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Aaron Torres’ Take

Does Kentucky Basketball Have a Branding Problem?

A bad couple months for Kentucky basketball got worse on Wednesday with the news that Quade Green has decided to transfer from the school. When it rains it pours, and right now it’s pouring in Lexington. The Wildcats are 7-2, basically have no quality wins and are coming off a disappointing and at times head-scratching loss to Seton Hall on Saturday. Now they’ve lost a key reserve off their bench.

And if we’re being totally honest, Green’s departure really hurts. Sure, Ashton Hagans is slowly evolving into a solid starting point guard for the Wildcats, and yes, Green has deficiencies in his game that limited how much you could play him depending on the opponent, but that doesn’t change the fact that Kentucky lost a very valuable piece on Wednesday afternoon. On a team lacking three-point shooting, Green was the team’s best outside shooter (hitting 42 percent) and brought a veteran poise to games that neither Hagans or Immanuel Quickley has at this point. As Jon Rothstein pointed out on Twitter, Kentucky now has zero guards on its roster who have ever played in an NCAA Tournament game.

More important than Green’s individual departure however, is that this decision continues a disturbing trend for the Wildcats. For the fourth time in the last 30 months, Kentucky has now lost a non-freshman who has seemingly gotten lost in the rotation, with Green joining Charles Matthews, Marcus Lee and Sacha Killeya-Jones on the transfer market since spring of 2016. Not to mention that Wenyen Gabriel, Isaac Humphries and Isaiah Briscoe went pro despite minimal NBA prospects (although Briscoe has played himself into an NBA prospect during that stretch) during that stretch as well.

Add it up, and what has become a common talking point among fans has become an increasingly obvious trend. With each passing departure, it’s becoming more and more apparent that for whatever reason, players don’t seem to think there is a future for them at Kentucky after their sophomore seasons. Kentucky has become a place where it’s basically become “one-and-done or bust” for their players.

And it’s led me to one simple question: Does Kentucky basketball have a branding problem right now?

It seems so.

(more…)


Why It’s Perfectly Understandable for Kentucky Fans to Be Frustrated Right Now

So as you’ve probably definitely heard by now, Saturday was not a good day to be a Kentucky Wildcat. Not only did Kentucky lose to Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden, but they didn’t even lose to a particularly good Seton Hall team. There haven’t been many truly stunning regular season losses in the John Calipari era at Kentucky. But falling to a Seton Hall club which lost four starters off last year’s team and already had three losses this regular season would certainly qualify as one.

Still, despite the disappointing result I did what I try to normally do in situations like this: Look at the big picture and provide perspective for Big Blue Nation. No, a loss to Seton Hall doesn’t look good. But there were positives. P.J. Washington played like the star Kentucky needs him to be, Ashton Hagans is coming along as “the guy” at point guard, and Reid Travis is who we thought he was going to be when he decided to play his final season of college ball in Lexington.

More importantly though, this is both the gift and the curse of the John Calipari era at Kentucky. With John Calipari, it isn’t always going to be pretty in November and December. But you take some of the bad for the reality that come February and March this team will be in the hunt for a championship. And in sports, where the ultimate end prize is to win a title, isn’t that what matters? To win it all? It is, and say what you want about John Calipari, but when you have Coach Cal, you’re almost always going to be in the conversation to win. Even last year when the Wildcats went 21-10 in the regular season (including a four-game losing streak in SEC play) they were a couple missed free throws away from playing Loyola-Chicago for a trip to the Final Four (a game they would have won by a billion, by the way).

I expressed this exact sentiment in a tweet shortly after the Seton Hall loss.

Yet after I sent out the tweet, something strange happened: I got a little bit of a pit in my stomach. While what I said was true, it also felt a bit hollow to me, and it does feel like something is a little bit… different this season. More importantly, I kind of understand the perspective of fans who are frustrated with where Kentucky is at right now. I understand the ones who are starting to say “I’m tired of hearing we’ll be fine by March. I want to win in November and December, darn it!!”

And for the first time, I find myself somewhat siding with them. Why do Kentucky fans have to sacrifice wins in November and December just to be in the hunt late? At a school like Kentucky – with every resource available imaginable – why can’t you have both? Why does it have to be one of the other?

Now before we go forward, like I always try to do, let’s go ahead and clarify a few things.

One, this isn’t a “Calipari is on the hot seat” column. Don’t be ridiculous. Heck, it’s not even a “Calipari has lost his touch” article either. Despite what the nameless, picture-less accounts on Twitter will tell you, 99 percent of Kentucky fans realize just how good they have it with John Calipari and that if Calipari left (for the NBA or retirement) there isn’t anyone out there who is guaranteed to replicate the success he’s had in Lexington. Most of the fan-base appreciates Coach Cal, and most remember what life on the other side was like. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just go ahead and look at the “Kentucky” section on Billy Gillispie’s Wikipedia page. It ain’t pretty.

At the same time, it doesn’t mean that the fans who are frustrated are necessarily wrong either. Even if having Calipari on your sideline always guarantees you a shot in March, in the past it also meant you were going to be damn good early in the season as well. It’s no secret that in his first six seasons, there were three (2009-2010, 2011-2012 and 2014-2015) where Kentucky was unquestionably the class of college basketball. Yet here we are in 2018-2019 and it looks like for the third time in four seasons (excluding the 2016-2017 De’Aaron Fox/Malik Monk season), the Wildcats will be largely out of the national conversation for most of the regular season.

And the frustrating part that there is no obvious answer as to why. That’s something you couldn’t say in previous seasons. In 2016, Kentucky had basically lost its whole team from that magical, 2015 campaign, so a drop-off was expected. And last year Kentucky was the youngest team in college basketball.

