One of the best college basketball moments this season actually had nothing to do with →
By Drew Franklin on ©10:30 pm
Good evening, dear friends from Big Blue Nation and those of you trolling us from other fan bases. Welcome to a late Friday night post here on KSR before I take off to see what this Anchorman 2 is all about. I’ve heard good things from a friend with a friend in the movie, so I’m hoping it doesn’t disappoint. But there are high expectations to live up to, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to see how it stacks up to the original.
Tonight, as we patiently await Kentucky’s return to Rupp Arena, the Cats’ first home game in what feels like a month, we’ll run over some of the newsworthy tidbits from Friday and then look ahead to those Bruins from Nashville. It’s the same team that beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill earlier this year, or is it?
Belmont shoots A LOT of threes.
Oh great, another team that launches from deep. Belmont is ranked top ten nationally in both three-pointers attempted and three-pointers made this season. However, the Bruins’ three-point field goal shooting percentage ranks much lower, 57th nationally, at 38.3 percent. Belmont is making almost nine long balls per game on 23 attempts.
Translation: Belmont is going to shoot a lot from beyond the arc, and they’ll probably miss a lot. If they’re not missing a lot, we have problems. Hopefully we see a lot of bricks, and if that’s the case, UK cruises to victory.
Is it Derek Willis Time?
We mentioned it a couple times throughout the week and nothing has changed; we expect Derek Willis to get some clock tomorrow. Coach Cal said in his pre-Belmont press conference Thursday that Willis has been playing great in practice this week and they need to find out whether or not he can play the “stretch-four,” where he can step out and hit the three ball. “We’ve got some things here we’ve got to try,” Cal said, responding to a question about Willis.
It’s Willis Time and I know many of you have waited a long time for it, too.
Ignore Belmont’s win over North Carolina. Fuhget about it.
I’m not calling that game a fluke, but I find it hard to believe lightning will strike twice in one season for the Bruins. Looking back on that game, Belmont connected on 20 of 22 free throws and hit 15 three-pointers — remember, they’re averaging eight per game — and still needed three three-pointers in the final 1:03 to get the win. That kind of night ain’t happening twice, folks. You can hold me to that.
Kentucky’s length will disrupt Belmont’s shooting, much like we saw against Boise State, and Julius Randle is poised for a big game after his no-show in Chapel Hill one week ago.
The spread opened at 16.5 points.
I think UK covers. The John Short spread is TBD.
Dave Neal and LaPhonso Ellis are on the mics tomorrow.
The game will be televised on ESPNU at noon.
LaPhonso may or may not be wearing this.
Belmont’s Drew Windler looks familiar.
Windler, one of four Bruins averaging double figures this season, had the pleasure of guarding Anthony Davis in 2011 when Windler was a member of the Samford basketball team.
Windler led Samford in scoring with 11 points in the 82-50 loss.
Last time Belmont played, this happened…
Expect more just like it tomorrow.
Coach Cal checked out Luke Kennard tonight.
Cal will have to catch Anchorman 2 some other time, because tonight he was in Franklin, Ohio to watch Luke Kennard ball. Duke’s Mike Kryzewskswsskksiwski was also in the building with Wojo by his side to see the No. 2 shooting guard in the 2015 class.
247Sports’ Crystal Ball lists UK as the favorite for Kennard at 78% with Duke being the not-so-close second at 12%. Kennard visited Kentucky at least six times since July.
Louisville freshman Akoy Agau is suspended indefinitely.
The timing of the suspension likely means one of two things:
(1) Bad grades in his first semester
(2) He’s having a little too much fun on UofL’s trip to Miami right now
Regardless of the offense, it’s another distraction for the Louisville basketball team and further proof that Rick Pitino can’t keep his boys in check. Keep your boys in check, Rick. See you in a week.
P.J. Hairston’s college basketball career is over.
He is now free to smoke all the weed and drive all the rental cars his little heart desires. Next summer he’ll enter the NBA draft, where DraftExpress.com projects him to go 28th overall. If that doesn’t work out, he’ll have that make-believe University of North Carolina education to fall back on.
In case you missed it…
Sean Vinsel of CardsAndCatsStats.com gave us an excellent look UK’s most effective lineups this season. It’s some of the most in depth analysis we’ve ever had on this site and it’s worthy of your time, although Chester thinks Vinsel should do less math and attend more games. Check it out.
