The Kentucky Wildcats are set to play their first game of the 2018-19 season without the services of Reid Travis.
The senior forward suffered a right knee sprain during Tuesday’s win over the Missouri Tigers, which is now likely to sideline him for at least two weeks.
Turns out, Travis himself hopes that’s all he misses, as he’s hoping to return in time for the March 9 matchup with the Florida Gators.
In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader, Reid’s father, Nate Travis, says his son hopes to return for what would be the final home game against Florida, which is also Senior Day.
“He sounded very positive about that,” Nate told the Herald-Leader on Thursday. “He felt possibly the Florida game. So he felt pretty good that he was going to be getting back.”
If that turns out to be Travis’ return date, he’ll end up missing Kentucky’s games vs. the Auburn Tigers, Arkansas Razorbacks, Tennessee Volunteers and Ole Miss Rebels. Obviously, that’s not ideal, as Auburn, Tennessee and Ole Miss will be Quadrant I games.
Still, it’s good to know Travis is hopeful of returning before the SEC Tournament begins. How well Kentucky does in the conference tournament may decide if they ultimately get a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
On Friday, head coach John Calipari met with the media to preview Saturday’s matchup with Auburn. He also gave a brief update on Travis’ status and what it means for Kentucky moving forward:
John Calipari said he doesn’t know exactly how long Reid Travis will be out but says his team will still be “good”.— Aaron Gershon (@agershon99) February 22, 2019
John Calipari, previewing Auburn rematch, says with Reid Travis out, PJ Washington will have to play more a “muscle game” and do that dirty work inside. “He’ll be begging Reid to come back sooner.”— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) February 22, 2019
Calipari also said with Reid out, Kentucky will use more small-ball lineups with Keldon Johnson at the 4 and PJ Washington at the 5. That would be a big stray from what Kentucky has done most of the season.
According to KenPom, 78.7% of Kentucky’s lineup combinations this season have featured either Washington, Travis or EJ Montgomery at the 4 spot, and none of those lineups saw Washington at the 5. Over Kentucky’s last five games, 99% of Kentucky’s lineups have featured Travis, Montgomery or Nick Richards at the 5.
However, Washington played a lot at the 5 last season, so it’s not going to be something vastly different for him, but Kentucky is obviously hoping Travis returns as soon as possible to prevent a big hit to the team chemistry ahead of the NCAA Tournament.
In 26 games this season, Travis is averaging 11.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for Kentucky. He has four games in which he’s recorded 12 rebounds, and he has seven games of 16+ points, including four 20+ point outings.
The good news for the Cats is they haven’t relied on Travis much on the offensive end recently, as he’s averaging just 7.0 ppg over his last seven contests.
However, Kentucky has relied heavily on Travis hitting the boards, as he averaged 8.5 rpg over his last eight games prior to the Missouri game.