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Basketball Season Coverage

PJ Washington making the right move by entering the draft

As announced earlier today, UK freshman PJ Washington will enter the NBA Draft for the sake of going to the combine (assuming he gets an invite, which isn’t certain), but will not hire an agent. It’s the right decision for Washington after one season in Lexington, and it will be the right decision when he decides to return for his sophomore season, as many suspect he will.

PJ Washington declares for draft, but not hiring agent

As I see it, Washington’s official statement declaring his entry into the draft is already pointing directly toward an eventual return, barring any encouraging feedback from the NBA. He emphasized his love for the program, school and the fans in Kentucky; and made a point to say he is doing it to “see where he stands” at Calipari’s recommendation. It’s what all NBA prospects should do if given the opportunity, even if they are fully committed to returning to school for another season. A 2016 rule change to the process allows NCAA players to withdraw from the draft multiple times, so why wouldn’t they attend the combine to get a feel for what to expect and where they stand in the eyes of NBA execs? It’s a no-brainer.

As for the likelihood Washington does get some encouraging feedback that may push him toward leaving for good, I don’t think his fans in Lexington should be too worried. It would likely take a first-round promise from an NBA organization to convince him to go, and the upcoming draft class includes several power forwards who are much more NBA-ready. That’s not to say he won’t get the feedback he needs to stay in the draft — his wingspan and vertical will garner attention — but the mock drafts and big boards suggest it would take a pretty significant climb for Washington to work his way up into first-round territory:

SI.com Top 100: No. 60
NBADraft.net: No. 93 overall; second-round pick in 2019 draft
ESPN Top 100: No. 47
Sporting News: Unranked among Top 60 prospects

Then there’s the talk behind the scenes that Washington and his family have been content with a two-year stint in Lexington all along. They don’t seem to be in a hurry like some families, which is the right mindset for Washington’s situation. He is best fit for small ball in the NBA, but his current game doesn’t fit his projected role in the pros. Another season in Lexington would buy him time to find a shot and some lateral quickness, among other tools, while competing at the highest level of college basketball at UK. He could be a star in college basketball next season, as opposed to bussing around the G-League, which is the most likely scenario for his immediate future if he were to leave for good.

So Washington’s decision to declare for the draft is the right one. And if he drops out of the draft to return to UK for his sophomore season, it will be the right decision too. He’ll hear all he needs to hear to better himself for the 2019 draft, when he leaves UK behind as a sophomore sensation and national champion. (Wouldn’t that be fun?)


PJ Washington declares for draft, but not hiring agent

PJ Washington just announced on social media he is declaring for the NBA Draft, but will NOT hire an agent.

“After meeting with Coach Cal and talking through my situation, I am going to test the waters and see where I stand after my freshman year,” PJ wrote. “I want the fans to know that I love school, I love this program, and I love Kentucky.”

“I’m not in a hurry to make any type of decision but Coach believes I should evaluate where I am right now.”

Washington averaged 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in his freshman year but came on strong in the final stretch of the season, averaging 12.9 points and 6.8 rebounds in the last 12 games. He led the team in total rebounds with 211 boards.

“PJ and I met and talked this week about his future and the process that he would be able to go through if he chose to,” John Calipari tweeted. “I think it’s very important that each kid understands where he stands at this point in the eyes of professionals.”

“PJ has improved physically and mentally. His ability to play winning basketball isn’t even close to where it was at the beginning of the season. I’ve seen a tremendous growth in all those areas. Like all these kids, I would like to continue to coach PJ, but I’m going to support him as he goes through this process.”

Smart move. Best of luck to PJ as he goes through this process.


Report: Calipari pitched Kevin Knox on coming back

John Calipari is famous for encouraging his players to chase their NBA dreams, to the point that he jokingly kicked De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Bam Adebayo off the team after last season. According to a new report from Kyle Tucker, that was not the case with Kevin Knox.

Knox’s father told Tucker that Calipari pitched Kevin on the idea of returning to Kentucky for another season to better prepare for the NBA (requisite reminder that Knox is one of the youngest players in the country). Currently, Knox is projected to go anywhere from tenth to fifteenth in the lottery, but Calipari believes his stock can get even higher with another year of school.

“He said, ‘Man, we want you to come back, but at the end of the day, if you end up leaving, we will not have been able to see the best of Kevin Knox in Lexington,'” Knox Sr. told SEC Country. “That is yet to come if you decide to leave.’ ”

Well, how about that. Knox Sr. reiterated that the family will make a decision by Friday and it will be a final one in that he won’t just test the waters. If he comes back (if, if, if!), his mission is a national championship. His dad had a really awesome quote about that, but you’ll have to click on over to SEC Country to read it.