Saturday’s game day lineup:
9:30 a.m. – The Kentucky Sports Radio pre-game show, 630 WLAP or online (98.1 The Bull will carry the second half-hour)
10:30 a.m. – Texas Roadhouse Countdown to Tip-off with Oscar Combs and Matt Jones
11:50 a.m. – KSR Live Blog
12:00 p.m. – UK vs. Belmont, ESPNU
By Andrew Cassady on ©9:30 pm
Ho Ho Ho. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! I know we’ve all tried to be good Wildcats this year but amid visions of Ryan Harrow and a 2-10 football team it has been hard. Still Santa Claus has been known to let some of those lesser things slide and leave some great presents under the big blue tree. Ahead of tomorrow’s tune-up there are a lot of things to be hopeful for the Cats to show off. Here’s what is on my Big Blue Christmas Wish List:
- Free Throws above 75%
- Great, Crisp Passes
- Defensive Intensity on Drives
- No shocked looks after foul calls
- Lob City
- Removal of the hand rails in Section 18 so Dancing Guy can’t do his thing to them.
- A Blowout Win
What are you hoping to see in tomorrow’s game?
By Will Lentz on ©8:26 pm
It’s getting to be that time of the year in college basketball – most teams are figuring out who they are going to be this year, and a number are starting to test themselves with out of conference opponents. It’s a good time to start paying attention to the national scene, if you haven’t been already. Even moreso, it’s a great time to start watching those top teams, and rooting for them to fail miserably so the Cats can jump back in to the drivers seat for a one seed.
With that said, here are a few games to keep your eyes on this weekend, when you’re not busy telling friends how the Belmont singing guy couldn’t hold a candle to the AcoustiKats.
Michigan State (5) at Texas
The Spartans only loss on the season came against North Carolina, and Texas’s biggest win in a while came also against North Carolina. Both teams only have one loss on the season (Texas lost earlier this year to BYU) and have a little to prove. The Spartans can’t afford to drop another game before they enter a top heavy (but pretty heavy) Big Ten with Ohio State and Wisconsin looming, whereas Texas wants to prove that they can be legit this year – and their win over UNC wasn’t a fluke.
Kentucky rooting interest: Texas. The more losses to top teams the better.
Oklahoma State (7) vs Colorado (20)
Both teams are 10-1 headed in to this Big-12/Pac-12 match up, and this could be a fun one to watch. OK State has been just rolling teams (with a few exceptions), and Marcus Smart is arguably the most pro-ready player in college this year. Colorado’s only loss came in it’s first game against Baylor and they are just two games removed from an upset over Kansas. If Colorado pulls off the upset this weekend, there’s a good chance they don’t leave the top 25 the rest of the year with a weak Pac-12 the only thing really left on their plate.
Kentucky rooting interest: Actually going to go with Oklahoma State on this one. They have a lot of opportunities to pick up some losses in conference with two games against KU and two against Baylor left on their schedule, and if Colorado gets up there in the rankings, I don’t expect them to drop anytime soon.
Georgetown at Kansas (18)
Georgetown is 7-2 and takes on the limp noodle that is the Big East the rest of the season, but has an ugly loss against Northeastern on the record. Kansas is in a pretty similar position to Kentucky right now – are they legitimate and just learning to play together, or is there just too much youth on the team to gel this year? Kansas is starting to feel more like a rival these days, with every recruiting battle we fight, so while I fully expect Kansas to roll, I am holding out hope for the Hoyas.
Kentucky rooting interest: Georgetown. No offense Kansas, but I hope you lose every game forever.
Fresno State at Florida (16)
This is a big game only for the SEC implications. Florida had some early struggles, losing to Wisconsin and struggling against Florida State – but they won two of their last three games in a row, all against top 15 teams (and their loss was only by a point.) Still, Fresno is only one game over .500 and doesn’t look to pose too much of a threat to the Gators. Florida needs to win, because every out of conference win is important when you play in the SEC.
Kentucky rooting interest: Florida, for the aforementioned reasons. If Kentucky wants a chance at a one seed, they have to beat teams who have high numbers by their names, and dropping a game to Fresno State here would really hurt Florida.
Illinois vs Missouri (23)
Missouri hasn’t really played anyone of significance so far this season (unless you want to count UCLA, which I don’t), but they are 10-0 right now and that counts for something. Illinois, on the other hand, is 9-2 and while both losses have come to major teams (Georgia Tech and Oregon) they’ve been fairly unimpressive this year – save for a big win against Auburn. But then again, who doesn’t have a big win against Auburn? Similar to the Florida game, Missouri needs this game to keep momentum going in to a down SEC.
