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Sagarin Predictions: Updated spread for every game on UK’s schedule

It’s time to check up on this week’s Sagarin Ratings and how it predicts the spread for each of Kentucky’s remaining games on the schedule. This was a popular post last week before the South Carolina game, so we’re running it back this week and for the rest of the season.

Now let’s take a little peek at what’s ahead, carefully, to keep our expectations in check. To do that, I took the latest Sagarin predictor ratings to determine what the game spread should be if the games were played today. So you know, Sagarin’s predictor ratings set is one of the most trusted sources in predicting upcoming games and it is right in line with the Las Vegas spread each week. You can see the entire Week 6 ratings set here.

Now for Kentucky’s remaining schedule, in which Sagarin gives the Cats the edge in five of the seven games. I threw in ESPN’s FPI Win Probability for each game, too. It considers UK the favorite in four of the seven. Last week’s Sagarin spread and ESPN FPI are included to show the change since the Cats’ upset of South Carolina. For Kentucky’s first four games, I used the Las Vegas closing line because the weekly Sagarin ratings are not archived.

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+531.6%+1021.5%
vs. Vanderbilt-1484.7%-1076.5%
@ Missouri-0.541%+234.5%
vs. Georgia+818.9%+10.514.6%
@ Tennessee-1072.7%-8.570.5%
vs. MTSU-2693.3%-2390.9%
@ Louisville-980%-5.574.2%

Go Cats.

What Scottie Lewis to Florida means for Kentucky

(Photo: Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Late Tuesday evening five-star guard Scottie Lewis ended his recruitment by picking Florida over Kentucky. After the Cats had some brief (and expected) momentum after Lewis officially visited UK in September, Florida visited Lewis and the reason why Florida was the leader for months eventually won out in Lewis’ recruitment.

Why Florida:

Lewis always thought highly of Gainesville, Mike White recruited him as long as anyone, his AAU coach (Brian Klatsky) is a Florida fan and Klatsky’s son (Lewis’ AAU and high school teammate) is committed to the Gators. The signs for months seemed to indicate Lewis would end up at Florida.

But then the Florida official visit happened. And Lewis didn’t commit. The Gators pushed for a commitment on the visit. That didn’t happen. They wanted him to commit after he returned home but before his traveled to Lexington. That didn’t happen. He checked out UK’s campus and the visit went swell.

My opinion is after that UK visit the Cats led. It may have just been for a few days, maybe just a day, but the visit went so well that for a moment Kentucky was in the driver’s seat, at least people close to UK thought that was the case. But the week after the visit Lewis didn’t commit and had no plans on announcing. The pro-UK feelings mellowed out and Lewis went into the weekend still uncommitted with no immediate timetable.

It seems that Lewis realized that when he traveled to USA Basketball this upcoming weekend that he was going to be hounded by media members about UK and Florida. We said on the Monday Insider Notes that if Lewis committed this week it would be to the Gators. That happened.

Of course he also scrubbed pictures of him in UK gear from his social media, which appeared to be a giveaway in his recruitment.

What’s Next for UK:

I said on Twitter on Tuesday night this was a blow for Kentucky and several UK fans disagreed. This isn’t the end of the world. Kentucky still has a great chance to finish with the No. 1 class in 2019 and if the Cats didn’t sign another wing player or guard I think John Calipari would be fine for the 2019-2020 season.

But Kentucky really liked Lewis and wanted to land him. Bigs are more of a priority at this point but they viewed him as a role player on the 2019-2020 team and that would be a damn good role player to have on the roster. Lewis could have been the sixth man and that would speak to UK’s depth and talent level. It seemed like a great situation for Calipari and there’s no denying Kentucky’s eagerness to land Lewis.

The only uncommitted guard that currently is being recruited by Kentucky is Cole Anthony, and as of today he seems like a longshot. Anthony is a North Carolina lean, but has said he plans on waiting until the spring to make a final decision. Obviously that could change, but even if Anthony does wait it doesn’t look promising for him to end up in Lexington.

Maybe a 2020 player reclassifies, but most reclassification rumors surrounding guards were centered around UK target R.J. Hampton (who picked up an offer from UK on Tuesday) and he has already announced he’s staying in 2020.

Kentucky could also potentially play Kahlil Whitney or Dontaie Allen at the two position, and still sign Jaden McDaniels or Keion Brooks, who could play on the wing. Somewhat the inverse of what Calipari has done in previous season- ignore the wings and have three guards. Maybe he could ignore a true two-guard and just have a couple wings to go with Maxey. As long as the guards and wings can shoot, you can get creative.