[SEC Country]


Duke, Kentucky early favorites to win 2019 national championship

The 2017-18 college basketball season is now over, which means it’s time to look ahead to next year. With NBA Draft decisions looming, Duke is the early favorite to take home the 2019 national championship, but Kentucky isn’t far behind.

The odds are out at the Westgate SuperBook in Vegas and Duke leads at 5-1, followed by Kentucky, Kansas, and current champs Villanova at 8-1. The next closest SEC team is Auburn at 30-1, followed by Florida at 40-1.

Team Odds
Duke 5/1
Villanova 8/1
Kansas 8/1
Kentucky 8/1
North Carolina 12/1
Michigan State 15/1
Virginia 15/1
Gonzaga 15/1
Michigan 20/1
Oregon 20/1
West Virginia 30/1
UCLA 30/1
Auburn 30/1
Florida 40/1
Texas Tech 40/1
Purdue 40/1
Wichita State 40/1
Tennessee 40/1
Nevada 60/1
Arizona State 60/1
Cincinnati 60/1
Maryland 60/1
Ohio State 60/1
Clemson 60/1
Miami (FL) 60/1
N.C. State 60/1
Vanderbilt 60/1

Looking at this just makes me bitter about the 50-1 odds I snagged for this season. Grumble, grumble.


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander postpones announcement

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was originally scheduled to announce his NBA draft decision this evening, but it appears he needs some more time. According to TJ Walker, Shai will announce next Monday instead:

Matt has confirmed that report and is also hearing that Kevin Knox is genuinely torn about his decision. An announcement is expected by the end of the week.

So, now, we wait.


Kevin Knox Sr: “We’re not exploring options. This is it.”

© C. Morgan Engel | USATSI

Kevin Knox wants to get his NBA decision out of the way, and once it happens, he won’t be looking back.

In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Kevin Knox Sr. said his son will be making his final decision this week, regardless of which direction he goes with it.

“If Kevin goes, he is going,” Knox Sr. said. “If he stays, he stays. We’re not exploring options. This is it.”

According to the 6-foot-10 forward’s father, Knox and his family discussed their options with head coach John Calipari sometime today.

Knox Sr. says his son could pull the trigger at any point, but it absolutely won’t last past Friday.

“We’re going to make a decision real quick,” Knox Sr. said. “It could happen as soon as (Monday night) but no later than Friday.”

No putting his name in the draft without an agent. No testing the waters. No games. Sometime this week, we will find out if Kevin Knox will be a Wildcat next season or not.

Get your popcorn ready, BBN.


Four Kentucky players featured in One Shining Moment

Four Kentucky players featured in One Shining Moment

Villanova took home the 2018 National Championship tonight, defeating Michigan by a final score of 79-62.

Immediately after the game, we got to see the latest edition of One Shining Moment, featuring four Kentucky Wildcats.

PJ Washington’s shimmy dance, Hamidou Diallo’s windmill slam, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s defense, and Sacha Killeya-Jones’ crazy putback dunk were all featured.

Take a look:

And with that, the 2017-18 college basketball season comes to a close.


Kentucky listed at No. 3 in way-too-early 2018 CBB rankings

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

We’re still about an hour and a half from the 2017-18 National Champion being crowned, yet we’ve already seen our first series of preseason rankings for the 2018-19 basketball season.

NBC Sports is the most prominent name to release their way-too-early rankings, and the Kentucky Wildcats are sitting pretty in the top five.

They expect Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, and Jarred Vanderbilt to leave, with everyone else returning. They obviously recognize the moving parts with this roster when it comes to NBA decisions, and they still don’t even recognize the potential recruits possibly added a bit later in Ashton Hagans, EJ Montgomery, Brandon Williams, etc.

Nonetheless, check out their analysis:

3. KENTUCKY WILDCATS

  • Who’s gone: Kevin Knox*, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander*, Hamidou Diallo*, Jarred Vanderbilt*
  • Who do they add: Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro
  • Projected starting lineup: Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, Wenyen Gabriel*, P.J. Washington*

As always, there are so many moving parts with this Kentucky team’s roster and who will end up leaving school. Everyone from Kentucky is going to declare, and at this point, I’m going to set the over-under for the number of players that leave at four: Knox, Gilgeous-Alexander, Diallo and Vanderbilt. We’ll see how that all plays out, but regardless of what happens, I think the combination of incoming backcourt talent and the remaining front court veterans is going to be a fun combination for Kentucky fans to watch.

