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With Reid Travis There is No Doubt: Kentucky is the Favorite in College Basketball Next Season

Back a few weeks ago I released my “Way Too Early Top 25” for the 2018-2019 college basketball season after the NBA Draft deadline. At the time I had Kentucky sitting at No. 2, thanks to UK’s phenomenal blend of talent, skill and experience heading into next year.  The only team I had ahead of the Wildcats was Gonzaga, a club which returns basically everyone, including two players I believe could have been first round picks had they entered this year’s draft (Killian Tillie and Rui Hachimura).

However when that Top 25 did come out a month or so ago, I did have one addendum on my section about the Wildcats: If Kentucky were able to add Stanford graduate transfer Reid Travis, a former McDonald’s All-American and two-time Pac-12 All-Conference First Team member to its club, I’d have no choice but to move Kentucky to No. 1 in my poll.

Well on Wednesday that addendum became official: Reid Travis has committed to Kentucky. And with that, there’s no other way to put it: The Wildcats are the unquestioned top team in the country heading into the 2018-2019 season.

That’s right, it’s time to move over Gonzaga. Step aside, Kansas. Adios to Duke and your big-time recruiting class. See ya Virginia and your boring offense which will produce an ACC regular season title and first weekend NCAA Tournament loss next year. The Kentucky Wildcats are the team to beat heading into 2018-2019.

Understand, this isn’t an “I work for KSR” thing –instead it’s an “I really, REALLY liked this team heading into the 2018-2019 season” thing. As the national college basketball writer here, my job is to know about all the big programs across the country, and I can tell you this: None is stacked quite like Kentucky heading into next season. Obviously that doesn’t guarantee anything. And nobody is “perfect” in college basketball. But at least in terms of the 2018-2019 season, the Wildcats are the closest thing to it.

If anything, looking at this team it’s kind of hard to find an actual, tangible, legitimate weakness. In the backcourt they have three point guards who could start at just about any other school in America, and three who would have been McDonald’s All-American’s had Ashton Hagans not reclassified. No one is even close to that, and as much buzz as there is about Hagans and fellow freshman Immanuel Quickley, I’m equally excited to see a sophomore Quade Green who flew wildly under the radar last year. If anything, I thought he was the most underappreciated player on the Wildcats’ roster. Alongside those three, Jemarl Baker and Tyler Herro add plenty of shooting with Keldon Johnson serving the role of the do-it-all wing.

Down low, well, that’s where it gets interesting. P.J. Washington and Travis will be two of the fiercest rebounders in all of college basketball next year and frankly, maybe the two fiercest I can remember playing on the same roster in a long, long time. I mean seriously, is too early to start calling them the “Bash Brothers” like in the old Mighty Ducks movies? Both are capable of earning All-SEC first team honors, and if both can develop a jump shot (the reason each came back), both should be selected in the 2019 NBA Draft. Not bad. Especially when you add in the versatility of E.J. Montgomery (oh, you know, just the top ranked power forward in the high school class of 2018) and the shot blocking of Nick Richards.

Just looking at this roster, it’s freaky how loaded it is.

No, seriously, check this out. In total, Kentucky will legitimately go 10 deep. Nine of those players were Top 50 recruits (only Baker fell outside that ranking) and seven were McDonald’s All-Americans (it would have been eight had Hagans stayed in the class of 2019). And now you’re adding a two-time All-Conference Player from the Pac-12? I mean, come on!

More than just the talent though, you know what the most important element is here that everyone seems to be missing? Kentucky finally has experience! Understand that for as much love as we heap upon freshmen in college basketball, the simple truth is that rarely – if ever – do teams win big without veterans. Anthony Davis needed Terrence Jones, Darius Miller and Doron Lamb. John Wall needed Patrick Patterson. The list goes on and on. It’s always important to have those players that have been there before, and Kentucky has that in spades. They have three players who played major roles last year (Green, Richards and Washington) plus Travis to show teammates the ropes and keep everyone calm in big moments.

Oh, and you know what else? It certainly doesn’t hurt that it just so happens that this is the summer the Wildcats will go the Bahamas for a week-long overseas trip. Granted, these trips are always nice, but with so many new pieces, do you have any idea how valuable that trip will be? Also, do you know much further along the team will be by the time practice starts in the fall?

Ultimately it doesn’t guarantee anything once the season starts.

But today, in mid-June it does mean one thing: Kentucky is unquestionably the team to beat heading into the 2018-2019 college basketball season.

