Dakari Johnson

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


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:

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.

Rick Pitino benched Chris Jones for flop against Kentucky

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On Saturday, top-ranked Kentucky took down rival No. 4 Louisville, 58-50. The game’s star was Kentucky freshman point guard Tyler Ulis. While the other guards on both sides struggled, Chris Jones’ performance stood out for the wrong reasons.

The senior guard was 3-of-15 off a poor shot selection with 13 points and the lone assist for the Cardinals. But his most notable play came moments into the second half when he hit the deck after Dakari Johnson hauled in a defensive rebound.

The replay revealed a pretty egregious flop, which makes Jones massaging his jaw moments after the incident all the more ridiculous.

After Tuesday night’s 68-43 win over Long Beach State, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino told reporters that he kept Jones out of the starting lineup due to Saturday’s well-circulated theatrics.

“I was very upset at that,” Pitino said, via Adam Himmelsbach of the Louisville Courier-Journal. “We don’t do that type of thing, and then to fake with the jaw like you got hit, you can’t fake like you got hit. You can’t fake it. …That’s something Louisville guys don’t do.”

MORE: Louisville’s perimeter struggles vs. UK | Tyler Ulis is Kentucky’s best point guard

According to Himmelsbach, Jones had trained himself, both in high school and at Northwest Florida State, to take dives on big men swinging elbows, usually hitting the deck after center had swung his elbow for the third time.

“I tried to time his elbows,” Jones said. “He swung twice. I thought he was gonna swing a third time, but obviously he didn’t…I tried to dodge it, but he didn’t swing, so it made it look worse than it was.”

However, Jones says he is done with that form of gamesmanship, calling the play against Kentucky, “embarrassing”.

Jones played nine minutes in Tuesday night’s win over Long Beach State, recording three rebounds and one assist.

No. 1 Kentucky remains unbeaten with 63-51 win over No. 6 Texas

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Top-ranked Kentucky remains undefeated with a 63-51 win over No. 6 Texas on Friday night at Rupp Arena in Lexington. It’s the second double-digit win over a top-10 team this season for the Wildcats.

After heading into the locker room tied 26-26, No. 1 Kentucky picked up the already stifling defense to spark an early second half run, quickly turning a tie game into a double-digit lead. Kentucky’s white platoon — Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Dakari Johnson and Willie Cauley-Stein in for Marcus Lee – scored the first 10 points of the half, getting the ball inside Texas’ 2-3 zone, while also getting out in transition for easy buckets.

Kentucky’s lead ballooned to 44-28, thanks to an 18-2 run. To the Longhorns’ credit, they cut the lead to five, 56-51, with under two minutes to play, but Willie Cauley-Stein, who had his hands all over Friday night’s win, put the final stamp on the victory, completing an alley-oop pass from Andrew Harrison.

Cauley-Stein finished with a great stat line of 21 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and three blocks. Dakari Johnson had 11, followed by Karl-Anthony Towns with 10. Jonathan Holmes finished with a team-high 14 points for Texas.

For the second time in less than three weeks, Kentucky has taken down a team ranked in the top-6. On Nov. 18, in the Champions Classic, Kentucky dismantled then-No. 4 Kansas, 72-40. On Friday night, Texas looked to be in a good position early, dominating Kentucky on the boards, which ended in a 27-11 advantage through the first 20 minutes. But late in the first half a Flagrant 1 called on Holmes, sparked a 6-0 run, tying the game.

The offense for Kentucky continues to be a work in progress. Texas was without starting point guard Isaiah Taylor (wrist), but Kentucky — with its full arsenal of guards — saw its back court struggle from the field. The Harrison twins, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis shot 4-of-27 collectively, although Ulis and Andrew Harrison combined for eight assists and one turnover. Andrew also hit the lone 3-pointer for Kentucky.

The Wildcats shot under 10 percent from three, were outrebounded, juggled the platoons and held off a late charge from the Longhorns. And still won by a dozen.

But Kentucky’s defense held Texas to under 30 percent (no opponent has shot better than 40 percent through eight games) forced 22 turnovers and wore down a frontline as foul trouble mounted in a whistle-happy game.

Kentucky has a two-games — Eastern Kentucky and Columbia — before a three-game stretch against the likes of No. 12 North Carolina, UCLA and at No. 5 Louisville.

No. 1 Kentucky rolls through Grand Canyon with 85-45 win

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Kentucky’s first platoon jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the season opener against Grand Canyon. The second platoon followed with a 7-0 run of its own when it entered the game. Neither one of John Calipari’s units had issues with Grand Canyon, as the top-ranked Wildcats breezed to an 85-45 win on Friday night at Rupp Arena.

First platoon: Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Alex Poythress, Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein

Second platoon: Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson.

Nine of those 10 players scored, led by Andrew Harrison with 16 points (scored 12 in the first half), 12 from Cauley-Stein and Lyles with 11 off the bench. The frontline was as advertised with five of Kentucky’s big men corralling at least a handful of rebounds with Johnson (12) and Towns (eight) leading the way. That frontline defense also protected the rim, rejecting a total of 10 shots while creating second-chance opportunities with 22 offensive rebounds.

With under four minutes to play, Calipari abandoned the platoon system and inserted Ulis into the lineup with both Harrison twins, Poythress and Cauley-Stein. This was a lineup we saw in August during the Big Blue Bahamas Tour: Ulis and the Harrison twins in a three-guard set to close out the game for Kentucky, although, at that point, the Wildcats had a 30-plus point cushion. It’s worth noting that will be a lineup Kentucky will uses moving forward.

Kentucky will face a more competitive opponent on Sunday afternoon in Buffalo, which will be a lead up to Tuesday night’s top-5 showdown against No. 5 Kansas at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.

Kentucky has thrown down 77 dunks so far (VIDEOS)

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Kentucky is going to dunk a lot this season. That was made clear during the six games the Wildcats played in the Bahamas this past August. Exhibition opponents, Pikeville (Kentucky) and Georgetown (Kentucky), can attest to that as well.

Here is the video evidence, courtesy of Wildcat Dunks, a YouTube account that has been around since January 2013, but has put in work the last three months, serving as a warmup for more highlights to come over the course of the next five and a half months.

Although, this video does not include Alex Poythress dunking over the 7-foot Dakari Johnson, or Poythress and the Harrison twins throwing down back-to-back-to-back windmill dunks.

College Basketball Talk’s Top 100 Players: Nos. 80-61 #CBTTop100

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College Basketball Talk’s Top 100 Players: Nos. 100-81

College Basketball Talk’s Top 100 Players: Nos. 100-81