The Kentucky Wildcats begin their push for the national championship with an opening-round matchup against Abilene Christian. John Calipari’s squad enters as a No. 2 seed against an upset-minded opponent who posted a strong 27-6 record this season. Unfortunately for Kentucky, they’ll also be down a key player in PJ Washington for the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Calipari was actually the one who revealed the news that Washington would be sidelined with an injury. According to the coach, it’s not all bad news, as the forward avoided a fracture in his foot.
“The specialists confirmed our original diagnosis that @PJWashington has a sprained foot and there is no fracture. Once we determined that PJ was not going to play today, they put him in a hard cast for precautionary reasons. He is out for today’s game.” Calipari tweeted.
With Washington sidelined, it’s going to mean a few big men for the Wildcats will need to step up and do some heavy lifting. While a number of options are on the table to step into the starting lineup, the good news is that Reid Travis returned to action for the SEC tournament after missing nearly a month.
Kentucky Basketball Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Abilene Christian
*Notates expected starter
F: Reid Travis*, Nick Richards
F: EJ Montgomery*
G: Tyler Herro*, Jonny David
G: Ashton Hagans*, Jemarl Baker Jr.
G: Keldon Johnson*, Immanuel Quickley
Calipari has run a short bench all season, and the roster thinned out more when it was revealed that Quade Green would transfer. With Washington out, it leaves just four players who average 20 or more minutes per game this season. EJ Montgomery is the main name to watch as a potential replacement, as he filled in for Reid Travis previously for the most part.
Nick Richards is also an option to potentially take over in the starting five, but I’d be surprised if it weren’t Montgomery who gets the nod. Regardless, both players will almost certainly see 20-plus minutes in this matchup. On the season, Montgomery averages 3.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game while Richards has posted 4.1 points and 3.5 rebounds.
Up-And-Down Performances From Montgomery & Richards
Down the final stretch of the regular season, Montgomery and Richards both saw extended playing time at various points. But the results posted by the duo were very hit or miss at times. In a late-season matchup against the Florida Gators, Montgomery played 28 minutes but failed to score while pulling down seven rebounds with one steal and one block.
During Kentucky’s SEC tournament loss to the Tennessee Volunteers, both Washington and Travis played, but Montgomery still received 22 minutes. He scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting but didn’t do much else, tallying one rebound, one steal and one block.