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EJ Montgomery leaves Kentucky for 2020 NBA draft

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Kentucky’s roster will look completely different next season.

EJ Montgomery became the latest Wildcat to turn pro on Wednesday. Kentucky announced the sophomore forward’s decision to leave school. The 6-foot-10 Montgomery is planning to stay a pro, according to multiple reports. All five Kentucky starters are turning pro this season.

Montgomery played a bigger role for the Wildcats his second season. His minutes jumped from 15.1 to a respectable 24.1 per game. The forward put up 6.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest in 28 games. Montgomery shot 51 percent from the floor and 66 percent from the free-throw line. Nick Richards was Kentucky’s established go-to big man. But Montgomery played a valuable frontcourt role for the SEC champions.

It’s unlikely EJ Montgomery finds himself in the first round. But by turning pro and staying in the draft, Montgomery is betting on his pro future.

With the pro decision from Montgomery, Kentucky’s roster is virtually all new players. Forward Keion Brooks returns for his sophomore season. Creighton grad transfer Davion Mintz is joining the program. But John Calipari’s roster will rely on six new freshmen.

Kentucky’s roster has been led by freshmen plenty of times before. Calipari is accustomed to getting rosters full of new players to mesh. But with only Brooks returning from the rotation, it will feel like an entirely new culture at the start of the season. Every player on the roster will be unfamiliar with each other.

It should make for an interesting experiment for a very talented team. Kentucky sits at No. 10 in the CBT Preseason Top 25 at the moment. The talent on the wings for the Wildcats will be evident with Terrence Clarke and Brandon Boston. With the loss of EJ Montgomery, the frontcourt will have more questions next season.

Anthony Edwards leaves Georgia for 2020 NBA Draft

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Anthony Edwards is declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft.

The Georgia freshman star made his decision official on Friday. The 6-foot-5 Edwards signed with Octagon and agent Omar Wilkes. Edwards’ draft decision was first reported by Evan Daniels of 247Sports.

Potentially the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Anthony Edwards put together a strong season for the Bulldogs. The freshman averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game for the season. Edwards showed natural scoring ability and long-term upside. The freshman displayed smooth athleticism, shot-making ability and an improving feel for the game.

Edwards drew national attention early in the season. A second-half scoring outburst against Michigan State in the Maui Invitational set the tone for Edwards’ talent and upside. From there, Edwards had 20-point games 13 times during the season. Edwards also had 30-point games against the Spartans, Florida and South Carolina.

But Edwards also showed some flaws he’ll need to improve for the NBA during his year at Georgia. Shooting only 40 percent from the floor and 29 percent from three-point range, Edwards will need to shoot with more consistency at the next level. Playing heavy minutes to end the season, Edwards also struggled down the stretch. His final three college games, Edwards shot only 11-for-55 from the field. It’s possible that Edwards was burned out by the end.

Those are correctable flaws, however. You can’t teach what Edwards brings to the table as a scorer. Edwards has the necessary length and athleticism to turn into a premier perimeter defender. And for a player who reclassified into college a year early, Edwards is still only 18 years old. There’s plenty of time to improve shot selection and stamina the next few years.

When it comes to the 2020 NBA Draft, Anthony Edwards is a very realistic potential No. 1 pick. Even if Edwards doesn’t go No. 1, he shouldn’t fall outside of the top five.

AAC, Big East, Pac-12, SEC among leagues to ban fans from conference tournaments

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Conference tournaments across college basketball will feel empty this week.

Coronavirus continues to grow as a public safety concern. As a result, conferences across college basketball are taking unprecedented steps. Fans will be banned from the AAC, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC conference tournaments beginning on Thursday.

These four power conferences follow the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC, as well as numerous others across college basketball, amid growing public health concerns. Once the NCAA announced the 2020 NCAA tournament would be without fans on Wednesday, conferences aggressively followed suit.

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It comes as no surprise that additional leagues are starting to go the empty arena route. Some conference tournaments will allow some family and close team personnel. Others will maintain as much of a closed-door atmosphere as possible.

Coronavirus changing conference tournaments might only be the first step in how postseason plans could be altered. As coronavirus updates come through with every hour, it’s difficult to grasp how college basketball’s postseason will look the next several weeks.

No. 6 Kentucky rallies from 18 down to stun Florida

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Kentucky coach John Calipari went around the locker room at halftime and picked on just about everyone. His harshest criticism was directed toward star forward Nick Richards.

“Nick, you are so bad right now,” Calipari recalled. “We’re not going away from you, so you can either be the player you’ve been all year or look like this.”

Richards chose option No. 1. The junior scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half, leading the way as the sixth-ranked Wildcats rallied from an 18-point deficit and stunned Florida 71-70 on Saturday.

The shorthanded Wildcats (25-6, 15-3 Southeastern Conference) needed the comeback to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time in nearly three months. They blew an 17-point lead against Tennessee on Tuesday night.

