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National analyst says Kentucky’s Final Four chances are dependent on Olivier Sarr’s waiver

Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The day Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr announced his commitment to Kentucky, every analysis piece highlighting the magnitude of the addition included one key caveat.

While it’s no question Sarr – a 7-foot, 255-pound center who averaged 13.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game last year as a junior – is a game-changer on the court, there was never a guarantee he would actually be able to take the floor at Kentucky. And until the NCAA makes a decision on the former Demon Deacon’s waiver request, those questions remain.

With Sarr’s eligibility in limbo, national analysts are having to factor that significant aspect in when pumping out way-too-early preseason polls.

Some – ESPN and CBS Sports being two – still have Kentucky listed in the top 15, while others have the Wildcats further down the list, with Jeff Goodman being the biggest outlier at No. 24 overall.

Back in May, Goodman came on KSR’s Sources Say Podcast to defend his ranking of Kentucky, with Sarr being the key difference in the Cats being a legitimate contender and barely cracking the top 25.

“Olivier Sarr is not eligible today. He may be, he may get a waiver,” he said. “But I’m not counting them eligible until they get that waiver. We don’t know what the NCAA is going to do to with these waivers. People expect they’re just going to hand them out like candy, and they may. But it’s the NCAA, nobody has any freaking clue what they’re going to do, as we’ve seen in the past.”

Just today, the NBA pushed back the early entry deadline to August 17 and added a withdrawal date for Oct. 6, meaning players who previously elected not to enter the NBA Draft will now have two months to revisit those decisions and potentially enter in the coming months.

While it’s not a deal breaker for Sarr’s waiver request either way – the initial decision to transfer and submit a waiver was made well before today’s rule change – it certainly throws another wrench into a situation that was already complicated from the jump.

If you ask Goodman, Sarr’s waiver decision is a game changer not only for Kentucky, but the entire college basketball world.

“Once he becomes eligible, he fills a huge, huge, huge hole for Kentucky,” Goodman said. “He means more to any team in the top 50 than anybody else, and it’s not even close.”

With Sarr, the national basketball analyst sees Kentucky as a sure-fire Final Four team.

“Nobody knows what the NCAA will do with this waiver, but I think it’s a season determining waiver for Kentucky,” Goodman told KSR. “With him, yeah, I think they’re a Final Four team. This is a kid who put up 14 and 9 in the ACC, albeit for a sh**ty team, he still put up good numbers and is a veteran. … I could see him coming in and filling a void like Reid Travis did.”

Without him, he feels there are significant issues elsewhere on the roster, specifically in the frontcourt.

“They go from having, I don’t want to say nobody, but they don’t really have any big men,” he said. “If they threw out a team, who’s their big? Isaiah Jackson? [Keion Brooks] isn’t a big, he’s not a true five. He’s an undersized four.”

“They lost 94 percent of their points, 98.6 percent of their assists, and 93 percent of their minutes. The first two are the most in the Calipari era,” Goodman added. “They bring back one guy: Keion Brooks. I don’t understand why anyone would think I’m unreasonable putting them at No. 24. It’s baffling to me. If you tell me Olivier Sarr is cleared, ready to go? You’ve got a veteran big guy who could fill a huge role for them, average 15 and 8 or 9? S**t yeah, I’ll put them back up 10 or 15 spots and they’re back in that top 10.”

Outside the frontcourt, he’s high on both BJ Boston and Devin Askew, but feels Terrence Clarke is a work in progress at this point in time.

“I’m worried about Terrence Clarke, I’m not going to lie to you,” Goodman said. “And he’s a Massachusetts kid, I’ve seen him play a lot. I saw him at Brewster this past year. He didn’t guard a lick. Not a lick. He’s going to have to be, reprogramed? Is that the right word? It’s just going to take time. Terrence Clarke has a ton of ability, but it’s going to take time, I think, to buy in. That’s all I’m saying right here. Him working out, playing two-on-two with [the Kentucky signees] and Darren Collison, however it’s going, that’s not Camp Cal.

“I’m higher on Devin Askew than most. I absolutely love him. Love him,” the national analyst continued. “As a college point guard, I think he’s an absolute killer, just plays the right way. He’ll be a two- or three-year point guard, but I just think he’s got the winning DNA. I love him.”

“Listen, I’m not saying this isn’t going to be a good team at all. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just saying, this is just preseason rankings, and without a big guy on the roster, a bunch of freshmen, and one guy returning who averaged 4.5 points per game. And with a recruiting class that is No. 1, but isn’t quite as overwhelming as it’s been in the past. Like, you’re not looking at it and saying, “Oh my God, that guy. How are we going to stop that guy?”

“Terrence Clarke isn’t that. I think BJ Boston is their highest upside guy, I think he can be a star. He’s definitely that guy that’s got to be that alpha dog. Again, it’s just such a young, young team, and I don’t think people realize how much they’ve lost. They’ve lost more than they’ve ever lost. I get it, they’ve got a great class coming in. There are a lot of times I look back on things and say, “Hey, I F’d up.” I don’t think this is one of them, at least today.”

Until the day the Wake Forest transfer is declared eligible, Goodman simply doesn’t see Kentucky’s roster is a Final Four contender, plain and simple.

“Could it change if Olivier Sarr is eligible? Absolutely,” he said. “But the team that Calipari would trot out today, I don’t think they’d be a Final Four contender.”

