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Basketball Season Coverage

Final Grades for SEC Basketball Teams

Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The College Basketball Season finally ended as the Virginia Cavaliers defeated Texas Tech on Monday by a score of 85-77. So how did each SEC team fair overall this season? Below are my final grades and analysis for every squad in the conference for 2018-19. Teams are in order based on their final ranking in conference play.

LSU

Record: 28-7,  Sweet Sixteen Finish

Final Grade: B+

The Tigers are a very hard team to grade. Do you concentrate on their surprising on-the-court success? Or, do you take into consideration all of the problems off-court with potential recruiting violations involving Head Coach Will Wade and freshman Javonte Smart?

Personally, I am choosing to look more at the on-court product until more information comes out on the current scandal in Baton Rouge. Is it possible that they achieved almost 30 wins and a Sweet Sixteen appearance unfairly? Yes.

However, winning the SEC Regular Season Title is very, very impressive given their preseason ranking which placed them as a middle-of-the-road conference team. Wade did a great job with his team this year. Despite a tumultuous past two months, this was a very memorable season for LSU.

Tennessee

Record: 31-6, Sweet Sixteen Finish

Final Grade: B+

The Volunteers were one of the best teams in the entire nation for the vast majority of this season. However, I think everyone can agree that the ending to their terrific year was very disappointing.

Not only did they get absolutely embarrassed in the SEC title game by a head coach formerly employed by Tennessee (Bruce Pearl), but the Volunteers also failed to make the Elite Eight as they ran into a red-hot Purdue squad in the NCAA tournament.

This was without question the best Volunteer team in school history. It was an absolute pleasure to watch Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield wreak havoc all season long. The bad news is that Tennessee actually underachieved when it mattered most. No matter how good that regular season was, they will mostly be remembered for letting Purdue’s Ryan Cline put on one of the most memorable shooting performances in tournament history.

Kentucky

Record: 30-7, Elite Eight Finish

Final Grade: A-

The Wildcats actually had quite a different path than Tennessee. Like I previously mentioned, the Volunteers were ranked in the top ten for the vast majority of the year. Don’t forget that Kentucky started out 10-3 with losses to Seton Hall and Alabama. Things were so gloomy that even Quade Green decided to transfer.

Turning a 10-3 start into a 30-7 final record against incredibly tough competition is very impressive no matter how you try and spin it. Yes, the season still ended in a disappointment. Kentucky lost to an Auburn team they absolutely should have beaten. Reid Travis and PJ Washington deserved a better ending to their college careers.

Despite that very hurtful loss, every single team in the nation would take a 30-win season and an Elite Eight finish if they had the chance to do so. There was just one more piece missing in this year’s Kentucky team (looking at you Zion), but this was still a memorable season for Kentucky that many fans would not trade for.

South Carolina

Record: 16-16, No Postseason

Final Grade: C-

What an utterly bizarre season it was for the Gamecocks. They managed to successfully finish fourth in conference play, yet they could not even break .500 on the season.

What kind of a grade do you give South Carolina who placed higher in its conference standings than a team that made the Final Four? Also. the Gamecocks did not even finish with a winning record for crying out loud.

No matter how you chose to spin this, I do think that Head Coach Frank Martin got the most out of his team this season. They played their best basketball in conference play and gave a lot of good teams fits. If nothing else, they were an impressive annoyance for a few tournament teams. That’s good enough to receive a passing grade.

Auburn

Final Record: 30-10, Final Four Finish

Final Grade: A+

The Tigers won the SEC Tournament, won exactly 30 games, and made their first Final Four in school history. I could care less how many games they lost, or how underwhelming their regular season was. This was easily the best season in school history, and Auburn deserves their A+ grade.

What’s even more interesting is that if it had not been for a very controversial foul call (it was a foul) in the last seconds of the Final Four against eventual champion Virginia, the Tigers could have won the whole tournament.

The Cavaliers were just a team of destiny this season. I realize that some of you may only consider an A+ be given to just the team that wins it all. However, the randomness of this tournament every year opens up for a few, special cases. The best Auburn team ever is unquestionably one of those cases.

Mississippi State

Record 23-11, First Round Exit

Final Grade: B-

The Bulldogs got red-hot down the stretch in February as they won five games in a row heading into the month of March. Unfortunately for them, all of that positive momentum was stopped when they had to play Tennessee and Auburn a combined three times in a two-week span.

That isn’t exactly the kind of momentum changer you want before you play a 5/12 game against a hungry mid-major in the form of Liberty University. The Bulldogs fell in the first round to a team that shot 48% from the three-point line. If your opponent hits 12 three’s in one game, you probably aren’t walking out of that matchup a winner.

Either way, I was often impressed with the Bulldogs in the regular season. Coach Ben Howland is still trying to build a good program in Starkville. While they would have received a higher grade if they had at least made the second round, you get the feeling that maybe Howland has something nice going on down there.

Ole Miss

Record 20-13, First Round Exit

Final Grade: B+

The Rebels were far and away the biggest surprise from the SEC this season. They were picked to finish last in the conference and they managed to comfortably make the NCAA Tournament!! That accomplishment within itself is worthy of an “A” grade on the season.