Kentucky rooting interest: Missouri. Same as Florida – if we gotta play ‘em, I want ‘em to be good.
By Drew Franklin on ©7:45 pm
Coach Cal is in Franklin, Ohio watching 2015 shooting guard Luke Kennard this evening. The No. 2 shooting guard in 247Sports’ rankings, Kennard is a heavy, heavy favorite to join the Kentucky 2015 basketball recruiting class. He has visited Lexington several times over the past few months and admits to growing up a fan of the Big Blue.
Kennard is averaging 40 points per game this season.
Coach K is also in attendance.
By Drew Franklin on ©7:00 pm
Your University of Kentucky Wildcats opened up as a 16.5 point favorite over Belmont today, according to those wise and mysterious oddsmakers in Las Vegas. The line quickly moved to 17, meaning lots of folks are liking the Cats early.
I think the Cats cover and win by somewhere in the 20 to 25 range. Your thoughts?
By Drew Franklin on ©6:04 pm
Auburn University shouldn’t have a problem paying the $5,000 fine it received Friday for the celebration following the Iron Bowl. I’m sure they’ll gladly pay it, and more if necessary.
The Southeastern Conference handed out its punishments today, with others including a $5,000 fine to Missouri for storming the field after clinching the SEC Championship berth against Texas A&M, and $25,000 to Ole Miss for its second storming offense, a win over LSU. Mississippi State picked up a $25,000 fine for the use of cow bells; it’ll be $50,000 next season.
This reminds me of the funny Iron Bowl call from a confused Alabama fan:
By Drew Franklin on ©5:23 pm
Someone over at ESPN.com seems to believe Terrence Jones is the answer at the four spot for the Houston Rockets. The writer, Rahat Huq, wonders “Has Houston found its missing piece?”
One of the more entertaining spectacles from each Rockets game involves Jones corralling the rebound and leading the break on his own. In these moments, Houston’s guards stroll the other way, confident Jones will finish the play. And with a surprisingly accurate shooting stroke, Jones can spread the floor and give Houston’s stars the space they need to operate inside. He is always moving, either in transition or in the half court, finishing the passes off cuts to the rim that Asik couldn’t handle.
After attempts to honor Asik’s long-standing trade request, reports surfaced on Thursday that the Rockets had backed away from the negotiation table and planned to hold onto the big man for the time being. Undoubtedly, they weren’t too thrilled by the available offers. But it’s fair to assume that the urgency over filling the power forward spot has also diminished.
As Huq points out in his piece, the Rockets’ offense is much more efficient with Jones in the lineup over Asik, who will make a little over $8 million this season. Jones’ shooting, ball-handling, and ability to lead the break make him an attractive option alongside Dwight Howard in Houston.
Take a second and give this a read.
Teach ‘em ’bout Kentucky, Terrence.
By Drew Franklin on ©5:06 pm
That’s it, UK Hoops fans. No more. Sunday’s highly-anticipated game against No. 2 Duke is officially sold out. UK sent out a release saying the women’s basketball team sold out Rupp Arena for the first time in history, as it chases the record for the largest crowd to ever watch a women’s basketball game in the Commonwealth, currently held by Louisville at 22,152 when it hosted the Wildcats in 2010.
UK students will still be admitted free of charge, while faculty and staff will also receive admittance for themselves and a guest. UK students must present their valid UK Student ID and faculty and staff must present their UK Employee identification card in order to enter Rupp Arena.
They’re giving away a stake in the ownership of that racehorse, too. I hope to see you there.
By Drew Franklin on ©4:19 pm
Because the original video wasn’t ridiculous enough.
By Not Jerry Tipton on ©3:00 pm
The 2013-14 season is here, and Kentucky will spend the entirety of it trying to atone for the disaster was the 2012-13 season. John Calipari’s team is trying to do something that no team in the history of college basketball has ever done: Win a national championship relying primarily on 6 freshmen who were McDonald’s All Americans. With disappointing losses to Michigan State, Baylor (lol) and North Carolina, the team will fail to reach its ultimate goal of perfect season, and will instead try to console itself with a national title. To stay apprised and educated, follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
*Home For The Holidays: If anything has been made clear so far this season, it’s that John Calipari could learn a thing or two from Rick Pitino. Specifically, he could learn to schedule better. To date, Louisville has played one team ranked in the top 83 of KenPom.com, going 0-1. UK, on the other hand, has played 5 such teams, going 2-3 in those games. The result? Kentucky is on the verge of dropping out of the top 25, while Louisville is sitting pretty at #6 in the country. And while there are some UK fans who would argue that playing a tougher non-conference schedule gets a team ready for league play, the Cards are in the American Athletic Conference, for which they could prepare by playing in the 10th Region of the KHSAA. Advantage, Pitino.
