By KSR on ©March 25th, 2019 @ 12:30pm
The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is in the books — and oh what a weekend it was, as 68 teams are now down to just 16. Relive it all with an Aaron Torres Sports Podcast taped immediately following Sunday night’s action. After 96 straight hours of basketball, Aaron is here to discuss the entire weekend, including:
All the Top Seeds Advance: Aaron opens the show by discussing the biggest topic of the weekend — we have an NCAA Tournament where all the best teams advanced. Kentucky, Duke, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and more are onto the second weekend and Aaron says this is great for the sport. He also explains that while everyone claims to love the upsets, we should be rooting for more tournaments like this one.
Duke’s Wild Win over UCF: Next Aaron hits on the most controversial finish of the weekend, which came in the Duke-Central Florida game. Aaron recaps it all and says you shouldn’t blame the refs for Duke’s win. At the same time, is this game further proof that Duke won’t actually win the title? Aaron thinks so.
Big Victories for Tennessee and Kentucky: Finally, Aaron wraps by talking about the wild victories that Tennessee and Kentucky got this weekend. He discusses Admiral Schofield deciding to bench himself – and why that’s further proof of what makes this team special. Speaking of “special” how about Tyler Herro’s defensive effort against Fletcher Magee?? Aaron says that is a full credit to John Calipari, who stuck with Herro through the tough times.
Get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app. You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. Don’t forget to follow the show on Instagram too.
Friday night the Cats will take on the Houston Cougars in Kansas City for the final spot in the Elite 8. Houston has an impressive 33-3 record and won both its opening rounds games by a double-digit margin.
Here’s the group that will tip off with the Cats in the Sweet 16 this weekend:
Houston’s starters average 50.6 points a game, with Davis Jr. and Brooks leading the charge. The Cougars average 76.2 points per game (half a point less than UK, which averages 76.5), meaning the 3-seed’s bench accounts for nearly 25.6 points a game (for reference, UK’s averages 15). Given that number, it’s reasonable to assume we will see Houston coach Kelvin Sampson rotate players in and out with great frequency. Here’s the numbers for the Cougars’ bench, listed in descending order of minutes averaged:
A name (or two) you’ll hear Friday
Corey Davis Jr. — The senior shooting guard and leading scorer set an American Athletic Conference record for three-pointers made in an NCAA Tournament game by draining seven in the Cougars’ opening round against Georgia State. He followed that outing up by dropping 21 on Ohio State in the Round of 32. Davis Jr. loves to let the triples fly; throughout the month of March (eight games) he shot an average of 10 threes and connected on 33 percent. With the rate the Davis Jr. shoots, that percentage can and has been very effective.
Armoni Brooks — The 6-foot-3 junior guard is second on the team in scoring, but leads the Cougars in rebounds with 6.6. Brooks has nabbed 226 boards this season, 71 more than the next Houston player.
Some things to note
Houston’s backcourt rebounds better than its frontcourt — The Cougars’ starting bigs only average 8.1 rebounds. Brooks is first on the team with 226 rebounds for the year, and second is sixth man Nate Hinton with 155. Starting forward Breaon Brady is next with 145, and fellow big man Fabian White is not far behind with 119. How are these numbers possible? Well…
Houston’s frontcourt is run by committee — The Cougars have no PJ Washington or Reid Travis (both of whom average nearly 30 minutes a game). Without a superstar, Sampson keeps a constant rotation of bigs. While the 6-foot-5 Cedrick Alley Jr. may come off the bench, the freshman leads all forwards in minutes per game (18.7). White Jr. and Brady both start, but neither play more than 18 minutes. Center Chris Harris Jr. rounds the group out and averages nearly 11 minutes per game. Keeping such a balance of frontcourt minutes means each player’s averages are low, but the unit is solid when looked at as a whole. Interestingly enough, Houston averages 41.2 boards a game — 2.8 more than Kentucky.
The Cougars shoot like Wofford — If you thought the three-point party ended in Jacksonville with the Terriers, think again. Houston has attempted 838 threes this season (Wofford’s number was 874), and has connected on 305 for a mark of 36.4 percent. To put that number in perspective, UK is 199/547 from behind the arc this year. Expect the shots to be flying yet again.
The Cougars play fast — Part of the reason Houston launches so many threes is Sampson’s coaching strategy. He wants his team to average over 70 possessions a game and maintain spacing on offense so that they are always one pass away from a corner three.
