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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Ashton Hagans’ Return Edition

Ashton Hagans is expected to play on Friday. The victory during his absence should give the team confidence and relieve some self-imposed pressure. We’ll see.

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Auburn v Kentucky Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.

I guess I have to weigh in on the Ashton Hagans kerfuffle for what it’s worth. Here’s my take:

Hagans is a critical piece of Kentucky’s team, as important in his way as Immanuel Quickley and Nick Richards. I see this pretty much the same way as Matt Jones — his absence at Florida was a suspension that Calipari couched as a mutual agreement, because that’s how Calipari rolls when it comes to his players. He had no choice in the matter assuming the truth of the reports that Hagans refused to enter the game when Calipari wanted him in.

That was selfish on the part of Ashton, if true. No need to expound on it further, and any coach has to discipline a player for that kind of action. What the coach doesn’t have to do is share his manner of discipline with the world, and Calipari has always been much more than just circumspect on discipline where his players are concerned — he flat-out refuses to discuss it in any terms that can be seen as pejorative toward the player. I applaud that. Coaches discussing discipline issues in the media are likely more interested in burnishing their own image than making an impression on the player.

With all that said, Hagans has been playing poorly of late. He is making bad decisions with the ball, and hurting the team with unnecessary fouls and avoidable turnovers. Playing without him, and especially winning, was a big benefit to the team and maybe to Hagans as well, as it will hopefully remove some of the self-inflicted pressure he feels and give the team confidence that they can play when he’s on the bench.

Hagans has been great at times this season, and he’s only been less than good a few times. But he has suffered the same kind of decline we saw in his game last year, and that’s a concern. Going forward, we need him clear-minded and focused if this year’s team is to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

As to the video that surfaced with Hagans flashing cash, if the UK compliance department says there is no issue, well, in my view that settles it. I have almost religious faith in the competence of UK’s compliance department.

Having said that, the video does not speak well of Ashton’s maturity, does it? Is that a concern? Indeed it is, but “concerns” have a way of being mitigated by good performance on the court and good behavior off it. Let’s all hope for both.

Finally, a word on the SEC and NCAA Tournament. In my view, Kentucky’s seed will likely not be affected, whatever it turns out to be, by the tournament outcome unless they lose on Friday. My feeling is that they will wind up a 3 seed, and the reason for it is that the NCAA Tournament selection committee pays a lot more attention to data-driven metrics than they used to. The data says UK should be a five or six seed, but their record says different. Expect the SC to take that into account. I don’t buy a two seed, even if they win the SEC Tournament unless several teams currently above them lose.

Tweets of the Morning

Coaching is a zero-sum profession, cruel as knife.

Awesome stat.

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