*Do You Hear What I Hear: During the first half of Kentucky’s loss to North Carolina last Saturday, UK fans alleged that the difference in the game was officiating. They were right. By committing 15 fouls in the first half, UK sent the Tar Heels to the line 22 times. However, UNC missed 10 of those free throws. Had UK not committed those fouls, and had UNC converted three pointers on each of those possessions, then Carolina’s lead at halftime is a staggering 57 points, rather than just 3. Also, by calling at least 2 fouls on almost every UK player of significance, the refs allowed these players to rest up for the 2nd half. Bottom line, had the refs not so blatantly favored Kentucky in the 1st half, things could have gotten ugly.
*Blue Christmas: In 2009, John Calipari replaced Billy Gillispie as UK’s head coach. This does not bode well for Kentucky. Since then, Kentucky has a record of 102-14 with players recruited by Gillispie on the roster. However, the Cats have struggled to a 29-15 record without any such players on the roster. Yes, you read that right. UK has lost more games in the past 44 contests than they lost in the preceding 116. Did Kentucky move too quickly in ditching Gillispie? At least UK fan thinks so. “He got a raw deal if y’ask me,” said Bubba “Cooter” McJohnson, owner and proprietor of “Cooter’s Live Bait & Saloon.” Says McJohnson: “I knowed Billy good. I seen him ever’ day. Mattera fact, he use’ta sleep here in the bar, right ov’air in the corner. Or right on the bar. He used a coaster as a pilla.” McJohnson is convinced that UK pulled the trigger too hastily. “Alls he needed was a little more time, and he’d’a won a national championship. Lotta folks don’t know this, but it was his players what won ‘at thing couple years back.” He’s right. In the national semifinal game vs. Louisville that year, Gillispie recruit Darius Miller scored 13 points. The winning margin was 8. In other words, without Billy Gillispie the Cats lose to Louisville that night. This is no surprise to Cooter. “He was just a good ole boy who lived off of Dr. Pepper ‘n crackers. And Dickel. Cain’t forget the Dickel. Lord knows Billy never did. Anyhow, I been so upset since he got farred that I ain’t been able to turn a profit since.”
* On this date: On this date in 2008, Kentucky was 8-3, just like this year. They lost at North Carolina that year too, just like this year. In other words, get ready for another trip to the NIT, BBN.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©2:00 pm
Your Kentucky Wildcats will take on the Belmont Bruins tomorrow at noon at Rupp Arena. As the resident Nashvillian on the blog, I took it upon myself to do some research and give you the ten things you need to know about Belmont:
1. Rick Byrd loves sweater vests
Rick Byrd is highly respected by his peers and ranks eighth among all active NCAA Division 1 head coaches in career wins with 671. He’s been at Belmont for 28 seasons, leading the Bruins to six NCAA appearances (2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013). His closet also ranks in the Top 10 nationally in most sweater vests, with 493. The man loves sweater vests more than Mitch Barnhart and Chandler Bing combined.
2. This is the first meeting between the Cats and the Bruins
Believe it or not, tomorrow is the first time Belmont and Kentucky have played each other. However, Rick Byrd and John Calipari have met once before during Cal’s time at Memphis, when the Tigers beat the Bruins by six points in 2003.
3. JJ Mann is really good, but almost didn’t get a scholarship
The senior scored 11 points in the final 2:22 of Belmont’s upset of UNC, including the game-winning three with 13.1 seconds left. He finished the game with 28 points and is averaging 17.7 points and 4.8 rebounds so far this season. Despite being Belmont’s best player, Mann almost didn’t get a scholarship. During his recruiting visit to Belmont, he had just gotten over the flu and did not impress the players during pick-up games. Belmont’s players reportedly went to Byrd and told them they didn’t think Mann was good enough to play for the Bruins, but Byrd decided to take a chance on Mann, and it clearly paid off. Get ready to see him shoot early and often from the outside tomorrow.