But most likely UK will return a guard or two from this season’s team:

Quade Green

Ashton Hagans

Immanuel Quickley

Jemarl Baker

Tyler Herro

I wouldn’t have guessed six months ago that Herro would be the most likely to leave after one season, but here we are after his impressive showing in the Bahamas. The plan has always been for Hagans to leave after one season, but he may be most likely (sans Baker) to return after his showing in the Bahamas.

But without getting to high or low from Bahamas performances, Hagans and Herro could both leave and the Cats would be perfectly fine in 2019-2020 with Green, Quickley and Maxey. That’s just one scenario but there are several others.

I’d be shocked if Green, Hagans, Quickley and Herro all left, especially with a starting position left on the table.

Kentucky could also potentially add a gran-transfer guard (which are a dime a dozen compared to grad-transfer bigs). It’s obviously way too early to say names, but we would have a better idea come March.

So, recapping options for UK (in likelihood to happen):

  • Returners from 2018-2019
  • Play wings at the two
  • Grad-transfer
  • 2020 reclassification
  • Cole Anthony

Lewis to Florida is a bummer, but the Cats should be fine.

The FBI Trials Have Begun and College Basketball’s Day of Reckoning is Here

For months, the buzz around college basketball’s FBI probe has essentially centered on one simple question: Is that really all the FBI has?

If you can remember back to the day this story broke last year, a morning in which a bunch of sneaker company executives, agents, runners and college basketball assistant coaches were nabbed by the FBI, virtually everyone who covers college basketball – including me – gave a warning to those who love the sport: This was just the tip of the iceberg. It seemed inevitable that other programs would become involved. It seemed certain that other big-time coaches would lose their jobs. Yet outside of Maryland, Kansas and NC State being loosely implicated in the probe back in April, there has been relatively little “news” out of the case.

Still, whenever anyone asked me why there was no news, and if anything was actually going to happen, I continued to tell them to be patient. That once these cases went to trial, we’d get news. Lots of it. And there’d be new teams, new coaches and new players implicated.

Well folks, welcome to that day. The trials opened in earnest on Tuesday and college basketball has already been completely flipped on its head. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that when all the trials wrap up in the coming months, complete carnage could overtake the sport.

Things began on Monday {albeit in a quiet fashion), where a list of potential witnesses who could be called to the witness stand in the trial was released. It included a handful of names you’d expect from schools who have been tied to the probe (Arizona’s Sean Miller, Kansas’ Bill Self) but also a bunch of schools who hadn’t before been implicated. Among those schools was Oregon, Creighton and DePaul, three schools which actively recruited Brian Bowen before he committed to Louisville. It also included LSU, whose association isn’t completely obvious at this point.

Still, if Monday was the day where the tip of the iceberg was within sight, Tuesday was the day the whole damn boat crashed at full speed.

That’s because Tuesday was the day where the lawyer for former Adidas executive Jim Gatto (the guy alleged to have arranged for the payment of $100,000 to get Brian Bowen to Louisville) made his opening statements. And in making those opening statements, Gatto’s lawyer went nuclear on the sport of college basketball.

In the process, he wanted to make one thing clear: His client wasn’t acting alone. Giving out $100,000 to players is simply the world that Gatto lived in.

Among the allegations that Gatto’s lawyer dropped in his opening statement:

  • The reason Adidas gave $100,000 to Brian Bowen’s dad was to outbid Oregon his son’s services. According to Gatto’s lawyer, they have proof that Oregon was willing to pay “an astronomical amount of money” to get Bowen to Eugene.
  • That Adidas helped NC State get $40,000 to Dennis Smith Jr.’s family during his time at the school.
  • That Adidas did in fact give $20,000 to current Kansas forward Silvio de Souza. The payment was to outbid Under Armour, which was willing to pay an undisclosed amount to get him to Maryland.
  • That Arizona was ready to pay $150,000 – 150K!!! – to land five-star forward Nassir Little. Because of Arizona’s bid, Miami, an Adidas school, reached out to Gatto to try and raise more funds to match the Wildcats’ offer. Little hadn’t yet committed when the FBI probe hit last September, and ultimately ended up at North Carolina

So yeah, to quote your favorite tanned, Jersey Shore personality: “Wooooooooooooah buddy.” Boy did things just get interesting.

And to be abundantly clear, things are just getting started.

Remember, Tuesday was simply the opening remarks of Gatto’s trial, the chance for his lawyer to explain the case that they planned on presenting to the court. Meaning that if you think about the trial as a long distance marathon, we are barely out of the first mile yet. No witnesses have been called. No testimonies have been taken. No evidence – those mounds of e-mails, texts and wire-tapped phone calls that the FBI collected – have been submitted into evidence.