Article written by Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres is covering football and basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook or e-mail at [email protected] He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”

37 Comments for With Reid Travis There is No Doubt: Kentucky is the Favorite in College Basketball Next Season

  1. Jiminy Crickets
    3:19 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

    We went 12 deep in 2015 with eventual starter Derrick Willis as our 12th man, and had 9 McDs AAs, and were the prohibited favorites. Cal dropped the mic at BBM and said “let’s ball”, and had the eventual #1 pick (something this team does not have). Excuse me if I don’t put a crown on them yet

    • You sound fun. I’m not putting a crown on them yet either, but I’m still PUMPED!!!

    • ukcamel
      4:47 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

      That team lost one game when everything possible went wrong and against a very good team. It’s sports, you never know what’s going to happen, especially in a single-elimination tournament. No reason to be a sourpuss.

    • J-Dub421
      4:57 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink


    • mashburnfan1
      5:47 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

      The only reason I sort of agree with Cricket is we still have lots of unknowns. Will the FR be as good as advertised? If not we are just a good team. If they are as good as the KAT group then yes a title is possible. We just don’t know what we have, and won’t till January or so. You mention that starting 5, Quade was not that good last year, PJ was up and down but hopefully the experience will make him a constant good player. The other 2 FR, we don’t know. Richards was horrible, what if a couple of these guys turn out like him or SKJ or Gabriel as FR. The hype is there but I save my expectations for what I see on the court when the games are real. Last year I saw, and said, in November that team had NO title chance and was not a top 25 team. I was 100% right but got blasted for saying what I saw, and it turned out as true. Lets wait till Dec/Jan and see what we really have.ill also be better for the players and the pressure put on them.

    • Robkycats54
      10:04 am June 21, 2018 Permalink

      Pg-Quade Green
      SF- keldon johnson
      Pf- PJ Washington

      Jermarl baker is the x-factor I’m telling you guys if he doesn’t get hurt last week might have been a final 4 team…. Shooting he is one the 5 guys in the country right now and his work ethic is crazy….. Just check this is out if you haven’t seen this already, imo baker will start his game is just so smooth..

  2. 8generationsblue
    3:30 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

    What? No comment section for the Landon Foster story?

    • Mathlete
      3:38 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

      I’d imagine there’s a reason for that… there’s just so much unnecessary venom and anger online these days. Especially from those who are far braver behind anonymity.

    • jaws2
      3:44 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

      Because EVERY TIME these bleeding hearts at KSR post some something they KNOW many of their readers disagree with, they chickensh*t out and block replies. It’s the libs way of controlling the message. Just go to any university campus and you’ll see the same when they block any opinion different than theirs. To them it’s ALL about diversity, unless of course you may have another opinion.

      I respect Landon, it’s his life.

    • Wade
      4:21 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

      They took that down

    • jaws2
      4:58 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

      No, it’s still there. As long as they know there’ll be a no comments section, they’ll leave it. It’s their way. Just like Jonathan Miller articles. Same sh*t, another day.

    • Han
      5:56 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

      jaws2, people like you who use liberal as an insult are the reason they don’t put allow comments on posts like that. You know it’s possible to be conservative and not be an asshat about it, right? Some of us manage it.

    • njCat
      6:18 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink


    • jaws2
      9:30 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

      Hey Han, you obviously have some difficulties commenting without name calling. That’s fine, but YOU are the one that cannot allow a discussion on issues like this without throwing insults.
      Please enlighten me where I’m wrong about the left being all for diversity and free speech unless you disagree with them. If your point is they don’t allow comments for your reason, then why make the post at all? It’s really easy to give these ‘viewpoints’ knowing a large part of your audience disagrees with you AND you shut their ‘viewpoint’ down.
      It’s another reason I no longer listen to the radio show. When the show started going off the rails into politics without a differing ‘viewpoint’, they lost me. We’ll just agree to disagree, I’m good with that.

    • bigbluebanana
      2:05 am June 21, 2018 Permalink

      So…you just looking for a place to bash on Landon? Comments were closed because people commenting on this site have proven multiple times that situations like this open the flood gates, on both sides mind you, of all types of vitriol. Whether it be bashing Landon himself, or bashing those that bash him. I’m all for diversity, and the freedom to live life in peace without fear and hate, and that’s not a liberal/conservative thing, that’s just a human being thing

  3. Ninjashock
    3:50 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

    Can we please pump the brakes on the hype train? This is just reminding me of all the 36-0 nonsense a few years back. Let’s wait and see what we’ve got in the new recruits first, eh?

