Kentucky earned an SEC road win over Missouri on Tuesday night, but in the process, the Wildcats could be without senior forward Reid Travis for the next several games.
Travis exited Tuesday’s game in the second half with what’s being called a sprained right knee after teammate Keldon Johnson fell into Travis’ leg with a little more than 10 minutes left in the game. The fall sent Travis to the locker room, as he didn’t return to the contest as Kentucky held a comfortable second-half advantage.
Without Travis in the lineup, Calipari has the luxury of turning to two McDonald’s All-American bigs off the bench in freshman E.J. Montgomery and sophomore Nick Richards. Montgomery has earned consistent minutes of late while Richards was a promising 3-for-3 for seven points in Tuesday’s win.
Travis entered Tuesday averaging 11.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game for the Wildcats as he’s been one of the team’s leaders this season. While Kentucky can likely withstand the loss of Travis for a few weeks, they will need him at full strength if they want to make a potential Final Four run.
Travis gets additional year of eligibility at Stanford
Stanford is getting an extra year from a first-team all-Pac 12 performer.
Reid Travis’ petition for a medical redshirt was granted by the NCAA, and he will have two years of eligibility remaining, the school announced Wednesday.
The 6-foot-8, 245-pounder averaged 17.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game this past season. The additional year of eligibility stems from a leg injury that cost him the final 22 games of the 2015-16 campaign.
“I am thrilled for Reid and our program,” Stanford coach Jerod Haase said in a statement released by the school. “Reid has battled through some unfortunate obstacles during his basketball career. We witnessed the impact of a healthy Reid Travis this past season and are excited for him to lead our program for two more years.”
The news is certainly beneficial for Haase as he tries to build the foundation of his program that was three games under .500 in his first year in Palo Alto. Year 2 figures to allow for significant growth with four starters and five of the top six scorers, including Travis, returning.
That Travis will be the program beyond just this season is significant in that it could help lead to sustained success with a proven, high-level performer remaining in the program for an extended period of time. For a program like Stanford, which hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 2014, that is a major coup as it looks to regain its footing among the top teams in the Pac-12.
It really shouldn’t be all that much of a shock that Luke Kennard tops the list as the nation’s most improved player.
The 6-foot-6 shooting guard has been the best player on the roster for Duke this season, a team that is ranked in the top five by everyone with a valid a opinion and ranked No. 1 by the savvy forward-thinkers. He’s averaging 20.0 points, 6.1 boards and 3.3 assists and has been Duke’s best player in their four toughest games this season; against Michigan State, Rhode Island, Kansas and Florida, Kennard is averaging 23.8 points.
What’s surprising about Kennard’s season isn’t that he became an effective college basketball player – he was a McDonald’s All-American, he averaged 11.8 points last season, and he scored more points in high school than a guy named LeBron James – but that he’s been able to dominate like this on a team that has a chance to win a national title. That’s how good he’s been for Duke this season. Playing without Jayson Tatum for seven games, with a banged-up Grayson Allen and without Harry Giles III, Kennard’s has made Duke look like they could win the ACC and make the Final Four even if they never get back to full health.
He went from being the third-best player on a two-man Duke team as a freshman to this. Who saw that coming?
2. Manu Lecomte, Baylor: Lecomte was a good player at Miami during the 2014-15 season. Not great, but a solid piece for a good team. After sitting out last season at Baylor, he’s managed to play his way into being one of the best point guards in the Big 12 and one of the biggest reasons that the Bears are currently sitting in the top five of both polls. Lecomte’s averaging 13.9 points this year, and although his scoring has been somewhat inconsistent, he’s played well in Baylor’s big games. But the truly notable improvement has been in his ability to create offense for his teammates. Lecomte is averaging 5.3 assists after averaging 1.8 assists as a sophomore with Miami, and that playmaking was the biggest question mark that Baylor had entering the season.
3. Semi Ojeleye, SMU: Ojeleye is a former four-star recruit that played a season and a half at Duke, so it’s not like this is a guy that never had any ability. We just never saw it featured at the college level, and now that we have, he’s proven to be worth the hype he had in high school. Having taken advantage of a season-and-a-half as a redshirt, he’s averaging 17.8 points and 7.6 boards on the year while, as a 6-foot-7 forward with elite athleticism, is shooting 41.5 percent from three. The Mustangs are still trying to find their footing after the Larry Brown fiasco this summer, but Ojeleye has turned into a really good piece to build around and one of the best players in the AAC.
4. Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame: Colson is generously listed at 6-foot-6, he isn’t an elite athlete and he’s a power forward, a front court weapon who does most of his damage in the low- and mid-post. And yet, he’s turned into the best player on Notre Dame and, along with Matt Farrell (who is much-improved in his own right), is the biggest reason the Irish appear to me much better than we expected. He’s averaging team-highs of 16.5 points and 10.8 boards this season and, at the least, deserves a mention in all-american consideration. Is anyone more underrated than Mike Brey when it comes to developing talent in his program?
5. Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s: Saint Mary’s has found their next great Australian, and that’s Landale. He was super-efficient in limited minutes as a sophomore, but the 6-foot-11 Landale has been playing at like all-american this season for the Gaels. He’s averaging 18.4 points and 8.5 boards while shooting 67.4 percent from the floor as the anchor in Randy Bennett’s offensive attack.
6. Kyron Cartwright, Providence: Ed Cooley has always centered his offensive attack around his point guard. That’s just how he likes to play. Whether it’s Kris Dunn or Bryce Cotton or Vincent Council, Cooley’s has always demanded that his point guards carry a heavy load. The biggest question we had with the Friars this season was who would take on that role this year. Well, we have an answer now: It’s Kyron Cartwright, a player that few outside of the Big East diehards would have heard of entering the season. Cartwright is averaging just 8.8 points on the year, but he’s fifth in the country posting 7.7 assists per night, an incredibly important number for the better-than-we-thought Friars because of the lack of weapons this team has offensively. The fact that he’s doing so while averaging significantly fewer turnovers than Kris Dunn did as a starter is notable as well.
7. John Collins, Wake Forest: Before the season, who would have predicted that Collins would develop into the best player on Demon Deacons? Playing just 24 minutes a game, Collins is posting 18.0 points and 10.7 boards and has already collected six double-doubles on the season, including five in his last five games.
8. Tacko Fall, UCF: The 7-foot-6 Fall is so much more than just a super-tall dude that found his way onto a basketball court. He’s averaging 13.8 points, a nation’s-best 13.1 boards and 2.6 blocks in just 28 minutes a night. He’s running the floor, he’s scoring on post touches and he’s doing it all while staying out of foul trouble, which can be an issue for someone his size. The next step? Improve on that 34.1 percent free throw shooting before Hack-a-Tacko becomes a thing.
9. Kyle Washington, Cincinnati: Washington is another guy who took advantage of a redshirt year and a new environment. After struggling to find minutes in his two seasons at N.C. State, Washington has turned into the best player for the Bearcats, averaging 16.1 points and 8.0 boards for Mick Cronin’s club, who appear to be the favorite in the AAC and are ranked in the top 25.
10. Obi Enechionya, Temple: Enechionya has developed into a real life NBA prospect. He’s turned into Temple’s go-to guy, averaging 18.6 points on the season, but what makes him such an intriguing player is a unique aspect of his skill-set: At 6-foot-10, he’s shooting 49.2 percent from three (while attempting more than six per game) and blocking 2.9 shots a night. No player has averaged three made threes per game and 2.9 blocks per game in a season since 1993, which is as far back as I can find data.
TEN MORE NAMES TO KNOW
11. Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky: Briscoe has been terrific this season for Kentucky, but it’s hard to rank him in the top ten of this list when the single-biggest flaw in his game – his perimeter shooting – hasn’t gotten much better.
12. Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: Evans has developed into one of the best point guards in the country, but it’s tough to figure out where to rank him because we saw this coming before he got injured at the end of last season.
13. Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech: The bright spot in what will likely be a long Georgia Tech season, Lammers is averaging 15.8 points, 10.8 boards and 4.6 blocks, which leads the country. He averaged 3.6 points and 4.0 boards as a sophomore last year.
14. Khyri Thomas, Creighton: We knew how good Mo Watson Jr. and Marcus Foster would be. I don’t think many expected Thomas to average 13.3 points, shoot 53.3 percent from three and develop into Creighton’s best perimeter defender.
15. Esa Ahmad and Nathan Adrian, West Virginia: The biggest reason that West Virginia hasn’t taken a step back with what they lost last year? Ahmad and Adrian are playing at a borderline all-Big 12 level.
16. Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina: Thornwell has turned into one of the best non-Kentucky players in the SEC this season. Check this line: 18.7 points, 6.7 boards, 4.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.3 blocks, 48.3 percent on threes. Now he just has to get back from suspension.
17. JaCorey Williams, MTSU: It’s tough to know just how much of this is opportunity and the level he’s playing at, but Williams has gone from averaging 4.5 points at Arkansas to averaging 19.0 points for one of the nation’s most dangerous mid-majors.