This year though, what is Kentucky’s excuse? They brought back plenty of experience, and also added the best grad transfer on the market and a bunch of five-star recruits. Also, despite what some of the experts will tell you, the talent isn’t nearly as bad as some make it out to be: P.J. Washington and Keldon Johnson are projected by just about everyone as Top 20 picks in the next NBA Draft. Ashton Hagans and E.J. Montgomery could get there in the coming months as well. That’s not “We’re going undefeated!!” type talent. But it’s better than all but a handful of teams in college basketball.

Add it up, and that’s the most frustrating part right now: There is no obvious reason why this team is so bad. Maybe they were a little overhyped in the preseason, and I include myself in those who did the overhyping. At the same time, the reason that this team had so much hype was explainable. Kentucky entered the season with seven McDonald’s All-Americans and nine Top 40 recruits on this roster. Where were we supposed to rank them? Especially after they blitzed through a bunch of pros in the Bahamas. How could anyone have logically watched that team in the Bahamas, and then predicted that they would get blown out by Duke, lose to Seton Hall and struggle with just about everyone other than Monmouth on the schedule? It was flat-out inconceivable.

Only that’s exactly where we are, which is what’s so perplexing. It’s also why I’ve begun to side the fans who have grown tired of the whole “We might not have it all figured it out now, but we will by March” spiel. Why? One, this isn’t the typical Calipari team that struggles in November and December – again, there’s no tangible, logical reason for this team to be this bad.

And also, why does it have to be OK for the team to struggle early if it means they’ll be competitive late? Why can’t Kentucky be good in November and December as well as February and March? Duke is. Kansas is. Villanova historically has been. Same with Virginia. Even if Kentucky fans wouldn’t trade their March results with Virginia (or most anyone on this list) why does it have to be an either/or proposition? Why do the fans have to be OK with it? Especially at a place like Kentucky, where John Calipari is the second-highest paid coach in the sport and the fan-base and alumni provide every resource needed to compete at the highest level? That’s kind of the deal you make when you take the job at Kentucky: When you have every resource needed to compete at the highest level, it’s expected that… you know… you actually compete at the highest level. It’s not that you play well for a few weeks in February and get hot in March.

And that really is the gift and curse of being the head basketball coach at Kentucky, isn’t it? As John Calipari likes to say, he “can’t hide” his players in Lexington and right now it seems like the same can be applied to him. Again, I’m not saying Calipari needs to go (frankly, Kentucky fans are lucky to have him) but it is fair to question what’s wrong with this team, and why the November/December swoon has basically become an annual tradition.

Ultimately, the good news is as I’ve said all throughout this article: History tells us that Calipari will get things figured out by March. Like I said at the top, for as frustrating as last year’s team could be at times, they were basically a missed free throw or two away from playing Loyola-Chicago to go to the Final Four (a game I’m 1000 percent sure they would have won by the way). And I do believe this team will again be in position by March to compete with anyone in college basketball, be it Kansas, Gonzaga or yes, even Duke.

At the same time, March is a long way away.

And for the first time I can say that I understand any Kentucky fan that says “I don’t want to wait until March to have a competitive basketball team.”

For the first time, I get the fan’s frustration.

(By the way, Nick Coffey and I spent a lot of time talking about Kentucky, the frustating loss to Seton Hall and why the fans have every reason to be mad. To listen, download and subscribe here)


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 103: Should UK Fans be Worried and How did Tua Lose the Heisman?

It is a jam-packed edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, as Aaron and his buddy Nick recap a wild weekend of college basketball and football. They talk a whole bunch of college hoops then go off on the Heisman trust.  A few of the topics touched on…
Kentucky’s loss to Seton Hall: Aaron and Nick take a deep dive on Kentucky’s loss to Seton Hall. First they focus on the positives (PJ Washington’s emergence as a star and Ashton Hagans) and also ask the question: Is there really any reason to believe Kentucky wont be fine by March? But that dive isn’t deep enough. Is the excuse of “We might not be good in November, but we will be ready by March” an acceptable excuse for Kentucky and John Calipari anymore?
The rest of the weekend in college hoops: They break down Tennessee’s victory over No. 1 Gonzaga. The Vols are just an old-school, hard hat college hoops team and the guys love it. Plus, they discuss Nevada’s victory over No. 20 Arizona State and why this Nevada team can hang with anyone in college basketball.
Aaron goes off on the Heisman Committee: Aaron can’t believe Tua lost the Heisman. If this is a season-long award, how did Tua lose it to Kyler Murray? Also, will this change the way Nick Saban coaches next year? And finally, Aaron explains why Tua and Alabama will get their revenge in the playoff in a few weeks.

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.


Your Guide to the First Big Saturday of the College Basketball Season

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in over eight months we enter a Saturday where college basketball takes center stage. No pesky college football. No NBA Playoffs, NFL Draft, WNBA playoffs, skeet-shooting, jai alai. Nothing to steal the spotlight from the greatest game on planet Earth, college basketball.

That’s right, it’s December and it’s college hoops season. And to quote my guy Drew Franklin: Let’s goooooooooooooooooooooo!!

Honestly there is so much good college basketball on Saturday that, to be honest… well, that is the problem. There is… so… much… college… basketball. Where do you even begin?

Thankfully I’m here to answer that question, with your guide to the first Saturday of college hoops season with no football.

No. 9 Kentucky vs. Seton Hall, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX

It only seems appropriate to start with the game that is of the most interest to everyone reading this post: Kentucky vs. Seton Hall. The marquee program in college hoops, playing in the marquee arena in all of basketball. What’s better than that?

