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
By Maggie Davis on ©March 24th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
Reid Travis has waited five years for the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. Based on his two outings so far, it’s been worth the wait. The best part? His coach couldn’t be prouder.
“He trained his whole life for this,” John Calipari said Saturday. “Before the last game, I just told him, you’ve been waiting for this your whole life. [Thursday] he was unbelievable, had eight of nine or whatever he did, 18 points, and [Saturday] he did well again.”
He finished as Kentucky’s leading scorer against Wofford Saturday afternoon, recording a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) while committing zero turnovers. Against Abilene Christian, his stat line was equally impressive: 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting, nine rebounds and one assist. Calipari said Travis was so effective against Wofford, they wanted the ball in his hands “every time we needed a basket.”
His improvements and his success starts in practice, where Calipari says Travis is always “totally engaged.” When “outsiders” come in to watch a Kentucky basketball practice, they comment on Travis’ attentiveness, saying he never takes his eyes off of his coach. Calipari says he does have to get on him, but never for the same reason he gets on the team’s younger players.
“I’m on him like I am these young kids,” Cal said. “I just don’t have to as much because his is never effort – theirs is always effort. His is never effort.”
The compliments for Kentucky’s hardworking senior didn’t stop there.
“Let me say this, what a pleasure it’s been to coach him. He is truly professional in how he deals with everything, from training to weight training to keeping his body right to being where he’s supposed to on time,” Calipari said. “But it’s been – I’ve loved it… He’s helped us, but he’s helped himself in this. He’s really put himself in a great position.”
Travis’ reaction to Calipari’s praise was awesome.
“I think that is one of the kindest things Coach has ever said about me. It makes the work I do every day really mean something to hear him say something like that,” Travis said. “It’s kind of touching. It took a lot for me to come to Kentucky and decide to play another year of college basketball. [The reason] was nothing more than I wanted to play in games like this, and bring it every day and try to be my best.”
Without PJ Washington on the floor for the Tournament’s first two rounds, Reid Travis bounced back from an injury of his own in a big way. He’s repeatedly demonstrated how important of a role he plays for this team, but his performances in the post-season have only reinforced that idea. Now it’s time to get Travis back to his hometown, Minneapolis, for the Final Four – he’s been waiting forever.
By Brent Wainscott on ©March 24th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
With the eyes of the country centered on the backcourt matchup in Kentucky’s 62-56 victory over Wofford, Ashton Hagans seemed to have reverted to his midseason form and was a huge key to the win against the Terriers.
Ashton Hagans, along with the rest of the guards, smothering the NCAA’s record holder for threes, Fletcher Magee, was obviously one of the biggest takeaways from the game. Hagans and the guards held Magee to zero threes. Not only did Ashton Hagans make an impact on the defensive end, but Hagans was also a reliable playmaker at the most opportune times.
Hagans started the game struggling a bit, going 0-4 from the field and not getting a point until late in the first half. He was settling for bad, contested shots and seemed to be forcing things a bit. But, once he settled in Hagans had one of the best performances of the day. Hagans had 12 points, four assists, five rebounds, and a steal in the victory.
Hagans was a catalyst for Kentucky to jump out to their first lead of the game, that changed the momentum the rest of the way. Kentucky was staring at their largest deficit of the day, down 24-18 with under four minutes to go in the second half. After a great sequence by Reid Travis and Jermarl Baker to cut the Wofford lead, Ashton Hagans came up with a huge steal that led to the basket to tie the game.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 23, 2019
On the next possession, he would give Kentucky their first lead of the game on a jumper.
In the second half, Hagans made a significant adjustment. Hagans went from settling for jump shots in the first half to attack the rim on his primary defender who was four inches smaller than Hagans which was a huge difference. As you could see, Storm Murphy just couldn’t stop Hagans from getting to the rim in the second half.
Ashton Hagans continues to eat getting to the cup. pic.twitter.com/w3EwEKRl1S
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 23, 2019
After the game, Ashton Hagans said, “If it was there take it. The lane was wide open, so coach was telling me to get to the lane so that’s what I did.”
That in-turn also got Hagans to the line a lot more in the second half. Hagans shot zero free throws in the first half, but in the second, Hagans got to the line for five free throw shots.
Ashton Hagans spinning and-1 flex. pic.twitter.com/TwmvHWh9kZ
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 23, 2019
Oh yeah, and he took poor Storm Murphy’s ankles.
OMG. Ashton Hagans just collected a pair of ankles. pic.twitter.com/hJSFsJJ0Wu
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 23, 2019
Not only was Hagans getting to the rim significant for Kentucky, but in a game that felt like could go either way the whole 40 minutes, hustle and effort plays were huge, and Hagans came up with them at the right time.