Other notable rankings:

No. 1 Kansas

No. 4 Duke

No. 5 Tennessee

No. 7 Auburn

No. 11 North Carolina

No. 12 Louisville (lol)

No. 16 Mississippi State

No. 24 LSU

Five SEC teams listed, and four rivals beneath the Cats? I’ll take it.

You can check out the entire list and NBC’s analysis here.


SEC Country: Kevin Knox’s NBA decision is “imminent”

KSR reported this weekend that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be making his official decision tomorrow night, likely on SportsCenter. Beyond that, there are no set times or dates for any of the other players set to make a decision.

If you ask Kevin Knox’s father, however, you should be hearing about his son’s NBA Draft decision at any moment.

In an interview with Kyle Tucker of SEC Country, Kevin Knox Sr. said after his son flew home to Tampa, FL this past weekend to talk it over with his family during Easter, “a decision is imminent.”

“It should happen this week,” Kevin Knox Sr. said before ending a brief phone interview to attend a work meeting.

Last week, Knox Sr. opened the door for a potential sophomore campaign from his son, saying his family is “not in need” and that the 6-foot-10 forward thoroughly enjoys playing at Kentucky.

“Kevin comes from a family with, to be honest with you, two educated parents who are not in need,” Knox Sr. told SEC Country last week. “We don’t need for Kevin to go out and buy us a house or buy us a car or something.”

As for Kentucky forward PJ Washington, an NBA decision seems to be a bit further out, as he’s only focused on being a college student for right now.

“PJ will make a decision when he’s ready,” father Paul Washington told SEC Country on Monday, after meeting with his son to discuss the future over the weekend. “We talked as a family and he will let everyone know in due time. Right now, he’s focusing on his school work and being a college student.”

You can check out the official SEC Country NBA Decision Tracker right here.


Six years ago today, No. 8 came home to Kentucky

Six years ago today, Kentucky’s eighth national title came home to Lexington.

April 2, 2012.

67-59.

Ever since, the epic call made at the final buzzer, “College basketball’s national championship trophy is coming home to Kentucky” has run through your head more times than you can count. You know where you were standing when you heard it. You remember the emotion you felt when that confetti fell to the floor and when the players messed up John Calipari’s hair at the trophy presentation.

The weight had been lifted off Coach Cal’s shoulders, and the couch burning had begun.

Now, let’s relive that incredible night.

First, CBS’ official One Shining Moment video:

And UK’s version of One Shining Moment:

“The Road to Gr8ness:”

The trophy presentation:

State Street as the final buzzer went off:

And finally, welcoming the Cats home at Rupp Arena the next day.

What. A. Night.

If you were around campus that weekend and the week that followed, you’d know that was one of the craziest and most memorable times we’ve seen in Lexington in a long time.

We need one of those again sometime soon…

Go Cats.


Kentucky still the most valuable program in college hoops

For the second straight season, Kentucky is the most valuable program in college basketball. 

According to IUPU-Columbus professor Ryan Brewer’s annual study based on revenues, expenses, risk, growth and other factors, Kentucky Basketball is worth $246.6 million, which is a lot, but down 28 percent from last season’s $342.6 million; in fact, valuations across the sport were down 7.4 percent, which Brewer attributed to risks associated with the FBI’s investigation. Kentucky’s home attendance was also down seven percent this season compared to last.

Interestingly, Indiana comes in at No. 2 in the rankings, followed by Louisville, Kansas, and Duke. Check out the complete list for yourself at the link below.

[The Wall Street Journal]


Tai Wynyard transferring from Kentucky

Here’s news that shouldn’t come as a surprise: Tai Wynyard is transferring. UK just announced that Wynyard will be granted a full release with no restrictions.

“I want to thank everyone who has played a part in my two and a half years at Kentucky – everyone from the coaches to my teammates to the managers and the staff,” Wynyard said in a release. “Everyone played huge roles in my time here. I’ve been lucky enough to have gained experiences one could only hope to have in a lifetime. I’ve had the privilege of playing with and against some of the best talent in the country at Kentucky and my hope is to one day follow in their footsteps.