That also means that there is little doubt that by the end of the trial, we will in fact have a whole new set of names and coaches who are directly implicated in this case. Considering that Arizona’s Sean Miller and Kansas coach Bill Self are on the witness list, we could hear some big names called to the stand before this is all said and done.

Add it all up, and it leaves me asking a lot of questions about “what’s next.” Not just in these trials, or with the people involved, but for the future of college basketball. And considering so many of you do in fact love this sport, that last part is what I’ll focus on.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that Gatto and his lawyers will use this trial to basically argue that while they did commit major NCAA violations – something they’ve literally already confessed to– that no federal laws were broken. I’m no legal scholar, but it seems like they have a pretty good argument, especially if they can prove that Gatto’s actions (paying players) were pretty much part of his job description. In essence, what his lawyers will say is that paying $100,000 to Brian Bowen was just part of his job description. College basketball’s version of “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Still, while it will make for an interesting case at trial, in the NCAA’s eyes it doesn’t matter. While the FBI might have a tough case to prove, if people admit under oath that they broke NCAA rules, it could mean absolute carnage in college basketball. For example, let’s say Sean Miller is called to the witness stand to testify about arranged payments for Nassir Little (I’m not saying that will happen, nor that Miller definitively knew. This is all a hypothetical). While Miller won’t be looking at jail time, that is a major, egregious NCAA rules violation. And of course he would be fired the second he made the confession. Same if Bill Self if he admits to having any knowledge of a payment to Silvio de Souza.

Now many of you are probably thinking the same thing: Yeah right. Fat chance either of them confesses to anything. Except remember, this isn’t an NCAA investigation. This is a court of law. And if either of them – or any other witness – gets caught lying under oath that’s called perjury. And they’ll go to jail for it. If any of those coaches are called, we will get the truth.

More importantly, there is also one other thing to consider: This is just the first trial and right now we’re only going through Gatto’s rolodex. The assistant coaches (Arizona’s Book Richardson, Auburn’s Chuck Person etc.) have their own separate trials in the coming months. How many other players, parents, agents, runners and head coaches could be caught up in that? Considering that – as I pointed out last week – just about every big-time recruit in last year’s class was somehow linked to the schools caught in the FBI probe, it could be a lot.

That’s also why the point that I made the day this scandal broke a year ago is now coming to fruition: Those handful of schools involved were just the tip of the iceberg here. There could be dozens of others involved as these trials play out.

College basketball’s day of reckoning is here.

And until those trials wrap up, no major program, coach or recruit should feel 100 percent safe.

Mark Stoops doesn’t want to hear your gripes about conservative playcalling

Mark Stoops doesn’t want to hear your gripes about conservative playcalling

Did you complain about Kentucky’s playcalling in the second half against South Carolina? Did you think Eddie Gran played it a bit conservative, wishing the Cats would just go in for the kill against the Gamecocks?

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops doesn’t want to hear it. At all.

In his weekly call-in show, one individual called in to ask Stoops why they slowed it down in the second half after such a dominant offensive display before intermission.

Stoops’ response? This is a new era of Kentucky football, and that “conservative” offense is helping the Cats win games.

“I understand what (the caller) is talking about, and he’s been right in the past,” he said. “But this is a new team, new era. I’m worried about this year and winning this game. We did some very, very good things. We were so dominant in time of possession.

“Our first drive on offense in the second half was a thing of beauty. We were up, we were keeping them off balance, throwing it on first down, and moving the chains. We got in field goal position, and we just missed the field goal. … Give South Carolina credit, they bowed up, they cleaned some things at halftime and played a little stronger to slow our offense down a little bit. When you say same old offense, this is the same old offense that’s putting us in position to win a bunch of football games,” said Stoops.

Later in the show, Stoops doubled-down on those comments with a tad less fire. The Kentucky head coach said everyone wants to win in blowout fashion, but you want to take care of the football in the process.

“Here’s the deal, the object is to win games,” he said. “So when you’re ahead like that, and we’re possessing the ball and limiting touches and opportunities for the offense, that’s what you’re trying to do is win games. Of course we want to put the foot on the gas and score points, but you don’t want to be reckless, as well. You want to win. Again, I can’t emphasize it enough, even with the mishaps in the second half, the possessions were limited for South Carolina, who has an extremely explosive team. And so when we limit those opportunities, it gives us a great chance to win.”

5-0 on the year and 3-0 in conference play? Against two ranked opponents? I’ll keep my faith in Mark Stoops and Eddie Gran.

