena. Is there any doubt that Kentucky is back amongst the elite of college basketball? Does this change the way the guys think about Tennessee? Plus, is Kentucky still being underrated nationally?

Should Mid-Majors or Power Conference teams get Priority for At-Large Bids? The guys also get into the oldest debate in college basketball. The guys argue make the case for teams like Murray State and Indiana. Aaron explains how the computers have hijacked any chance for mid-majors to get these bids.

Plus, the guys share their thoughts on what the worst city in America is, along with a history lesson.

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.