Not much, and what makes it even better is that for the first time in a long time we should learn something about these Wildcats. Seton Hall almost strikes me as the perfect team for Kentucky to play in this setting; the Pirates are a step up in competition and the first Power 6 program they’ve faced since opening night. Just seeing a Big East caliber opponent should light a little fire under the butts of these Wildcats. But Seton Hall isn’t good enough where they will likely challenge the Wildcats for 40 minutes. If Kentucky can slow down the Pirates best player Myles Powell (who averages 22 points per game) they  should be able to win.

Therefore, this game is about getting a win for Kentucky, but also showing improvement against a better opponent. Specifically we all want to see how their perimeter defense holds up, and personally I want to see how P.J. Washington plays. While Washington looked solid for a couple games, he’s averaged just seven points per game in Kentucky’s last three wins.

The Wildcats can beat Monmouth, UNC-Greensboro and maybe even Seton Hall with Washington averaging seven a game. They won’t be able to beat the teams that matter in January, February and March unless he steps his game up though.

No. 10 Michigan State at Florida, 12:00 p.m. ET, CBS

Keep that remote control ready, because Kentucky-Seton Hall isn’t the only intriguing game worth keeping your eye on in the early window. Michigan State-Florida might not be as sexy on paper as it was two months ago, but it holds important intrigue for both teams.

For Florida it’s been an up-and-down start at 5-3 overall, but what better way to get back on track than by knocking off a Top 10 team at home? Michigan State meanwhile is already a solid 7-2 with victories over UCLA and Texas. Why not add a road win over a power school to your resume?

This is one that will be fun to watch on Saturday and could have wide-ranging impact come March.

South Carolina at No. 5 Michigan, 12:00 p.m. FS1

Poor Frank Martin. Since South Carolina made the Final Four two years ago his team has completely fallen off the cliff. And yes, I am very aware that if Frank Martin sees that above sentence my life might potentially be in danger. So if this is my last post at Kentucky Sports Radio, just know how much I appreciate everyone’s support.

But if it isn’t my last post, here’s the reality at South Carolina:  Since that Final Four run, just about everything that could go wrong for the Gamecocks has, and it didn’t get better this week when South Carolina lost at Wyoming. That’s a bad loss no matter how you cut it. And it probably doesn’t even help that this isn’t even a particularly good Wyoming team, as they entered the game at 3-5 overall.

So if a 3-5 Wyoming team can get a victory over South Carolina, what could the No. 5 team in America, and one that I believe might be the best team in college basketball do? I’m almost afraid to find out.

Xavier at Cincinnati, 2:00 p.m. ESPN2

This starts a long day of good games on ESPN2 (seriously, if you decide not to change the channel from about 2 p.m. ET to midnight you should be just fine) as bad blood is renewed in one of the nastiest rivalries in college basketball.

The disappointing thing is that there is no Chris Mack in this one, although there is still Mick Cronin on the other sideline.

Which means there’s like a 200 percent chance that if Cincinnati wins this game, Cronin will throw out some kind of sick brag like “There’s no way Indiana, Louisville or Kentucky did what we did today.”

You can count on it.

Louisville at Indiana, 2:30 p.m. FOX

Speaking of Louisville and Indiana, the “Rick Pitino Revenge Tour” – aka the schedule that Louisville put together before firing Pitino – takes a stop in Bloomington this weekend for another brutal game for Chris Mack. The Cards have already survived Michigan State and Seton Hall in the last month. Will they have as much success at Assembly Hall?

On the flip side, I’m excited to see Indiana as well. The Hoosiers have probably played a bit above expectations, especially when you consider their two losses were at Arkansas (when three or four key players weren’t playing) and at Duke. Not to mention that their game at Duke came directly after their loss to Gonzaga – so they didn’t just get Duke, but a pissed off Duke.

Therefore, while I wouldn’t say that Indiana is necessarily “exceeding expectations” right now, they have played better than I personally expected. We’ll see if they can keep it up against a Louisville squad that looks good in their first month under Mack.

Western Kentucky at Arkansas, 3:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network

This might just be the sneaky interesting game on Saturday’s schedule, as it pairs up two potential first round NBA Draft picks in Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey and Arkansas’ Daniel Gafford. The “Bassey Era” in Bowling Green hasn’t quite gone to plan, as Western Kentucky enters this game at just 4-4 and could really use a big win as they get set for Conference USA play.

On the flip side, Arkansas has unquestionably been the surprise of the SEC as they enter this one at 6-1 overall, and were one missed free throw from being undefeated right now. What’s been especially cool is that the Hogs aren’t just about Gafford but have gotten contributions across the board. Freshman Isaiah Joe earned SEC Player of the Week last week and guard Jalen Harris had a 12-assist performance against Colorado State earlier in the week.

That game actually led to a cool moment as well, when following Arkansas’ victory I mentioned how the Hogs are about more than Gafford and are really developing into a nice team. Well apparently Gafford noticed the tweet, and not only responded but referenced it in a press conference later in the week.

So yeah, I hate to brag, but think Daniel Gafford and I just became best friends. And the Torres-Gafford friendship is the bromance of the college hoops season that no one could have seen coming.

Georgetown at Syracuse, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

“It’s an old-school, Big East rivalry and”… blah, blah, blah. You get the point. Can’t lie: I’m an old-school Big East guy and even I’m getting sick of all the nostalgia every time two teams from the old Big East conference get together.

But in terms of the actual regular season, well, this one is important. In a down Big East, the Hoyas are very much a tourney contender – but need a signature out of conference win as they head into league play. On the flip side, with so many big games on their schedule, Syracuse should be fine. But it would still be a little bit less than ideal to drop a third out of conference game before the start of ACC play.

