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It’s official: Kentucky will lose seven players to the NBA Draft

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As expected, Kentucky will be losing seven players to the NBA Draft.

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, head coach John Calipari and seven of his underclassmen announced their decision. When Cal asked the players declaring for the draft to stand up, this happened:

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Screengrab via ESPN

 

Karl Anthony-Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, Devon Booker, Dakari Johnson and both Aaron and Andrew Harrison will all be heading to the NBA.

“If Alex [Poythress] didn’t get hurt, it would have been eight,” Coach Cal said. Poythress has not yet made a decision. He’s got his degree already, according to Cal, and he’s still deciding whether or not he will return.

READ MORE: All early entry decisions

Towns is projected to be a top two pick in the NBA Draft, with many expecting that he will be taken No. 1 over Duke center Jahlil Okafor. Cauley-Stein is a top ten pick, while Lyles and Booker are both expected to be taken somewhere between the late lottery and the late first round.

Things are a bit different for the twins and Johnson. Johnson will likely get drafted, although he is expected to be a second round pick. The twins, on the other hand, are not guarantee to end up being picked. Andrew is probably the better NBA prospect at this stage, especially given the way he played late in the season, while Aaron is a shooting guard that hasn’t proven to be able to consistently shoot outside of the NCAA tournament.

Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress will all return for the Wildcats, joining Skal Labissiere, Isaiah Briscoe and Charles Matthews, the three freshmen that Kentucky has signed for the 2015-16 season. Labissiere is one of the top prospects in the 2015 class, a guy that is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft. Briscoe is a top ten recruit and a talented scoring guard, while Matthews is a four-star prospect.

Kentucky is still in the mix for a number of elite recruits that have yet to commit to a school, including Jaylen Brown, Cheick Diallo, Stephen Zimmermann and Thon Maker, among others.

We had Kentucky has the preseason No. 4 team in the country when we put out our list earlier this week, and nothing unexpected with any of the other teams in the top five has happened since then. As good as Labissiere is, they will ideally add some front court depth this spring, be it a freshman or a graduate transfer that is eligible immediately.

Reports: Andrew, Aaron Harrison will declare for the NBA Draft

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Aaron and Andrew Harrison are headed to the NBA, according to reports from CBSSports.com and Real GM.

Andrew is projected as a second round pick by Draft Express, while Aaron is projected to be undrafted.

The twins would be the second and third players from Kentucky to be headed to the NBA. After Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin, Willie Cauley-Stein, who is a likely top ten pick, told reporters that he’s “pretty sure” of what he wants to do and that he “probably was my last game here”.

Kentucky could end up with as many as seven players heading to the NBA. Karl Anthony-Towns, potentially the No. 1 overall pick, is assumed to be headed to the NBA. Trey Lyles will likely follow him there. Devin Booker has a chance to be a lottery pick, and while he’s leaning towards leaving, my understanding is there is a chance he returns. He gets along very well with Tyler Ulis and likes the idea of sharing a back court with him for a full season.

Dakari Johnson is closer to 50-50. He’s projected as a second round pick and, if he makes some improvements this offseason, could end up playing his way into the first round. The other part of it is that the 2015 recruiting class is not as stronger as the 2014 class, meaning that he may end up with less competition in the first round.

Aaron Harrison says finger is sore, but won’t be a ‘big factor in the game’ against Notre Dame

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Aaron Harrison left early in the second half of Kentucky’s 78-39 Sweet 16 win over West Virginia with a dislocated left ring finger.

The sophomore guard would rush to the tunnel inside the Quicken Loans Arena only to return to the bench seconds later after putting his finger back into place. Harrison would reenter the game, but still needed to address the status of his left finger during Friday’s press conference as the 37-0 Wildcats head into Saturday’s Elite 8 matchup against Notre Dame.

“It’s a little sore but it’s not going to be a big factor in the game, I’m doing a lot better and continue to get treatment and things like that,” he told reporters.

