College basketball stock watch: Kentucky freshmen growing up, Kansas vulnerable without Kevin McCullar Jr.



The last month has been a rollercoaster for Kentucky. The highs have included victories over Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss and Tuesday’s last-second thriller over Mississippi State. On the other side, the Wildcats have suffered home losses to Florida, Tennessee and Gonzaga. Four days after knocking off Auburn on the road in one of their more impressive wins of the season, the Wildcats lost to unranked LSU on a last-second shot by Tyrell Ward. 

All of this makes Kentucky an unknown commodity come tournament time. The Wildcats’ floor is one-and-done, but the ceiling is sky-high due to the sheer talent on the roster. The Wildcats brought the No. 1 recruiting class to campus — led by Reed Sheppard, Rob Dillingham, DJ Wagner and Justin Edwards — to pair with veterans Antonio Reeves and Tre Mitchell. It has helped Kentucky produce the No. 3 scoring offense in the country behind just Alabama and Arizona.

The most important player on the roster is Reeves. The potential All-American is the No. 3 scorer in the SEC behind Alabama’s Mark Sears and Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht. Last summer, Reeves put his name in the NBA Draft and reportedly took summer classes at Illinois State before electing to return to Kentucky.

Kentucky’s defense is still vulnerable and has question marks, but the offensive talent is undeniable. The last time the Wildcats made it out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament was 2019. This could be the year they break the drought.

Welcome back to college basketball stock watch, where all the happenings around the sport will be discussed every Wednesday throughout the rest of the season. This report will represent if a team, coach, player, school, conference, etc. have seen their stock rise or fall over the course of the last seven days.

Stock rising: Kentucky’s No. 1 freshman class living up to its billing

According to 247Sports, Edwards was the highest-ranked recruit in Kentucky’s recruiting class and the No. 3 overall prospect in 2023. He garnered serious draft buzz over the summer after he wowed scouts during Kentucky’s appearance in the GLOBL Jam games. After a slow start to the season, he’s coming into his own at the right time.  

Edwards shot a perfect 10 of 10 from the floor and finished with 28 points and five rebounds in the win over the Crimson Tide last weekend. His big day marked the most made field goals without a miss under coach John Calipari at Kentucky. 

Less than 72 hours later Sheppard scored 32 points and hit a game-winner against Mississippi State. Sheppard took over the game during the final two minutes of play and willed his team to a critical SEC victory.

If Kentucky is going to make a serious run in the tournament, it starts with the freshman core living up to the hype. Dillingham has shown what he can do off the bench and looks ready to hit a big shot in March. 

Stock falling: Kansas is vulnerable without Kevin McCullar Jr.

On Tuesday night Kansas saw its 67-game home winning streak against unranked teams come to an end in a 76-68 loss to Big 12 newcomer BYU. The loss also snapped a streak of 71 straight home wins when leading at halftime and an outright 19-game home winning streak — which was tied for the third-longest in Division l.

The more significant news out of the game is the status of McCullar, who missed his fifth game of the season due to a knee injury. Unfortunately for Kansas, it appears he could be in line for an extended absence.

“We’re preparing like he won’t (return),” Kansas coach Bill Self told reporters on Tuesday. “This is who we are. When we’re good, we’re pretty good, and when we’re not, we’re not. … It would help if we had (McCullar) back. But we’ve been dealing with this for about five weeks where he hasn’t been himself from a health standpoint. Even when he played, he wasn’t himself. We’re not counting on (his return). We hope it can happen, but we’re certainly not banking on it.”

If McCullar does indeed miss the remainder of the season, it would be devastating for his team’s national championship hopes. The fifth-year senior is averaging 19 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists.

Kansas has one of the top starting units led by McCullar and Hunter Dickinson, but the bench has been a question mark. One of the positive developments over the last month has been the play of freshman wing Johnny Furphy, who replaced fellow freshman Elmarko Jackson in the starting lineup. Both players could see an extended role in McCullar’s absence.

Stock rising: UNC’s RJ Davis is the clear-cut ACC POTY

Four months ago Davis wasn’t voted to the preseason All-ACC teams. Heading into the final week of the regular season, it looks increasingly likely that he will be tabbed the ACC Player of the Year.

Davis is coming off a record-setting performance in a 75-71 win over Miami. His career-high 42 points were the most scored by a Tar Heels player in the history of the Dean E. Smith Center — which opened in 1986. The only other player to score 40 points in the building was Tyler Hansbrough in 2006.

Davis has seized the opportunity afforded to him by Caleb Love’s departure for Arizona last offseason by recording at least 20 points in 17 of UNC’s 27 games this season. Davis’ 21.7 points per game is second amongst Power Six players. Purdue’s Zach Edey — the reigning National Player of the Year – ranks first at 23.7 points per game.

It’s unlikely Davis dethrones Edey for National Player of the Year, but it would be a shock if he wasn’t voted the best player in his conference. 

Stock falling: Wake Forest stumbles after win over Duke

After Wake Forest knocked off No. 8 Duke 83-79 last Saturday, Demon Deacons faithful poured onto the court. A fan collided with Duke’s Kyle Filipowsk causing an apparent knee injury to the Blue Devils star.  While the Demon Deacons would have loved to talk about their resume-boosting Quad 1 victory, discussion quickly turned to what transpired after the buzzer. Unfortunately, the bad publicity wasn’t the end of Wake Forest’s woes for the week. 

The Demon Deacons followed up their emotional victory over the Blue Devils with a 70-65 to a Notre Dame team that was just 10-17 coming in. The loss moved them from “Last 4 in” to “First 4 out” in CBS Sports’ latest Bracketology projection.

The Demon Deacons have two more opportunities to rack up Quad 1 wins on the road against Virginia Tech and against Clemson at home before the ACC Tournament starts. Sandwiched between those games is a Quad 3 home contest against Georgia Tech. If Wake Forest wants to get back into the field, it needs a strong finish and possibly a few ACC Tournament victories next month.

Stock rising: SDSU’s Jaedon LeDee is a mid-major name to know

In the NBA there’s an award for the Most Improved Player. If college basketball had such an honor, LeDee would be a slam dunk to win it. After a quiet first four years, LeDee has burst onto the scene this season.

LeDee started his college career at Ohio State before spending two seasons at TCU from 2019-21. He averaged less than 13 minutes and just over 4.8 points per game during those four years. Last year LeDee played in 39 games and made a single start during SDSU’s run to the national championship game.

Now LeDee is the focal point of San Diego State’s offense. The fifth-year senior is putting up 20.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game after never averaging more than eight points in his previous four years.

San Diego State is behind Utah State and Boise State in the Mountain West standings and a March 8 showdown with the Broncos could be for the regular season conference championship. No matter what happens, it’s safe to say the program isn’t in this spot without LeDee’s massive leap in production.

Stock falling: What is going on in College Station?

Speaking of teams on the bubble, Texas A&M is tanking its chances at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament thanks to what’s transpired since knocking off No. 6 Tennessee at home on Feb. 10.

Since that win the Aggies have lost consecutive games to Vanderbilt, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. The latest defeat was a 86-51 drubbing by the Vols last weekend.

Texas A&M is 15-12 overall (6-8 in the SEC) heading into its final four games against South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. At this point, the Aggies would have to win three of those to get back into contention for a bid. There’s also the SEC Tournament, which could provide another opportunity to boost their résumé.

It looked like the win over Tennessee earlier this month would be used as a springboard to get back on track, but that result looks more like an outlier now. 





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