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Aaron Torres’ Take

To Reach Its Potential, Kentucky Needs More Consistency From PJ Washington

On Saturday afternoon, Kentucky lost to Alabama. The good news was that this wasn’t one of those “the sky is falling, Kentucky is screwed beyond belief, just go ahead and cancel the rest of the season” kind of losses. Instead, it was more one of those “Kentucky is everyone’s Super Bowl, if they don’t come to play every single night on the road, they can get beat,” games instead.

No, the Alabama loss isn’t about doom-and-gloom, but it did once again spotlight some weaknesses for the Wildcats that seem to show up every now and again. For one, Reid Travis can at times struggle against other team’s length down low, and it happened again this weekend. Kentucky’s three-point shots don’t always fall, and they certainly didn’t Saturday in Tuscaloosa (the Wildcats finished 5 for 18 from beyond the arc). And most nights, you Kentucky really just has no idea what you’re going to get from P.J. Washington.

More than anything, that last one would be my biggest concern if I were a Kentucky fan. And it’s something that John Calipari absolutely has to get figured out: What’s up with P.J. Washington? And why does no one– including seemingly P.J. Washington himself – have no idea what he will bring to the court on any given night?

It is the single most important question surrounding Kentucky in my opinion. And if the Wildcats want to reach their potential as a national championship caliber team (a run I still believe they’re capable of making), they will need to figure out an answer to the question.

Now I already know what some of you are thinking: “Aaron, this feels like the wrong time to bring up P.J. Washington since, you know, he was arguably Kentucky’s best player on Saturday against Alabama. He finished with a team-high 15 points and chipped in seven boards as well.”

Fair, but to anyone who watched the game, you know that of those 15 points, nine came late in the final seven minutes right? And they came at a time when Kentucky was down double-digits and Alabama was (for lack of a better term) in a prevent defense. It also highlights exactly what I just said above: You really never know what you’re going to get from P.J. Washington this season. A near 30-point performance? Eight points and no energy at all? Somewhere in between? No one knows. Including, again, Washington.

The only consistency is inconsistency, and a sad, mopey face doing it. And the numbers back me up, as here are Washington’s stat lines in the last four games:

Alabama: 15 points, seven rebounds, 0 blocks
Louisville: 5 points, eight rebounds, four blocks
North Carolina: 11 points, 10 rebounds, eight assistants
Utah: 9 points, four rebounds
Seton Hall: 29 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, four blocks

Mercy. This dude is more inconsistent than summer weather in Florida.

The sad thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Washington has proven that he can be consistent, and that he can play with a chip on his shoulder. He did it last year, when – to his credit – he brought it every single, darn night. He wasn’t always great, but did always hustle, play hard, crash the boards and do all the little things to win.

This year he’s been the exact opposite: He’s shown a much better all-around game, but again has no real consistency. Some nights he plays with the fire in his belly he had last year – though if we’re being honest, I really can’t think of too many instances where that has been the case. Instead, he has spent most of this season moping around like his puppy just got run over by a car. And if this really is about impressing NBA scouts, well, here is a quick warning to Washington: NBA scouts watch everything you do. Believe me, I talk to them all the time. And while part of “impressing the NBA folks” is about showing off a more complete game, stepping out and hitting three’s, all that stuff, you know what else it is about? Effort and attitude. Yes, the NBA cares about stuff like that as well.

And right now the right attitude isn’t there and neither is the effort – at least most of the time. What’s especially maddening is that it can be, when Washington decides he wants to show it off. Anyone else besides me remember that Seton Hall game, when Washington caught the ball on the block time and time again, and the Pirates couldn’t do anything? How they had no answer for him? I watch a TON of college basketball and can tell you that it was one of the best performances I’ve seen by anyone, all season.

I’d also add that even during that game though, the announcers Gus Johnson and Jim Jackson even mentioned that Washington himself admitted that he can be difficult to motivate at times. That his dad knew how to push his buttons when he coached him in high school, but that it was different in college.

Well P.J. here is a quick heads up: Want to get angry? Want to get fired up? Well, you’re going to be plenty fired up when your NBA Draft stock falls because you’re not showing enough consistency.

Thankfully for Washington it hasn’t happened yet, and I will give him credit for one thing: Late in the Kentucky-Bama game, when the Wildcats were making their run and Washington was getting his buckets, he seemed to take on a more active, leadership role. As Kentucky battled back into the game, Washington was barking out instructions, telling guys where to go… all the things a leader needs to do.

Hopefully it was a positive sign of what’s ahead for Washington.

For Kentucky to reach its potential, they’ll need that attitude from Washington every night.


A Full SEC Basketball Preview Heading into Conference Play

Another checkpoint on the road to the Final Four will be marked off this weekend, as SEC basketball will tip-off yet another season on Saturday. A league that saw a record eight teams make the NCAA Tournament last season is looking to see if it can repeat history or possibly top it. In the process they’re trying to prove once and for all that the SEC Basketball Revolution is in fact real my friends.

So with the league tipping things off with Kentucky at Alabama at 1 p.m. ET tomorrow, and four more conference games to follow, what do you need to know?

Here’s your SEC season review heading into conference play.

The Favorite: Tennessee

If you want to make the case that there should be co-favorites between Tennessee and Kentucky or even tri-favorites with the Vols, Wildcats and Auburn, I will hear no objection. But right now the Vols are both playing as well as anyone in the conference, with the wins to back to it up. They have beaten both Gonzaga and Louisville on a neutral court, and destroyed everyone else on their schedule, with their only loss coming in overtime to Kansas, in a game where their best player Grant Williams fouled out.

What’s most interesting to me about Tennessee however, is this: Despite splitting the SEC regular season title with Auburn last year, it appears as though just about everyone has gotten better for the Vols. Williams, the reigning SEC Player of the Year has actually seen his numbers jump in every major category (he’s averaging an absurd, 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks per game) and Admiral Schofield is dropping a cool 18 points a game on 51 percent shooting from the field and 43 percent shooting from three.

And when you add in that Jordan Bone, Kyle Alexander and Lamonte Turner are all averaging double-figures as well, it means that the Vols aren’t just the favorite to win the SEC, but a threat to cut down the nets in Minneapolis as well.

Coming on Strong: Kentucky

Again, if you want to make the case that based on what we’ve seen the last two weeks from Kentucky they’ll end up winning the regular season title I’m not going to argue with you. Quietly all the pieces have come together for the Wildcats in wins over North Carolina and Louisville the last two weeks, with Ashton Hagans taking over at point guard, Tyler Herro hitting his threes and everything else falling into place. I especially like the fact that the Louisville win came on the road. It will prepare them for life on the road in the SEC, where every game is the opponent’s Super Bowl.

