Burning Questions: Which five players would you pick to play the final minutes for Kentucky?

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Kentucky is the choice of many to win it all (AP Photo)

Given the brouhaha over Kentucky’s rotation, particularly on Sunday, who are the five that you would pick to finish a game for the Wildcats and why?

MORE: Read through all the Burning Questions here

Scott Phillips: I’ve always said going into this season that freshman point guard Tyler Ulis was too valuable with the ball in his hands to not have him on the floor to close games and I still see him ending games alongside the Harrison twins during crunch time this season. Those three can all create from the perimeter and with Willie Cauley-Stein’s defensive ability and experience and Karl-Anthony Towns’ overall skill level, Kentucky would be wise to look into that line-up to close games this season.

Raphielle Johnson: Before we get into this, I think some people took Calipari’s words to mean that by no means would he deviate from the “platoon” idea. Obviously factors such as foul trouble, matchups and who’s playing well will be considered as the game wears on. It would be irresponsible to not consider those variables. That being said, in crunch time I’d go with Ulis, the Harrison twins, Cauley-Stein and Johnson. Ulis is their best distributor and Andrew isn’t a slouch either. So why not have two playmakers on the floor? Aaron’s hit big shots in the past and Dakari has to be out there for rebounding. And I think the three perimeter players can provide enough scoring, so Cauley-Stein needs to be out there as well.

Terrence Payne: I’d go with the three-guard lineup of Tyler Ulis alongside Andrew and Aaron Harrison on the perimeter. I would trade length for a player who will help set guys up while being a defensive menace on the ball. Up front, I could see going with Alex Poythress for his energy but I would go with Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky’s best offensive player and Willie Cauley-Stein, its best defensive player.

Rob Dauster: Based on the answers to this question, it seems like everyone is convinced that the best lineup Kentucky can put on the floor will have Ulis sharing the back court with the twins, and it’s hard to argue with. But I like arguing, so here is the five that I would go with: Ulis, Aaron Harrison, Trey Lyles, Karl Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein. Offensively, I think Lyles and Towns are skilled enough that they would be able to keep opposing defenses from collapsing into the paint. At the same time, you run into a situation where an NBA-caliber big man will be guarded by a college small forward. Someone is going to have a mismatch on the block, and Kentucky will have an overwhelming advantage on the offensive glass. For a team that hasn’t proven adept at running half court offense, their best play down the stretch may end up being a missed shot.

Ohio State snags third 2018 commitment in a week with four-star guard Luther Muhammad

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Ohio State continued a strong week on the recruiting trail on Friday night by landing a commitment from Class of 2018 guard Luther Muhammad.

Regarded as a four-star prospect, the 6-foot-4 Muhammad is a tough and rugged perimeter defender who can attack the basket. Also showing some ability to play on the ball as a secondary handler, Muhammad is a very solid addition to Ohio State’s recruiting class since they need to overhaul their roster under new head coach Chris Holtmann.

Muhammad is the third player to commit to the Buckeyes in the Class of 2018 this week as he joins four-star forward Jaedon LeDee and three-star guard Duane Washington in the current Ohio State recruiting class. Since Washington is a three-point threat and Muhammad is more of an off-the-bounce specialist, the two guards are a good start for Ohio State in this class as they will likely try to find a true floor leader to play with them on the perimeter.

Michigan lands four-star 2018 forward Ignas Brazdeikis

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Michigan added to an already strong Class of 2018 recruiting haul on Friday night as four-star forward Ignas Brazdeikis pledged to the Wolverines on Twitter.

The 6-foot-8 Canadian was one of the premier scorers in the Nike EYBL this past spring and summer playing with CIA Bounce as Brazdeikis averaged 21.1 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the floor. Well-rounded outside of his scoring, Brazdeikis also put up 7.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while also showing a workable jumper that was 26 percent from three-point range.

With the job that Michigan head coach John Beilein has done developing forwards, most recently with the rapid improvement of players like D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner, it’ll be fascinating to see how Brazdeikis will look at the college level after some time on campus. Beilein’s offense is favorable for skilled forwards with a penchant for scoring and Brazdeikis could end up being a tremendous fit for the Wolverines.

Brazdeikis becomes the fourth member of Michigan’s Class of 2018 recruiting haul as he joins four-star forward Brandon Johns, four-star guard David Dejulius and three-star forward Taylor Currie.

Sex assault count dropped against ex-Creighton player Watson

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped a first-degree sexual assault charge against former Creighton point guard Maurice Watson after questions arose about the accuser’s story.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced Friday that his office had dropped the felony charge, filed earlier this year when a 19-year-old woman accused Watson of assaulting her early Feb. 4 at a party in an Omaha home. Watson has denied that allegation.

The 24-year-old Watson pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor assault for an encounter the same night with a different Creighton student, who said Watson touched her thigh and tried to make her touch his genitals. Watson was sentenced to the five days he’d already served in jail.

Watson was a senior when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in January, just days before the party.

Storm damage forces Paradise Jam out of Virgin Islands

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MIAMI (AP) — The Paradise Jam basketball tournament will not be played in the U.S. Virgin Islands this year because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

The tournament will be played in the U.S., with a new site expected to be announced by Sept. 29.

The Paradise Jam field this year includes Wake Forest, Colorado, Drake, Drexel, Houston, Liberty, Mercer and Quinnipiac, and each of those schools was given the chance to bid for the right to host the tournament.

Tournament officials say they looked at multiple other options, such as moving to another island and using a cruise ship for accommodations, before deciding to move the event to the U.S.

For now, the tournament is scheduled to be played from Nov. 17-20.

Kentucky lands commitment from five-star point guard

Immanuel Quickley (USA Basketball)
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Kentucky landed a commitment from Immanuel Quickley on Friday night, a top ten prospect and arguably the best point guard in the Class of 2018.

Quickley picked the Wildcats over Kansas, who he visited earlier this month, and Miami, who he was scheduled to visit before Hurricane Irma struck south Florida.

The 6-foot-3 point guard is the first commitment in the class of head coach John Calipari, and it really comes as no surprise. He’s been considered a Kentucky lean for months, and Quickley played for Calipari on the USA U19 team during the 2017 FIBA World Cup.

While Quickley has the size and the build – he’s 180 pounds with broad shoulders and long arms – of some of Kentucky’s former elite point guards, he’s not the same kind of point guard as, say, De’Aaron Fox or John Wall. He’s more of a smooth athlete than an explosive one, and while his long strides allow him to get out into transition, he’s not the finisher at the rim that those two were. What he is, however, is an intelligent player. He’s good in ball-screens, he’s an excellent passer and facilitator and he is a good enough shooter that he forces defenses to stay honest. He also has the potential to be a plus defender given his physical tools and the fact that he’ll try on that end of the floor.

Where this commitment gets interesting is the current point guard in Kentucky’s back court, Quade Green. Green was a five-star recruit in his own right, but he’s not quite built as a potential one-and-done prospect. Calipari has maneuvered through two point guards in the past, and each of the last five national champions have played major minutes with two point guards on the floor at the same time, but if Green is back next season that will be something to monitor.

That, however, is a long ways away.

What matters now is that Kentucky has gotten this commitment out of the way, and it paves the way for them to also receive a commitment from Zion Williamson. There has long been talk of those two attending college together, and with Quickley on the board, that likely keeps Kentucky in the driver’s seat as they pursue the South Carolina native.

If Kentucky can also wrangle a commitment out of R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 player in the 2018 recruiting class, that would likely be the end of the discussion of whether or not Duke has surpassed the Wildcats on the recruiting trail.