When they mattered most, Hagans gathered four rebounds in the second half.
A key rebound came when Kentucky was down by three in the second half, Tyler Herro missed a lay-up, and Ashton Hagans was there to clean up the miss. Hagans would then kick it out to Herro who would make the extra pass for a wide open Jermarl Baker to tie the game once again in what was a huge offensive sequence.
In a game without PJ Washington and Tyler Herro struggling on offense, Kentucky needed Ashton Hagans to deliver, and he did just that. Hagans contributed 33 minutes of suffocating defense and was a consistent playmaker in the second half for Kentucky. Without Ashton Hagans performing well, Kentucky may be out of the tournament right now. After the game, Coach Cal told ESPN that Hagans will to win was unbelievable.
Hagans winning the guard battle yesterday was vital in Kentucky’s win. If Hagans can produce like this the rest of the way, book your flight to Minnesota.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 23rd, 2019 @ 11:00pm
They were exactly what we thought they were.
The Wofford Terriers were feisty, incredibly skilled on the perimeter, and had several opportunities to come up with a victory.
But when push came to shove, Kentucky was able to capitalize on their talent, length, strength, and pure athleticism, ultimately forcing just enough separation at the end to pull out the 62-56 victory.
Let’s look at the key takeaways from UK’s gritty Round of 32 performance.
Credit where credit is due
Before we get into the specifics on Kentucky’s end, we have to give credit to what.
To start the game, Wofford made Kentucky incredible uncomfortable, especially on offense. The Wildcats were unable to get anything going with the ball in their hands for the majority of the first half, settling for contested jump shots and making questionable decisions over and over again.
With 4:23 remaining in the first half, the Terriers found themselves up by six points, which felt like 20 considering how hard points were to come by at that point. The Wildcats fought back and retook the lead before halftime, but the Cats still only managed 28 points before intermission. Again, the Terriers forced the Wildcats to play their way, not the other way around.
In the second half, Wofford clawed back to take a three-point lead with 17:02 remaining, but Kentucky’s sheer talent and strength was too much to handle. The Cats took back the lead one final lead and never lost it the rest of the way.
If it weren’t for Wofford star guard Fletcher Magee missing everything he threw at the rim, though, the Terriers absolutely could have pulled off the upset.
Now that we got that out of the way…
Jemarl Baker was the game MVP
When Kentucky needed a spark, it wasn’t one of the usual suspects saving the day. This afternoon, that person proved to be redshirt freshman Jemarl Baker Jr.
In the first half, Baker was one of the main reasons the Cats were able to come back, finishing with five points (1-2 shooting, 3-3 from the free throw line) and a +/- of +10. He followed it up with an even better all-around performance in the second, finishing with eight points, two rebounds, one steal, and a +/- total of +19.
On defense, the Wildcat shooting guard had a pretty impressive day, specifically off the ball. He absolutely made his impact known on both ends of the floor.
Baker finished with a career-high seven points against Abilene Christian on Thursday, and he followed it up with another career outing in the victory today.
Reid Travis was unstoppable… when he wanted to be
To start the game, the senior forward was incredibly frustrating. Despite being the strongest and most dominant player on the floor, Travis never demanded the ball. And when he finally got it, he relied on unnecessary jumpers and gave the ball up to some of the other Wildcats struggling with their shots (Tyler Herro and Ashton Hagans).
Even when Wofford’s best frontcourt player, Cameron Jackson, got in foul trouble early, Kentucky wouldn’t force the issue and capitalize with Travis in the paint. They needed points, yet still didn’t utilize their most consistent option to make that happen. After starting the game with just two points in the first 17 minutes, he finally managed four points in the final three minutes of the half to help
In the second half, however, the Travis we expected to see coming into the game finally arrived.
Almost immediately, the senior forward demanded the ball in the post, and the abuse followed. He would work to create space down low, hit the Wofford defenders with a variety of post moves, and score with ease. He proved to be unstoppable.
Travis finished the day with a team-high 14 points, 11 rebounds, and one steal in 37 minutes of action. With star forward PJ Washington out, they needed the senior big man to come up big in crunch time, and he managed to do just that.
Ashton Hagans was a force on both ends
Like Travis, Hagans settled for several frustrating jumpers and failed to find his groove on offense to start the game.
Once he realized he was more athletic than the opposition and could get to the rim at will, it was like a switch flipped with the freshman point guard. He attacked on the perimeter and worked his way to the paint time and time again. If he wasn’t scoring, he was getting fouled and going to the line. Sometimes he did both.