Richards, Keion Brooks Jr. and EJ Montgomery provided the spark in this one, helping make up for the absence of point guard Ashton Hagans.

Hagans didn’t make the trip three days after arguing with Calipari on the bench against the Volunteers.

“Just personal,” Calipari said. “Here’s what I’ll tell you about these kids: In the last three years, this has totally changed. What is on these players. … The clutter that they got to deal with, the lists, what’s out there, not being able to stay in the moment, the anxiety of worrying a year from now, everyone around them.

“And then you’re at Kentucky, where every game is someone’s Super Bowl, every game is sold out and now all of a sudden you start struggling four of five games and now you don’t know how to deal with stuff.”

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Calipari said he expects Hagans to return before next week’s SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tennessee. Kentucky is the No. 1 seed and opens play Friday following a double bye.

“Hopefully what you’ll see is an inspired young man,” Calipari said. “And if he doesn’t think he’s ready for that, then he’s not ready. We’re going to go without whoever we have.”

Kentucky showed a little depth without Hagans and guard Immanuel Quickley, who fouled out with about nine minutes remaining. Quickley finished with 12 points. Freshman guard Johnny Juzang scored 10 points while playing a season-high 32 minutes. But the frontcourt did most of the heavy lifting down the stretch.

Brooks hit a floater in the lane with 59 second remaining to cut the lead to 70-69. Florida answered with a shot-clock violation on the other end.

Brooks missed a driving baseline layup, and Montgomery’s tip-in was initially waived off as a cylinder violation. Officials reviewed it and gave Montgomery the basket with 11.8 seconds left for a 71-70 Wildcats’ lead, their first of the game.

Richards missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving Florida a final chance to win it. But Andrew Nembhard’s 3-pointer bounced twice off the rim before missing, setting off Kentucky’s raucous celebration.

Richards was 1-for-6 shooting in the first half. He was 7 of 11 after the break.

“Coaches gave me the challenge to see if I could turn it around,” Richards said. “I took on that challenge. Obviously, we came out with a really big win.”

Scottie Lewis scored a career-high 19 for Florida (19-12, 11-7). Noah Locke added 14, and Keyontae Johnson 12. Florida led by 18 points with 11:48 left in the game.

The Gators played most of the second half with standout forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. Blackshear sprained his left wrist in the first half. He went to the locker room and returned with it heavily taped. He tried to play in the second half, but he ended up on the bench with it wrapped in ice.

Blackshear was scoreless for the first time all season. He had five rebounds. Without him, Kentucky had a much easier time in the paint.

“Obviously, that’s big for us, a big loss defensively and offensively,” Lewis said. “He’s someone that can go get an easy bucket for us.”


Kentucky: The Wildcats need Hagans back to make a deep postseason run. They’re simply not the same without arguably the league’s best perimeter defender and open-court playmakers.

Florida: The Gators have to wait and see their seeding. They will be either No. 4 or 5 depending on Mississippi State’s outcome tonight.


Kentucky: Gets an extended break before playing in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on Friday in Nashville.

Florida: Awaits seeding in the SEC Tournament. Will begin play Thursday or Friday.

Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans out for Florida game due to personal reasons

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Ashton Hagans will miss Kentucky’s regular-season finale at Florida on Saturday.

Wildcats head coach John Calipari and Hagans both confirmed his absence on Twitter. The sophomore guard will sit out the matchup due to personal reasons. During Kentucky’s home loss to Tennessee on Tuesday, Hagans and Calipari appeared to exchange words on the sidelines. The Wildcats blew a 17-point lead and lost to the unranked Volunteers at Rupp Arena to snap an eight-game winning streak.

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Hagans has been a vital two-way presence for Kentucky this season. The 6-foot-3 guard is the team’s leader in assists and a standout perimeter defender. Hagans is averaging 11.5 points, 6.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game.

Although Hagans has been a steady presence in the Kentucky starting lineup, he’s struggled with confidence on the offensive end at times this season. Hagans has only scored in double-figures six times over the past 12 games. His high point total in that span is only 12 points. And Hagans has become a non-factor as a perimeter shooter in that span by only shooting 4-for-23 from three-point range the past 12 games.

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Kentucky has been rolling even in the midst of Hagans’ offensive struggles. The Wildcats ran off a strong winning streak and locked up the SEC regular-season title the past several weeks. But if Kentucky is to make another deep run in March, they need Ashton Hagans to be on the floor and ready to go.

The SEC tournament now has an intriguing subplot next week as Hagans will likely re-join the team for the postseason stretch run. It’ll be interesting to see if this time away from the team can help the guard clear his head.

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Tennessee stuns No. 6 Kentucky; Rutgers, Michigan State earn notable Big Ten wins

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Super Tuesday captured much of the nation’s attention as the schedule was light on college basketball action. Plenty of notable results still came through.

