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.
I want to thank everyone who has helped me with this process of taking the next step to pursue my dreams. I couldn’t be more excited for the future! pic.twitter.com/xIwtBfFzLr
— Reid Travis (@2ReidTravis2) June 20, 2018
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!
With the addition of Reid Travis, Kentucky will now go 10 deep, all of which were former Top 50 recruits. Seven were McDonald's All-Americans (it would have been eight had Ashton Hagans stayed in the 2019 class). This team is LOADED like few college squads in recent memory
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) June 20, 2018
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.