Houston is a good defensive team – The Cougars allow only 60.8 points per game, a mark that is sixth best in the nation. That statistic has sustained in the NCAA Tournament, too — neither Ohio State nor Georgia State (both teams that score 69 and 76.5 points a game, respectively) surpassed 60 points. It’s fair to say UK’s offensive attack has more firepower than either of the Cougar’s first two opponents, but the Cats only managed an uncharacteristic 62 points against Wofford.
UK finished the season ranked 7th in the AP poll. Houston was 11th.
The Cats opened up as a 2.5-point favorite over the Cougars, but that line could shift in a big way when more news on PJ Washington’s availability comes out later in the week.
It seems as though UK’s defense will be tested again by another boom-or-bust offense. Herro stepped up in a big way against Wofford, and a similar defensive effort from him or another Wildcat could go a long way in helping UK make its 38th Elite 8 appearance.
This marks Houston’s first Sweet 16 appearance since 1984. The Cougars won’t go down easy, but neither will the Wildcats.
It’ll be a cat-fight in Kansas City Friday night. Tip is set for approximately 10 p.m. on TBS.
May the better feline win.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 25th, 2019 @ 11:11am
What do you do if your wedding is at the same time as Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament second round game? If you’re this couple from Somerset, you let your guests watch it during the ceremony.
Scheduling your wedding during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is still frowned upon, but shoutout to Devan and Randall Smith for making the most of the situation.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 25th, 2019 @ 11:00am
Saturday’s win over Wofford wasn’t pretty, but KyWildcatsTV found a way to make it beautiful.
The award-winning Kentucky Basketball video crew put their spin on the Cats’ victory to advance to the Sweet 16, and as promised, it includes some footage of John Calipari dancing in the locker room — if you consider this dancing:
For Cal’s sake, we’ll let it slide. Watch the entire video below:
The Sweet Sixteen is now set in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. How are you doing in the KSR Bracket Challenge? Participants in the KSR Bracket Challenge are in the running for some great prize packages:
**A houseboat dream vacation package courtesy of State Dock
**Gift package from Clayton & Crume
**Gift card from Barleycorn’s
**Gift card from Kentucky Branded
Thanks to our partners for the great prize packages. Enjoy the games this week.
By Bryan the Intern on ©March 25th, 2019 @ 10:05am
A little beginning of the week primer to the Sweet 16 and the matchup with Houston. A couple stats that you can throw around to your friends and family this week:
- Kentucky has won eight of their last nine Sweet 16 games, including six of seven under Calipari.
- Kentucky hasn’t lost in the NCAA Tournament to a non-Power 5 school since UCONN in 2014 and 2011. And not to somebody not named UCONN since UAB in 2004.
- Before last year’s loss to Kansas State, Kentucky had won Sweet 16 games by 11, 39, 5, 12, 2, and 17, for an average margin of victory of 14.3 points per game.
- Houston has been to 11 Sweet 16’s in their program history but none since 1984. Since 1984, Kentucky has been to 22 Sweet 16’s.
- In 8 of 11 Houston Sweet 16 appearances, Kentucky also appeared in the Sweet 16.
- Kentucky has only played two games all-time in Kansas City, at the Guardians Classic in 2005. They lost to Iowa and then beat West Virginia.
- Kelvin Sampson has played UK only twice, both while at Indiana. He split games in 2006 and 2007.
There will be a lot of information to digest over the next 4 days but this should get you going.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 25th, 2019 @ 10:00am
With the Sweet 16 field set, ESPN’s Myron Medcalf reseeded teams based on their performances in the first weekend of the tournament. Not surprisingly, the uncertainty surrounding PJ Washington’s status has caused Kentucky’s stock to fall, with Medcalf changing their seed from a two to a three and ranking them as the 11th best team left.
“PJ Washington’s ongoing absence due to injury is a real concern for a Kentucky squad that beat Wofford just 62-56 in the second round. It was a close game despite Terriers star Fletcher Magee’s missing all 12 of his 3-point attempts. Tyler Herro finished 2-for-11. The team’s 3-for-13 clip from the 3-point line didn’t help, either. Yet, the Wildcats, who got 14 points and 11 rebounds from Reid Travis, prevailed without their best player — and after Herro went cold — by playing great defense. Wofford entered the game ranked second in 3-point shooting but recorded a sub-30 percent mark against Kentucky. The Wildcats will advance, but we’re not sure if Washington will play in the next round. That’s why the Wildcats are ranked this low. The Wildcats without Washington still own a talented fleet, but they’re not the same imposing collective.”