But how Ole Miss finished the season cannot be ignored. They lost five of their last six games including an embarrassing first round blowout to a below average Oklahoma team.  No way can any team play like that in March an earn an A.

Despite a bad ending, Head Coach Kermit Davis has the Rebels already back on track in his first season. Winning 20 games and making the tournament is a massive success for a team that won only five conference games last season.

Florida

Record: 20-16, Second Round Exit

Final Grade: B

Florida’s season is mainly going to be defined by them actually making the tournament and beating a tough Nevada squad in the first round. Remember, if the Gators had not of beaten LSU in the SEC Tournament, then they would have missed the Tournament altogether.

Overall, this is a situation similar to Ole Miss. Florida successfully won 20 games and made the tournament. They were originally picked to finish fifth in the conference so its safe to say that they underwhelmed in the 2018-19 season.

Head Coach Mike White was often criticized the majority of the year. However, beating LSU and Nevada proved that this guy gets the most out of his players. The Gators did not have a large amount of talent this year, but they still managed to have a respectable season despite being underwhelming.

Arkansas

Record: 18-16, NIT Second Round

Final Grade: D+

No team in the SEC disappointed more this season than the Razorbacks did. At one point, Arkansas basically forget how to play basketball as they lost six straight games in a row over the span of three weeks.

I don’t care that they made the second round of the NIT at all. Failing to win 20 games and to make the tournament in a season when star Daniel Gafford went out of his way to return to school is a failure. Gafford would have been a lottery pick last season, but this year’s Razorback team was so disappointing that it actually hurt his draft stock in this year’s draft.

The burden falls completely on former Head Coach Mike Anderson who has now been replaced with Eric Musselman. Brighter days may be on the horizon, but wow did this season stink for the Razorbacks.

Alabama

Record: 18-16, NIT First Round

Final Grade: C-

Welcome to the “wow this team had such a disappointing season that they had to fire their head coach” section of this column. The Crimson Tide barely had a winning season, and they failed to make the NCAA Tournament.

Out goes Head Coach Avery Johnson, and in comes new front man Nate Oaks from Buffalo. This may seem like a surprising move, but once you consider Alabama lost five of their last six games including a home loss to Norfolk State (!), this move makes a lot of sense.

Texas A&M

Record: 14-18, No Postseason

Final Grade: D+

I thoroughly did not understand Texas A&M’s decision to fire former Head Coach Billy Kennedy. Everyone knew that the Aggies were going to be in a massive rebuilding year. Yet, after winning just 14 games the administration went ahead and fired Kennedy.

It makes a little more sense that they went out and got Virginia Teach Head Coach Buzz Williams who is quickly climbing up the ladder of best coaches in the sport. In summary, Texas A&M had the terrible season everyone assumed they would have, and they got a really good head coach out of it. Not too shabby, I guess.

Missouri

Record: 15-17, No Postseason

Final Grade: D

The Tigers got dealt a really bad hand when star Jontay Porter tore his ACL and missed the entire season. This was a devastating injury that completely killed Missouri’s season. The fact that they won 15 games without him is actually sort of impressive.

Sadly, that’s all this year is going to be for the Tigers. Maybe brighter days are ahead, but the 2018-19 season will always be one massive “what if?”

Georgia

Record: 11-21, No Postseason

Final Grade: F+

Tom Crean’s first year in Athens was pretty terrible to say the least. The Bulldogs only won two conference games, and at one point they had lost nine straight in SEC play.

However, there is very small room for optimism. Forward Nicolas Claxton caught the eye of many NBA scouts and he will be returning next season. Combine that with the future arrival of possibly the best recruit in the class of 2019 in Anthony Edwards and you have a nice outlook for the 2019-20 season. That’s all I got on this team because wow was Georgia terrible this year.

Vanderbilt

Record: 9-23, No Postseason

Final Grade: Complete and Total Failure

Zero. That’s the amount of SEC games the Commodores won this season. Did star Darius Garland’s season ending injury in the first few weeks of the season lead to this? Yes. But zero is still zero. Bryce Drew has now been fired, and there is nothing to remember from this abject disaster.

Vanderbilt deserves exactly zero more words written about them, so I’ll stop now.

That does it, folks. I’ve enjoyed covering the SEC throughout the season as the conference has made drastic strides in the sport. With a great crop of new head coaches coming in, I can only expect the conference to improve even more. The success of this year has put the rest of the college basketball world on notice: The SEC is back and better than ever.


Three Kentucky players make Sports Illustrated’s new mock draft

Three Kentucky players make Sports Illustrated’s new mock draft

We know PJ Washington’s headed to the draft, but what about Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson? Sports Illustrated’s latest mock draft has PJ going to the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 11, Tyler going to the Orlando Magic at No. 16, and Keldon to the Boston Celtics at No. 18.

