P.J. Washington will sit out Kentucky’s first-round game. (James Crisp/Associated Press)

An injury to P.J. Washington has overshadowed the annual gossip surrounding the future of John Calipari at Kentucky, with the Wildcats sophomore ruled out for the team’s NCAA tournament opener Thursday night against Abilene Christian.

“The specialists confirmed our original diagnosis that @PJWashington has a sprained foot and there is no fracture,” Calipari tweeted Thursday morning. “Once we determined that P.J. was not going to play today, they put him in a hard cast for precautionary reasons. He is out for today’s game.”

It is unclear whether Washington would be available for the second-round game Saturday in Jacksonville, should Kentucky advance. Washington, who leads Kentucky in scoring (14.8 ppg) and rebounding (7.5 rpg), reportedly was wearing the boot as far back as Sunday. It isn’t clear exactly when Washington suffered the sprain; he played only 20 minutes in Kentucky’s 82-78 loss to Tennessee in an SEC tournament semifinal Saturday.

As for Calipari personally, he did his best Wednesday to squelch speculation that he might be interested in becoming the UCLA coach.

“Before I go to bed, let me just say this: I’m coaching at the Univ. of Kentucky,” he wrote on Twitter. “In my opinion, there is no better job in the world to coach basketball. My plan and my desire is to retire at Kentucky. I think the university feels the same as I do and we’ve talked openly about it.” And with that, he added, “Now let’s focus on this game tomorrow [Thursday]!”

Ah, but talk is cheap, right? And he has gotten around, making stops at Massachusetts, Memphis and in the NBA before becoming only the seventh coach in Kentucky hoops history in 2009. As for UCLA, there has been little movement since the school fired Steve Alford on Dec. 31, with the buzz surrounding Calipari and Tony Bennett, whose top-seeded Virginia team opens play in the NCAA tournament on Friday.

Somehow, this is always the season of denial for Coach Cal. Two years ago, he reminded everyone that “I am the coach at Kentucky and will be for a long time” when his name surfaced in connection with a Knicks vacancy. And he shot down rumors about the Nets, Kings and Pelicans the season before that. He’ll probably get the chance to shoot down the rumors after his No. 2 seed Wildcats (27-6) play 15th-seeded Abilene Christian.

It can’t hurt to ask, right?

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