Considering I’ve written a ton about Kentucky the last few weeks, I won’t bore you with too much more here.

But if you told me that the Wildcats eventually took home the SEC regular season title, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

© Justin Ford | USATSI

They’re riiiiiiiight there, but we need to see a little more: Auburn and Mississippi State

The Tigers and Bulldogs basically have the same resume at that point: Two teams that we all thought were legit, Top 15-20ish teams coming into the season and have done nothing to dispel that theory. They also don’t have that one, signature win on their resume that makes us say “Oh, OK. They’ve arrived!”

Auburn of course feels the realer of the two, mainly because they’ve been there before. They are the reigning SEC co-champs after all. But when you really look at the Tigers schedule, they have played one real game since the end of the Maui Invitational and lost it in ugly fashion (at NC State). Their best wins (against Washington and Arizona) also don’t look nearly as impressive as when they happened. You know, since the Pac-12 is terrible and all.

It’s kind of the same with Mississippi State. The Bulldogs actually enter SEC play with the best record overall in conference (12-1) and to their credit, have racked up a slew of B- to B+ wins (Cincinnati, Clemson, BYU, at Dayton). But they just don’t have that one win that jumps off the page and says “Oh, they’re legit.”

Ultimately, this isn’t a knock on either team. Both will be in the NCAA Tournament and both will be threats once they get there. Right now, it’s just tough to say whether either is really a threat to win the SEC regular season title or not.

Young and Still Figuring It Out: LSU

LSU might just be the hardest team to peg in this league. If I’m being 100 percent honest, it’s kind of hard for me to tell if they’ve overachieved early in the season, underachieved or are right where they’re supposed to be.

What a world, huh?

On the “overachieved” side, they are still one of the youngest teams in college basketball, with basically their entire rotation made up of freshmen, a sophomore and two juniors and still sit at 10-3 overall entering league play. On the “underachieved” side, it doesn’t feel like anyone is really playing particularly well except Skylar Mays right now, and you could argue Tremont Waters has been one of the most disappointing players in all of college basketball this season. Waters was by far this team’s best player last year and was supposed to be helped by all the additional talent that arrived in Baton Rouge. Instead, he’s seen regression in basically every meaningful stat including points, assists and field goal percentage, while his turnovers have risen.

Then there is the “right where they’re supposed to be” side of things, and if I’d told any LSU fan they’d be 10-3 entering league play I’m guessing all of them would have taken it.

Still, something doesn’t seem totally right with this team. And therefore, anything ranging from an NCAA Tournament bid to “missing the NIT” wouldn’t surprise me with this group.

The Pleasant Surprise: Ole Miss

So, I’d like to take a poll of the room. Can I get a quick show of hands: How many of you had any idea that Ole Miss 10-2 entering SEC play?

Anyone?

Anyone?

That’s what I thought.

That’s also why it isn’t a stretch to say that the Rebels have been a pleasant surprise in Kermit Davis’ first season in Oxford. They’re playing hard and together and to their credit are winning.

Of course if you look at their schedule, they still haven’t beaten a power conference team and even some of the traditionally strong mid-majors they’ve beaten (Middle Tennessee State, Florida Gulf Coast) aren’t particularly strong this year.

The Rebels are a good story… for now. I wouldn’t expect it to last long.

Coming on Strong: Florida

Coming out of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament over Thanksgiving weekend, Florida was 3-3 overall and appeared headed to the NIT. But if history has told us anything it’s that Mike White always seems to figure it out, and it appears he’s done it again this season. Maybe all that sun got to the Florida players in the Bahamas, but they’ve been a completely different team since they’ve returned to the mainland with four wins in their last five games. That includes dominant victories over West Virginia and Butler, with their only loss coming to a Michigan State team which is ranked in the Top 10 right now.

The Gators do come with a Surgeon General’s Warning however: Watching them might be hazardous for your health. They rank 261st nationally in offense and are averaging just 71 points per game.

It might not be pretty basketball, but to their credit, the Gators are winning.

Wait and See Mode: Alabama and Arkansas

Entering the season, I had Alabama in my preseason Field of 68 and Arkansas just outside it. Now entering SEC play both are 9-3 but have gotten there in two completely different ways. And I’m not entirely sure what to make of either.

Let’s start with Bama who – to be blunt – was abysmal early in the season. They opened the year with an early loss to Northeastern in a Thanksgiving tournament and were left for dead after back-to-back losses to Central Florida and Georgia State. Both those schools are actually pretty good (UCF could potentially get an at-large out of the AAC and Georgia State is the favorite in their league as well) but still, those are not teams that a good, competitive, NCAA Tourney caliber SEC squad school lose to. Yet since those losses, the Tide has turned (bad pun, forgive me) and they have won four straight, knocking off both Arizona and Penn State at home.

Arkansas is the exact opposite. They rode the hot play of a couple young guys early and picked up a monumental win over Indiana back in November, and at one point were 7-1. Then the Hogs lost games to Western Kentucky and Georgia Tech (neither team is particularly good) and now, I’ll be honest, I don’t know what to make of them.

Actually, I don’t know what to make of Arkansas or Alabama. If either one made the NCAA Tournament, I wouldn’t be totally shocked. If they were sent to the NIT I wouldn’t be surprised either.

Playing well, but the injuries will pick up late: Vanderbilt and Missouri

I won’t bore you with too many details on either, because the bottom line is this: While both are playing well, each has lost its best player to a season-ending injury (Darius Garland at Vandy and Jontay Porter at Missouri). Since neither player is expected back this season, it makes it hard to take either one seriously as a realistic threat to make a run in the SEC.

Different coach, basically the same team: Georgia

Let me go ahead and give Tom Crean a little credit here. I crushed his hire when it happened, and I still don’t believe he is going to work at Georgia long-term. But he does have the Bulldogs playing hard. They are currently 8-4 overall and actually rank in the Top 20 nationally in field goal percentage defense. Defense is often about effort, meaning that again, to Crean’s credit, he does appear to be getting effort out of his guys.

AT the same time, Georgia is just 8-4 overall with 24-point loss to Georgia State on their resume (whoof) and a 15-point loss to Clemson. And their best win is against who exactly? Georgia Tech, who is the worst team in the ACC?