Harrison is the Wildcats’ leading scorer and is averaging 9.3 points per game through the first three games of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Top-ranked Kentucky and No. 3 Notre Dame are scheduled to play at 8:49 p.m.

Top-ranked Kentucky moves to 32-0 with SEC tournament win over Florida

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One year after Florida won all 18 of its SEC regular season games and the SEC tournament title, No. 1 Kentucky moved one step closer to accomplishing the same feat with a win over the Gators.

The Wildcats weren’t at their best offensively, shooting 37.5 percent from the field, but they limited Florida to 33.3 shooting in the second half as they went on to win 64-49 in Nashville. Florida, which trailed by four at the break and by five with 7:40 remaining, went more than five minutes without a point as Kentucky clamped down defensively and established a comfortable margin down the stretch.

Karl-Anthony Towns and Aaron Harrison scored 13 points apiece as Kentucky’s lone double-digit scorers, with Town adding a game-high 12 rebounds. Towns and Harrison combined to score 16 points, and point guards Andrew Harrison and Tyler Ulis combined for four assists and one turnover in the second half.

The Wildcats didn’t shoot much better from the field in the second half than they did in the first, making 39.1 percent of their attempts, but they did get to the foul line on a far more frequent basis. Kentucky shot 13-for-15 from the foul line in the second half, outscoring Florida by ten points in that department.

For Florida, which has struggled with inconsistency all season, to have a shot at beating Kentucky they needed their best players to be productive and that didn’t happen. Dorian Finney-Smith (four points) made two of his ten shots from the field, and Michael Frazier (two points on 0-for-4 shooting) struggled as well. What helped Florida hang around was the play of Eli Carter and Jon Horford, who finished with a combined 26 points on 12-for-20 shooting, but not getting solid afternoons from Finney-Smith and Frazier proved costly especially during the decisive scoring drought.

From an NCAA tournament seeding standpoint Kentucky won’t gain anything this weekend. They’ll still be the top overall seed, and geographically speaking their path to the Final Four looks to be one with stops in Louisville and Cleveland before getting to Indianapolis (provided they win, of course).

But there’s still the need to work towards getting better each day, and Friday’s win will give Kentucky plenty to look at when it comes to pinpointing where they need to improve with an eye towards a national title run.

No. 1 Kentucky holds off Texas A&M in double overtime for another tough SEC win

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Earlier in the week Kentucky was able to get past Ole Miss with a decent effort in a close 89-86 overtime home win. The Wildcats once again played to the level of its competition on Saturday as No. 1 Kentucky had its true SEC road game at Texas A&M.

This time it nearly came back to bite them as Kentucky avoided an upset with a 70-64 double-overtime win over the Aggies. Freshman Tyler Ulis hit a huge 3-pointer with a little over a minute left that proved to be the game winner and Dakari Johnson hit two clutch free throws with 14.7 seconds left to put the game away.

Aaron Harrison missed a game-winning 3-pointer to end regulation and it led to an overtime that saw Kentucky lose control in the final minutes. With the Wildcats trailing by two on a final possession out of a timeout in overtime, Trey Lyles was fouled and made two free throws to put the game into double overtime. Texas A&M’s Alex Robinson missed a long 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.

In the second overtime, Lyles gave a big lift with Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein fouled out as he helped give Kentucky new life. After Ulis’ shot, the Wildcats calmed down enough to get stops and win.

Struggling to get consistent offense going and only shooting 28 percent (18-for-64) from the field, Kentucky had to rotate different lineups and work on the defensive end. Wildcat freshman guard Devin Booker emerged as the team’s most consistent offensive threat as he went 4-for-6 from 3-point range to finish with a team-high 18 points. Aaron Harrison again hit a key 3-pointer in the closing minutes to score 12 points while grabbing seven rebounds. But the Harrison twins struggled overall and combined to shoot 6-for-30 from the field as Andrew finished with nine points.