“This decision wasn’t an easy one for me to make and I appreciate the commitment and support Coach Cal and the staff gave me in reaching it. My goals haven’t changed. After meeting with Cal, something that he always talks about is doing what’s best for the individual. Everyone is on a different path. Although that path will be somewhere else, I’ll never forget this place. From day one, beginning with my first home game vs. Louisville in 2015, this place has shown me nothing but love. I want to thank you for your support. Kentucky will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Wynyard came to Kentucky in December 2015 and redshirted his initial season. He appeared in 23 career games, scoring 19 points and grabbing 27 rebounds, but was limited this season with a back injury. In February, he was suspended following a report that he attended parties at UK with an armed bodyguard. Calipari didn’t comment on those reports, but wished him well.

“We haven’t had a lot of players transfer, but when a player comes to me and asks for a fresh start, I will always support them,” Calipari said. “We talk all the time about this being a new experience for our players, but I believe it was even tougher for Tai because of where he came from. To come to a new country in the middle of the season and try to carve out a role was difficult, but I’m proud of Tai for the person he’s grown into.

“I know this decision wasn’t easy for him because he is just now starting to learn who he is and how he can contribute to a team. We are sad to see him go, but he has our full support and we will do whatever we can to make sure he can continue to pursue his dreams. That’s what this is all about here at Kentucky.”

Best of luck to Tai in the next chapter.


Eight reasons to watch the national championship game if you’re not a Villanova or Michigan fan

Eight reasons to watch the national championship game if you’re not a Villanova or Michigan fan

It’s “Championship Monday” a normally joyous time for college basketball fans across the country. Yet this year it feels like the game is missing a little pizazz. Sorry for being honest. It’s just the truth.

Look, I love college basketball as much as anybody, but to be perfectly blunt: Unless you’re a fan of either Villanova or Michigan it’s hard to get all too excited about this game. One, these two programs are almost too likeable – I mean honestly, unless you hate good, fundamental basketball, teamwork and players who put the team before themselves, how can you dislike Villanova or Michigan? And two, doesn’t it kind of feel like we already know the result is going to be? I’m not saying this is a “David vs. Goliath” type deal or that Michigan has no chance. At the same time, the Wildcats have won their five NCAA Tournament games by an average of 17 points, with each win by at least 12 points. I know Michigan is good, but there’s a reason ‘Nova is the biggest national title game favorite since 2010. I’m not even sure Jim Harbaugh has the guts to pick Michigan to win this game.

Yet despite the lack of buzz, it is still the national championship, and dammit, I’m going to enjoy it if it kills me. And you should too. Which is exactly why I am writing today: Here are seven reasons to tune into the national championship game even if you’re not a Villanova or Michigan fan:
(more…)


Kentucky’s NBA Draft Decisions: Monday Update

What’s the latest on who will stay and who will go? Over the weekend, the players went home to spend Easter with their families and discuss whether or not to declare for the NBA Draft, and, if so, whether or not to sign with an agent. On this morning’s show, Matt shared the latest on those decisions after some conversations with people in the know.

Here’s what we’re hearing.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

As reported on KSR over the weekend, Shai will announce his decision Tuesday night, potentially on SportsCenter. Given projections that have him going in the lottery and a high-profile announcement, it’s all but certain #HeGone.

Kevin Knox

Matt is hearing Knox will announce his decision either today or tomorrow. Last week, Knox’s father said his son was open to the idea of staying at Kentucky another season despite being projected as a late lottery pick. How does he feel after a weekend of reflection?

“Let me just say, I don’t think it’s certain what he does,” Matt said. “I still think the smart money is on him going, but I don’t think that’s certain.”

    The others

What about Hamidou Diallo, PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Wenyen Gabriel? Matt said he’s expecting all of the decisions will be made public this week, but, as of Saturday, the only player whose mind was made up was Shai.

There’s been talk that some players you might expect to go through the process to get feedback may not declare at all, which makes sense given the news that PJ Washington will have surgery to repair a broken pinky and Jarred Vanderbilt’s lingering ankle/foot issues.

Stay tuned…


What are the best/worst possible scenarios for next year’s basketball roster?

Yesterday afternoon, Matt Jones broke the news that Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be making his NBA Draft decision on Tuesday night. As the year progressed, SGA developed into one of the top guards in the SEC, and we knew his chances of returning were diminishing by the game.

With this news, it’s almost a certainty he’ll be putting his name in the draft and hiring an agent.