This one will be a tough, hard-nosed game.

Not only because it’s an old-school rivalry. But because it has big implications.

Clemson at No. 22 Mississippi State, 4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2

This is the first of a double-header in New Jersey and like so many other games, it has big meaning for both teams.

It’s especially important for Mississippi State.

Remember, this was a team that got left out of the NCAA Tournament field last year, largely because of a disappointing out of conference resume. Well, their out of conference resume isn’t all that much more impressive this year. They’ve played a single big-time opponent (Arizona State) and lost.

It’d probably behoove Mississippi State to win this game here. Also, I can’t believe I just used the word “behoove” in a sentence.

No. 12 Wisconsin at Marquette, 5:00 p.m. ET, FOX

This one is basically Xavier-Cincinnati with worse PR. Take two schools that are a short drive from each other, match them up in a once a season affair and what do you have? A rivalry that one local writer this week called “Like the Super Bowl… only five times more important.”

While that one might have a liiiiiitle bit of hyperbole rolled in, it isn’t that exaggerated and this year it should be heightened by the fact that both teams are actually really good. Marquette is 7-2 and coming off a nice win over Kansas State last week, while Wisconsin’s only loss is to Virginia on a neutral court.

Basically, this one will have the feel of a Sweet 16 game, only in December.

And while we’re at it, has anyone else noticed that Wisconsin’s Brad Davison is basically the 2018-2019 version of Marquette coach Steve Woji-however-you-say-his name, when Steve Woji-however-you-say-his-name was a player? You know, the floor-slapping, charge-taking, 5’10 white dude that gets under the skin of every opponent and every opponents fan-base?

If you haven’t seen Davison play, this tweet pretty much sums up his style of play.

No. 11 Florida State vs. UConn, 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

This is the second half of that double-header in New Jersey, and I can’t lie, this is a pretty big one for my Huskies. If they can somehow win this game, I feel pretty good that they’ll have a resume strong enough to get an at-large bid come Selection Sunday. It’s a long way away, but as they say, it’s never too early to start thinking about March.

On a completely different and random note, this also might be a matchup of the most entertaining coach on the sideline (Dan Hurley) against the most boring (Leonard Hamilton).

Seriously, is Dan Hurley screaming “MOTHERF****ER” after a random, mid-November win against Morehead State doesn’t get you fired up, I don’t know what would.

New Mexico State at No. 2 Kansas, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Like I told you, if you just leave on ESPN2 all day you should be set, and I can’t lie, this one might be a weeeee bit more entertaining than many of you expect.

The bottom-line is that while Kansas is the No. 2 team in the country, they aren’t exactly playing like it. They’ve had to go to overtime in two of their wins (including last Saturday against Stanford) and trailed at halftime in a few others. They’re ripe for an upset.

While I wouldn’t say the upset will necessarily happen this weekend, this one could be close. For starters, Kansas will be out without forward Udoka Azibuke, but more importantly, New Mexico State is a dangerous mid-major capable of pulling an upset. Incredibly, the Aggies have won their conference in six of the last seven seasons and won’t be intimidated by the atmosphere in Lawrence.

I’m not calling an upset, but this one could be close.

Notre Dame at UCLA, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Ok, ok, so this one isn’t quite as exciting as it was on paper two months ago, but hey, you’ll probably be up anyway, so why not watch?

One, it’s two big brand names, and two, I’m 99.99999 percent Bill Walton is on the call, so you know something crazy will happen.

More importantly, grab a cold one – you have survived the first big Saturday of college hoops season…

With so many more to come!


10 Things We’ve Learned One Month Into the College Basketball Season

10 Things We’ve Learned One Month Into the College Basketball Season

Today is Thursday, December 6th, which means that – as hard as it is to believe – we have reached the one-month point since the start of college hoops season. It really is incredible to think about how much has changed since that first night of the season in Indianapolis, when Kansas beat Michigan State and… well, actually, as best I can remember that happened in Indy that night.

Like Urban Meyer, I must be suffering a bit of memory loss.

Regardless, it’s incredible to sit here one month into the season and think about how much things have changed in the weeks since that opening night. Contenders that weren’t contenders a month ago have emerged, other teams have fallen, and Duke has gone from “print up the undefeated t-shirts” good, to just another really solid college hoops team at the top of the sport.

So one month into the season, what have we learned? Here are 10 things:

There are no great teams, but a whole lot of good ones

It’s pretty clear that five weeks into the season, there is no team like the 2014-2015 Kentucky Wildcats, a club that is overwhelmingly better than everyone else in the sport. But in their place however are a lot of really good teams, and a couple that more closely resemble Villanova last year, a 30-4 club in the regular season that rode upperclassmen and a handful of good-but-not-elite NBA Draft prospects to the national title. There really are about seven or eight teams that feel a cut above the rest to me.

Right now Gonzaga is No. 1, and with good reason. To me, they most closely resemble the Villanova team from last year. If you’ll remember, Villanova had a bunch of pros masquerading as college players and Gonzaga does too, with four veterans on their roster (Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke, Killian Tillie and Zach Norvell) who could all hear their names called on draft night. They also have the wins to back it up. That victory over Duke in Maui will likely only get better as the season wears on, and they also have wins over Arizona, Creighton and a last-second victory over Washington on their resume as well. The crazy part is, the Zags aren’t even at full-strength yet with Tillie and Geno Crandall currently sidelined with injuries.