He also did this, which was pretty freaking ridiculous.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 23, 2019
On defense, Hagans wreaked havoc in the second half, contesting Wofford jumpers and making the Terrier backcourt uncomfortable. He slipped up several times in the first half in leaving shooters open on the perimeter, but he cleaned things up and really found his footing after intermission.
He finished the day with 12 points (4-11 shooting), five rebounds, four assists, and one steal in 33 minutes.
We saw a new side of Tyler Herro
For star shooting guard Tyler Herro, while his shot was cold (nine points on 2-11 shooting, 1-6 from three), his impact on the defensive end was second-to-none and one of the key reasons Kentucky was able to pull off the victory.
Matched up with Wofford star guard Fletcher Magee, Herro allowed almost zero easy shots on the perimeter. In fact, the only real mishap the Wildcat guard had was on a backdoor cut in the second half. He looked exhausted at various points, but it was justified, as he chased the Terrier sharpshooter all across the floor from start to finish.
The major storyline of this game was Magee’s horrendous performance from three, and Herro is a major reason for that.
The scoring is fun and we certainly appreciate it, but him stepping up on defense was much more important today.
Kentucky needs PJ Washington back on the floor
They didn’t need him against Abilene Christian, and they were able to win without him this afternoon against Wofford, but the Wildcats can’t afford another NCAA Tournament game without star forward PJ Washington.
When Kentucky needs a basket, Washington has been the player to do that throughout the season. When they need a big stop or a momentum shift, he has been that guy time and time again. As the overall level of competition improves each round, the significance of those moments increases.
They got by today, but there are certainly no promises that remains the case moving forward.
Kentucky needs PJ Washington back out on the floor.
By ShopKSR.com on ©March 23rd, 2019 @ 5:45pm
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By Nick Roush on ©March 23rd, 2019 @ 5:08pm
The Terriers could not contain the Wildcats. Kentucky defeated Wofford 62-56 to advance to the Sweet 16 for the eighth time in ten years under John Calipari.
Without P.J. Washington, Kentucky struggled to find offense. In the first half the Cats trailed by as much as six before a 10-2 run right before halftime gave UK its first lead of the game.
Kentucky took control once the second half started. A 13-2 run gave Kentucky an eight-point lead with 12 minutes to play. From that point forward, Wofford played from behind.
The Cats missed Washington’s presence in the post, especially on the offensive end. Keldon Johnson fought with foul trouble the entire game and Tyler Herro made only 2-of-11 shots. Jemarl Baker’s eight points, Ashton Hagans’ 12 and Reid Travis’ 14-point, 11-rebound double-double helped UK weather the storm.
While Kentucky’s offense struggled, the defense silenced Fletcher Magee. The NCAA’s all-time three-point shooting leader broke an NCAA Tournament record by going 0-12 from behind the three-point line.
Wofford cut UK’s lead to two with 37 seconds to play. Two free throws from Reid Travis iced the game and ultimately gave Kentucky the win.
Kentucky will play the winner of Ohio State-Houston in Kansas City.
Kentucky survived and advanced on Thursday night and it’s now time for a Round of 32 contest with a very dangerous opponent. Wofford is a top 20 team in just about every ranking metric with an offense that might be the best in the country. Behind three dynamic shooters, the Terriers will remain a scary opponent for the entire 40 minutes.
Wofford enters today’s contest with a 21-game win streak and are fresh off an impressive victory over Seton Hall in the Round of 64. Wofford has the sport’s all-time leading three-point shooter and a lineup filled with quality offensive options. This will be a ballgame, but that is what you expect in the Round of 32.
Nuts and Bolts
Wofford is located in Spartanburg, South Carolina and is a member of the Southern Conference. The Terriers joined Division I in the 1997-1998 season and since then they have made five NCAA Tournaments. However, there is no question that this is the best team they have ever fielded.
Mike Young took over the program in 2002-2003 and he has taken the Terriers to each of their postseason appearances in this decade. Young has been on the staff at Wofford since 1989 before sitting in the head coach’s chair. He be looking to guide Wofford to their first ever Sweet 16 appearance with a win this afternoon in Jacksonville.
From a style perspective, Wofford runs a spread offense with a ton of ball screen actions. They have three guards who they will utilize in these concepts and any of them is a threat to pull from any place on the court. They very rarely post it and use dribble penetration to create three-point looks. They are excellent with shot fakes and easily get the defense in scramble mode which can open up some offensive rebound opportunities. On the other end, Wofford plays primarily a man defense with a little bit of zone mixed in. Wofford does a great job guarding without fouling and they will give up open shots to get into rebounding position.