Tennessee stunned No. 6 Kentucky with a comeback road win at Rupp Arena. And in the Big Ten, Rutgers might have punched its NCAA tournament ticket with a win over No. 9 Maryland. Meanwhile, No. 16 Michigan State stayed hot with its third straight win over a top-20 team at No. 20 Penn State.

1. Tennessee stuns No. 6 Kentucky with second-half comeback road win

The night’s biggest upset belonged to Tennessee.

The Volunteers used an impressive second-half comeback to beat No. 6 Kentucky, 81-73, at Rupp Arena.

Tennessee was down by as many as 17 points. Trailing by 11 at the half, it looked like the Wildcats were completely in control. Riding an eight-game winning streak entering Tuesday night, Kentucky was a team peaking at just the right time before the postseason began. Now, after another puzzling loss to an unranked team at home this season, we just have additional question marks about how good (and consistent) this Wildcats team might actually be.

John Fulkerson deserves a massive amount of credit for Tennessee’s win. Soundly outplaying Kentucky’s talented group of big men, Fulkerson finished with 27 points and and six rebounds on 10-for-15 shooting. Fulkerson was tough to guard one-on-one and his established presence inside helped Josiah Jordan-James (16 points), Yves Pons (15 points) and Jordan Bowden (11 points) all get going.

Kentucky looked disjointed at times during the second half as they completely derailed after a promising start. Tyrese Maxey had a solid night with 21 points. But Maxey didn’t have a lot of consistent help. Immanuel Quickley (14 points on 4-for-14 shooting) and Nick Richards (12 points) both had issues scoring in the half court. And Kentucky’s bench only accounted for a handful of points as nobody else stepped up.

In the grand scheme of things, this outcome probably doesn’t have many direct implications on the NCAA tournament. Tennessee still has to likely win the SEC tournament to even sniff the NCAA tournament. And Kentucky was always going to have a difficult time catching up to the current projected No. 1 seeds — barring an unforeseen collapse.

The biggest takeaway here is that Kentucky is still capable of mental lapses against mediocre teams that can cost them games.

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2. Rutgers earns its biggest win of the season over No. 9 Maryland

The Scarlet Knights might be dancing for the first time since 1991.

Rutgers earned its biggest win of the season with a decisive 78-67 win over No. 9 Maryland. A No. 11 seed in CBT’s latest Bracketology, Rutgers was stuck in last-four-byes status before Tuesday night’s win. Losing four of five entering Tuesday, Steve Pikell’s club needed to stop its recent freefall. But with another high-quality Q1 home win, the Scarlet Knights should breath a little easier entering the home stretch.

Jacob Young (17 points), Montez Mathis (15 points) and Geo Baker (11 points) led a balanced effort for Rutgers. Shooting an efficient 7-for-16 from three-point range, the Scarlet Knights limited themselves to seven turnovers on offense.

Maryland’s cold shooting also didn’t hurt. The Terps couldn’t buy a bucket from deep, going 6-for-32 from the floor. Besides for Anthony Cowan Jr. (19 points) and a late solid stretch from Jalen Smith (16 points), Maryland’s offense had a mediocre evening.

Now that Rutgers has secured this victory, its Big Ten finale against Purdue this weekend won’t be a dreaded must-win bubble-versus-bubble game. And with Purdue winning at Iowa on Tuesday night, the Boilermakers should enter that game with plenty of confidence. Obviously, the Scarlet Knights would like to win that one and keep momentum going into the Big Ten Tournament. But now that doesn’t feel like a must-win for Rutgers as much as it did before.

But the Rutgers court storm on Tuesday was well-deserved for its long-suffering fanbase. This is a season that fans of that program have waited decades for.

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3. No. 16 Michigan State rallies to get past No. 20 Penn State

Izzo in March…

Michigan State continued its late-season surge with an impressive comeback road win over Penn State. Trailing by 15 at the half, the Spartans scored as many points the first 10 minutes of the second half (31) as they had in the entire first half. With Maryland’s loss to Rutgers, Michigan State is now tied with the Terps for the Big Ten conference lead with both teams at 13-6.

Xavier Tillman Sr. put together a monster double-double of 23 points and 15 rebounds. Senior point guard Cassius Winston chipped in an efficient 14 points and seven assists. Perhaps most importantly, Michigan State’s defense showed up in the second half.

After Penn State blitzed the Spartans in the first half with 10 three-pointers, Michigan State didn’t allow a triple during the second half.

Michigan State now has four straight wins with three straight victories coming against top-20 teams. The last two of those wins came on the road.

Although Michigan State was sluggish at times during the season after being ranked No. 1 this preseason, this is currently one of the most dangerous teams in college basketball. The Spartans will get yet another ranked matchup in their regular-season finale when they host Ohio State this weekend.