  4. check
    4:16 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

    To hell with you nay-sayers. I couldn’t be more pumped about this team. This is going to be one exciting year. If you choose to enter it with such negativity, why are you even following at all? My real question is why do you bother reading the articles when your aim is to cut them down every chance you get? Are you capable of just loving your team?

  5. chardun20
    4:27 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

    Reid Travis, Superman or the Hulk?

  6. UKinIN
    4:56 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

    West Coast basketball is not great. The athleticism in the PAC-12 is nothing like the SEC. Other than a couple of lobs it looks like Travis plays below the rim. It also looks like he takes up the same spots on the floor as Washington. Did UK fans not learn anything after the struggles of the freshmen the last few years. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist are the exceptions, not the rule and this teams doesn’t that kind of talent coming in. Let’s see if UK can go 1-0 before talking about 40-0.

    • Rixter
      11:12 am June 21, 2018 Permalink

      The really great thing is, with cable tv you have about 200 other options (more if you have NetFlix) besides watching UK basketball this year! Hallmark movies might be more up your alley?

  7. Wade
    5:00 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

    Matt Jones here’s some advice… take down the section comment if your not going to let us voice our opinion. We are the people what kind of politician are you gonna be if you silence the people.the world can’t be one sided…I’m always being deleted for nothing and the first to pump this team up on sports bring up the political and social stuff and don’t like opinions.I know it’s your brand but I see a single older guy with goofs as the rest of the cast which only has Freddie who’s great but I don’t think he is even around there ever. So I don’t know why the censorship y’all aren’t that serious are you or am I stupid. I like to read up on news and converse with others like me. If your gonna post it let us talk about it. If you think it’s a bad post don’t post it. You are smart enough to know how people really think and feel.

  8. CombatMedic_98
    5:23 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

    I thought Kentucky was the favorite every year

  9. catheaven
    6:21 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

    Way to go Coach Cal! I’m so pumped for this season that it can’t get here soon enough, So proud of our Coach and team. Let’s go get #9 ya’ll!!!!

  10. njCat
    6:21 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

    Another troll that doesn’t know the difference between your and you’re and has zero punctuation skills. Ah… the not so highly educated. #MAGA

    • Wade
      7:13 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

      Wow, you must have gone to duke with Matt Jones.

    • njCat
      8:52 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

      Nah… just paid attention in middle school.

    • bigbluebanana
      9:18 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

      Nj for the win

  11. njCat
    6:28 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

    If the freshman guards live up to expectations this could be a very good team. The Bahamas trip will help, but it will still take a while for them to gel. Just hope they can live up to the hype as so many of Cal’s teams have failed to do.

    • Wade
      8:28 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink


    • njCat
      8:54 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

      What do you mean ‘troll’. Just stating facts. Look it up.

    • Wade
      9:09 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

      We won 8 in 100 yrs the odds aren’t great every yr but we’re in it don’t be negative

    • bigbluebanana
      9:19 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

      He mad you got him with that middle school comment

    • njCat
      12:29 am June 21, 2018 Permalink

      He he

  12. Aar
    10:29 pm June 20, 2018 Permalink

    I largely agree with Torres on this one. As a counterpoint, I think the area in which this team may not be 10 deep is on defense. I suspect defense, particularly the positionless ability to defend all 5 positions will earn starts. I’m also wary that lack of defensive versatility will limit playing time for some of the shooting talent we all now treasure so much.

    Say what you will about Lamb and Booker. They weren’t defensive stoppers. However, they guarded their yard effectively. Green isn’t getting taller but is his foot speed improving? Did Baker learn how much defensive intensity Cal requires while sitting out last season? I saw Herro play enough last season to know he must make a huge adjustment in defensive intensity to earn minutes from Cal. I’m not worried about Hagans, Quickley, Johnson (dude made a defensive stop in the last minute of the McD AA game!), Washington or Travis on D. How much is Richards improving his help D this summer? Is Montgomery an above average defender?

    Looking forward to a glimpse at who actually plays D in the Bahamas. I think that will be our first insight to the lineups that will start and/or finish games and the minutes per game competition.

  13. Rixter
    11:08 am June 21, 2018 Permalink

    why can’t some be super hyped up, and some be cautiously optimistic? We live in a society where it hurts people’s feelings when others have a differing opinion. I’m super excited about next year’s team, but I don’r get mad when somebody is more pessimistic than me. You are all entitled to your opinion, and I have no reason to try and change your mind about it. For me, it adds excitement to be pumped up, much better than the feeling I had heading into Billy G’s second year. But that’s just me. You carry on with your own expectations….