You want to dream, Kentucky Football? Let’s dream

You want to dream, Kentucky Football? Let’s dream

Kentucky is the talk of college football right now — in a good way — which is a pretty surreal experience for just about everyone. Over the course of the last month, the Cats have slowly proved the haters — and an emotionally scarred fanbase — wrong, turning in convincing win after convincing win over league foes, two of them ranked. Best start since 2007, best SEC start since 1977, No. 13 in the AP poll, Heisman candidate…a quick scroll through KSR is enough to make you want to pinch yourself.

More impressive than Kentucky’s success is how they’re achieving it; not with a gimmick as in years past, but with suffocating defense and an unstoppable run game. Benny Snell has seized the national spotlight and won’t let go, using every possible second of air time to pump up the program and credit his teammates. Even after a “quiet” 99-yard performance vs. South Carolina, Benny’s postgame interview went viral, proving that his irresistible personality and Kentucky’s underdog reputation are turning the program into a national darling. What a time to be alive.

Even more thrilling than the success to date is what could lie ahead. It’s fun to dream and we don’t get to do it that often, so let’s put aside that niggling niblet of doubt in our heads for a few minutes and think about what could be should the Cats stay on course.

A shot at the SEC Championship game

Kentucky vs. Georgia on November 3 will likely decide the SEC East, but even if the Cats stumble before then, there are scenarios that could lead to Catlanta. Kentucky’s trips to Texas A&M and Missouri are no joke, but the Bulldogs also have their work cut out for them, most notably, a date with No. 5 LSU in Death Valley on Saturday, October 13. Wondering what to do on the bye weekend? Cheer for the Tigers.

Even if Georgia is undefeated on November 3 and Kentucky loses one of the next three, a win over the Bulldogs would still put the Cats in first place in the SEC East thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker. From there, Georgia hosts No. 8 Auburn, UMass, and Georgia Tech, while Kentucky faces Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and Louisville. Again, go Tigers.

Playoffs? We’re talking about playoffs?!

You really want to dream? The College Football Playoff rankings debut on October 30, and as of right now, 247 Sports’ Chris Hummer Kentucky in his CFB Playoff top ten at No. 8.

“Kentucky owns a quality road win over Florida, which looks like a Top 25 team. And the Wildcats have earned two of the better back-to-back set of victories in the country the last two weeks against Mississippi State and South Carolina. Things could flip quickly, but Kentucky looks like a program that could easily be 8-0 heading into a home game with Georgia on Nov. 2.”

Do I think Kentucky’s actually going to be in the top four when all is said and done? No. But it sure is fun to be in the hunt.

New Year’s Day Bowl

Say Kentucky loses to Georgia and another team along the way. The playoffs are out of the picture, but a New Year’s Day bowl isn’t. The Outback Bowl, the Citrus Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl all take place on New Year’s Day, and as long as Kentucky doesn’t collapse during the second half of the season, could be an option. A Citrus Bowl representative was even at Saturday night’s game. New Year’s Day in Florida or Nola? It seems like only yesterday we were trying to talk ourselves into Shreveport.

Benny in the Big Apple

Benny Snell’s odds to win the Heisman are now 60/1, and even though it looks like Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa will win the trophy, there’s no reason Benny couldn’t be one of the finalists if he continues his impressive run. Through Saturday, Benny has 40 touchdowns as a Kentucky Wildcat, putting him in some incredibly rare company in SEC history. Could he pass Georgia legend Herschel Walker’s mark of 49 through three seasons? Someone please tell him he can’t.

Recruiting material for years to come

Even if Kentucky falls short of all these goals, the program will reap the rewards of this success for years to come. We saw the immediate effect of Kentucky’s hot start with commitments from quarterback Amani Gilmore and cornerback Brandin Echols, who pledged to Mark Stoops after last week’s win over Mississippi State. In-state stars Jared Casey, TaeTae Crumes, Vito Tisdale, and Wandale Robinson all witnessed the rowdy atmosphere at Kroger Field for themselves on Saturday and yesterday, Kentucky’s jump to No. 13 in the polls captured Robinson’s attention:

Whether the hype surrounding Kentucky is enough to keep in-state stars from going to bigger programs remains to be seen, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

It’s not so long ago that people were calling for Mark Stoops’ job, which makes this run even sweeter. Over the years, the building blocks have been put into place for Kentucky to succeed — a state-of-the-art training center, unprecedented gains in recruiting, back-to-back bowls — but the fruits of those labors haven’t been fully realized until now. Kentucky football is not a fluke, and goals like the SEC East, a Heisman finalist, and a program-changing bowl are not fantasies. To recycle a motto that we once mocked, Why Not? This team has proved everyone wrong; it’s time to take them seriously and enjoy this.