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UK confirms Reid Travis injury and timetable: What it means going forward

All things considered, this is good news. Losing Travis is less than ideal, but it’s not the end of the world.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Despite winning Tuesday night, Kentucky in a sense suffered a loss as grad transfer Reid Travis suffered a knee injury in the Wildcats’ 66-58 win over Missouri.

The injury came on a play that saw Keldon Johnson fall backward and land directly on Travis’ knee:

On Wednesday night, Kentucky confirmed that Travis suffered a sprained right knee and is expected to miss two weeks.

All things considered, this is good news for Travis and Kentucky, as it appears he’ll be back by the start of the SEC Tournament.

“I just feel so good that it was more of a sprain than anything else because you just get worried about that stuff when you see someone go down,” UK head coach John Calipari said in a press release. “We are going to be very conservative with this, so he may be out a couple weeks. We hope he will be ready for around the conference tournament or maybe even a little bit before, but I’m happy for Reid that we’re going to get him back.”

Losing Travis for an extended period of time is still less than ideal for the Wildcats.

The senior forward is averaging 11.6 points per game with 7.1 rebounds for Kentucky this season and most importantly provides the young Wildcats with a veteran presence unseen in the John Calipari era.

On Monday, associate head coach Kenny Payne had strong words of praise for Travis saying:

“He’s a very physical forward who has really learned to move his feet and be defensive here. It doesn’t always show up in the stats, what he means to this program, but I can only say this to you guys: I can’t imagine Reid Travis not on this team and what he’s meant. Imagine being at Stanford for the last two years, averaging 20 and eight and nine. You come here, the numbers aren’t the same, but your impact on the program is more because now you’re winning against the No. 1 team in the country.”

With five games left in the regular season, Kentucky will need both EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards to step up in a big way.

On Saturday, Kentucky will take on the Auburn Tigers. When the two teams met on January 19th, Travis had 17 points and seven rebounds. On the bench, Montgomery and Richards combined for one point and four rebounds.

Thus, Montgomery and Richards have no time to waste. Both must perform higher than their season averages in order for Kentucky to succeed without Travis.

To this point, neither has been able to find much rhythm game to game, but they both continue to show flashes of becoming impact big men. Truth is, Kentucky needed one of them to step up and take on a bigger role with the NCAA Tournament coming soon. Perhaps this setback with Travis will allow one of those two to find himself and become what Kentucky needs to win a national championship.

But if both struggle to rebound again like they did in Columbia, it might be a long day against a physical Auburn team, which now has Austin Wiley back after he missed the first matchup with his own knee injury.

That said, Kentucky still has a great chance to beat Auburn and should be able to survive Arkansas at home next Tuesday without Travis. However, going down to Knoxville without Travis on March 4th for a rematch with Tennessee would be Kentucky’s biggest test to date.

Still, there should be no rushing Travis back. Kentucky should allow him to fully recover while giving the Montgomery-Richards duo a chance to shine. Kentucky needs Travis at or close to 100% to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, so that should be the ultimate goal.

It’s also going to be pivotal for PJ Washington to not only keep playing at a high level, but also continue to become a stronger leader for this Kentucky team. The Wildcats are going to be leaning more on him for leadership for the next few weeks.

One other interesting thing to watch for will be when multiple Kentucky bigs are in foul trouble. If that happens, we may see some four-guard lineups with Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson manning the 1-4 spots.

All told, this Kentucky teams needs Travis to reach its full potential in March, and thankfully, it appears they’ll have him back soon enough.