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Sagarin Predictions: Looking ahead after the bye week

With the return of Kentucky football, we have the return of our weekly look at the Sagarin college football ratings and what it projects for the Cats in each remaining game on the schedule. By now you should know the drill; if not, let’s take a moment for a brief explanation of what you’re about to digest.

The Sagarin predictor ratings determine what the game spread should be for each game if the games were played today, based on teams’ week-to-week performance and statistics and numbers and more numbers and lots of mathematics that only Sagarin can formulate, in addition to a home field advantage. It is one of the most trusted sources in predicting upcoming games and it is right in line with the Las Vegas spread each week. (Click here for the entire Week 8 ratings set.)

Now for Kentucky’s remaining schedule, in which Sagarin gives the Cats the edge in all but one of the six games. For an added perspective, I threw in ESPN’s FPI Win Probability for each game, although it is not as confident in your Wildcats.

The Sagarin spread and ESPN FPI of two weeks ago are included to show the change since UK’s loss at Texas A&M and how the opponents fared while UK was off on its bye week. For Kentucky’s first four games, I used the Las Vegas closing line (*) because the weekly Sagarin ratings are not archived and I didn’t start this until Week 5 when things started getting serious.

GameSagarin PredictorESPN FPIActual ScoreLast Week  
vs. Central Michigan-17*88.7%Won, 35-20
@ Florida+13.5*12.9%Won, 27-16
vs. Murray State-41*99.3%Won, 48-10
vs. Mississippi State+10*22.1%Won, 28-7
vs. South Carolina-0.546.3%Won, 24-10
@ Texas A&M+521.5%Lost, 14-20
vs. Vanderbilt-15.584.9%-1484.7%
@ Missouri-243.4%-0.541%
vs. Georgia+5.522.7%+818.9%
@ Tennessee-865.6%-1072.7%
vs. MTSU-2591.8%-2693.3%
@ Louisville-1584.8%-980%

Go Cats.


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

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

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

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

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

So with media day about to kick off, it’s only fair that I put out my preseason predictions. Here they are:
(more…)


Zion Williamson mentioned in corruption trial

The never-ending college basketball corruption trial up in New York got extra juicy with the mere mention of Zion Williamson during a defense argument today.

Williamson’s named got pulled into the mud when the attorney for Adidas employee Merl Code tried to get a taped phone conversation entered into evidence. His attempt was unsuccessful, but it dropped a Zion bomb when he read a transcript of the call in his argument for admission. The call was between Code and Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend, about Zion Williamson, and relayed on Twitter by Dan Wetzel today:

Code: “Hey, but between me and you, he asked about some stuff … I know what he’s asking for. He’s asking for opportunities from an occupational perspective, he’s asking for cash in the pocket and he’s asking for housing for him and his family.”

Townsend: “I’ve got to just try to work and figure out a way because if that’s what it takes to get him here for 10 months, we’re going to have to do it some way.”

Nothing else was allowed in, so we’re left with the short exchange.

You can read plenty more dirt from the day’s events on Wetzel’s thread, including more on Brian Bowen and some stuff on LSU’s Will Wade willing to get messy:

It’s interesting to hear Zion had demands before landing at Duke, a day after Coach K said there’s no corruption in the sport.

Sleep tight tonight, Coach Kryszewksiwisi.


Insider Notes: Vernon Carey visits and the latest with James Wiseman and Oscar Tshiebwe

Did you have a good weekend? Did you enjoy Big Blue Madness? I was in Texas at a wedding, so I had to miss the festivities but watched the replay and have heard nothing but great things about John Calipari’s 10th BBM. All three UK commitments were in attendance and five-star center Vernon Carey. The Cats hosted a plethora of 2020 guys and even a few players from the class of 2021.

Here’s the latest.

Vernon Carey:

Let’s start with the biggest eye-popper of the weekend. Above was an Instagram story post (if you’re unsure of what that is, it’s just a social media post) from Vernon Carey’s mother. It certainly didn’t seem like a positive update regarding UK’s chances. Seven poo emjois, whatever, but when you plop an eighth that’s when you know things aren’t great. I’m told that UK’s staff was aware of the post and wanted to get to the bottom of what happened and the answer may surprise you. Or maybe it won’t.

The post had nothing to do with UK or the family’s time in Lexington. It’d be crappy if it were about UK, but it wasn’t. The post was 100 percent and entirely about their travel getting to Lexington. Hurricane Michael made things complicated along the Florida Panhandle and east coast. “(They) were delayed like four times and then cancelled on flights getting in,” I was told by someone more familiar with the post.  Once again, it had nothing to do with their time in Lexington or UK’s presentation.