Out in the desert, Kentucky is a 5.5 point favorite with a total of 138.5. That’s a projected final score of 72-66.5. On the season, Kentucky is 17-16-1 against the spread while Wofford is 20-11. The Terriers have covered eight in a row and are 12-1 in their last 13 games. They enter Saturday as the hottest team in the country. The over is 4-1 in Wofford’s last five while the under is 7-2 in Kentucky’s last nine. There are a lot of trends available entering this one.
Let’s start with the guy that is putting up 20.5 points per outing. Fletcher Magee is a senior who is shooting 42.8 percent from three on a ridiculous 365 attempts. That’s an incredible 10.7 three-point shots per outing. He can launch from anywhere and Wofford will run him off a ton of screens in addition to letting him create in pick-and-roll sets. Magee is not just a shooter, however. The Orlando native does a good job drawing contact and has shot 108 free throws this season. He is an excellent college basketball player and will have a chance to play at the next level.
At the point, Wofford has a platoon going with Nathan Hoover and Storm Murphy. Both are shooting over 45 percent from three on a ton of attempts. Murphy is the top assist man with 3.2 dishes per outing, but he can be turnover prone. Hoover, meanwhile, is the second option on offense outside of Magee and is putting 13.3 points per game. Magee gets all of the attention, but Hoover and Murphy are the second and third scoring options that make Wofford dynamic on offense.
Off the bench, Hopkinsville native Tray Hollowell is used and he’s another quality three-point shooter. The sophomore is shooting 41.4 percent from three on 99 shots and that’s where all of his production comes from. At point, freshman Ryan Larson will contribute in small doses and he’s the worst three-point shooter (32.5 percent) Wofford will play on the perimeter.
This will be one of the least athletic backcourts UK has seen all season. Wofford doesn’t have much length on the perimeter and they can play at a slow temp0. However, they are very crafty on the offensive end and play smart basketball on defense. The Terriers are willing to give up points to get another shot. Ball movement and dribble penetration of off ball screens in addition to backdoor cuts will be UK’s biggest challenges this afternoon.
Wofford’s perimeter players get all of the attention, but forward Cameron Jackson might be this squad’s most important player. The 6-foot-8, 250-pound senior plays the five for the Terriers and he’s very valuable. The big from Winchester, Virginia is second on the team in scoring (14.6) and leads the squad in rebounding (7.5).
Jackson is not much of a three-point threat as he prefers to do most of his damage in the paint. He plays an integral part of the offense by setting a ton of screens in order to get the guards open shots. Jackson will be used on a ton of pick-and-roll sets. He’s the only player that can provide rim protection, is an excellent passer, and if he is out of the lineup Wofford could be in trouble.
Next to Jackson in the starting lineup is sophomore forward Keve Aluma. The 6-foot-9 big brings size to the table and is a solid rebounder. Outside of offensive rebounding, he’s not in there for offense. Off the bench, Wofford uses Chevez Goodwin at the four-s and he brings more athleticism to the floor. At 6-foot-9, 225 pounds he can get up-and-down in transition in addition to having the size to bang in the paint.
At the five, Matthew Pegram is used and he’s a mammoth. At 6-foot-11 and 260 pounds, he will be one of the biggest players UK has seen this season. Pegram has shot 29 threes, but is used in a very limited role.
The talk will be about how small Wofford is, but the fact of the matter is that they have size that can hang. Each of the four rotation players are at least 6-foot-8 and they all have the girth to play with physicality. If Wofford is going to win, they are going to need a big performance from their frontcourt.
Keys to Victory
- Three-point defense has been an issue all season and Tennessee pouring in 10 last weekend likely costed Kentucky the Louisville region and a potential No. 1 seed. However, Wofford is a different animal. Fletcher Magee can pull from anywhere combined with two 45-plus percent three-point shooters playing around him. Guarding ball screens and communication will be key for Kentucky. UK has the length to challenge the shots if they are able to play through contact. Expect Wofford to take their time on numerous possessions to get the best shot possible.
- For most of the season, Wofford has been a really solid rebounding team. Cameron Jackson does his job, but the rest of the squad does a great job in team rebounding. They hung around with Seton Hall and that should be scary for Kentucky. It is essential for UK to be dominant on the defensive glass and crash the boards on offense. Wofford can scramble up a man defense and that can lead to offensive rebounds. UK must get rebounds from their perimeter players today. On offense, there is an obvious length advantage. Tips and weak side rebounds should lead to multiple baskets. Kentucky must dominant this statistical category.