Kentucky (15-0, 2-0) didn’t make plays when they needed to and they couldn’t get away from a team with inferior talent. With a deep rotation, they still couldn’t find the right pieces to make the right plays. Texas A&M (9-5, 0-2) had multiple looks in the final minutes and couldn’t knock them down but extended possessions with offensive rebounds in late-game situations. Andrew Harrison made a questionable decision and missed a contested layup with Kentucky up two and running clock late in regulation. That led to Danuel House being fouled on the other end and tying the game, sending it to overtime.

House had a huge game with 25 points and nine rebounds as he shot 8-for-18 from the field and was nearly unstoppable driving to the rim. He just didn’t have enough help to ultimately topple Kentucky.

Texas A&M went on a 12-5 run the last six minutes of the game to stay within striking distance. Kentucky just couldn’t find a go-to scorer down the stretch with the team struggling to hit shots. Booker looked like he would emerge after a 3-point play to start overtime but he was quiet for the rest of the first overtime.

We knew that Kentucky would likely lose eventually because young players have inconsistent games. The problem is, the loss nearly came to a team that hasn’t been considered a major NCAA Tournament threat all year. Texas A&M lost by 21 points at Alabama four days ago and nearly beat Kentucky. The Wildcats won a tough road game here but ultimately need to be more consistent overall to go unscathed in the SEC but they still got it done with young players stepping up.

Fifteen unforgettable college basketball moments from 2014

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1. UConn men’s and women’s basketball teams both win national titles, only school to do so … and they’ve done once before

The UConn men’s basketball team won its second national championship on Apr. 7, an improbable run culminating in a wire-to-wire win over Kentucky. The following night, the women’s basketball team capped an undefeated season, repeating as national champion. Since 1999, the two programs have combined for 12 titles. UConn is the only school to have dual champions in the same season, first doing so in 2004.

2. Aaron Harrison’s 3-pointers vs. Michigan and Wisconsin put Kentucky in the national championship game

Kentucky entered the 2014 NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed, a disappointing seed given the preseason hype around the team. The Wildcats went through growing pains all season long, and hit their stride in March, reaching the national title game with dramatic wins over Wichita State, Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin. In the latter two, Aaron Harrison cemented himself as one of the clutchest players in the tournament’s history with identical shots against Michigan and Wisconsin.

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3. Lauren Hill inspires nation through her fight with inoperable brain cancer

By now you know the story of Lauren Hill, the freshman at Mount St. Joseph in Ohio. She was diagnosed last season with terminal brain cancer. She has inspired others by continuing to pursue her dream of playing college basketball while also raising awareness for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. The NCAA approved moving her team’s season debut up to Nov. 2, in which she scored the season’s first basket. Hill has appeared in several more games before being named honorary coach. So far, she has helped raise over $1 million.

4. UMass guard Derrick Gordon becomes the first openly gay player in Division I men’s basketball

Months after NFL Draft hopeful Michael Sam announced he was gay, UMass junior guard Derrick Gordon did the same, becoming the first active player in men’s Division I basketball to do so. Gordon, in his second season with the Minutemen, is averaging 11.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game.

5. Rashad McCants reveals he took bogus classes at North Carolina in order to remain eligible

There has been controversy around the North Carolina athletic department for quite some time. In June, Rashad McCants, a member of the 2005 national championship team, accused Roy Williams of steering him into no-show, paper classes in order to remain eligible. This sparked the reopening of an NCAA investigation, in whichKenneth Wainstein, a former member of the U.S. Justice Department, found 18 years of academic fraud. McCants, who spent four years in the NBA, has been relatively quiet since claiming UNC and the NCAA were set to pay him $310 million.

6. Kentucky’s platoon system is unveiled

With nine McDonald’s All-Americas on the roster, and several holdover John Calipari was not expecting on having, how was Kentucky going to divide the play time so everyone would be satisfied? Easy, Coach Cal implemented a platoon system. It’s not always going to be the game plan, but it’ll certainly continue to be a talking point into 2015.