Tom Crean might have the ‘Dawgs playing hard. But they’re going to run into real talent soon. And it’s going to get ugly.

Oh, they bad: South Carolina and Texas A&M

Man, was it really just two seasons ago that South Carolina made the Final Four? It might as well have been 100 years ago with the way the Gamecocks are playing. South Carolina already has losses to Wofford, St. Bonaventure and at Wyoming. Not to mention that they’ve also lost to all the legitimately good teams on their schedule as well (Michigan, Virginia, Clemson etc.). The Gamecocks are the only team that will enter SEC play under .500.

Then there’s Texas A&M who is just above .500, but also a complete mess, just one season after making the Sweet 16 (although in defense of the Aggies, they were basically a mess all season last year as well, even if they did eventually make that Sweet 16 run). The Aggies have losses to UC-Irvine and Texas Southern on the schedule, with their best win coming against… Oregon State? Woof.

There’s got to be a basement in every major conference. And it looks like the Aggies and Gamecocks will be occupying it for most of the season.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 110: Who will be the next UCLA hoops coach + Clemson-Alabama talk

It’s an all new Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, where Aaron gives you the best talk you’ll hear anywhere on the UCLA basketball opening, before Nick Coffey joins the show to talk about Alabama-Clemson and wrap up the 2018 college football season. Here are today’s topics:

The UCLA job is open – who is next: It’s been several days since the UCLA basketball job opened, but Aaron has insight on the gig you won’t hear anywhere else. Aaron explains why the job is unique, but still one of the best jobs in college basketball. He also explains the qualities that are needed to succeed in the gig. Finally, he tells you who he is hearing UCLA likes the most for the job – and who he would hire if he was UCLA. Yes, they are two very different people.

College Football Talk with Nick Coffey: Next, Aaron welcomes in Nick Coffey for the rare, back-of-show appearance for his buddy. The guys talk about all the latest in the college football world: Georgia talked a big talk on Twitter – and then didn’t back it up. Is that proof they don’t belong in the playoff? Aaron dispels the dumb narrative that ticket prices in the championship game are dropping because of lack of interest in the big game. And finally, Aaron and Nick preview Clemson-Bama and tell you who they think will win.

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.


Everything You Need to Know As We Head Into The Second Half of the College Hoops Season

Well kids, welcome to 2019. It’s January 2nd, and with bowl games basically complete and the NFL playoffs about to get underway it also means one thing: We have just about reached the point on the calendar when we turn our undivided attention to college basketball.

While it isn’t fair to say we’ve reached the “halfway point” of the college basketball season just yet (more like the “40 percent of the way there point”) what is fair to say is that this is the time of year where things in college hoops really heat up. Conference play has started in some leagues already and all others will kick-off this weekend. It’s time to separate the boys from the men, hide the small children and really get down to business to find out who are the pretenders and contenders in this sport.

Of course, if you’ve been distracted up until this point and not fully engrossed in college basketball, it’s easy to understand. Again, there has been a lot to distract you – college football, the NFL regular season, the holidays, spending an uncomfortable amount of time with your family etc. – but now it’s time to get back on track.

For those who need a quick recap of what you missed, and what’s to come, here is everything you need to know about college basketball so far:

There is no clear-cut best team in college basketball – but eight or nine who can all beat each other on any given night

If the early season portion of the college hoops season has taught us anything, it’s that the top of the sport is as healthy as ever. There isn’t any one great team, no one that is steamrolling the competition and separating itself from the pack. There are however probably eight or nine teams that are a cut above the rest and all capable of beating just about any of each other on any given night.

As I’ve stated for weeks, I actually think the best team in college basketball is Tennessee. The Vols are currently 11-1 with their only loss coming in overtime, against Kansas when Grant Williams fouled out of the game. Other than that, they have wins over Gonzaga and Louisville, with every victory besides those two coming by double-figures. The Vols can play fast or slow, small or big. They have no obvious weaknesses as best I can tell.

After the Vols, you can go in any particular order you want. Duke has been largely dominant outside their loss to Gonzaga, with (as we all know) wins over Kentucky, Auburn and Texas Tech among others. The Blue Devils still have holes (particularly three-point shooting) but can still flip a switch and dominate when they want to. Same with Virginia, who might actually have enough offense (for once) to make a real run this year, and Michigan is undefeated as well. It is fair to question just how good the Wolverines are however, since their two best wins (blowouts against Villanova and North Carolina) don’t look quite as good as when they happened.

Then there is Gonzaga, a team which I believe might just be the best in college basketball overall. Yes, they have losses to Tennessee and at North Carolina, but they were also down two key players in those games and logged an insane amount of travel in the out of conference portion of play (including 10,000 miles over a three-week stretch). Nevada is undefeated, and I truly believe a national championship threat, and let’s not forget about Kansas. The Jayhawks are 11-1 with probably the best collection of wins in college basketball (Tennessee, Michigan State, Marquette, Villanova) and the crazy part is that they basically only have two guys who are playing well right now (Dedric Lawson and LaGerald Vick). Can you imagine what they might be like if Quentin Grimes starts hitting shots? Or when Udoka Azibuke is back to 100 percent?

Oh, and there’s one team I haven’t mentioned. How about…

Kentucky, which is the total wild card to this entire college basketball season

My oh my how the tides have changed in Lexington huh? A few weeks ago everyone (and I, regrettably, include myself in that group) had given up on the Wildcats and wondered what was wrong with them. Two weeks later they are coming off wins over North Carolina and at Louisville. And once again, idiots like me are left wondering not what’s wrong with the Cats… but what’s wrong with ourselves, for doubting John Calipari?

Yup, I’m that dope and as time goes on, I think two things are clear with Kentucky: One, the trip to the Bahamas set the bar too high, and if anything, probably gave this group a false sense of just how good they are. I’d also add that I think the Duke loss set the bar too low on what realistic expectations are, and that it probably took several weeks for the Wildcats to recover from that. As I said at the time, I truly believed that Duke just might have played their best game of the season that night in Indianapolis, and as the season goes on it’s looking more and more like it.

So that’s the reality, but the good news is that over the last few weeks Kentucky has really hit its stride. Since Quade Green’s departure all the pieces have fit into place, with Ashton Hagans now the leader at point guard, and everyone else falling in line behind him. With Tyler Herro now hitting open shots it adds another element to this team and will make them more deadly going forward. If he (and to a smaller degree, Jemarl Baker) can hit deep three’s regularly it creates more spacing and driving opportunities for the guards on this team.