“Orlando has a need for perimeter shooting, particularly with Terence Ross’s contract expiring, and Herro fits the bill well in this range of the draft,” SI’s Jeremy Woo writes. “He helped himself a good deal over the course of the season, and while there are still some physical limitations he’ll face at the next level, he’s proven he’s more than just a specialist and added value in other ways for Kentucky. Herro’s upside is tied to him refining his jumper and on-the-move shooting into an elite skill, but he’s on the right track. He wouldn’t be the typical, toolsy Magic draftee, but he would make sense.”

As for Keldon, Woo says a somewhat disappointing freshman season won’t stop teams from picking him in the top 20.

“While Johnson comes with some limitations, his competitive drive, offensive skill package and positional value give him a solid floor. Although it’s possible he falls a bit behind his teammates on draft night, teams still like his intangibles, and he certainly won’t have to be a star to justify being selected in this range. It’s worth noting that it seems unlikely the Celtics keep all of their picks.”

For what it’s worth, this is a two-round mock draft and does not include Ashton Hagans.

[Sports Illustrated]


PJ Washington and Reid Travis will be on KSR tomorrow

Exciting news, Kentucky Sports Radio fans: PJ Washington and Reid Travis will be on tomorrow’s show.

Now that it’s official that PJ is off to the draft, he and Reid will join Ryan, Drew, and special guest host Alan Cutler in studio tomorrow to discuss their careers at Kentucky and what lies ahead. Their autograph tours are still in the works, but rest assured: both will stop at KSBar at some point along the way. For now, leave your best questions for Reid and PJ in the comments and you may hear the gang ask them on the show.


Michael Rapaport made a surprise appearance on today’s KSR

Anytime you bring Rex Chapman into the studio, you’re guaranteed two hours of good radio, but today, Rex surprised us by bringing actor/comedian/basketball fan Michael Rapaport on the show. The two are longtime friends, and during a segment in hour one, Rapaport called Rex to discuss a very serious issue: hand checking in the NBA. He agreed to share his rant on KSR.

“How much of a difference, how much of a straight line do all of the players — not to say that they couldn’t be fantastic in the 80s or 90s when hand checking was allowed — but how much of a straight line and how much of an advantage does any offender, any offensive player in this day and age without hand checking?”

The two go back and forth on the topic for a few minutes. Tune in at the end of hour one:

Sadly, Rapaport didn’t bring up his feud with our own Jack Pilgrim, which is really the reason I wrote this post.

Michael Rapaport blasts KSR’s own Jack Pilgrim in profane podcast rant

Still waiting on that game of 1-on-1, boys.


A Way Too Early Top 25 for the 2019-2020 College Basketball Season

A Way Too Early Top 25 for the 2019-2020 College Basketball Season

The 2018-2019 season officially came an end on Monday night, and Virginia is your national champion after a wild, overtime win over Texas Tech. But while Cavaliers fans celebrate, the rest of the college basketball world has already turned their attention to next season.

So let’s do the same, with my “Way Too Early Top 25” for the 2019-2020 season.

Now before we get into the names, faces and teams to watch in 2019-2020, it’s important to give the same disclaimer we always do this time of year: Even though the 2019 season has ended, it’s still VERY early to truly figure out what teams will look like in 2019-2020. Players all over the country are testing the NBA Draft waters and we won’t know until late-May who is coming back to college. Not to mention that a number of big recruits (Cole Anthony and Matthew Hurt among others) are still figuring out their college destinations, a few head coaching jobs have yet to be filled, and transfers will alter the trajectory of other teams as well. Add in the fact that this ongoing FBI trial could continue to shake things up even further, and again, it’s REALLY early to try and figure out who will truly be elite or not in 2019-2020.

With that said, below is our best guess at what next season will look like. To be clear, some of the “who will stay” and “who will go” projections are simple guesses at this point. Some like Zion Williamson are obvious, but most aren’t, and so each player and team is a little different. In the case of a player like Tennessee’s Jordan Bone who has said “I plan on staying in the draft,” that is taken into account, but if a player is truly on the fence, I’m simply doing my best to guess what every player will do. I’m bound to get some of these wrong. It’s inevitable.

Still, here is the early “Way Too Early Top 25” for 2019-2020, and I’ll be sure to have an updated one in late April, after everyone has removed their names from the NBA Draft.

LETS…. GOOOOOOOOO!!!

(*** This article published before the announcements that Mick Cronin would leave Cincinnati for UCLA, and before Michigan announced Iggy Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole will test the draft waters. We’ll continue to update as players make their “stay or go” decisions)
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WATCH: Budweiser’s Dwyane Wade tribute will give you all the feels

WATCH: Budweiser’s Dwyane Wade tribute will give you all the feels

As a casual NBA fan, I don’t have a lot of feelings about Dwyane Wade, but this tribute video from Budweiser commemorating his final season just gave me all the feels.

Wade has been trading jerseys with NBA stars all season, and to honor his legacy, Budweiser brought him face-to-face with five people he’s impacted the most throughout his career, including his mother. Grab your tissues.

Wade’s final regular season home game is tonight in Miami as the Heat take on the 76ers. If this ad is any indication, it’s gonna be an emotional one.