Beyond that, however, there are nothing but question marks when it comes to upcoming decisions. We assumed Kevin Knox was a lock, but his father came out and said his family doesn’t need the money and they would welcome a sophomore campaign with open arms. Hamidou Diallo seemed like a lock, but his inconsistent play throughout the year left NBA scouts with more questions than answers. Jarred Vanderbilt’s injury situation, PJ Washington’s broken pinky/late-year development, Wenyen Gabriel wanting to provide for his family, etc.

Needless to say, these next few weeks are going to be wild for the Big Blue Nation.

Let’s walk through the best and worst case scenarios for next year’s roster when the dust settles on these decisions:

Best case scenario:

Gone: Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo

Return: Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, Wenyen Gabriel, Quade Green, Nick Richards, Sacha Killeya-Jones

Signees: Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, Ashton Hagans

Rotation:

Green/Hagans

Knox/Quickley/Baker

Johnson/Herro

Vanderbilt/Gabriel

Washington/Richards/SKJ

The Big Blue Nation wants the perfect mix of veteran leadership and young talent? You got it.

Calipari said he would never use the platoon system again, but he may have to if the right dominoes fall in the coming weeks.

If Kevin Knox tests the waters without signing an agent, NBA teams will likely tell him he is in the 15-20 range in this year’s draft. His family is not in need of money, and Knox has told his father he is in love with the college experience and playing at Kentucky. He could return to school, improve on defense and develop his jumper even more to become a top five-ten pick in a fairly weak 2019 draft. He could easily be one of the top players in college basketball next season.

Beyond Knox, all of the other names are guys that SHOULD return to school. Diallo seems hellbent on leaving, and even though he should come back, I don’t think anyone is expecting it. PJ Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt are fringe guys right now, but could dominate as sophomores. Nick Richards absolutely needs to return, Quade Green and Wenyen Gabriel aren’t NBA players yet, and Killeya-Jones is just a role player right now. We’ve seen guys right on the fringe make the jump in the past, but this class doesn’t feel quite there yet.

Ashton Hagans is an interesting piece in this equation, as he absolutely wants to play at Kentucky, and he wants to do it in 2018… but he’s not a need if the Cats return all of those pieces. Ultimately, I believe he comes regardless and will thrive off the bench or work his way into the starting lineup as the year develops. Calipari won’t turn him down, especially with Gilgeous-Alexander likely gone.

This team likely wouldn’t match up with the top-end talent we saw with the 2014-15 team, but they’d easily be the favorite to win it all next season.

Worst case scenario:

Gone: Gilgeous-Alexander, Knox, Diallo, Washington, Vanderbilt, and Gabriel enter the draft.

Returns: Green, Richards, Killeya-Jones

Signees: Quickley, Johnson, Herro, Hagans, EJ Montgomery

Rotation:

Green/Hagans

Quickley/Herro/Baker

Johnson

Montgomery/(Graduate transfer/reclassification)

Richards/Killeya-Jones

In just about every year John Calipari has been at Kentucky, most guys on the fence end up leaving. If you play the odds, there’s a chance we see something similar this offseason. Daniel Orton, Marquis Teague, Dakari Johnson, Doron Lamb, etc., we’ve seen our fair share of headscratchers.

But even if we see a disappointing roster overhaul, we’d still see a very talented Kentucky team.

If two of Washington, Vanderbilt, and Gabriel leave, EJ Montgomery will absolutely be a Wildcat. Calipari will be able to sell him on playing time and being a star in the frontcourt. Coach Cal would likely push for one more piece to finish out the wing/power forward spot.

As I mentioned before, Hagans wants to be a Wildcat in the 2018 class, and with Gilgeous-Alexander almost certainly leaving, look for him to be the immediate replacement.

It’d be a major turnover, but it’s still something Coach’s Cal could work with.

So what is the most likely scenario?

Probably a solid mix of both. Almost every year, there’s a decision that leaves people scratching their heads. Could that be Wenyen Gabriel leaving to provide for his family? Kentucky fans certainly couldn’t blame him for that. Diallo shouldn’t, but like Isaiah Briscoe last year, some guys just want to pave their own path on their own time and college might not be their thing. He may follow in his footsteps. Washington had spurts of domination, especially late in the year. He could feel he is ready to make the jump. Not all of them, but I feel we’ll see one surprise, one way or the other.

If I had to put money down, I’d expect to see Green, Richards, Washington, and two of Gabriel, Vanderbilt, and Washington to return. And with that, a pretty darn solid core group next season.

We’ll likely see the first domino fall on Tuesday.

What do you expect the roster to look like?