I’d also add that with those two big wins, everything is still on the table for Kentucky. The SEC is a bit down this year, which means there are more wins to be had (and fewer likely losses as well) and remember, Kentucky still has another major out of conference game when they welcome in Kansas at home. We’ll have to wait and see how the Wildcats fair against Tennessee and Auburn, but if the Wildcats can take down Kansas and show well in the SEC it’s impossible to say just how high their ceiling might be. Yes, that could even include a No. 1 seed in the Louisville region. And if the Wildcats can play the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in Louisville, we all know how much easier the road to the Final Four could be from tehre.

A lot remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: All the goals Kentucky had at the beginning of the season are still ahead of them. Remind me again: Why did we doubt John Calipari?
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Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 109: Recap of College Football Playoff and Kentucky-Louisville

We had a wild weekend of sports – so what better way to re-live it all than with a new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports. Aaron and Nick Coffey break down all the action from the College Football Playoff and Louisville-Kentucky basketball! They discuss:

Bama’s win over Oklahoma: The Crimson Tide are headed back to the championship after a resounding win over Oklahoma. Was anything about the final result surprising? Also, did this game help or hurt the argument that Kyler Murray deserved the Heisman over Tua? Also, should Oklahoma fans feel better or worse about the state of their program after the loss to Bama?

Clemson advances too: The guys talk about Clemson’s easy win over Notre Dame as well. Aaron makes the argument that Notre Dame actually played Clemson tough early, before big plays doomed them. He also dispels the narrative that this game is proof that Notre Dame didn’t belong in the playoff and explains why anyone demanding an eight-team playoff can’t complain about the Irish’s loss yesterday.

Finally, Kentucky-Louisville talk: The guys wrap by discussing Kentucky’s dominant win over Louisville. The loss showed just how far the Cards have to go to become elite, and also shows how far Kentucky has come in a short amount of time. Aaron explains that all of a sudden the path is wide open for Kentucky, to a No. 1 seed and maybe more!

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.


5 Things To Watch for As Kentucky Gets Set to Battle Louisville

It’s no secret to anyone reading this, but there is a big, massive, season-altering game on the docket for Saturday afternoon.

No, I’m not talking about Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl. Although I hear that will be a good one.

I am of course talking Kentucky vs. Louisville, at 2 p.m. from the Yum Center. And what I can tell you is that this is a MASSIVE game this particular season for both teams. Louisville is still trying to find itself, and would love a big win heading into ACC play. Kentucky meanwhile wants to prove to America that last week’s win over North Carolina was no fluke. Win this one, and the Wildcats are officially on a roll heading into SEC play. They would also have a second, big-time non-conference win to add to their eventual NCAA Tournament resume.

So with so much on the line, what are some things to watch out for? Here are five things I’m looking for from the Kentucky perspective.

How is Ashton Hagans ankle? And how replicable is his performance from last week?

As best I can tell they don’t hand out MVP awards for the CBS Sports Classic, but if they did, there is no doubt that Hagans would have taken home the honor for Kentucky. The freshman point guard was simply the most impactful player on the floor for the Wildcats against UNC, setting up the offense on one end and completely causing nightmares for the Tar Heels on the other end. He finished with eight steals on the night, and the crazy part is that he did it on basically one leg after turning his ankle early in the game.

Talk about a gutsy performance in what was essentially a “must-win” game for Kentucky. Now the question is, how healed is his ankle? And can he come close to replicating that performance on Saturday at the Yum Center?

Look, it’s obvious that no one expects Hagans to finish the game with eight steals like he did the other day. But if he can continue to bring the intensity that he did on the defensive end, he can once again completely get Louisville out of its rhythm on offense. Louisville point guard Christen Cunningham is actually coming off an injury himself (in his case, a concussion) and probably won’t be 100 percent, which makes Hagans performance that much more important.

If Hagans can get under Cunningham’s skin, and help on leading scorer Jordan Nwora, he could make it difficult on Louisville’s offense and once again completely swing a game. And it could completely swing a win in Kentucky’s favor.

How will the entire team’s intensity be?

While Hagans was the headline story of last week’s win against North Carolina, the underlying story was that the entire team had a different attitude than we had seen all season. Gone was the loosey goosey, float-through-the-game attitude we saw the first two months of the season, and in was an intensity and anger that we frankly hadn’t seen the entire regular season.

As I joked when Keldon Johnson and P.J. Washington bumped chests late in the game: “Bahamas Kentucky is BACK, baby!” (Ok, as you can see, I spelled Kentucky wrong. But hopefully you got the point).

Anyway, it was that exact intensity and that style of play which created so much excitement for this team following the Bahamas trip. Yet sadly, we really hadn’t seen much of it since the team returned to the mainland this season. But for Kentucky to get a win in this one, and get on a roll going forward, they’re going to once again need that intensity. Heck, they’re going to need that intensity all season long.

And if they can get that intensity all season long? Well, look out. There isn’t a single team in college basketball that Kentucky can’t play with.

Can Tyler Herro start hitting his open shots?

As I wrote earlier in the week, all the pieces are slowly starting to fall in place for Kentucky. Hagans has established himself as this team’s point guard. Reid Travis and P.J. Washington have figured out how to play together. Keldon Johnson is doing Keldon Johnson things.

But the one missing piece right now is Tyler Herro. And if he can start to knock down wide open jumpers, can you imagine how much more dangerous this team could be?

Look, I know what some of you are thinking: “AT, cut the kid a break. He’s averaging 12 points per game. That’s nothing to scoff at from a freshman.” I totally, 100 percent agree. At the same time, let’s also never forget that he’s shooting just 29 percent from three this season. This, after shooting a staggering 57 percent in the Bahamas over the summer.

And the crazy part is, it’s not as though he’s taking super-tough shots, or that the shots have even been defended well. It’s not as though he’s going up against elite players every game either. The bottom-line is that at this point, Herro has wide open shots. And they’re just not falling.

The good news is that this is perfectly normal. All great shooters go through slumps. The fun part is this: Imagine when those shots start to go in? And how much more dangerous this UK team will be?

If that happens… WATCH… OUT.

What can Kentucky get from its bench?

In hindsight, probably the most incredible thing about the North Carolina win is that Kentucky got the victory while getting virtually nothing from its bench. In total, non-starters combined for just six points (although Nick Richards did add six rebounds as well).

And the crazy thing is that Kentucky still won going away! Can you imagine how dangerous this team will be once it starts getting production from non-starters?

