1. The “platoon” system seems to be working. The Cats beat the snot out of a talented Kansas team and it’s hard not to think the system was at least part of it. Kentucky looked fresh all night and continued to make athletic plays and stretch the lead well after halftime. The two shifts John Calipari has set up aren’t the 5 best guys and the next 5. They are two distinct groups who play well together. The offensively challenged Willie Cauley-Stein plays alongside freshman sensation Karl Towns while defensive whiz Marcus Lee plays with the scoring big Dakari Johnson. The Harrisons play side by side like they have since birth. Everyone seems to know their role….
2. …For now. Calipari claims to have no plans to go back to standard substitutions, but I just don’t know how it will work down the stretch in big games in March. Eventually, you need to go to your best five guys. Or you need to adapt to what the opponent gives you. In the second half of a hotly contested game, versatility and flexibility are weapons. Coach Cal might be leaving that weapon in his holster if he keeps the system going.
3. Why are we allowing Calipari to decide what we all call this system? Platoon? Reinforcements? This isn’t Vietnam. It’s basketball. I’ve always heard it called “Five in, Five out”, so from here out, I’m calling it FiFo.
4. You have to feel bad for the guys at the end of Kentucky’s bench, Sam Malone and Tod Lanter. Would they be playing anyway? No, probably not. But it feels more obvious now.
5. Wait, are those two guys named “Tod With One D” and “The Bartender From Cheers”?
6. Yes, they are.
7. At what point does Calipari shed the “King of the One and Dones” tag? He starts two juniors and two sophomores. Those guys may have stayed because they had underwhelming early seasons in Lexington, but the same could be true of every big recruit who stays in school. Cauley-Stein really lost the favor of NBA scouts at certain points during his career, but Calipari has helped him find his strengths and he’s a projected first rounder again.
8. Speaking of Calipari’s strengths, how good is he at recruiting? He’s like a mid-to-late 2000’s home run hitter at this point. People just assume he’s been cheating. It’s incredible. Look at a team of current Calipari guys in the NBA:
G: Derrick Rose
G: John Wall
F: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
F: DeMarcus Cousins
C: Anthony Davis
Bench: Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson, Terrence Jones, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Knight
Would that team win the NBA title? They’d certainly contend. Would you have felt just as comfortable sending this team to the FIBA World Cup as Team USA as the team that went? OK maybe that’s an exaggeration. Even asking that question is damn impressive.
9. Saturday. December 27th. Write that down. Kentucky at Louisville.
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and lone contributor at PalestraBack.com. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.
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