Behind them are a bunch of other teams that feel capable of having what it takes to win the title in March. Kansas is deep and talented (insert your own Adidas/T.J. Gassanola joke here) but still a work in progress. Michigan picked up right where they left off last year (more on them coming), and as much as I’ve been critical of Virginia in the past, they’ve been phenomenal early on. Nevada is undefeated, and yes, good enough to win a title. Duke of course has the two most talented players in college basketball, even if they haven’t been the same since that opening night win against Kentucky.

I’d throw in a few more names behind those teams as well. Tennessee looked REALLY good against Kansas (they controlled that game for about 32 minutes) and although I was critical of them in the preseason, I could see them taking home a title. Auburn can get hot from behind the three-point arc which is all you need to make a deep tourney run. And I haven’t given up on Kentucky and their depth yet either (although obviously the defense needs to improve).

Point being, it’s a wide-open season, where it feels like there is no real separation between the top 8-10 teams in the sport. Which should make for a compelling regular season, and even better basketball once we get to tournament time.

(more…)


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 102: Verne Lundquist

It’s a very, VERY special episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast today, as legendary broadcaster Verne Lundquist joins the show to talk about his time in the SEC, relationships with Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and more.
Before we get to Verne though, Aaron starts off by hitting on a few topics that caught his eye over the last week:
The Biggest Storylines One Month into the College Basketball Season: It is officially one month since the start of college basketball season, and Aaron discusses the biggest topics so far in the season. He explains why he believes Michigan is actually the best team in the country, and he reveals a stunning early National Player of the Year selection. He also explains why it isn’t time to worry about Kentucky… yet.
Coaching Carousel: On Monday, the Bulls fired head coach Fred Hoiberg and there was immediate talk that the former Iowa State basketball coach would return to college basketball. While Hoiberg has already been linked to UCLA, Aaron explains why he doesn’t believe it’s the right fit.
Next up, it’s that time — “Uncle” Verne joins the show! The legendary broadcaster discusses a number of topics including:
How he Stumbled into Broadcasting SEC football: Verne takes us down the long, winding road that led him to the SEC. He reveals the “demotion” that landed him on the college football beat, and how it’s the best thing that ever happened to him. He also shared some memories that stand out.
His Relationship with Nick Saban and is Urban Meyer really Retired? Verne provides perspective on the two most prominent coaches he covered on the SEC beat: Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. He explains why he believes Saban is the greatest college football coach who has ever lived, and his complicated relationship with Meyer that leads him to believe that maybe, just maybe, he isn’t actually “retired.”
Finally, more stories: Verne wraps with a couple more stories, including the time that he and Terry Bradshaw made up a player while calling NFL games for the entire season and how he met his wife while she was on a date with another man. This is must… listen… stuff!!

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. 101: Urban Meyer Retires and CFB Playoff Questions

After a little delay, the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast is back. Aaron opens the show solo with breaking news of Urban Meyer’s retirement, then later Nick Coffey and Aaron break down all the happenings in college football over the weekend. The boys will talk basketball later this week, but for now it’s all pigskin, as they discuss:

Urban Meyer Retires: Aaron opens the show by discussing the announcement of Urban Meyer’s retirement. Aaron explains why Meyer has a complicated legacy that includes winning big on the field, but also letting his players and assistant coaches get away with murder (in some cases literally) off the field. Also, Aaron explains why Ohio State fans will soon regret defending Meyer… and why no one actually believes Meyer is “retired.” Will he end up as the next head coach at USC? Notre Dame? In the NFL?
 
The Scott Satterfield Hire: The news became official right before Nick and Aaron recorded, but Scott Satterfield is Louisville’s next head coach. Nick explains the road to name Satterfield head coach and why Louisville fans are NOT happy with the decision to name him to the post. Also, Aaron discusses Vince Tyra as the school’s AD and why his unique background may have helped him with this hire.
The College Football Playoff: The guys spend the second half of the show talking College Football Playoff. They ask: Did the committee get it right? Aaron explains why he doesn’t believe Georgia was a legit candidate and why Oklahoma should have gotten the spot. Aaron also makes the case for Ohio State and brings up an interesting conspiracy theory to explain why they weren’t only left out, but never seriously considered for a spot.

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. 100: Brohm Watch + College Hoops

It’s episode 100 of the Aaron Torres Sports podcast and there is no special song and dance — just great sports talk.  Louisville is still looking for a football coach (at least when the recording happened) and there is plenty of college hoops to discuss. The guys break down the latest on:
Brohm Watch: Somehow it’s late Wednesday and Louisville still doesn’t have a football coach. Nick explains why the longer things go, the worse it is for Louisville fans and what will the Cards do next if Jeff Brohm stays at Purdue. Plus, one fact no one is talking about that could sway Brohm one way or another.
Louisville’s Massive Win Over Michigan State: We’ll talk some Kentucky or other hoops down the line, but the biggest story from Tuesday night was Louisville’s win over Michigan State. Why it’s a great sign for the Cards to win while not playing well, plus has this changed the outlook on what Louisville’s ceiling is?
Finally, Could We Get a Controversy with Nevada Down the Road: The Nevada Wolf Pack dominated Loyola-Chicago on Tuesday night, with their first major victory of the season. The Wolf Pack are good — REALLY good. Unfortunately, Aaron already sees a controversy coming for the Pack as the season wears on.

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.


What “Feast Week” Taught Us About The National College Basketball Scene

What “Feast Week” Taught Us About The National College Basketball Scene

It pains me to say this, but our holiday weekend is officially over. It seems only yesterday that we were headed into a blissful, four-day stretch filled with sitting on the couch, gorging on food, watching sports and taking mid-day naps. Only flash-forward and here we are, mid-Monday, with Deb from accounting trying to foist half-eaten, left-over apple pie on you in the break room.