I don’t think any of us can argue with that. Mecalf ranked the three other teams in the Midwest Region ahead of Kentucky: 3. North Carolina; 8. Houston; 9. Auburn. To read more, head on over to the Worldwide Leader.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 25th, 2019 @ 9:55am
Good morning, friends, and welcome to the Monday edition of Kentucky Sports Radio, which is coming to you live from the Lexington and Louisville studios as the gang catches their breath after Jacksonville and gets ready for Kansas City. Tune in to hear their thoughts on Kentucky’s performance vs. Wofford, the Sweet 16 matchup with Houston, the latest buzz on PJ Washington’s foot, and how bummed we all are that Central Florida lost to Duke.
Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080 or send a text to the KSR Texting Machine at (859) 300-3264.
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In less than a month, we’ll know where Matthew Hurt is going to college. The five-star forward told USA Today Sports that he plans to announce his college decision April 19 at his high school in Minnesota. He’s down to Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, and Kansas.
“My birthday is on April 20 so I’m gonna do it the day before,” said Hurt, who averaged 37 points and 12 rebounds a game this season. “I do not know where I’m going yet. The coaches have done a really good job of recruiting me; they haven’t been over the top with it, and I appreciate that. I can only pick one school, and I know that I’ll be happy with my decision in the end.”
Hurt is one of several top 2019 players, including future Cats Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney, in Atlanta for the McDonald’s All-American Game this week. Our own Jack Pilgrim has his boots on the ground and will bring you the latest from the practices and interviews today. Until then, check out what he was hearing on Kentucky’s chances with Hurt in last week’s Insider Notes.
The Kentucky Sports Utility Vehicle arrived back in Lexington late Sunday night after a scenic drive home from Jacksonville. Today is a day to rest our legs and wash our drawers before we get to ready to do it all again for the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in Kansas City. It’s going to be a good time.
Here’s a look at the Sweet 16 bracket:
The Southeastern Conference has four teams in the Sweet 16 for the first time in 23 years and only the third time in history.
The Cats will play in the late game Friday night.
Kentucky will tip off at 9:59 p.m. (probably even later) Friday night on TBS.
Thursday, March 28
West: No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 Florida State, 7:09 p.m. (CBS)
South: No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 3 Purdue, 7:29 p.m. (TBS)
West: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Texas Tech, 9:39 p.m.* (CBS)
South: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 12 Oregon, 9:59 p.m.* (TBS)
Friday, March 29
East: No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 3 LSU, 7:09 p.m. (CBS)
Midwest: No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 5 Auburn, 7:29 p.m. (TBS)
East: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 4 Virginia Tech, 9:39 p.m.* (CBS)
Midwest: No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 3 Houston, 9:59 p.m.* (TBS)
Kentucky is a 2.5-point favorite over Houston.
UK covered the spread in its first two games of the tournament, will it be three in a row?
The total on the game is 135.5.
Kentucky has a comfortable lead in its record for most NCAA Sweet 16 appearances.
Kentucky’s upcoming trip to Kansas City marks its 44th appearance in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, the most of any school in history. North Carolina and Duke are second with 33 appearances.
What’s the latest on PJ Washington?
There is nothing new to report this morning. When we know something, you will know something. Until then, we all wait in the dark.
The UK women play tonight at 7 p.m.
Kentucky’s women’s team will play its second round game against NC State (at NC State, unfortunately) with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. NC State is the 3-seed in the region and a very good rebounding team, so the Cats will have their hands full in playing to make the second weekend of the tournament for the sixth time under Matthew Mitchell.
The game will be televised on ESPN.
Watch the game at KSBar and Grille!
Duke is the luckiest team in sports history.
The missed lob to put UCF up six, the no-call on Zion’s charge, the hook-and-hold after the free throw, the cheap fouls on Tacko, CFU’s tip-in not going in… Duke is Satan’s team. Central Florida deserved to win.
The hard part of #MarchMadness
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 25, 2019
Lots more tournament talk to come throughout the day and beyond, plus the show radio show is back in studio today at 10 a.m.
By Maggie Davis on ©March 24th, 2019 @ 11:08pm
It’s official: No. 2 Kentucky will face No. 3 Houston for their Sweet 16 Matchup in Kansas City, Missouri. The No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes put up a good fight, but the Houston Cougars came away with the 74-59 win. It’ll be a late one for the BBN – the game is set to tip at 10 p.m. ET Friday night. It’ll be shown on TBS and will be called by Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel.
We’ll have plenty of pre-game coverage as the matchup approaches.