That supposedly went great (drink). I feel better about UK’s chances than I ever have in the past and I’ve said in the past that I thought UK was the leader. That was a couple months ago, but I still think the Cats are the leader. I need to mention that he is fresh off a visit to Kentucky and it was his first official visit this fall (he officially visited Michigan State back in February). Players, staffs, people ride high after an official visit, that’s how this works. UK’s visit will now need to holdup against official visits to Duke (10/19), Miami (10/26) and UNC (11/2). Michigan State may or may not get another official visit (new rules would allow it). A month is a lifetime in a recruitment so I’m not ruling out things possibly changing, but I think Carey ends up at Kentucky unless he’s persuaded on one of his other official visits.

I truly believe UK could have  Wiseman/Carey frontcourt for the 2019-2020 season.

Photo by adidas

Matthew Hurt:

KSR broke the story last week that Hurt wasn’t visiting Kentucky for Big Blue Madness.The intial post was false from the jump and nearly every website ran with the idea that Hurt was going to be on campus this weekend. It wasn’t that the visit was canceled or the Cats aren’t in a good enough position to land an official from Hurt, but despite tossing around the idea, Hurt never finalized plans to travel to Lexington for Big Blue Madness.

I believe he will be in town for an official visit during the season and Hurt won’t make a final decision until the spring. Hurt may see what other bigs in the class do, and how current NCAA players are projecting for the NBA Draft and that could impact his decision. I’m not sure if UK is the leader, but they’ll be right there until the end. There’s nothing to worry about with the news of him not being in Lexington this weekend.

Photo by Jeremy Warner, 247 Sports

Oscar Tshiebwe:

He will announce on Saturday and I expect him to pick WVU. I have one AAU source that believes it will be UK, but all other signs point towards West Virginia so I’m not going to go against the grain on this recruitment. UK’s staff hasn’t conceded, but I do know that WVU’s staff would be “shocked” if Tshiebwe ended up elsewhere. There was also a report from Illinois insiders that said they heard Kentucky is out of the running. They also said that Kahlil Whitney was going to Illinois so I wouldn’t put too much stock into that.

We’ll see how it all goes down on Saturday, but UK did a good job in this recruitment. They made huge strides in a short amount of time, but when the host family is pulling out all the stops for Tshiebwe to go to WVU that makes it tough, especially when the Mountaineers have been on the kid for years instead of months.

I’ll watch the decision and won’t be shocked if it’s UK, but as of today I’m going with WVU.

James Wiseman:

He officially visited Vanderbilt over the weekend and it appears the visit went well (drink). Like I’ve been saying for months, there’s going to be a third-party school that creates and generates buzz. I don’t know if it will be Vanderbilt. We also heard good things about the Kansas visit. My guess is it will be Florida State that gets the majority of the third-party momentum after he visits the Seminoles at the end of the month. This upcoming weekend he will allow for Memphis to pay for his visit, but he’s already been on that campus and around that staff several times so I don’t think you’ll hear too much new news after this weekend. Of course this won’t hurt the Tigers’ chances, but I doubt it changes the big picture.

One thing to look for- I would be worried if Wiseman signs in the fall. He may commit in mid to late November, but if he commits in early November and plans to sign in the fall that would worry me about UK’s chances. People close to UK thought he wouldn’t wait until April or May, but they definitely don’t think he signs in November, so if that happens that would be a surprise and surprises aren’t usually great in recruiting.

Some good news is I’m told that the three UK commits this weekend were talking about Wiseman joining their class. Obviously they were spending time with Carey all weekend, and I’m told they also like UK’s chances with Carey, but supposedly they were confident (mostly Maxey/Whitney, supposedly) about Kentucky’s chances with Wiseman. On the one hand, they may have been just talking optimistically about their friend and shooting the breeze, but on the other hand they are all friends. They may have more insight into these recruitments than any expert. I’m not hanging my hat on their prediction, but it’s certainly not bad news.

No. 1 player in 2019 James Wiseman (left) and Jalen Johnson.

Quick Hitters:

  • 2020 guys: I hope to have more later this week and maybe next week, but I’ve been told UK feels good about their chances with Jalen Johnson. He’s the small forward from Wisconsin that many have pegged for Duke, but I’m not so sure. I wouldn’t expect a decision anytime soon. It was Johnson’s second BBM visit.
  • Isaiah Stewart: Welp, it would be a big surprise if he ends up at Kentucky. Supposedly the family has had a change of heart after the dad was all about Kentucky. Make of that what you will.
  • Keion Brooks: He will visit this weekend. I think he likes UK but I’d be surprised if Brooks went anywhere besides IU.
  • Jaden McDaniels: He took his first official to San Diego State where his brother plays. Expect to hear of an official visit to UK soon. There’s a quiet confidence about UK’s chances in this recruitment.
  • Cole Anthony: He will visit Oregon this weekend. There’s been next-to-no buzz surrounding UK’s chances. I’d just start rooting for him to end up at a place like Oregon or Notre Dame so he doesn’t possibly cost UK a Final Four or title down the road.