And admit it, you just took a bite, didn’t you? Man, how did the holiday slip by so fast?

It really is wild, and not only did the holiday weekend fly by, but so too did one of the most important weeks on the college basketball calendar: Feast Week. From Monday-Sunday, noon to well after midnight we were engulfed with quality and meaningful basketball, with results that will impact teams from now until Selection Sunday in March.

So what did we learn during Feast Week? Here are a few things:

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Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 99: College Football Recap and Will Louisville Miss out on Jeff Brohm?

It’s a new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast! After talking Duke’s loss to Gonzaga and James Wiseman last week, (if you didn’t listen click here) the guys are here to talk a little football. They’ll get into the basketball action later in the week, but first they discuss:
Ohio State’s Domination of Michigan: The guys discuss the Buckeyes stunning and dominant victory over Michigan. Should we have seen it coming? What does it say about Michigan? Can Ohio State replicate it next week in the Big Ten title game?
All the Playoff Scenarios: With Ohio State’s win, what does it mean for their chances at the College Football Playoff? Also, Aaron and Nick debate who deserves the fourth playoff spot if both Oklahoma and Ohio State win next week. Finally, will the SEC once again get two playoff teams if Georgia beats Alabama?
What’s the latest with the Louisville coaching search? After Kentucky crushed Louisville to win the Governor’s Cup, Louisville turns its attention to the future – but will Jeff Brohm be part of it? Is Brohm having second thoughts? And if he is, what does that mean for Louisville going forward?

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.


John Calipari Hasn’t Lost His “Touch” – But the Recruiting Game Has Changed Around Him

John Calipari Hasn’t Lost His “Touch” – But the Recruiting Game Has Changed Around Him

 

On Tuesday morning the news that no Kentucky fan wanted, but was ultimately inevitable, officially hit. James Wiseman, the No. 1 high school player in the class of 2019, made his college decision and he is headed to Memphis. While we’ll never know anything official, it seems obvious that Kentucky finished in second place.

Again, this news wasn’t shocking. As has been well-documented, Wiseman played for Penny Hardaway in high school and AAU. He decided to stay in Memphis to play high school basketball even after Hardaway left his school, and Wiseman made his announcement on a day where he will play against fellow Memphis commit D.J. Jeffries. There hasn’t been a single piece of evidence to suggest that Wiseman’s choice was going to be anything other than Memphis for months now.

Inevitably though it is disappointing for Kentucky who – after years of basically getting any player they wanted – have once again lost out on a big, high-profile kid. This one especially stings because, as my buddy TJ Walker has written many times, Kentucky turned up the heat on Wiseman in a way they rarely had before. There was literally nothing else they could have feasibly done. And Wiseman still picked Memphis.

The question now for Kentucky is of course “Why does this keep happening to us? And how do we stop it?” Unfortunately, there really is no easy answer to that question.

Now before we get too far down this rabbit-hole I do think it’s important to mention a couple things.

One, had Memphis not hired Penny Hardaway, Wiseman would be a Kentucky Wildcat right now. I think that’s worth re-visiting here. It’s not like John Calipari and his staff got out-worked by Coach K, Sean Miller or Chris Mack. They were thiiiiiiiiis close to running away with a commitment from the No. 1 recruit in high school basketball. There was only one person and one school that could sway Wiseman from coming to Kentucky, and it just so happened that the one guy (Penny Hardaway) was hired at the exact wrong time by that one school (although the timing made perfect sense on Memphis’ end). Had Memphis been dominating on the court under Tubby Smith last season or had Penny Hardaway not had the No. 1 recruit in the country on his high school team within the city limits, Kentucky would have locked in the No. 1 recruit in the country on Tuesday morning. And none of this would even be a conversation.

I’d also add that even though this is a frustrating day for Kentucky fans, it’s easy to forget that the Wildcats have had their fair share of wins on the recruiting trail of late. I know it doesn’t feel like that at this particular moment, but they have. E.J. Montgomery just chose Kentucky over Duke (and basically everyone) six months ago. Same with Kevin Knox in May 2017. Ashton Hagans, who was regarded as the No. 1 point guard in the class of 2019 re-opened his recruitment and seemingly never really considered anyone other than Kentucky (that includes Memphis by the way, who contacted Hagans shortly after he decommitted from Georgia). Reid Travis could have played anywhere in the country after he withdrew from the NBA Draft. He chose Kentucky.

So, forgive me for throwing out a little perspective here. But at the end of the day, I also understand the frustration from Kentucky fans who have watched one too many kids that UK really wanted pick different schools. The list is becoming increasingly longer, as you can add Wiseman in with names like Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Marvin Bagley, Bol Bol, you name it. Again, Wiseman is a bit different because of the fact that Memphis hired his high school coach. But it doesn’t make today any easier.

Here is the problem though when evaluating both the Wiseman situation and the other recruiting misses by Kentucky in recent years: I am not positive there is a solution. The recruiting game has changed over the last several years, with more schools willing to recruit one-and-done kids. And as the pool of schools willing to go after the truly 10-15 elite players a year has expanded, the opportunity to sign them as decreased for everyone. And right now it’s hurting Kentucky the most.

Think about it.

When John Calipari got to Kentucky in 2010, he really was the only guy selling the one-year path to the pros, the promise that if you came to Kentucky for one year, he and his staff would do everything they could to get you to the next level as fast as possible. In the subsequent years other schools like Duke, Kansas, UCLA and Arizona began dabbling on the one-and-done market, mixing the occasional star freshman (Andrew Wiggins, Stanley Johnson etc.) with three and four-year players. Even when Duke jumped two feet in a few years ago and started almost exclusively recruiting one-and-done guys, there were still more than enough guys to go around and Kentucky got more than its fair share. De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Jamal Murray, Kevin Knox all come to mind in that category.

