If Kentucky is going to advance to the second week of the NCAA tournament for the eighth time in 10 seasons under John Calipari, the Wildcats may have to do it without their best player.
Forward P.J. Washington did not play in Kentucky’s 79-44 rout of 15th-seeded Abilene Christian on Thursday night and his status is in doubt for Saturday’s game against Wofford.
Doctors placed Washington’s sprained left foot in a hard cast on Wednesday after he visited a specialist to have it evaluated. Washington won’t play Saturday unless he receives clearance to have the cast removed Friday and he may not be ready to go regardless.
“The option was a [walking] boot or the cast,” Calipari told reporters in Jacksonville. “The cast would speed up the healing, so we said, put the cast on. Whether they'll take it off tomorrow to check it, I don't know. If they don't, he won't play Saturday, and then they'll probably try to take it off Tuesday or Wednesday of next week to see how his foot feels.”
In a subsequent interview with ESPN.com, Calipari added, “My guess is he won’t play this weekend.”
A 6-foot-8 forward with the strength to overpower opponents around the rim and the skill to knock down shots from the perimeter, Washington has been Kentucky’s top frontcourt option this season. For a 10-game stretch from Jan. 22 to Feb. 23, Washington was first-team All-American good and averaged 21 points per game.
While Kentucky didn’t need Washington against overmatched Abilene Christian, the next round is a totally different story.
Over the past few months, Wofford has laid waste to an unusually strong Southern Conference, reeling off 21 straight wins by an average of 17 points in a league that grades out similarly to the Mountain West and Atlantic 10. Star guard Fletcher McGee broke the NCAA record for career 3-pointers in the Terriers’ 84-68 win over No. 10 seed Seton Hall on Thursday. Wofford closed the game on a torrid 17-2 run, showing it is plenty capable of scoring in bunches.
Freshman E.J. Montgomery started in Washington’s place alongside senior Reid Travis on Thursday. Montgomery tallied three points and 11 rebounds.
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