- It’s no secret that Wofford wants to shoot a ton of threes. It’s a safe best that they will launch at least 30 this afternoon. They are going to hit some and a good chunk of them are going to be challenged. Therefore, UK needs to give them a taste of their own medicine. Kentucky has abandoned the three-point shot in recent weeks and that must change. Expect Wofford to sag off and pack the paint to stop drives and isolation post ups. Therefore, UK is going to get a handful of wide open three looks. Kentucky must knock them down. Expect Mike Young to have a junk zone defense in his back pocket and if UK is able to hit threes it could mean a long day for the Wofford defense.
- It’s been awhile since Ashton Hagans made a huge difference on the defensive end, but today would be a good day to change that. Against Seton Hall, both of Wofford’s point guards struggled with ball pressure and the opportunity will be there for Hagans to force havoc. I wouldn’t expect Hagans to draw the defensive assignment of Fletcher Magee. He’s going to be better off harassing whoever is initiating the offense from point for Wofford. If he dominates this battle it could make life tremendously difficult for the plucky underdog.
- At the end of the day, this is all about strength vs. strength. Kentucky’s defense (8th in adjusted efficiency) vs. Wofford’s offense (9th in offensive efficiency). Wofford lives off of threes. Over 40 percent of their shots come from deep and they are hitting 41.6 percent of those attempts. They do it in a multitude of ways. Kentucky must switch screens and keep everything they can in front. You cannot help off of their guards or fall asleep ball watching. Wofford will make you play and whenever they get the ball in the paint they are looking to pass to an open three-point shooter. It’s going to be fun watching these two units go at it.
By Maggie Davis on ©March 22nd, 2019 @ 11:00pm
As uncertainty regarding the severity of PJ Washington’s foot injury continues, the sophomore’s father has weighed in on the injury and the fans who are questioning his son’s intentions. He spoke with Kyle Tucker of The Athletic.
“I’m not a doctor, and the coaches aren’t doctors” he told The Athletic. “Let’s leave this to the doctors and treat my son like he’s your own son, OK?”
The comment is seemingly directed at members of the BBN who speculate Washington may be trying to bid his time and protect his draft stock. Paul Sr. thinks that’s ridiculous, adding that his son “came back to win a national championship,” and not participating in the post-season would obviously hurt his chances of bringing No. 9 home to Kentucky.
“This isn’t about his draft stock, and it isn’t about Kentucky. It’s about making sure my son is healthy,” he said. “I would say those people just gotta try to be a parent in this situation and stop being a fan. And just relax.”
John Calipari has now officially announced Washington will not play against Wofford Saturday, but, assuming Kentucky advances, will Washington be able to play in the Sweet 16? Washington’s father wouldn’t speculate, but assistant coach Kenny Payne confidently weighed in on Washington’s future:
“Yes, yes, yes,” he told The Athletic. “The more time we can give him to rest and heal, the better for us. We’re trying to buy PJ time. We’re trying to live to fight another day. So if we win this game, it gives him a couple more days to get healthy. That’s our deal. We want to give him a chance to get back on the floor, and those guys are fighting for him.”
By Maggie Davis on ©March 22nd, 2019 @ 7:00pm
Kentucky will face the Wofford Terriers Saturday afternoon, so both teams’ coaches and players spent some time talking with the media in Jacksonville Friday. You’ve already seen what John Calipari had to say, but how is Coach Mike Young feeling heading into Saturday’s matchup with No. 2 Kentucky? Based on his comments from today, I’m guessing pretty good.
“We’re playing the Wildcats of Kentucky, and I can’t wait,” Young said. “I have such great admiration for Coach Calipari and what he’s done at UMass and Memphis and now here at Kentucky. It’ll be a wonderful day for our team and our players.”
His players are apparently also feeling pretty good, according to the head coach.
“I can’t imagine a team more confident, and that’s earned,” Young said of his Terriers. “We haven’t lost since December 19th, and of the four losses, they’re all playing in the NCAA Tournament this weekend.”
Nick Richards was pretty confident as well when he was asked about the matchup between UK and Wofford’s big men. Despite Kentucky’s national ranking, NBA prospects and long-standing reputation, Coach Young says the Terriers won’t be discouraged.
“We may get our ears pinned back tomorrow, but it will not be because my team is intimidated,” Young said.
Part of that lack of intimidation comes from Wofford’s strength of schedule this season. They feel prepared to face a “Blue Blood” like Kentucky, because they’ve played “Blue Bloods” like Kentucky.
“We went to Phog Allen Fieldhouse [at Kansas]. We had North Carolina at home, Oklahoma… You know, there is a method to the madness. Our non-league schedule is always really hard,” Coach Young said.
Wofford center Matthew Pegram agrees with Young regarding the benefits a strong regular-season schedule. How will that help him against Kentucky?