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

22 Comments for National analyst says Kentucky’s Final Four chances are dependent on Olivier Sarr’s waiver

  1. UKLugo
    8:04 pm June 20, 2020 Permalink

    Like how you used “national analyst” rather than “Jeff Goodman” in the title. Click.

    • Jack Pilgrim
      8:38 pm June 20, 2020 Permalink

      It’s the little things haha

    • bkeith75
      8:41 pm June 20, 2020 Permalink

      Jeff Goodman should always remain unnamed as far as I’m concerned, Jack.

    • chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
      3:47 pm June 21, 2020 Permalink

      You just named him. 😉

    • Fitz
      4:25 pm June 21, 2020 Permalink

      Good one Chis. Best jab I’ve see since Ali!

  2. mhs1964
    8:44 pm June 20, 2020 Permalink

    I’m not sure he is far off. Also wonder if NCAA gives him the waiver that he still might turn pro.

  3. jim tom
    9:28 pm June 20, 2020 Permalink

    Not gonna matter. There will be no sports until a vaccine is developed

    • TonyMontana
      9:40 pm June 20, 2020 Permalink

      I agree with your statement and it’s sad as hell because this year’s class is FIRE. Will there be a draft if there was no NBA season and no NCAA season? Will the kids from this class return next year? So many questions on so many different levels. I hope they figure out a way to make it happen.

    • lexattorney
      11:04 pm June 20, 2020 Permalink

      If all the reports are accurate the vaccine will be available a couple of months before Madness but Sarr will be long gone.

    • east-ky-boy
      11:04 pm June 20, 2020 Permalink

      I hope you are wrong but afraid you may be right.

    • ziplock
      1:06 pm June 21, 2020 Permalink

      “No one has ever developed a vaccine for the common cold, which is often caused by different strains of the coronavirus. Attempts at a vaccine for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome led to animals getting sick. The SARS virus is closely related to the COVID-19 virus.” USA Today. Don’t hold your breath.

    • chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
      3:49 pm June 21, 2020 Permalink

      Exactly ziplock. The people who keep saying “Until there’s a vaccine…” (looking at you Ryan Lemond) either 1) have no idea what they’re talking about or, 2) have an agenda (looking at you Bill Gates & Dr. “Always a ray of sunshine” Fauci).

  4. BallDontLie
    11:24 pm June 20, 2020 Permalink

    He isn’t wrong.

  5. bigblue2018
    7:55 am June 21, 2020 Permalink

    The more it’s written that are chances are better to reach final 4 with Sarr’s playing the more the NCAA will rule he doesn’t play this year, I mean you gotta think about it if this would give UK a better shot than Puke and Ratface it won’t happen.

  6. Headhurts
    8:32 am June 21, 2020 Permalink

    I wonder if Jeffy thought Duke was a final 4 lock with Zion, Barrett, reddish……….not. Plus how many players has coach Cal had that did’nt play D at first then got coached up? A lot, in Cal I trust, In Goodman I don’t.

  7. millertim
    8:39 am June 21, 2020 Permalink

    Very fair and reasonable assessment. Very few inexperienced teams do well. especially out of the gate. What Coach Cal has been able to do is take great athletes and with good skills and mold them into a good team by the end of the year, but not a great team b/c there is relatively no experience and many are looking at their draft status instead of the man their supposed to be guarding. Having watched a ton of tapr on Clarke, I, too, am worried that he’s going to be like Khalil Whitney— huge hype and great athleticism but zero discipline and ability to play defense and stay on the court. Whitney should have STAYED to continue his work and progress— Coach Cal would have made him a lottery pick after his 3rd year at UK… same with Montgomery. These kids need TRUE advice, not hangers-on like sacvenger fish that float around the shark looking for scrapes of food, to guide them.

  8. blueNtheFace
    10:31 am June 21, 2020 Permalink

    Why do we continue to give this clown the spotlight? Not-Good Man!

  9. Big Sexy
    11:34 am June 21, 2020 Permalink

    I don’t find much fault with what he’s saying. This team, without Sarr is very comparable to the 2013-14 team. Except it looks like they won’t have that dominant big man like Randle. We all know how that team struggled until late February/early March. I can’t see this team going far in the tournament with the front court they have right now. I could be wrong but without Sarr this feels like a 10+ loss Sweet 16 team. They just lost too much. I think Sarr becomes eligible and elevates this team though. With him they have as good of a shot as anyone if Cal can do what he dies best and gets them peaking in March.

  10. BobbyBlue
    3:28 pm June 21, 2020 Permalink

    Emmert isn’t going to let Sarr become eligible if for no other reason than his vendeta against Cal.
    Not going to matter anyway because there will be no season for college BB unless there is miraculously a vaccine and that is a pipe dream.

  11. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
    3:50 pm June 21, 2020 Permalink

    I don’t think it took a rocket scientist to figure this out.

  12. Fitz
    4:32 pm June 21, 2020 Permalink

    I was curious about the negative comment re Clarke not playing defense, so I went to a more competent source. There was no mention of that weakness. The huts compared to Grady McGardy, which is good enough for me.

  13. dcforuk
    7:13 pm June 21, 2020 Permalink

    On paper AND history would generally agree with that! I cannot recall the number of minutes non-freshman played/game in The 2014 season. There was one huge alpha dog on that team obviously. I think this group does have some alpha dogs. I generally agree with Goodman’s statement; however the 2014 season does illustrate that runs can occur late in the season. Losing a lot of games costs you with seeding, though, Which can make it more difficult to make a run