18. Kyle Kuzma, Utah: We expected Kuzma to take a step forward this season, and while his scoring numbers aren’t quite as high as I thought they would be, his averages of 15.8 points, 10.3 boards and 3.3 assists for a young Utah team are impressive.
19. Reid Travis, Stanford: Travis came off of injury to be the best player for Stanford this season, averaging 17.7 points and 9.4 boards.
20. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: Swanigan has played his way into all-american consideration, but he’d be higher on this list if his turnover issues hadn’t popped up of late. He has 13 giveaways in his last two games.
Stanford getting great production from Reid Travis on overseas trip
Stanford is going to have to replace the dependable scoring of departed guards Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown and the Cardinal are looking for new leaders during a current overseas trip in Europe.
So far, sophomore forward Reid Travis has looked like the part of a guy who can carry Stanford’s scoring production for stretches at time. During the team’s first three games in Italy, Travis had a double-double the last two games and also had a stretch of scoring six consecutive points in each of those games as well.
Travis has averaged 20.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game over his last two outings and the former McDonald’s All-American has looked like the type of player who could emerge with more touches in 2015-16.
Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins was complimentary of Travis after the team’s third game, a win.
“Reid is starting to find his way,” Dawkins said. “He didn’t play much last year due to injuries and we are starting to see what he can do on the floor. I am glad to see him out there healthy. He has been a key contributor to the success we have had thus far.”
With the emergence of Travis in this way, it would be a great lift for Stanford to have a go-to presence early in the season. With his athleticism and motor, Travis could be consistently productive if he is healthy this season. Stanford still has three games left on their foreign tour, so it will something to monitor with how Travis performs.
Play suspended in Stanford’s game after opponent breaks backboard (VIDEO)
The second game of Stanford’s tour of Italy was suspended in the second quarter after an opponent broke the backboard on a dunk attempt.
Dexter Pittman, the former Texas big man now playing for Virtus Pallacanestro Bologna in Italy’s top league, went up for a two-handed dunk with 7:22 remaining in the first half. Freshman forward Josh Sharma recovered to break up the play, but Pittman had enough force to break the backboard.
According to Stanford, the teams were forced to travel 15 minutes down the road to finish the game. Virtus Pallacanestro Bologna would go on to defeat the Cardinal, 75-63, on Thursday. Stanford had defeated Stella Azzurra Roma, 75-26, in the first game of the foreign tour.
Play has been suspended with 7:22 left in the 2nd quarter as the backboard was shattered during play here in Bologna pic.twitter.com/oK1lkT7ScC
Reid Travis recorded a double-double of 19 points and 14 boards in a losing effort for Stanford. Marcus Allen had 16 points, scoring in double figures for the second straight game. Roscoe Allen and Dorian Pickens, who had a team-high 15 points on Tuesday, added 10 apiece.
The next contest for the Cardinal is on Saturday against Fileni BPA Jesi.
Stanford’s second Postseason NIT title in four season this past spring also marked the end of an era in Palo Alto. Seniors Chasson Randle, Anthony Brown and Stefan Nastic all played their final game in a Stanford uniform that March night in New York City, meaning that Johnny Dawkins has some large holes to fill within his 2015-16 rotation.
With that being the case, it’s probably a good thing that the Cardinal can take an overseas trip this summer. The NCAA allows teams to do so once every four years, and with Stanford’s most recent trip coming in 2011 they’ll be hitting the road next month. Stanford’s headed to Italy, where they’ll play six games against Italian pro teams (two play in Lega Basket Serie A, and two others play in Serie A2) between August 25 and September 2.
Prior to leaving the country they’ll spend some time sightseeing and practicing in Washington, D.C.
“Our foreign tour to Italy will be an amazing cultural and team-building experience,” Dawkins said in the release. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the art and culture of ancient Rome, Florence and Venice. This will help us improve on the court as we get the chance to compete against other teams, in addition to off the court, as we strengthen our bonds as friends and teammates.”
Those exhibitions should be valuable for a team looking to determine primary scoring options after losing their top three scorers to the professional ranks. Among the players who will be asked to contribute more are redshirt junior forward Rosco Allen (7.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg), junior guard Marcus Allen (6.4, 3.5) and sophomores Michael Humphrey, Reid Travis and Robert Cartwright.
The group that will now be sophomores, which includes shooting guard Dorian Pickens, will figure more prominently in the Stanford attack than they did last season with Travis and Humphrey (who both missed time last season due to injury) being the most likely breakout candidates. Add in a three-member recruiting class led by four-star center Josh Sharma, and Stanford won’t lack for young talent.
The question is which player(s) emerge as leaders for this group, and that’s something that can be determined during Stanford’s trip to Italy.