“I would say that our non-conference prepared us for that every year,” the senior said. “We play a pretty hard non-conference; we play against a lot of big schools. Go into it like any other game: get the game plan from the coaches, go out, play as hard as we can and see what happens.”
March gives smaller schools like Abilene Christian and Wofford the chance to promote their basketball program and promote the university itself. For Coach Young, he just hopes it helps spread the proper pronunciation of Wofford.
“Our name recognition has gotten better and better and better, and certainly this experience will help even more. I had to correct a gentleman out here in the hallway. If I hear one of you say “Woe-ford”, I’m going to come after you. It’s Wofford,” Young laughed. “It’s spelled W-o-f-f-o-r-d. It’s pronounced W-a-f-f-o-r-d… We’re making great progress, but still, work to be done.”
Then there’s senior forward Cameron Jackson, who’s just plain excited to play against UK.
“It doesn’t get much better than playing teams like Kentucky,” Jackson said. “You dream of that as a kid: being on that team [or] being at a smaller school, playing against that team. So all of this is just a dream come true.”
Jackson isn’t alone – Coach Young is excited for the opportunity to coach against John Calipari and Kentucky.
“Way back, I remember sitting and listening to that AM radio station… listening to Cawood Ledford and that ’78 team are great, great memories,” Young said. “To strap it on tomorrow and walk out there and face UK, I mean, that’s a highlight. That will be a highlight for my team. That’ll be something they’ll never forget.”
Wofford seems like a likable bunch of guys, but let’s not entertain any Cinderella-team fantasies. Hopefully, the Cats will come out hot against the Terriers and take care of business Saturday afternoon. They can’t come out sluggish, because Wofford will be ready to go.
“They may whip our tail, but it will not be because my kids are scared,” Young reiterated. “They’ll come out ready to fight.”
By Nick Roush on ©March 22nd, 2019 @ 2:00pm
C.J. Conrad is back where he belongs, on a football field.
The former Kentucky tight end went through two and a half weeks of highs and lows. His emotional roller coaster finally came to a screeching halt when he learned his football career was not over.
“It was tough for me and my family over the past couple weeks, so when me and my mom headed up to Boston on Monday, just to hear that,” he paused, searching for the right words, “you have no idea. I’m so happy to be out here.”
At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis doctors discovered an undiagnosed problem in his heart. Medically disqualified from the event, his football career was in jeopardy of ending before it even started.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Conrad said. “I handle that stuff okay, it’s just more of seeing my family upset that crushed me to see my parents heartbroken. Managing that over the last couple weeks has been tough, but (I’ve been) staying busy with my teammates. This university is amazing. The medical staff, coach Stoops, my teammates, Josh, who I got to go on the signing tour with, keeping me busy through these last two weeks. It could’ve been really bad for me, but I feel — I’m just so happy to be out here.”
Once the specialist cleared Conrad to return to football activities, he immediately went to work. Initially, the plan was to push back all combine activities until April 8, but after four solid days of workouts, he was prepared to run routes for NFL scouts and general managers at this morning’s pro day.
“I think they were a little surprised that I was able to do what I did today. I don’t think they expected me to workout.” He added, “I didn’t know I was going to until probably this morning.”
He didn’t test in the drills, but C.J. Conrad is doing work running routes. pic.twitter.com/2pSO2Upmrl
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) March 22, 2019
Today was less about wowing scouts and more about getting back to normal. After a tumultuous two weeks off the field, just getting back onto the field with his teammates helped him overcome that final emotional hurdle.
“It’s been a tough two and a half weeks, honestly. It really tested me a lot, but just to be out here with my teammates, it means everything.”
Conrad still plans on competing in a pro day alongside Mike Edwards in April. Until then, he’ll gladly be busting his butt in preparation to make sure his name is called in the NFL Draft.
“I’m just excited to get back to work. I’m not tired of all of this. I’m ready to move on. I know God put me in this position. Everybody has their own story and that’s my story now,” he said.
“It’s so amazing. I have no one else to thank but God and my family…Now I gotta clear my head and get back to the thing I love, football.”
In the past 12 hours, Fletcher Magee has become one of the darlings of the NCAA Tournament, the plucky David the nation will root for to carry Wofford past the Big Blue Goliath tomorrow afternoon. Who is this guy, anyway? Let’s find out.
He broke the NCAA career three-point record last night
Above all, Magee is a shooter. His seven threes last night took his career total to 509, setting an NCAA Division I record. It was the 15th time in his career he’s hit seven threes in a game. He and Steph Curry are the only Southern Conference players to make at least five threes in an NCAA Tournament game in the past 20 years. Speaking of Steph, Magee is only 11 threes away from breaking his single-season record (162) set back in 2007-08.