Text messages show Bill Self and Kansas coaches knew of Adidas’ shady role in recruiting

For years we have heard rumblings about some of the shady recruiting tactics at Kansas under Bill Self and wondered if/when some of that truth would eventually come to light.

When the FBI got involved with the nationwide college basketball scandal, some Kansas players and those associated with the program were named in the initial documents, and it seemed like it was just the start of more information connected with the Jayhawks.

The FBI trial began, and as expected, a few other tidbits came out about Kansas’ involvement with Adidas and some of the shady characters connected with the apparel company. The more in-depth we got, the more we learned about both current Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa and former guard Billy Preston and their highly questionable recruitments.

During the FBI college basketball recruiting trial today, we may have gotten the bombshell report we’ve all been waiting for.

According to texts released to the public today between former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola and Kansas head coach Bill Self, the Kansas coaching staff acknowledged Adidas’ involvement with De Sousa during his recruitment.

Gassnola testified last week that he agreed to pay De Sousa’s guardian Fenny Falmagne $20,000 to steer him away from Maryland, and Self got involved in the equation soon after.

ESPN posted a timeline of the text messages in chronological order and the context behind them, starting with Self contacting Falmagne.

“I don’t remember the words, but Fenny (Falmagne) told me he was under this umbrella from the [Maryland] booster,” Gassnola testified Monday.

On Aug. 9, 2017, Townsend texted Gassnola and wrote, “Coach Self just talked to Fenny let me know how it goes.”

A few hours later, Gassnola texted Self: “Hall of Fame. When you have 5 minutes and your [sic] alone call me.”

Later that night, after Self hadn’t responded, Gassnola texted him again: “I talked with Fenny.”

“We good,” Self asked via text.

“Always,” Gassnola replied. “That’s [sic] was light work. Ball is in his court now.”

A head coach asking an Adidas consultant if things were “good” with De Sousa and his guardian and Gassnola responding that it “was light work.” Not shady at all, right?

And then it gets better.

The cellphone records during the testimony indicated Gassnola and Self then had a “five-minute, six-second phone call later that night,” though the phone was not monitored via FBI wiretaps at the time.

From there, Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend was in contact with Gassnola, who said things were in order for a commitment soon after.

On Aug. 26, 2017, Townsend forwarded Gassnola a text message that he said he’d received from Falmagne: “Coach has been on the phone with Angola (De Sousa’s native country). We are good to go. We will commit tomorrow.”

De Sousa, who attended IMG Academy, committed to Kansas four days later.

Texts revealed that Self and Gassnola talked about Kansas wanting to stay on the same level playing field as North Carolina, Duke, and… Kentucky.

On Aug. 19, 2017, three days before Kansas announced that it had agreed to a 12-year, $191 million contract extension with Adidas, Gassnola texted Self and thanked him for helping the sponsorship deal get done.

Self responded: “I’m happy with Adidas. Just got to get a couple real guys.”

Gassnola replied: “In my mind, it’s KU, bill self. Everyone else fall into line. Too (expletive) bad. That’s what’s right for Adidas basketball. And I know I am RIGHT. The more you win, have lottery pics [sic] and you happy. That’s how it should work in my mind.”

Self responded: “That’s how ur works. At UNC and Duke.” Gassnola replied at Kentucky as well.

“I promise you I got this,” Gassnola wrote. “I have never let you down. Except Dyondre lol. We will get it right.”

The “Dyondre” mentioned above was later confirmed as being Deandre Ayton, the former Arizona big man and No. 1 draft selection back in June. ESPN released a report right in the heart of postseason play indicating Sean Miller was caught on FBI wiretap committing to pay the star big man $100,000 to play at Arizona.

So to put the icing on the cake, this means Kansas/Adidas were working on Ayton becoming a Jayhawk.

Gassnola testified in federal court today that he didn’t believe Self and Townsend were aware of the money being discussed between Adidas and the parents/guardians, but the text messages don’t lie.

To read the rest of the report, head on over to ESPN right here.


Kid reporter steals the show at UK Media Day

Kid reporter steals the show at UK Media Day

Big Blue Nation, meet Elaijah Mayhorn, a fifth-grader at Julius Marks Elementary School in Lexington. Remember that name, because there’s a solid chance you’ll be hearing from her at Kentucky press conferences and media opportunities in about a decade.

