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Could Tyler Herro be starter next season?

Tyler Herro (USA Basketball)

By LARRY VAUGHT

It’s months before the Kentucky basketball season opens, but it seems every day someone asks me about a potential starting lineup for coach John Calipari’s team.

Trust me, I have no idea. However, I will have to speculate for the Kentucky preview I will be writing for Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook soon.

Kentucky could go 10 deep — and should. I would not expect redshirt freshman Jermarl Baker to start. After that, I don’t know. Surely Nick Richards won’t start over Reid Travis in the middle, but then Calipari started Richards more games last year than I thought he should have.

But could Tyler Herro also start and leave Immanuel Quickley and Quade Green on the bench?

Paul Biancard, ESPN recruiting director, thinks it could happen. He told me at the McDonald’s All-American Game that he loved Herro’s shooting ability from both long range and mid range.

“He’s the shooter in this freshman class in terms of making a 3-point shot. He also got the best middle game coming into college in my opinion,” Biancardi said. “Inside the arc, outside the paint, this guy has a tremendous pull-up game.

“Calipari likes guys that can score and he can get baskets in bunches. He can run off screens or whatever and score and they have point guards who can get him the ball. I could easily see him starting.”

 

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  1. The starting lineup vs who finishes the games has been Calipari’s retort whenever anyone has asked about who is or should be starting.

    On one hand, the coach sees players day in and day out in practice, and the coach should have an expertise advantage over any fan in evaluating players’ work and contribution on the floor during games. This is why my default position has been to give great deference to the coach’s decisions relative to who plays and when.

    On the other hand, my observations over the last 9 seasons has frankly produced numerous questions in my mind about starting lineup decisions. Furthermore, I do not see that who finishes is an appropriate retort to deflect questions about who starts. Calipari has been defensive about his starting lineup decisions for most of his tenure here, and my observations indicate that he provides a systematic deference for starting spots to his current freshmen at the expense of his returning players. This is not a universal rule or observation, but has been observed consistently enough to generate this very discussion nearly every season.

    Nick Richards is a good case in point. Why did he start nearly every game last year despite the generally universal observation that (1) he probably was not one of the best players at that position on the team, and (2) his minutes were very limited most of the season? Sascha Killeya-Jones, as a sophomore, was clearly more effective on the interior than Richards, but he did not get the call, and as a result of a perceived (real or imagined) lack of real opportunity as a UK wildcat, transferred to play at another school.

    So, how does this affect the starting roles for next season? I fully expect the current crop of freshmen to occupy 4 if not 5 of the starting spots when November roles around. What does Calipari do with Quade Green, P J Washington, Nick Richards, each of whom were his starters as freshmen last year and now return as sophomores? What does Calipari do with Reid Travis, a projected first team All American transfer senior who has suddenly arrived on campus wanting to play?

    How does Calipari sit these four at the start of the season if experience means anything in his decision making process to start. Starting games has always been regarded as a reward for demonstrated results. This may be as much symbolic as substantive, but the perception that starting matters is real in the minds of fans, and I believe in the minds of the players.

    To me, a starting lineup with Green, Travis, Washington, and Richards makes complete sense, with one of the hotshot freshmen guards added to this mix.

    However, mark this post and rewind to it in November when three and perhaps all 4 of the aforementioned experienced players are relegated to back up roles, and Calipari tries to explain yet again that it is not who starts but who finishes that matters.

  2. YEAR ANE
    2010 0.268 E8
    2011 0.271 FF
    2012 0.331 CHAMP
    2013 0.186 NIT
    2014 0.229 CG
    2015 0.405 FF
    2016 0.247 R32
    2017 0.288 E8
    2018 0.206 S16

    Avg. 0.250

    That is 28 NCAA T wins in 9 seasons, average 3.11 per year, average E8 finish.

    As I have said many times, I really care much less about who plays, how much, and when than results. So, for 2018-19, the target should be to match the 0.33 ppp or higher ANE for the season, and win the championship, then all the fan chatter about who he plays and when evaporates into the air.

  3. In the 19 seasons since 2000, UK has played in 17 NCAA tournaments and 2 NIT’s. The following table shows the minumum ANE that a UK team should achieve to compete for the desired finish. For example, if a UK team wants to compete for a championship, the data shows a minimum ANE of 0.320 ppp is required. To compete for a place in the final 4, the value slips a little to 0.308 ppp. For the Elite 8, it is 0.291 ppp, and the Sweet 16 is 0.262 ppp. The data has been pretty consistent through this “generation” of data.

    Desired Minimum
    Finish ANE
    1 0.320
    2 0.316
    4 0.308
    8 0.291
    16 0.262
    32 0.211
    64 0.137
    NIT 0.084

    Coach, I don’t care who you play, when you play them, how you use them, or which individual players do X or Y in the box score. I only care about team success, and to have success at the banner hanging level (final 4) the team must have an ANE of 0.308 ppp or higher, and to be a real contender for the championship, it should rise to 0.320 ppp or higher. This is why I track ANE so dogmatically.

    I sure wish you did!

  4. Richards started because he has potential especially on defense. His offense needs considerable work but his only fault on defense is fouling too much. For much of the season he seemed like the only player who was really playing all out on defense IMO. With the new players Reid and Montgomery both being power forwards he may play more than expected again especially if he makes progress on certain aspects of his game.

    Montgomery, Johnson and Travis all seem like players who will be playing a lot. And of course there’s Washington. The front court is going to be much deeper than people were expecting not long ago before Washington returned and Travis transferred.

    The guards are another story. I don’t think it’s clear at all who will be starting early on. We should know more after the summer games. There’s a lot of talent in the back court and only Green has experience. He showed flashes of being very good but his projected Tyler Ulis style defense never materialized IMO. That’s a hard game to play and Ulis was an exceptional player.

    It could be Johnson will be playing in the back court. There is so much talent on this team they could platoon again. It worked pretty darn well most of the season even though I think it probably hurt them against Wisconsin. The opposition plays on a much higher level late in the season and if your players only play half the time they usually can’t develop as much as a full time player does. The 2012 team was a team where the key players got the time to develop their game. That worked out pretty good.

    This team is almost totally up in the air about who will play and who won’t at this point. Some are saying Green was promised a starting spot to keep him from transferring. I don’t think Cal makes promises like that. That sounds more like Saint K.

    Whoever plays it should be fun to watch. I even think Baker was likely the 2g before his injury. I have no idea how good he is. It sounds like whoever starts is going to be good no matter who it is. But I’ve thought that before and it didn’t work out. Sometimes it did though.

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