Cats > Cougars
The UK women’s basketball team is set to play NC State Monday night. Come cheer on the Cats at KSBar & Grille, where we’ll be hosting a watch party. The game is slated to start at 7:00 p.m., so come out and grab a table early!
For a preview of the matchup, click HERE.
By Nick Wheatley on ©March 24th, 2019 @ 10:30pm
We all know the Kentucky Wildcats held off the Wofford Terriers on Saturday to move on the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. Also, we all know that Fletcher Magee has made the most three-pointers in NCAA history.
Well, the Cats weren’t about to let one of the most prolific shooters in Division-I college basketball history beat them. They forced Magee into a ton of bad shots and didn’t give him a sliver of breathing room. If Wofford was going to upset Kentucky, it was going to have to be through someone else.
Despite setting the record mentioned above just days earlier on Thursday night, Tyler Herro and the Kentucky Wildcats helped Magee achieve another three-point shooting record. After going 0-12 from downtown, Magee set the record for the most three-point attempts without a make in NCAA Tournament history.
This was due in large part to the defense of Tyler Herro and Co. Of the 12 three-pointers Magee attempted, 11 of them were contested. But that didn’t impress him – he didn’t see any difference between the Cats’ defense and the defenses he’s been playing all year.
“I’ve shot the shots I got tonight against every team in the [Southern Conference], every other team I’ve played. They were no harder,” Magee said. “I just didn’t shoot it well. Some of them felt good and were short, some of them felt good and were long, and some of them were just off. It’s just what happens.”
Sure, sometimes it just happens. But, for some context, his previous worst career game without a successful three came earlier this season against Kansas, when he went 0-9 from deep. Saturday was the fourth time in his four-year career with Wofford where he failed to make a three.
However, it seems Magee just struggles when he faces better opponents. In four games this season against KenPom top-50 defenses, Magee only shot 16 percent from behind the arc. Meanwhile, his average was exponentially higher when he competed against the lower-level teams. He shot over 45 percent against KenPom defenses rated outside the top 100 and a whooping 58 percent against non-Division 1 teams.
Magee should probably look to give credit where it’s due. I’m sure a KenPom top-10 defense like Kentucky’s was a bit more difficult to maneuver than the Citadel’s or Mercer’s. And maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with the length and athleticism of UK’s elite defense, especially that of Tyler Herro.
We are less than a day away from the No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats matchup with the No. 10 N.C. State Wolfpack on Monday night in the Round of 32. N.C. State is hosting the first two rounds and if their game against Maine was any indication, they should have a rowdy crowd behind them with a chance at playing in the Sweet 16.
For a little background, the Wolfpack play in the ACC and have only faced Kentucky five times total, but haven’t seen each other since 1995, when N.C. State beat the Cats 66-62 on Dec. 30.
So this is a team that we know nothing about, but I’m going to try and change that a bit. Let’s take a closer look at the three-seed, starting with their resume.
*Attached to each statistic is the team’s national rank out of 351 teams*
Overall record: 27-5 (12-4 in ACC): three-seed
Points per game: 71.3 (67th)
Opponents points per game: 60.4 (71st)
Scoring margin per 100 possessions: +16.3 (31st)
Simple RPI: 65.3 percent (7th)
Strength of schedule according to MasseyRating: 52.45 (25th)
Key wins: Syracuse +4 (25-8), Miami (FL) +2 (25-8), Belmont +15 (26-7),
Key losses: North Carolina -13 (18-15)
- N.C. State currently only uses six rotational players. A slew of injuries to key players throughout the season has destroyed the team’s depth but without much consequence to the win-loss column. Two key players, Grace Hunter – who averaged 14.6 points per game before her injury – and Erika Cassell, both tore an ACL within the span of six weeks. Cassell averaged 6.6 points and 17.4 minutes per game before the injury. Armani Hawkins played 13 games before tearing her ACL against Pittsburgh, which took away another 4.2 points and nearly 10 minutes per game. Before the season even began, graduate guard Kaila Ealey was ruled out for the year with an injury.
- But that didn’t stop them from starting the season off 21-0 and ranked seventh in the nation. However, those injuries would eventually affect them against the powerhouses of the ACC conference. The Wolfpack lost back-to-back games against North Carolina and Florida State and then fell against Notre Dame and Louisville twice. In the games against Notre Dame and Louisville, N.C. State was outscored by a combined 63 points.
- But back to the roster make-up. Against Maine in the first round of the NCAA tournament, head coach Wes Moore stuck to mostly a five-player rotation with all five starters playing at least 30 minutes.
