By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
There’s seems to be a lot of college football news this week. Specifically SEC news due to media days being held in Hoover, Ala. But for those that aren’t inclined towards football or maybe for the folks that like a little variety it seemed like an opportune time to write an article about UK Basketball. After all, I was the one buying up all the 8-track tapes when cassettes first came in. Nothing like going against the grain.
In thinking about the lineup for this year’s basketball Cats it struck me that the potential roster seems to be a little bit heavier on perimeter players than what has been the case in past years. It appears that seven or more players in the roster could be spending a lot of their playing time outside the paint area.
The only true inside players are Nick Richards and E J Montgomery. Nate Sestina is a guy that could play some inside but is also known as a good 3-point shooter so he could be an option to stretch the defense at the four spot.
If Coach Calipari decides to go that route it could leave him with four outside shooters and one big man to work down low. Does that four out — one in game plan sound familiar? It should. Jay Wright, the head coach at Villanova, won two national titles using that same type scenario. Also keep in mind that in today’s college basketball world it’s not necessary to run an offense through the post to win a championship. Jay Wright and Villanova proved it.
In fact several teams before Villanova proved it. I am thinking in particular about one team that has historically been a thorn in the side of Kentucky Basketball. That would be the University of Connecticut.
Kentucky played Connecticut in 2011 in the NCAA Semifinals and lost to the Huskies 56-55 with UConn guard Kemba Walker scoring 18 points. My main memory from that game was Kemba Walker making big shots down the stretch when Connecticut needed it the most to pull that game out.
Kentucky got to watch a repeat performance of stellar guard play again in the 2014 National Championship game against the Huskies. UConn beat the Cats 60-54 and Connecticut got a whopping 52 of their 60 points from their guards.
In both the National Championship Semifinal in 2011 and the National Championship game in 2014 the team with the best guards — and more of them — won the game. I realize that this is a small sample — albeit an important one — but I can think back to so many other NCAA Tournament games where stellar guard play by the opposing team helped knock the Cats out of the tournament.
So to summarize, it doesn’t seem like a bad thing this season to have a lot of talented guards that have size, quickness and can shoot. In fact, by the end of the season John Calipari may go back to playing his “dribble drive” offense by playing a lineup that only has one player playing in the post area and having his players to move the ball quickly on the perimeter hoping to open up a gap in the defense and drive the ball to the basket. The big man inside will only be there to get rebounds and clean up the misses. And that system can work because as John Calipari so often says, “Anthony Davis only took the fifth most shots on the 2012 UK National Championship team.”
All in all, using a lineup that could go with a 6-10 post player and then a 607 or 6-8 guy manning every other position except at the point guard position, all with players that can drive and shoot, makes for a pretty formidable opponent to play against. And with that type of quickness and size on the perimeter they should be an outstanding defensive team as well.
So no UK fan should be wringing his/hder hands this year because so many big men recruits decided to try their luck at other schools. In fact, by the end of the season Cats fans might think it was a lucky break those big men decided to go somewhere else because it just opened up more minutes for talented guys that can play interchangeable defense and score in transition or from a perimeter oriented offense. That all sounds good to me.