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How much should Kevin Knox’s surprise choice of UK up expectations for the Cats?

Kevin Knox’s choice of Kentucky over North Carolina and Duke surprised many.
Kevin Knox’s choice of Kentucky over North Carolina and Duke surprised many. Raleigh News & Observer

Fast-break points from the office of Thunder Snow’s equine psychiatrist:

21. Kevin Knox. The surprise commitment to Kentucky men’s basketball by the forward from Tampa, Fla., on Saturday gives UK the No. 9 (Knox), 13 (Jarred Vanderbilt), 14 (PJ Washington), 16 (Nick Richards), 21 (Quade Green), 31 (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) and 78 (Jemarl Baker) prospects in the Rivals 150 for the class of 2017.

20. Mohamed Bamba. John Calipari’s Wildcats are still battling Texas and Duke for the 7-foot center, who is No. 2 in the 2017 Rivals 150.

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Kentucky still hopes to add Mohamed Bamba, ranked No. 2 in the 2017 Rivals 150, the an incoming freshman class that already has seven players. Associated Press

19. A word of caution. Even if Bamba picks UK, Kentucky backers would do well not to start printing 40-0 T-shirts.

18. Experience. The enduring irony of Kentucky basketball’s one-and-done era is the best Wildcats teams have all had a core of capable returnees.

17. 2011 Final Four team. Had a senior, Josh Harrellson, and two juniors, Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins, in its top six players.

16. 2012 NCAA title team. Had three of the top six players — Miller, Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones — back from the prior season’s Final Four trip.

15. 2015 38-1 team. Had seven of the top nine players return from the 2014 NCAA runner-up roster.

14. Wenyen Gabriel. UK will not have a veteran core next season. Its top returning scorer will be 6-10 sophomore Gabriel (4.6 ppg).

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Sophomore-to-be forward Wenyen Gabriel is Kentucky’s leading returning scorer (4.6 points a game) for 2017-18. Adam Creech

13. Looks like 2013-14. With seven incoming freshmen (eight if Bamba commits), UK in 2017-18 will resemble the 2013-14 Cats roster which had eight freshmen led by Julius Randle, James Young and the Harrison twins.

12. A slog with a glorious late run. Of course, those 2013-14 Cats struggled, losing 10 games in the regular season, before jelling late to make a run to the NCAA title game.

11. Moral for 2017-18 Cats. Even if Mo Bamba chooses UK, the likely best-case scenario for a team with so little returning experience is to survive road bumps in season but figure it out by the end.

10. 143rd Kentucky Derby. After what seemed a “blah” run-up to the race, Always Dreaming’s victory in the 2017 Run for the Roses was a smash hit.

9. Boffo TV numbers. NBC’s broadcast of the race drew a 10.5 overnight rating, the second best (behind the 10.8 from American Pharoah’s 2015 Derby) since 1992.

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Before Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges gave the “riders up” command at the 143rd Kentucky Derby, he walked the red carpet with his wife, Susan. Pablo Alcala palcala@herald-leader.com

8. Step up in star power. The Derby “celebrity game” in 2017 was strong — Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges; comedic curmudgeon Larry David; TV journalist Katie Couric; comedic actor Tracy Morgan; crooner Harry Connick Jr.; actor Adrian Grenier of “Entourage” fame.

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Comedic actor, writer and curmudgeon Larry David was part of a strong celebrity presence at the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Pablo Alcala palcala@herald-leader.com

7. Todd Pletcher. It was refreshing to hear the Always Dreaming trainer acknowledge after winning his second Kentucky Derby that the 1-for-45 record (for horses entered) Pletcher brought into the 2017 Derby bothered him.

6. Mike Smith. The veteran jockey finished 13th aboard Girvin. It was the 23rd Kentucky Derby ride for the Roswell, N.M., native, giving him one more than Pat Day and Gary Stevens. Only Bill Shoemaker (26) rode in more Derbys than has the 51-year-old Smith.

5. Corey Lanerie. Having won 12 riding titles at Churchill Downs, the 42-year-old jockey from Lafayette, La., is sometimes referred to as “the new Pat Day.” Lanerie’s ground-saving Kentucky Derby ride along the rail Saturday to claim second with long shot Lookin At Lee, however, looked more like “the new Calvin Borel.”

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Thunder Snow, with jockey Christophe Soumillon aboard in blue silks, bucked instead of running when he left the starting gate in the 143rd Kentucky Derby. Katie Decker

4. Thunder Snow. The bucking bronco act that the Godolphin Racing horse did at the start of the Kentucky Derby before being pulled up created international puzzlement.

3. Never know why. Godolphin chief executive John Ferguson told Great Britain’s Racing Post that the stable had no idea what happened. “It was just one of those things — they’re not machines,” Ferguson said of Thunder Snow.

2. A chip off the old block? Racing Post writer Nicholas Godfrey pointed out that Thunder Snow’s sire, the Australian horse Helmet, had some history of erratic behavior on the track.

On-call veterinarian Dr. Keith Latson on Thunder Snow who was pulled up after breaking poorly in the Kentucky Derby.

1. A Derby oh-fer for the Sheik. Godolphin Racing, which is owned by Sheik Mohammed of the Maktoum family that rules Dubai, has poured untold millions into trying to win the Kentucky Derby.

Counting Thunder Snow, the Sheik is now 0-for-10 in running for the roses.

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