He was on Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney’s AAU team
Magee was an unranked recruit in the 2015 class, but played AAU with Antonio Blakeney and Ben Simmons, two five-stars Kentucky fans should definitely remember. The three played for Each 1 Teach 1 Elite on the EYBL circuit.
He also played on the FABC All-Star game with Tacko Fall back in 2015:
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He declared for the NBA Draft last summer
After his junior season, Magee explored the NBA Draft waters, working out for several teams before deciding to return to Wofford. Here he is describing his game to Los Angeles Lakers reporters:
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 22, 2018
He’s struggled vs. ranked opponents
Magee’s averaging 20.6 points off 44.6 percent from the floor and 43.3 percent from beyond the arc, but those numbers are lower when you look at Wofford’s three games vs. ranked opponents:
|#8 UNC||L, 78-67||21 points||7-23||30.4%||3-16||18.8%|
|#2 Kansas||L, 72-47||7 points||1-14||7.1%||0-9||0%|
|#17 Mississippi State||L, 98-87||24 points||7-13||53.8%||4-10||40%|
As Todd Harris notes (and logic would suggest), the Terriers as a whole cool down considerably from the outside vs. Power Five opponents:
Wofford vs Power5 teams(5 games) 3pt shooting 50-144 = 34.7%.
Wofford vs non Power5(29 games) 3pt shooting 327-758 =43.1%
— tgh3316 (@tgh3316) March 22, 2019
He’ll have a big cheering section tomorrow
Last night, Magee, an Orlando native, had almost 75 family members and friends in the stands in Jacksonville, a number that will surely grow tomorrow. As Kentucky fans, we’re used to it, but brace yourself because everyone in America will be cheering for him and the Terriers to pull off the upset.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 21st, 2019 @ 9:30pm
PJ Washington sent the collective blood pressure of the BBN skyrocketing when he showed up to tonight’s game in a hard cast riding a scooter. During the telecast, CBS sideline reporter Jamie Erdahl said PJ told her the pain in his foot was a 10/10. Afterwards, John Calipari explained the decision to put on the hard cast, not ruling out PJ’s return for Saturday’s game vs. the winner of Seton Hall and Wofford.
“First of all, the option was a boot or the cast. The cast would speed up the healing so we said put the cast on. Whether they’ll take it off tomorrow to check, I don’t know. If they don’t, he won’t play Saturday and they’ll probably try to take it off Tuesday or Wednesday of next week to see how his foot feels. Everything was negative as far as the X-Rays, but they just want — it was a sprained foot so they just want to keep it calm. That’s what it is.”
There you go.
UPDATE: Calipari told ESPN he doubts PJ will be able to play on Saturday.
By Nick Roush on ©March 21st, 2019 @ 9:07pm
No P.J. Washington, no problem.
The second-seeded Wildcats from Kentucky cruised to a 79-44 victory over Abilene Christian to open NCAA Tournament play in Jacksonville.
Making their NCAA Tournament debut, the Wildcats from Central Texas struggled to get out of the gate. Kentucky took an 8-0 lead that quickly turned into an 18-3 lead after only eight minutes of action.
With Washington on the sidelines in a cast on his sprained left foot, E.J. Montgomery earned the start and grabbed 11 rebounds. Reid Travis picked up the slack in the post with 18 points and nine boards, while Keldon Johnson led the team in scoring with 25 points.
Kentucky will take on the winner of Seton Hall-Wofford this Saturday in Jacksonville.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 21st, 2019 @ 6:30pm
Looking for some pregame reading prior to Kentucky’s opening-round matchup with Abilene Christian in the NCAA Tournament tonight? I’ve got you covered.
Usually these go up on Monday evenings or Tuesday mornings, but with Keion Brooks Jr.’s announcement this past Friday and my mini post-commitment insider notes going live shortly after, I decided to push these back a little bit to let the dust settle on UK’s newest addition and what’s next for the Wildcats.
Let’s break it down.
Keion Brooks Jr. commits
In the middle of Kentucky’s matchup with Alabama in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals last week, the Wildcats picked up a commitment from 2019 five-star forward Keion Brooks Jr., and it’s one the coaching staff is absolutely giddy over.
To rewind just a bit, I genuinely thought there was zero chance Brooks would end up at Kentucky following Kahlil Whitney’s commitment back in August. They don’t technically play the same position (Whitney is more of a two/three while Brooks is a three/four), but it was close enough to where I figured the UK coaching staff wanted to go all in on the remaining true big men.
When I talked to a source within the program in early January, though, not only was I told that Brooks was still an option for Kentucky, it was made very clear to me that UK was one of the strong favorites to land him.
