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Does UK Basketball have enough frontcourt depth to make the Final Four and win a national title?

Do the Cats have enough depth in the frontcourt to advance to the Final Four and be a national title threat?

There were moments during Kentucky’s 95-75 win against Buffalo where an additional big body could have been useful to mitigate foul trouble.

Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Sacha Killeya-Jones, and Nick Richards combined for 10 first-half fouls in the Round of 32. There were times when I looked at Kentucky’s bench after a whistle, and thought, there is no one left for John Calipari to put in.

For the game, UK finished with 20 total player fouls, but, somehow no one reached disqualification status. Thankfully, foul trouble proved to not have any costly repercussions as Kentucky utilized superb guard play to cruise to the sweet 16.

But will the Cats need more depth in the front court to accomplish it’s ultimate goal of making the Final Four and winning a national championship in San Antonio?

Assuming Jarred Vanderbilt does not return against K-State, I still believe Kentucky has a quality eight-man rotation that is capable advancing in Atlanta and making it to San Antonio’s Final Four.

However, it is difficult not to be reminded of two late season injuries that likely cost UK a couple of national championships.

In 2014, Willie Cauley Stein missed playing in the Regional Final and Final Four after a lingering ankle injury did not heal in time. You may also remember during that same tournament run, forward Alex Poythress tweaked his knee in the dog pile celebration after Aaron Harrison’s miraculous three lifted the Cats over Wisconsin in the national semi-final.

Ultimately, Poythress did play in title game against UConn, but WCS did not. I for one, believe that Kentucky does not lose that game if Cauley-Stein is available.

Just a year later in 2015, Alex Poythress suffered a season-ending knee injury in mid December and missed the entire tournament run, including that heartbreaking loss to Wisconsin. Having Poythress available could have easily changed the outcome.

Fast forward to 2018, and another key front court player is injured in March. Since the early fall of 2017, the Big Blue Nation has been in a constant state of monitoring injury updates in regards to the status of Jarred Vanderbilt.

The week leading up the Sweet 16 has been no different.

Vanderbilt missed a large portion of the regular season nursing a foot injury. Then on January 16th, Vanderbilt was inserted into the rotation and averaged 5.9 points in 17 minutes per game. His presence gave Kentucky some interior toughness and added terrific rebounder.

But Vanderbilt rolled his ankle the week leading up to the SEC Tournament and his status is questionable to play in the Sweet 16 and beyond.

Vanderbilt joked after Kentucky’s win over Buffalo that he had upgraded from 70% to 71%. I am not really sure what to make of that, but thankfully, he was able to practice this week, so it’s safe to think he’s healthier than that.

Kentucky could even use the services of Tai Wynyard if foul trouble were to become an issue again. Wynyard has a multitude of issues that will prevent him from playing for Kentucky again this season, including a back injury and a suspension stemming from an alleged armed bodyguard incident.

To win tonight, Kentucky needs to actively avoid silly fouls and try to get the most they can out of Nick Richards. Richards played only eight minutes against Buffalo and has not provided much when he is in the game.

That needs to change if UK is going to win a pair of games in Atlanta and advance to the Final Four and actually be a threat to win it all in San Antonio.