And again, here’s the wild thing: It’s not like the guys on the bench aren’t capable of playing better. It’s not like they’re a bunch of three-star recruits who are just filling out the back-end of the roster. Instead it’s three McDonald’s All-Americans coming off the bench right now (Richards, Immanuel Quickley and E.J. Montgomery) with another Top 75-ish or so recruit in Jemarl Baker.

So seriously, can you imagine how dangerous this team will be when Baker gets comfortable on the floor for the Wildcats? Or if they can start to get just a tiny bit more from Montgomery, who is averaging just five points and four rebounds so far this season? Seriously, everyone – even Montgomery – knows he can do more than that. And we know Richards and Quickley can give more when given the opportunity as well.

Finally, will there be a hangover this weekend?

To fully explain my last thought, we must go back to a blurry night in Vegas a few years ago. I was actually at the Kentucky-North Carolina game in Vegas two seasons ago when Malik Monk went off for a surreal 47 points in a win against the Tar Heels. It remains one of the best college basketball games I’ve ever been to. And the after-party certainly hasn’t been matched since.

Anyway, enough about my Vegas nights, because the bottom-line is, we all remember what happened next: Kentucky came back home high off that win and ended up losing at Louisville. I don’t remember ever detail of the game, but I seem to remember the 73-70 final score was closer than the game itself was.

So coming off a massive win, can Kentucky avoid seeing history repeat itself and get another big win heading into SEC play?

It’s just one of many things I’m interested to see this weekend.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 108: Kentucky-Louisville preview + Dave Wannstedt talks College Football Playoff

It might be a vacation week for some – but it’s never vacation for the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Nick Coffey and Aaron preview Louisville-Kentucky this weekend, before Fox’s Dave Wannstedt and Alabama radio host Ryan Fowler preview the College Football playoff. Here is a preview of today’s show:

A preview of Louisville-Kentucky with Nick and Aaron: Aaron and Nick Coffey discuss all the elements of the biggest college hoops game of the weekend – Louisville-Kentucky. Does either fan-base really know what to expect coming into this game? What are the keys to the matchup? And who do the guys think will win? Aaron and Nick also talk College Football Playoff as well, previewing the big games and explaining who they like to get victories. Are we sure Notre Dame can’t beat Clemson? And why Aaron thinks Alabama will have extra motivation versus Oklahoma.

Dave Wannstedt talks all things college football: Next up, Fox’s Dave Wannstedt joins the show to break down a variety of topics across college football. He talks about his glory days as an assistant with the Miami Hurricanes and Dallas Cowboys and why he believes it’s time for an eight-team playoff. Also, he gives a game-plan on how to go about beating Alabama.

Finally, Alabama radio host Ryan Fowler: Fowler brings the Bama perspective to the show prior to kick-off Saturday. He discusses – in the way that only he can – what it is like to cover Nick Saban. Could he have ever seen this success coming? And what does he think about Tua losing the Heisman to Kyler Murray and how it could impact this game?

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.

 


We Are Just Now Seeing What Kentucky’s Ceiling Might Look Like This Season

As has been written several times over the last few weeks, the gift and the curse of the John Calipari era at Kentucky is that regardless of what happens early in the season, he always has his teams ready for March. No matter how hopeless things might seem in November and December, by tournament time, his team is always a threat to make a run.

We now have over a decade’s worth of data to prove it.

Remember, even before Calipari got to Kentucky, his final four teams at Memphis made it to at least the Sweet 16, a staggering string of success that the school has never come close to replicating. And since he’s gotten to Kentucky it’s been much the same. While there have been plenty of years where Calipari has had one of the best teams in the country all season long (2010, 2012, 2015, 2017) there have been plenty others where things looked hopeless early, before they picked up late (2011, 2014, 2018).

Still, even with that as a background, even with the knowledge that Calipari always figures it out, I’ll readily admit one thing: I’ve been blown away by Kentucky’s improvement over the last two games. It was less than 20 days ago that we were wondering what was wrong with the Cats following a loss to Seton Hall, with everyone (including myself) questioning if they’d ever figure it out. Fast-forward, and they’ve got two straight wins, including one over a really good North Carolina team, in a game they largely dominated from start to finish. As anyone reading this knows, the 80-72 final was much closer than the game itself actually was.

And as I sit back and reflect on that win, it’s got me thinking about Kentucky, and the fact that – as we all know – John Calipari is only going to have this team playing better and better as the season goes and peaking in March.

Therefore, it feels fair to ask: Are we just now starting to see what this team is capable of? Because I do believe we are. And if that’s the case, just how high could this team’s ceiling be, come March? It’s a little scary to think about right now to be honest.

Let’s start with what we learned over the last few games, which could be best summed up by saying “Hmm, maybe this team isn’t so bad after all.” In the Bahamas we saw just how good these individual pieces were, and now we’re starting to see how they all fit together.

In terms of the good stuff, there are a few things we know so far. One, Ashton Hagans is the answer at point guard. This is no longer debatable. After a game where he completely dominated against North Carolina – and did so basically on one leg – we now know that Hagans is the engine that will drive this team. While his jump shot is a work in progress (and will be even after he leaves Kentucky) he can still get to the spots on the floor he wants to on offense, which in turn helps create offense for others. And defensively he’s just a nightmare. Good luck to any guard who is trying to run offense against the Wildcats from here on out.

Beyond Hagans, we’ve learned some other things as well. P.J. Washington and Reid Travis are starting to learn how to play together. Travis is of the most intimidating low post presences in all of college basketball, and Washington is versatile enough where he can step outside the paint when he and Travis are on the floor together. When Travis is on the bench, Washington can go into the low post and dominate against most teams Kentucky will play, like he did against Seton Hall. Additionally, Keldon Johnson is evolving into exactly what he was promised to be: An uber-competitive two-way player who busts his butt on both ends of the floor. His offense has picked up exponentially over the last two games, and even if we can’t expect him to keep those numbers up (he’s averaging 23.5 points on 10-14 shooting), he is a player who is capable of going off for 20 on any given night.

So that’s what we know about Kentucky right now. But here is the scary part: They still have so much more growing to do before they come close to the team that they could be by March. Admittedly, most teams grow through the season. But with so many young players, so much raw talent and so many new faces, it does seem like Kentucky’s growth – like it usually is – will be more pronounced than some other schools.

Seriously, think about how much better this team can get.