It’s no secret Brooks grew up dreaming of playing for his hometown Indiana Hoosiers, but that dream slowly faded when he watched Archie Miller’s group, led by Romeo Langford, crumble their way to the NIT this season. Brooks’ relationship with the coaching staff was strong, but reality set in that he likely wouldn’t have progressed the way he hoped for in his one or two seasons in Bloomington. He wanted to make it to the NBA early, but he watched Langford’s draft stock fall in his lone season. He wanted to play for something of substance in college, but he watched the Hoosiers miss the NCAA Tournament. It was the perfect storm for Kentucky to go in for the kill, as they could offer both things. That’s exactly what they pitched to the 6-foot-8 forward out of Fort Wayne.
When it comes to the actual decision process, sources tell KSR that Kentucky and Indiana were the only two schools seriously in contention over the last week and a half or so, with Michigan State having a shot over two weeks ago, and North Carolina also being involved a bit earlier. That’s how the unofficial cut process went down.
I’m told that when it came down to both schools, Brooks wanted to play with his friends at Indiana, but everything changed once his family and inner circle shifted toward Kentucky. When they said they wouldn’t mind driving down to Lexington for home games and felt he would develop better under Calipari, along with his impressive unofficial visit for the Kentucky vs. Tennessee game, his mind changed. It wasn’t a done deal, but it was enough for the Cats to take the lead, and they never fell behind from that point on.
When he announced his decision date, he knew he was favoring Kentucky, but wanted to give him some time to make a final decision. As the week of the decision came around, Brooks visited with both coaching staffs, and we still saw little-to-no movement on his leaderboard, which was good news for Kentucky. Things went quiet from Wednesday evening through late Thursday, and the official decision was made sometime in that timeframe. And then on early Friday morning, word leaked out that Kentucky would be the choice.
At 8:00 p.m., Brooks made it official.
With that, we can finally close the book on Keion Brooks Jr. and turn to Kentucky’s final few remaining targets in the class of 2019.
One of the most important? Five-star forward Jaden McDaniels.
While his final list consists of Kentucky, San Diego State, Texas, UCLA and Washington, most believe the decision will come down to the Wildcats and Huskies.
I’ve said in the past that things have been extremely quiet with him, but I will tell you that there has been a lot of Washington buzz as of late, with several recruiting analysts changing their predictions in favor of the Huskies. Though a lot of that might be educated guesses, there is genuine interest in McDaniels staying out west and playing with his friend Isaiah Stewart, a five-star center out of Fort Wayne, IN.
While I do believe Washington is a serious threat, and very well could win out in the end, I think that we’re still a week or two away from hearing any significant updates on his recruitment. Next week is the McDonald’s All-American Game, and with McDaniels selected to participate in the event, he will certainly be answering questions on his status. I will be there to get as much information on his interest in Kentucky as I can.
Just a few weeks ago, one source I trust flat-out told me Kentucky was not a serious option for the consensus top-ten 2019 prospect. The very next week, Calipari was up in Minnesota visiting Hurt and other recruiting analysts said the Cats were still one of the main contenders. It was admittedly an odd stretch.
We also reported here at KSR that there was worry from Hurt’s camp that Kansas, the perceived leader, was scaring them away a bit with their involvement in FBI rumors. I’m under the strong belief that any serious violations/sanctions found in that scandal will steer him away from the Jayhawks. With Bill Self possibly getting called to testify and more information leaking out of his school’s involvement, that’s looking like a serious possibility.
If that’s the case, Hurt will likely go through an entire second recruitment, where Kentucky will be one of the top options with Duke, North Carolina, and Memphis as the other strong contenders.
Like McDaniels, Hurt was also selected for the McDonald’s All-American Game, so I will be sure to ask about where Kentucky stands and when a decision might come. If you’re playing the odds, I wouldn’t expect a decision until all of the NBA decisions are made and the dust settles a bit on the FBI/college basketball trial. But you’ll have an update this time next week.
Beyond those two, there’s nothing really new on Isaiah Todd, N’Faly Dante, and the other reclassification candidates. I was also told Kentucky will explore the graduate transfer market if need be, but that’s only if the other options fall through and there is a perfect fit a la Reid Travis.
If you’ll remember, EJ Montgomery committed to Kentucky on April 9, while Travis didn’t officially commit until June 20. I’m told that while they do have their top options in place, we could see more opportunities open up once March Madness ends and players go through the draft process.
Kentucky wants at least one more frontcourt signee, and there are plenty of solid options out there to snag. Be patient with this one. After getting Brooks, anything else is icing on the cake.