But now, fast-forward just a few years and everyone is recruiting one-and-done kids. Understand, Kentucky doesn’t just have to beat out Duke and occasionally Arizona or Kansas for the best kids. But other schools too, places that never would have considered recruiting these kids just a few years ago.

Again, think about it.

Villanova would have never dared recruit a can’t miss, one-and-done guy just two or three years ago – this year they got Bryan Antoine. Florida signed his high school teammate Scottie Lewis. Last year Vanderbilt got Darius Garland North Carolina got Nassir Little. This year, the Tar Heels are the leaders for Cole Anthony… and there’s buzz that Notre Dame – NOTRE DAME!!!! – might be gaining ground in Anthony’s recruitment. If Notre Dame is getting into the one-and-done game you know things have gotten crazy.

Want me to keep going? Too bad, I’m going to anyway.

LSU has two potential one-and-dones on their roster this year. Michigan State might be the favorite for Vernon Carey after getting Jaren Jackson last year. Oregon has Bol Bol and Louis King. Indiana has Romeo Langford. Memphis now has James Wiseman.

Point being, just two or three years ago Kentucky was only competing with Duke for the best players, and maybe occasionally Arizona and Kansas. Now they’re recruiting against literally just about everyone.

Which again makes me wonder one simple thing: Has John Calipari “lost” his recruiting touch? I don’t believe so. What I do believe is that the one advantage that he once had no longer exists. And it isn’t just Kentucky either. Remember, Duke was thought to be a lock for Bryan Antoine and he chose Villanova. Another kid named Josiah James was assumed to be a heavy Duke lean. He picked Tennessee instead.

This isn’t about Calipari losing his touch. It’s about the world changing around him.

And that’s kind of also the problem here: There is no easy answer to solve the problem.

I’ve heard some say to change up the coaching staff, but again, no coach bats 1000 in recruiting. Again, Duke lost Bryan Antoine to Villanova. Kansas wanted Romeo Langford and he ended up at Indiana. Hell, Penny Hardaway wanted Ashton Hagans… and he chose Kentucky. It happens to everyone. Sometimes you can do everything right, impress mom and dad, give the perfect pitch… but a kid just chooses somewhere else.

Another solution I’ve heard some suggest is to go harder after transfers. I don’t necessarily disagree, and was just recently talking to a coach who told me he loves recruiting transfers. The recruitment is easier (no “middle man” or “handlers” just the kid, mom and dad) and because if a kid sits out a year it gives him time to develop in a system. The flip side is, how many truly impactful guys are there on the transfer market? If a guy is good enough, in most cases he’ll just go pro rather than sitting out a year. Even if they do elect to transfer, how many make an instant impact wherever they go? As good as Malik Newman was for Kansas a year ago – he went undrafted. Reid Travis might go undrafted this year. And those are probably the two best transfers of the last four or five years.

My only other thought – not that John Calipari wants or needs my advice – is that, if it were me, I would cast a slightly large net in recruiting. Specifically, I’d emphasize guys that really, really want to play at Kentucky even if they aren’t elite.

For example, I was perplexed last year when the staff never seriously went hard after Simi Shittu, who seemingly wanted to be recruited harder by Kentucky. Shittu is currently averaging 15 points and 10 boards a game at Vanderbilt. I’m still not totally sure why Kentucky never got serious on Aiden Igiehon, who is another player that made it obvious that he wanted to be recruited by Kentucky. He is a legit Top 30 or so recruit and a player who I believe will one day be in the NBA, yet the Wildcats never seriously went after him either.

Super random, but let me give you some further context to back this up: I remember Jay Wright once discussing Mikal Bridges, who arrived at Villanova as a 175 lb. freshman, redshirted and became a lottery pick last year after four seasons in the program. Wright once said that he didn’t initially believe that Bridges would contribute at Villanova, but he was sold because Villanova is where Bridges really wanted to go. His quote (and I’m loosely paraphrasing because I spent a half hour looking for the right quote and couldn’t find it) was something to the effect of “I’m not sure I totally believed in him when we were recruiting him. But it’s a lot easier to take a chance on a kid when you know that this is the only place he wants to be.” it feels like Calipari could have taken that approach on Igiehon, but instead he’ll be at Louisville instead.

Anyway, I’m getting long-winded here, and again, it’s not like this is the beginning of the end or anything for Kentucky in recruiting. They will almost certainly finish in the Top 2 when recruiting is all said and done, and ultimately something weird will happen and a good player will land on their doorstep. Maybe a coach will be fired and a kid become available. Maybe someone reclassifies like Ashton Hagans did last year (and ironically, like a kid named Anthony Edwards did on Tuesday). Maybe a better-than-expected transfer becomes available.

The one thing that seems certain: The days of simply mopping up on the recruiting trail and getting the four or five best players might be over.

And there’s no one to blame. The game has simply changed in recruiting.


A Full Preview of All The Thanksgiving College Basketball Tournaments

A Full Preview of All The Thanksgiving College Basketball Tournaments

I’m just going to throw it out there: I really do believe that “Feast Week” – the week leading up and through Thanksgiving – really is one of the best weeks on the entire college basketball calendar. I know everyone loves the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament (because who doesn’t love betting on obscure schools you’ve never heard of) but “Feast Week” really is basically just as good, without half the hype.