Let’s start with Tyler Herro. Looking at the raw numbers he’s been fine so far – 12 points per game from a freshman is never anything to scoff at. Yet he is also only hitting 29 percent from three-point land right now. And it’s not like he’s taking highly-contested shots against elite defenders. He’s missing wide open bunnies that eventually will fall for him. Can you imagine how much more lethal this offense will look if, and when, a few of those will fall? If he can just get that three-point shooting percentage to say 35 or 36 percent, you’re talking about an addition six or so points per game.

Beyond Herro, how about Jemarl Baker? We saw flashes against Utah and to John Calipari’s credit, he ran Baker out there quite a bit against North Carolina. What if Baker becomes another threat off the bench that can hit threes? At that point, you’d have a team with about five or six guys (Johnson, Herro, Baker, Washington, Immanuel Quickley) who can hit deep threes. You know how much more that will spread out the defense and make life easier for the Wildcats on offense?

Furthermore, at some point you’ve got to think that the Wildcats will get something more from E.J. Montgomery as well. He’s in a tough spot behind Travis and Washington but we all know he’s capable of more than the five points and four boards per game he is averaging right now. Same with Quickley, who can add scoring punch off the bench as well.

So let’s just take those little tweaks. Take a little bit more consistent shooting from Herro, a bit more from Montgomery, anything from Baker, and add it in with the production Kentucky is already getting, well again, I’d ask, what exactly is the ceiling of this team?

Because as someone who covers college basketball for a living, I can tell you this: If we ever do see that version of Kentucky? There aren’t many teams in the country that will be able to hang with them. And there aren’t many teams, even at the top of the rankings, that Kentucky wouldn’t be able to compete with – and potentially beat – on a neutral court in March.

Seriously, I watch about as much college basketball as anyone, and when I think about a Kentucky squad firing on all cylinders, there aren’t many teams that come to mind who I’d think “Man, they’d give the Wildcats problems.” A full-strength, peaking Kentucky can absolutely hang with the schools atop the polls like Michigan, Tennessee (the team I believe should be No. 1 in the country right now) and Kansas. Same with Virginia and Nevada. Heck, I think they’d be favored against some of those squads on a neutral court.

Others would give them more trouble like Gonzaga (don’t overthink the Zags loss to North Carolina – they were down two key players. The Zags are very much legit), but I even think the Wildcats would be capable of hanging with Duke. Yes, we all saw the debacle in Indianapolis a few weeks back. But as the season wears on it’s looking more like that was the best game Duke played all year, and the blueprint is now out on how you can hang with them. Plus, I would think the Wildcats would come out more focused and fired up in a second meeting with them.

Of course these are all just hypotheticals right now, and we’ll find out just how far this team has come, and how far they have to go, Saturday when the Wildcats return to the court against Louisville.

But based on what we’ve seen the last few weeks, it’s perfectly acceptable for Kentucky fans to dream big.

And wonder just how good this team might be come March.

 


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 107: Kentucky-UNC Headline Wild CBB Weekend

It’s a Christmas treat — a new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast to take you into the holiday, as Aaron and Nick recap a busy weekend of college hoops. The guys discuss:
Kentucky’s win over North Carolina: The guys break down the Wildcats’ dominant win over North Carolina in Chicago. Aaron explains why he believed UK could get win, even if he was surprised how easily it happened. Nick thinks we’ve found the formula to success for Kentucky. Also, is this team better without Quade Green? Is Ashton Hagans its most important player? And after a win like this, how high is the Wildcats’ ceiling?
The rest of the weekend in college hoops: The guys discuss the rest of the college hoops weekend. With Kansas’ loss, who should be No. 1 in the polls — Duke, Tennessee or someone else? They also break down Steve Alford’s “Only God can judge me” quote and why it really is over for the UCLA coach. Finally, they discuss the new Greek Freak Rick Pitino and his new head coaching job.

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


Why Saturday’s North Carolina Game Might be the Most Important of Kentucky’s Season

If you’ve read my coverage of Kentucky basketball through the years, you know that I always try to be fair and balanced in my coverage. I try to take the good with the bad, and add perspective when needed. And that’s made this season so specifically interesting. As I’ve mentioned in some of my previous articles, I understand both sides of the Kentucky fan-base right now. The side that says “I’m tired of being lousy in November and December, even if it means we’ll turn things around by March.” And the other side that says “We’ll be fine come March – and that’s all that matters.”

Still, even though history does tell us that Calipari will in fact figure things out by March, I am ready to admit one simple thing: This weekend’s matchup with North Carolina might just be the single most important game Kentucky plays until the start of the NCAA Tournament. That’s because the Tar Heels are the perfect opponent, at the perfect time, to gauge exactly where Kentucky is in the season right now. The Tar Heels are good, but not elite, and a club that plays the kind of style that the Wildcats are capable of winning against.

That’s also why the stakes feel so important in this game. If Kentucky wins, all will be right in Lexington heading into the Christmas holiday. If they don’t, it won’t be pretty. And if Kentucky gets blown out let’s be honest: It could be a sign of a long, cold, dark winter for the Wildcats.

Now I already know what some of you are thinking: “Aaron, how can you possibly think that Kentucky is ready to compete with Carolina? Carolina is coming off a home win against Gonzaga. Kentucky has played a grand total of three games against Power 6 competition and lost to two of them. Their best win is against Utah, which is bad… even by the terrible standards of the Pac-12. How, can North Carolina possibly be the perfect opponent for the Wildcats? Heck, how are they going to beat them period?”

Well, let’s start with Kentucky. Because while I understand any Wildcat fan who doesn’t want to get too excited about a win over lowly Utah, I do think there were positives to take out of that game, and even to a smaller degree from the loss two weeks ago against Seton Hall (yes, I’m being serious).

What positives are those?

In no particular order: Ashton Hagans is slowly establishing himself as the “prototypical Calipari point guard” this team needs to have success. P.J. Washington and Keldon Johnson have been the best player on the floor at moments in each of those two games – and looking at the rest of Kentucky’s schedule, there’s no reason to think they can’t be the best player on the floor against just about any opponent left on Kentucky’s schedule. Reid Travis is doing Grown Man Reid Travis things. Immanuel Quickley and E.J. Montgomery are slowly finding roles off the bench. Jemarl Baker might just be the greatest shooter of all-time (thanks to Drew Franklin for crunching the numbers here). Meaning that man, if Tyler Herro can start hitting shots… look out. This team could be lethal.

To put things a different way: While Kentucky hasn’t come close to reaching its potential yet, you can start to see signs that they might get there. And what that potential might actually look like.