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7. Wichita State runs the table, 31-0 regular season

Gregg Marshall followed a Final Four run in 2013 with 35 consecutive wins. The Shockers capped off a perfect 31-0 regular season with a 68-45 win over Missouri State. Wichita State would win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and advance to the Round of 32 where the Shockers met Kentucky in arguably the best game of the year. It took a Kentucky team, playing its best basketball of the season, to narrowly hand Wichita State a loss.

8. Adreian Payne’s friendship with 8-year-old cancer patient, Lacey Holsworth

In February, Jason King of Bleacher Report told the heartwarming story of Michigan State big man Adreian Payne befriending 8-year-old cancer patient, Lacey Holsworth. The nation really got to know Princess Lacey when she became part of Payne’s Senior Night. Lacey died in April. Payne and Michigan State gave her a brought her so much joy in her final months — inviting her to the East Regionals in New York and to Dallas to watch Payne in the college basketball dunk contest — and in return she touched countless lives, stretching far beyond the East Lansing campus.

9. Shabazz Napier tells reporters he goes to bed “starving” weeks before leading UConn to the national title

The NCAA has consistently been under fire for its lack of compensation for student-athletes. In March, UConn senior Shabazz Napier went on record stating, “I don’t feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving.” That quote were originally from late March, but didn’t gain traction until CNN posted it right before the national title. Without UConn’s championship run, those comments likely don’t get the attention it did. The NCAA approved unlimited snacks a week later.

10. Doug McDermott scores his 3,000th point in a Creighton uniform

On Senior Night, Creighton forward Doug McDermott became only the eighth player in NCAA history to score 3,000 points. Naturally he surpassed the milestone with a 3-pointer en route to 45 points in a win over Providence. McDermott, now a rookie with the Chicago Bulls, ended with 3,150 career points.

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11. Jim Boeheim’s jacket becomes the focal point of an epic meltdown

The first matchup between Syracuse and Duke as ACC rivals was an instant classic with the Orange prevailing in overtime. The second meeting looked to become another thriller until Jim Boeheim had a Hall of Fame worthy tantrum. C.J. Fair was called for a controversial charge with 10.4 seconds left and the Blue Devils leading 60-58. Boeheim, quite simply, lost it. Racing down the sideline, saying words I can’t write on this website and getting ejected from the came. Duke was able to secure the win from the line thanks to the meltdown. This also sparked some of the greatest memes.

12. Austin Hatch, a two-time plane crash survivor, scores his first point for Michigan

The Michigan freshman has endured more than you can imagine over the years. He’s been involved in two plane crashes, resulting in the death of five family members. Michigan promised to honor his scholarship, and earlier this month he scored his first career points.

13. Mercer upset sets Duke, Kevin Canevari does the ‘Nae-Nae’

The upset of the tournament was No. 14 Mercer over No. 3 Duke in the Round of 64. Plenty came from this game. There was an awesome postgame interview. Lehigh, which upset Duke in a 2012, and Florida Gulf Coast, Mercer’s conference rival and previous tournament darling, tweeted congratulations. Duke legend Christian Laettner tweeted that this wouldn’t have happened during his career. But the most memorable was Mercer reserve guard Kevin Canevari doing the ‘Nae-Nae’.

14. Dayton’s Elite 8 run

The Flyers started Atlantic 10 Conference play 1-5 after cracking the top 25 rankings in November. Dayton recovered to win 23 games and become one of six bids from the A10, as a No. 11 seed. In the Round of 64, the Flyers were slotted against in-state rival Ohio State, upsetting the Buckeyes before taking down No. 3 Syracuse and then topping No. 10 Stanford in the Sweet 16. The run came to an end against top-seeded Florida. The run turned Dayton head coach Archie Miller into a prime candidate for several coaching vacancies, but he signed an extension in March.

15. Wofford’s Aerris Smith delivers a passionate speech in his final collegiate game

This may not be as well known as other moments in 2014, but this is truly an incredible speech. Wofford forward Aerris Smith had his senior season dominated by injuries. After the Terriers won the Southern Conference Tournament championship, Smith announced that he had played in his final game.