Calipari’s potential lineups



By David Schuh | @KernelSchuh

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The typical roster for a John Calipari-coached team is a revolving door of freshmen. He brings stars in, teaches them to play together, and then restarts the process.

It’s a reality that UK fans have been forced to become accustomed to in the past three and a half years, and one that, while unorthodox, is embraced as long as it produces victories.

With different players come different lineups. In past years, the Cats have had teams that, while supremely talented, have lacked depth that could have helped when injuries or foul trouble arose.

While this year’s team may not match the talent of last season, it does have the depth that could remedy that.

“If I have a choice between experience and talent, I’ll choose talent,” Calipari said. “I’m going to mess around (with the lineups). I don’t know yet but we have some ideas.”

The potential lineup scenarios are abundant.

First, there’s the big lineup. Freshmen Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein could be on the court together — both are close to 7 feet tall. With their height and athleticism, the two could make for an impenetrable lane, even more so than last year because it would be difficult to draw both away from the basket (like teams tried to do to Anthony Davis last season).

Another big frontcourt option includes sophomore Kyle Wiltjer. While he doesn’t bring the potential shot-blocking ability that Noel or even Cauley-Stein do, his height can bother opposing power forwards, especially if he has put on the weight people think he needed last season.

The other thing Wiltjer brings is the ability to stretch the defense with his outside shot. His inside/outside skill set can give space for the other post players and add a dimension that is difficult to guard for opposing forwards.

Coupled with 6-foot-7 freshman forward Alex Poythress, the frontcourt seems to be solidified with a lot of potential heading into the season.

The other luxury Calipari has is at the guard position.

Junior transfer Ryan Harrow and freshman Archie Goodwin will most likely start at the one and two guard spots, but there are three or four players who can be interchanged as needed.

Harrow will get the majority of the time at point guard. As a transfer who sat out last season, he has had an entire year to practice under Calipari and learn the dribble-drive offense. Some people even said he routinely outplayed Marquis Teague in practice last season.

“He is a lot stronger than he looks,” Calipari said of Harrow. “He’s out of the mold of Brandon (Knight). He’s skilled and can score the ball.”

Goodwin can reportedly play some point guard, much like how Doron Lamb was used on a need-be basis last season.

He will be mostly used, however, in an off-guard position, given his outside shooting ability and defensive motor.

“Archie right now is looking like he’s out of the mold of DeAndre (Liggins) and Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist),” Calipari said. “He can guard two or three positions.”

The Cats got a similar type of player in the offseason in transfer Julius Mays. At 6-foot-2, Mays has the body of a strong point guard, but also a well-groomed scoring game. He averaged more than 14 points per game last season at Wright State, shooting 42 percent from 3-point range.

Junior Jarrod Polson and lone senior Twany Beckham could see playing time sparingly, but with Harrow, Goodwin and Mays, Calipari has a lot of options in his backcourt.

Many fans view this UK team as a downgrade from last season. It can’t be argued that the experience is missing, given that

Wiltjer has the most NCAA Tournament playing time on the team. It also can’t be argued that there may not be a No. 1 overall NBA draft pick on the roster.

But the 2012-13 UK team does have seven players who could get drafted next year, all of which could lead the team in scoring on any given night. If the players develop and continue to improve, it gives the Cats a great chance to win a lot of games this season.