Seriously, think about it. What’s better than wall-to-wall basketball, from noon until well after midnight, Monday-Friday? Nothing. Well, except maybe for wall-to-wall basketball, from noon until well after midnight, Monday-Friday… after half-assing your work week Monday-Wednesday, then taking off the back end of the week to gorge on too much food and adult beverages for four straight days. Forget Fourth of July. I never feel more American than I do during Thanksgiving week. And I’m sure you feel the same.

So with the games underway, what do you need to know heading into the most underrated week of the college basketball calendar? From Maui to New York, Atlantis to Orlando, here is your guide to everything you need to watch for this weekend.

Maui Invitational (Monday-Wednesday)

Teams to Watch: Umm, all of them, but mostly Duke, Gonzaga, Auburn, Arizona, Xavier

As you know this tournament already tipped off Monday – but that’s OK. This is always one of the pre-eminent tournaments of Feast Week so even though we’re entering Day 2, it’s only appropriate to start here. Especially since an already incredible tournament got more incredible-er this year. That’s because, as you’ve probably heard by now, Chaminade isn’t playing in the Maui Invitational this year.

And while that’s disappointing to people who love tradition, the reality is that it’s made Maui a better tournament overall. For starters, while we love the nostalgia of Chaminade, the reality is that they haven’t been all that good in this event. They’re just 8-92 overall since its inception and haven’t won an opening round game since 2012.

So while we lose to the chance to see a major upset, the reality is that it probably wasn’t going to happen anyway. And without Chaminade, it also gives us more good games featuring more good teams – and honestly, who are we to complain about getting more good teams? That’d be like complaining about your grandma serving you too much pecan pie for dessert on Thursday night. What kind of monster would do such a thing?

Therefore forgive me for stepping all over the little guy in favor of a field that will now go down as the most loaded in the history of the Maui Invitational. By now you know the field features three Top 10 teams (Duke, Auburn and Gonzaga), another perennial power (Arizona), and a loser’s bracket that starting today features a bunch of clubs that might just be good enough to make the NCAA Tournament. When the “worst” teams in the field are Iowa State, Xavier, Illinois and San Diego State, you know you’ve got yourself a heck of a field.

Looking ahead the one storyline here worth watching is whether anyone can beat Duke. With the way that both Auburn and Gonzaga played on Monday (which would best be described as “sloppy”) it’s not looking good.

Instead just stick around to watch good basketball, even if we probably know what the end result will be. Also stick around to watch Zion Williamson and see if he breaks a backboard before the end of this tournament. And because Bill Walton is calling these games and honestly, you never know what you’re going to get from that dude.

No, seriously.

NIT Tip-Off (Wednesday and Friday)

Teams to Watch: Kansas, Tennessee, Louisville and Marquette

While Maui has the deepest field, the two-day, four-team NIT Tip-Off is the only one where every team playing will probably end up in the NCAA Tournament. The “worst” team here might be Marquette – which was picked to finish second in the Big East. Louisville, which is “down” as they’ve been in a while is still probably a tourney team with a new coach. So yeah, there will be plenty of intrigue too.

So again, there is plenty to watch here.

In terms of storylines, there are two things that interest me the most, and ironically, neither of them involves Kansas. At this point, we know who the Jayhawks are: A deep, loaded, talented team who – regardless of how they may, umm, “recruit” their players – is still a national title contender and Final Four threat. I’m not sure we’ll learn all that much about the Jayhawks that we don’t already know.

Instead, what I want to see at the Barclays Center on Wednesday and Friday is two-fold. First, I just want to see what Louisville looks like under Chris Mack. I’m a believer in Mack and truly think this squad can surprise some folks in the ACC. Still, it won’t be easy opening with a loaded Tennessee team that is currently ranked in the Top 10 nationally.

Speaking of Tennessee, that’s the other thing I’m interested in here: How good are the Vols this year? We know they were phenomenal a season ago, but as I’ve said all off-season, on a roster full of veterans with limited upside, is it possible this team has already peaked? Unlike a young squad like Duke, Kentucky, Villanova, Arizona or whoever that you know will get better, haven’t we already kind of seen the “best” that Tennessee is going to get?

We’ll find out, but I’ll add this: Even if the Vols have peaked they’re still a darn good team. And I wouldn’t complain if we got a Tennessee-Kansas final on Friday night at Barclays Center, a game that could have an Elite Eight feel to it.

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Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 97: Previewing Thanksgiving College Hoops with Barstool Reags

We are entering one of the best weeks on the college hoops calendar — “Feast Week” — as college basketball takes center stage from Maui to Atlantis and everywhere in between. There’s no better way to get things started than with a preview of Feast Week with our old friend, Bobby Reagan, a.k.a “Barstool Reags.”
Before Aaron welcomes Reags to the show, he and Nick Coffey discuss a number of topics including:
All the big college hoops stories from the weekend: Including Kentucky’s narrow win over VMI — Aaron explains why UK fans shouldn’t be concerned and why there are positive signs even after a close loss. They also break down a second straight loss for Villanova — and why things aren’t getting better any time soon for Jay Wright’s club. Finally they wrap by discussing Dan Hurley’s coming out party as UConn head coach, which included a shocking upset of Syracuse, followed with Hurley being ejected a night later against Iowa.
Next up, Barstool’s Bobby Reagan joins Aaron. The two…
Give a full preview of Feast Week: And break down all the big stories at the Maui Invitational, Battle 4 Atlantis and NIT Tip-Off Classic. Can anyone beat Duke — and who is going to be the poor team that leaves Maui with three losses? Also what should we expect from Chris Mack’s first big game at Louisville against Tennessee on Wednesday?

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.