Of course, that’s if all these guys develop the way they’re capable of. And if some of Kentucky’s weaknesses start to get cleaned up. You know, like allowing opponents to shoot 42 percent from the field, which ranks 159th nationally entering this game. Or, the fact that – in case you haven’t heard – Kentucky’s perimeter defense has been abysmal. The Wildcats currently rank 359th in that category nationally, just behind Eastern Illinois and Maine, and slightly ahead of Lafayette and Northern Colorado. Just a hunch, but I’m guessing none of those four teams have eight former Top 50 recruits on their roster.

Anyway, that’s also why North Carolina is a fantastic litmus test for where this team is: As I said, the Tar Heels are a good but not elite team. And more importantly, North Carolina doesn’t play a style that should have Kentucky out of sorts. They play a more “traditional” two big-man lineup, and don’t shoot a ton of three’s. As a team they’re shooting just 37 percent from beyond the arc, and if you take out their best three-point threat Cam Johnson, they’re shooting just 33 percent as a team.

But wait, there’s more.

Defensively, they – like Kentucky – are a work in progress (which really is kind of a nice way of saying “They stink”). The Tar Heels currently rank just a few spots ahead of Kentucky in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot 42.2 percent from the field. They’ve given up 92 and 84 points in their two losses and even in last week’s win over Gonzaga, allowed the Zags to put up 92. As an opposing coach told me earlier this week they can be exposed defensively on the perimeter, which should allow for potential big games from P.J. Washington, E.J. Montgomery and Keldon Johnson. And as the coach also told me, the way to slow down the Tar Heels is to slow down their point guard Coby White. Luckily for Kentucky, their best defensive player will be the guy tasked with picking up White, Ashton Hagans.

Therefore, even though North Carolina is a good team, and even though they’ve got a couple wins that should make UK fans nervous (specifically Gonzaga over the weekend), this is a game the Wildcats, even as they currently stand, are capable of winning. While it feels like some teams would give UK fits at this point in the year (Michigan, Gonzaga, Tennessee, Duke, maybe Virginia), North Carolina isn’t one of them.

That’s also why this game is so important.

Look, we know that Kentucky is far from a finished product. And we know that they will pick things up at some point because, again, with Calipari they always do. But at a certain point it can’t just be about “getting better” and “developing good habits” and “tweaks.” It’s got to be about getting good wins. Not only to give this team confidence heading into the Louisville game and SEC play. But because they need to start building a resume to hopefully get a good seed come March.

Kentucky still has a long way to go.

But we’re going to find out just how long that road is this weekend.


What Will it Take for Kentucky to Beat UNC? We Asked a Coach Who Has Faced the Heels

It’s no secret that this weekend’s game against North Carolina is shaping up to be the most important of Kentucky’s young season so far. Through 10 games this season, Kentucky sits at 8-2 overall. The problem of course is that they’re just 1-2 against Power 6 conference programs and 0-2 away from Rupp Arena.

That’s certainly not good, but it can all be erased with a victory over North Carolina Saturday evening in Chicago. The Tar Heels are currently sitting at 8-2 themselves and coming off a big win against Gonzaga. Meaning, that a victory over UNC would not only give the Wildcats a much-needed confidence boost heading into next week’s Louisville game, but also would give them a very important out of conference win to help their resume later in the season as well. It would also prove that maybe these Wildcats can play with the big boys after all.

So yeah, this one is big, and as we enter the game, it’s left all of Big Blue Nation wondering: What is it going to take to pull out a victory?

For fun, I decided to call an assistant coach whose team played North Carolina earlier this season for a scouting report.

Understand, his team played UNC a few weeks back, so the Tar Heels have changed a bit since the opener. But here were a couple of his thoughts, pointers and opinions on what makes the Tar Heels tick, what their weaknesses are, and how to beat them:

Point guard Coby White is what makes this team tick

Luke Maye may be the most recognizable player on North Carolina’s roster. Nassir Little is the best long-term NBA prospect. Cam Johnson the team’s leading scorer. But it’s freshman point guard Coby White, and his ability to push the ball in pretty much any situation, which makes this team so deadly.

“Coby White’s speed is really, really unique,” the coach said. “The way he’s able to push the ball on misses or makes, and to get the ball down the floor [is lethal].”

And that last part is key: Unlike so many point guards, White doesn’t just push the ball off turnovers or in transition. Roy Williams has given him the green light to push the ball at pretty much any time, including off an opposing team’s made basket.

“On a made basket he gets that outlet and he’s able to get ahead of the defense before it can get set,” the coach said.

“The pressure he puts on the defense is different than any other point guard we’ve seen all year.”

Kentucky’s big guys better bring their hard hats

Another thing that makes North Carolina so unique is the versatility of their roster. They can run out lineups heavy on the things that are important in modern college basketball, superficially three-point shooting and spacing, thanks to the versatility of guys like White, Johnson and Nassir Little. But with Maye, Sterling Manley, Garrison Brooks and Brandon Huffman, they also have a dearth of “old-school” bigs down low who can mix it up and get physical.

“What I didn’t mention is how great of an offensive rebounding team they are,” the coach said, when asked about their size in the paint. “They really punish you on the glass.”

The stats back it up. North Carolina enters this game ranked No. 1 in the country in rebounding margin, averaging 14 more rebounds per game than opponents. The Tar Heels also rank in the Top 15 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounds.

The good news for Kentucky is that the Wildcats actually rank fifth in rebounding margin nationally. So it’s not like they’ll be completely out-manned on the boards.

But it does mean that for Kentucky to win, they’ll need Reid Travis and P.J. Washington to bring their hard hats.

It might also be a big day for E.J. Montgomery

When discussing the size of Carolina’s front line, the coach mentioned that while it might be a strength in some cases (that whole “dominating the glass,” thing) it could be a weakness as well. That’s because when the Tar Heels do face teams with smaller, quicker front lines that can stretch the floor and make jump shots, it makes that front-line susceptible on defense.

“That’s why Michigan gave them so many fits,” the coach said. “They had to guard smaller fours and more active fours and those guys aren’t comfortable playing like that.”

For those who missed the Michigan game, umm yeah, it wasn’t pretty for the Tar Heels. North Carolina lost to the Wolverines 84-67 on the road, in a game that Roy Williams said was “the worst” coaching he’s done in 31 years as a head man. And it was – in large part – due to what our coaching friend said: Michigan’s ability to space the floor. The Wolverines “power forward” Iggy Brazeikis finished with 24 points, including two three-pointers. Overall, Michigan hit 11 three’s as a team.