- The backcourt consists of Aislinn Konig, Kiara Leslie, and Kai Crutchfield. Starting with Konig, who is the team’s best long-distance shooter. She takes 6.9 three-pointers per game and hits them at a clip of 40.1 percent. The 5-foot-9 junior is one of only five players in school history to make at least 200 three-pointers. She’s also a sneaky passer, leading the team in assists with 3.9 per game. Over 70 percent of her shot attempts come from beyond the arc. Basically, Kentucky should have someone on her at all times.
- Next is Kiara Leslie, arguably the team’s most important player. She led her team with 20 points on 8-15 shooting while also grabbing six boards against Maine. She leads the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game and can score from practically anywhere. At six-feet tall, she is tall enough to fight for boards but quick enough to take her defender off the dribble. She can be a bit prone to turnovers but is an excellent rebounder and solid distributor.
- Finally, we have Kai Crutchfield. The 5-foot-8 guard averages 6.1 points per game and is the least efficient scorer of her three backcourt teammates. She shot 5-10 from the field and 3-5 from deep for 14 points against Maine, but it was only the eighth time this season she topped double-digits in scoring.
- As for the frontcourt, DD Rogers and Elissa Cunane hold it down in the paint. Rogers is the team’s top rebounder with 7.8 boards per game and also converts on over 58 percent of her two-point shots. Cunane stands at 6-foot-5 and will undoubtedly give Kentucky a handful of problems in the paint and on the glass. She averages only a shade under six rebounds per game but makes for up it with 13.7 points per game on 57.6 percent shooting from inside the perimeter. Rogers is one of the better defensive rebounders in the entire country while Cunane is an incredibly efficient scorer, averaging 1.26 points per scoring attempt (39th in the nation out of over 3,000 players) by being adept at getting to the free throw line.
- The sixth-woman on this team is Kayla Jones, who averages 4.8 points per game in almost 18 minutes per game. She put up only two points in 20 minutes against Maine. At 6-foot-1, her main job is going to be crashing the glass. She pulled down six rebounds int he first round and posts an impressive defensive rebounding percentage for how much time she plays.
- N.C. State is a team that does not foul. They rank 4th in the country when it comes to opponents points off of free throws (only 12.2 percent of their opponent’s points come from the charity stripe). Kentucky isn’t a team that relies on free throws to win them games, though. The Wildcats are one of the top teams in the country when they do get to the line (74.6 percent), but only 18.2 percent of their overall points come from free throws.
- You know how I keep harping on how poor of a rebounding team the Wildcats are? Well, this next stat won’t ease those worries. N.C. State is one of the top-five teams in the country in terms of rebounding opponents misses. In fact, they rank 4th nationally in defensive rebounds per game at 31.0. Kentucky averages 34.0 total rebounds per game. Rogers and Jones both rank in the top 90th percentile in defensive rebounding rate while Cunane and Leslie both post above average defensive rebounding numbers. They have the size to dominate Kentucky on that end and it will be a true test to just how committed the Cats are to sneaking in and winning 50/50 balls off of their own misses. Kentucky is solid at crashing their own glass, but this Wolfpack team is a whole different type of beast in that area.
- They give up a lot of threes. N.C. State let Maine shoot 37 of them (although they made only 11). Out of 351 Divison I teams, they rank 343rd in opponents three-pointers attempted with 766. They’ve allowed 247 of those to go in, which ranks only slightly worse at 344th. If you’ve watched even one Kentucky game this year, you’d know they love to shoot it from deep. With Maci Morris and Rhyne Howard patrolling the perimeter, it’s hard not to hoist up as many triples as possible. The Wildcats have shot 36.7 percent from three on the season, 22nd best in the nation. Against Princeton, they converted on nine of their 18 three-point attempts. Expect the Cats to try and have a field day from deep.
- Lastly, N.C. State is not going to turn Kentucky over. The Wolfpack force only 11.4 turnovers per game, one of the lowest marks among all teams and average only 4.8 steals per game. Just for perspective, Taylor Murray records 3.3 steals per game just by herself. There isn’t one player for N.C. State that posts a steal percentage of higher than 2.0 percent. Kentucky has seven of them.
I’ll be back tomorrow with some keys to the game and how Kentucky can pull off the upset, but I feel pretty good about where the Cats are at right now. They showed perseverance through a couple of tough stretches early against Princeton and looked energized towards the end of that game. The Wolfpack can only go six deep. Kentucky has nine full rotational players. It should be a high-pressure game from start to finish.