Ever since suffering what initially looked like a very serious ankle injury in Kentucky’s exhibition game vs. Georgetown College, Nick Richards’ status for the Wildcats’ season opener against Michigan State has been in question.
It’s now a question that appears to have been answered, as Richards went through Kentucky’s shootaround and was even dunking.
The March Madness Instagram account spoiled the mystery around Nick Richards. He looks good to go. pic.twitter.com/bWMq0HI9UZ— Drew Franklin (@DrewFranklinKSR) November 5, 2019
In addition, Kyle Tucker of The Athletic reports that Richards should be available tonight, though it’s unclear how much the junior center will be able to play.
Next time I’m hurt, gimme the Kentucky basketball training staff.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) November 5, 2019
Asking around this morning, I expect Nick Richards (left ankle) to at least be available tonight. Might not be a ton of minutes, but anything he can give Kentucky would be a huge bonus against Michigan State.
Richards suffered the injury vs. Georgetown College as he was contesting a three-point shot, and when it happened, a collective breath was taken and held within Rupp Arena. He rolled in pain and had to be assisted off the floor.
Although the reports following the exhibition were positive, Richards had been placed in a boot by the next time he was seen, and he missed the following exhibition game vs. Kentucky State.
Richards playing or being out tonight would go a long way in deciding who wins the battle of the nation’s top two teams.
Tom Izzo’s teams have always been some of the most physical groups in college basketball, so the injury to Richards could have really hurt a Wildcats frontcourt that is thin even when Nick is healthy. Even in a limited role, Richards provides enough shot-altering ability and finishing around the rim to keep Kentucky competitive in the paint.
In just a half of basketball, Richards already looked like an improved player from last season, as he was active on both ends of the court and didn’t have the repeated mental lapses we’ve seen too often in the past. It’s obviously a major step up in competition tonight, but there’s hope this will be the year it all comes together for the talented big man.
We won't know for sure until Kentucky and Michigan State tip off from Madison Square Garden at 9:30 on ESPN, but things are looking good.