Add it up, and it means that as weird as it sounds, E.J. Montgomery – and his ability to space the floor – could be key to this game. If he can hit a few jumpers to loosen up the North Carolina defense, it could give the Wildcats the push they need. Also, could this serve as a breakout game for Jemarl Baker, who looked good in limited minutes against Utah on Saturday?

The longer you make North Carolina’s defense work, the more likely they are to fall apart

All season long, North Carolina has been known as a bad defensive team. And honestly, that assessment isn’t really fair. The bottom line is that because North Carolina plays at such a fast pace, it creates more possessions for both themselves and their opponents, which of course leads to more points for both teams. While I’m not a huge numbers nerd (listen to Monday’s podcast if you don’t believe me), it is important to note that UNC is ranked 39th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency stat, which basically factors in how fast they play with the number of points they give up. That’s not a great number, but not terrible either.

At the same time, the coach was adamant about one thing: If you can slow down the game, not give Carolina the chance to fast-break, and make them play 20-30 seconds of defense, they will eventually break down.

“If you’re able to reverse the ball and have a little bit of patience, they do struggle defensively reacting to the ball,” he said.

Then, he continued.

“I think that you need more of a disciplined offense when you’re playing against them. If you try to score early that’s not going to work. But if you keep the ball moving, you have a much better chance to score later in the shot clock.”

White can be turnover prone, and that’s especially the case in the half-court

To bring this bad boy full-circle, I think what we’ve all learned by now is that the Tar Heels transition game is what makes them so lethal. It allows them to feature their best trait (an ability to push the ball) while limit their weakness (half-court defense).

It also takes away what is their most important player’s individual weakness. That is Coby White and turnovers.

For all the great that White brings to the table, he is averaging 2.4 turnovers per game. And while there is no definitive stat to prove it, it seems like a lot of those turnovers come in the half-court, when White is asked to run an offense, as opposed to in the open court, where he is at his best.

“They’re good in the half-court but they’re better in transition,” the coach said.

Naturally.

The question now: Can Kentucky keep North Carolina out of transition?

That might be the key to winning and losing their most important game of the season.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 106: American Idol Winner Taylor Hicks Returns

What an episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast it is.  Before the holidays Aaron is joined by his old frenemy, turned friend, American Idol winner Taylor Hicks. Before the two talk shop, there is a TON of great college hoops to talk about, like…
Everything you need to know in college hoops: He breaks down NC State’s massive win over Auburn on Wednesday, and why the Wolfpack are a rising program under the watch of Kevin Keatts. Plus, why Keatts still doesn’t get enough credit for the early success he’s had.
Aaron also talks about the disaster at UCLA, after the Bruins lost by 30 to Cincinnati on Wednesday. Aaron says it’s over for Steve Alford and gives you the names to watch out for in Westwood. Also, it might be time for Jim Boeheim to consider stepping aside and a short preview of Kentucky-North Carolina.
Next up, Aaron welcomes American Idol winner Taylor Hicks: The pair re-hash their once blood-boiling feud, before explaining how they got over it, and are now friends. Taylor then talks about his new show “State Plate” and traveling the country, before the guys wrap by talking Taylor’s beloved Auburn Tigers and what it’s like to root against a Nick Saban coached team.

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


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 105: The Return of Nevada Coach Eric Musselman

It’s another lively edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast.  Aaron recaps a wild weekend in college basketball before Nevada’s Muss Bus returns to the show.
Why Tennessee Should be the No. 1 team in the country right now: While Kansas is No. 1, Aaron makes the case for a team Kansas beat — Tennessee. The Vols lost in overtime against the Jayhawks, in a game they dominated before their best player Grant Williams fouled out. After beating Gonzaga and dominating Memphis the last two weeks, why shouldn’t the Vols be No. 1?
Why Kentucky vs. North Carolina is HUGE: Next, Aaron discusses big wins this weekend for Kentucky and North Carolina. Aaron explains why he thinks UK is finally starting to turn a corner by figuring out who they can “go to war with,” while North Carolina is coming off an impressive win against Gonzaga at home (where Gonzaga wasn’t close to 100 percent). Aaron then asks: Is this weekend’s UNC-Kentucky game the one that will define both team’s seasons?
Next up, it’s the return of one of our favorite guests as Nevada coach Eric Musselman joins the show. Among the many topics they discuss include:
Nevada’s rise into the Top 10: Coach Muss talks about his current team, which is ranked No. 7 in the country. How did he build this team? What characteristics did he look for in his players? And why he always believed Year 4 (this season) was the one the Wolf Pack would break through. He and Aaron also discuss how analytics have sometimes hurt college basketball and what his Nevada team needs to work on to get better throughout this 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 Instagram too.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 104: Quade Green Transfers + Ben Howland

The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast is back with a BIG-TIME guest, Mississippi State coach Ben Howland. Howland leads the 18th ranked team in the country as they get set to face Cincinnati this weekend. He and Aaron talk about a ton of topics, ranging from coaching Russell Westbrook to this year’s team.
But first Aaron discusses the biggest stories in college basketball, starting with:
Quade Green Elects to Transfer: The big news in college hoops is the decision of Quade Green to leave Kentucky. No one should be surprised, but Aaron explains why this is continuing a bad trend for Kentucky. Why is it that they can’t seem to keep a quality player past his freshman season? Is there anything Calipari can do to change that? The answer isn’t as simple as you think.
Trouble at Villanova: Next up, Aaron discusses another back-up point guard with big-time problems, Villanova’s Jahvon Quinerly. Quinerly is a McDonald’s All-American who can’t seem to find the court.  He sent out a cryptic Instagram message following Villanova’s loss to Penn on Tuesday night. Aaron gives inside information on Quinerly’s recruitment and why he doesn’t blame the kid for being frustrated. Also, Aaron compares Jay Wright’s system of going with veterans over talented freshman with John Calipari’s system of spotlighting freshmen.
Next Aaron welcomes a special guest, as Ben Howland joins the show.
Coach Howland’s Coaching Journety: Coach Howland’s first job in coaching, which involved guarding John Stockton every day in practice, and what it was like to coach Russell Westbrook at UCLA. Then he discusses this year’s Mississippi State team and why the SEC has gotten so good, so quick in basketball. Finally, he wraps with a couple incredible Westbrook stories.

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