Or a year or two. Maybe a couple weeks, who knows. All I know is she’s coming for my job.

Mayhorn made a grand entrance at UK Media Day on Thursday afternoon, when she skipped her way into John Calipari’s press conference garnering Kentucky-blue ribbons in her hair and the most contagious smile you’ve ever seen. There was a sea of media members packed in the room like a can of sardines with lights and cameras, but the intimidating scene didn’t phase her in the slightest.

She took a seat at the KSR table off to the right side of Calipari’s podium, and we instantly had to know her story. But before we could even get a real question out, she turned around and introduced herself.

“Hi, I’m Elaijah,” she said.

There was my story. Forget any of the other madness we were likely to see throughout the day, I knew this girl was going to steal the show.

And she absolutely did.

Calipari got going, bantering back and forth with several reporters in the audience. He took a jab at Jerry Tipton by asking if it was Media Day or Coach Day, compared Rick Pitino showing up to practice to North Korea, and talked about being loopy due to his sleep deprivation, among other things. You know, the usual.

Like a seasoned veteran, however, Mayhorn waited for the first pause in the action to pounce. She raised her hand for the microphone and belted out a hard-hitting question, zero hesitation.

“What do you do when you’re given sass by the players?” she said.

“Sass? What is sass?” Calipari responded.

“Like, attitude.”

“Oh, very good question. What’s your name?”

“Elaijah.”

“Okay, Elaijah, let me say what we do now because I have a team that talks — I want a team to talk. Like the biggest issue we have, they don’t talk enough. The problem is when they talk at the other team, that’s a problem. That’s an attitude.

“So we have a couple guys that start competing, and then they start jawing at each other. They start sassing, as you would say. So now we have attitude points. So if they’re competing and the score is 12-9 and Keldon scores and then starts to chest bump, boop, attitude point, the other team. Now it’s 13-10, and we keep playing.

“My job is every year to try — what is this team, what do they need from me. So to get them — I want them to talk to each other. I just don’t want them to talk to the opponent. Leave them alone. Very good question.”

Attitude points, eh? We haven’t ever heard of anything like that since Calipari arrived back in 2009. But a fifth-grader can walk in and dig up new information from the Kentucky head coach without thinking twice? Interesting.

After the press conference concluded, Calipari shuffled over to Mayhorn, knelt down, took a picture with her, and again told her how great her question was. He then talked to her parents in attendance, telling them she has talent and they should be proud of her.

“Yep, I have to follow this girl around when she talks to the players,” I said to myself.

And you better believe it exceeded expectations.

In the hour we had to talk to players, Mayhorn arm-wrestled Nick Richards, asked Quade Green what his hidden talent is, and talked to Ashton Hagans about his birthday gift for Keldon Johnson, among other gems. She was easily the most valuable reporter of the day:

Luckily, I got all of it on tape for your viewing pleasure.

Take a look at Elaijah Mayhorn’s reporting debut at UK Media Day:

And just like that, I need to pack my things and log-out for good. How can I compete with that?

This kid is a superstar.


(Via Getty Images)

The Chicago Bulls have claimed Tyler Ulis off waivers

(Via Getty Images)

Former Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis didn’t have to wait around too long for a new home.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Ulis has been claimed off waivers by the Chicago Bulls, and will likely be on the team’s opening-day roster.

It’ll be a chance for Ulis, who played at Chicago’s Marian Catholic and lived in the area throughout high school, to play in front of friends and family at the United Center.

On Friday, Ulis was waived in the final cuts by the Golden State Warriors just a few weeks after being signed to an Exhibit 10 contract.

Ulis was released by the Phoenix Suns earlier this summer, and it took quite a while before a team was willing to take a chance on the 5-foot-9 point guard. The Warriors brought him on for training camp and the preseason to see how he’d develop behind Steph Curry, but felt he would be better suited for the G-League.

Though he likely won’t win a ring out of it, Ulis will have an opportunity for solid minutes with the Bulls on the main roster. They have Kris Dunn and Murray State’s Cameron Payne at point guard, but he could eventually work his way above the former Racer on the depth chart.

The Athletic reports Ulis will sign a two-way deal with the Bulls, meaning will be able to spend 45 days on the active roster this season, unless the team decides to convert him to a full roster player. The NBA changed the rules on two-way players this offseason to where travel days won’t count toward the 45-day allotment, meaning Ulis can play 45 games with the team this season.

In four preseason games with the Warriors, Ulis averaged 3.0 points, 1.5 assists, and 1.5 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game.

Best of luck to Ulis in the Windy City this season.

(KSR’s Zack Geoghegan also contributed to this report)