4. The Belmont Mansion is haunted
Montevallo’s not the only team on UK’s schedule with some ghosts in the closet. Adelicia Acklen was a wealthy Nashville socialite and businesswoman who built Belmont Mansion, the antebellum home at the center of campus, with one of her husbands in the 1850′s. Over the years, Adelicia had ten children, one fiance, and three husbands. The fiance, two of the husbands and six children died before she did, and after her death, she is said to haunt the halls of Belmont Mansion, reportedly setting off motion detectors on a regular basis while looking for her dead children.
5. They’re without their starting point guard
Starting point guard Reese Chamberlain injured his foot earlier this season and hasn’t played since November 24th. Up until his injury, he was averaging 10.9 points a game and 3.9 rebounds. Without him, Belmont has suffered, putting up 20 turnovers in their loss to Denver. He was listed as doubtful against Denver. No word on if he’ll play tomorrow.
6. The man who sang Miley will be in Rupp tomorrow
Charles Van Dyke, the Belmont fan who sang “Wrecking Ball” during the Bruins’ upset of UNC, will be in Rupp Arena tomorrow. I interviewed him this week, and he said that even though he’ll be in the upper deck, he’s going to sing during one of UK’s free throws.
7. There is a Kentucky boy on the team
Sophomore guard Taylor Barnette is a Lexington, Kentucky native who played high school ball at Lexington Christian Academy. He transferred to Belmont after one season at UVA, and is sitting out this season.
8. Tomorrow’s tip time is the earliest they’ve had in over two years
The last time Belmont had a tip time of 11 a.m. CT or earlier was November 15, 2011 against Memphis. Can someone make sure they only have decaf coffee in their hotel rooms?
9. It used to be a girls only school
Belmont used to be known as Ward-Belmont college, an all-girls finishing school for the wealthy families in the Nashville area. One of the most popular alumnae? Minnie Pearl, aka Sarah Colley Cannon. (Howdyyyyy!) In 1951, the Tennessee Baptist Convention bought Ward-Belmont and re-established it as Belmont College.
10. Vince Gill is their biggest fan
Country music star Vince Gill may be Belmont’s biggest fan, attending nearly every home game. Personally, I think Vince Gill has it made. After hitting it big, he and his wife Amy Grant live the good life in Nashville, doing various music gigs at their leisure, attending pretty much any sporting event they want, and in Vince’s case, playing golf and eating plenty of good food. Byrd introduced himself to Gill at a charity golf event in the 80′s and talked him into coming to a game. The rest, as they say, is celebrity fan history.
The two are also close friends with Vandy coach Kevin Stallings, a trio that you know gets into some major hijinks in Music City.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©1:30 pm
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Louisville just handed out another indefinite suspension.
The Cardinals announced that freshman Akoy Agau has been suspended indefinitely. Agau has played in seven games this season, scoring two points and seven rebounds. So, not a major loss for the Cards by any stretch, but still.
Over/under on the number of days he’s actually suspended?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©1:00 pm
While his teammate Leslie McDonald was reinstated earlier this week, things don’t look so rosy for North Carolina junior PJ Hairston. UNC just announced that they will not seek reinstatement for Hairston, who faced NCAA eligibility issues after multiple brushes with the law over the past six months, including being pulled over in a rental car belonging to an ex-con twice, and being charged with drug and gun possession.
In a statement released by the school, UNC head coach Roy Williams expressed disappointment that Hairston’s career as a Tarheel is over:
“I am extremely disappointed for P.J., his family and our team as he will no longer be playing basketball at North Carolina,” says head coach Roy Williams. “P.J. made mistakes and I was very disappointed by his actions and now he is suffering the very difficult consequences. He is not a bad kid; he just made some mistakes.”
Williams suspended Hairston indefinitely before letting him back on the team before the season. Because of the NCAA eligibility issues, he sat out every game this season.
Personally, I’m shocked. I totally thought Hairston would be back by the Kentucky game.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©12:00 pm
Editor’s note: Special thanks to Sean Vinsel of CardsAndCatsStats.com for this in-depth look at UK’s most effective lineups this season.
Note: I use “possessions” below to measure the time a lineup plays together. I’m using a formula to calculate these: Field Goal Attempts + Turnovers – Offensive Rebounds + .475* Free Throw Attempts. This accounts for the ways a possession can end.
Kentucky lost to North Carolina by 5 points this season; that’s a fact, you can look it up in the box score. The box score also shows that 2 lineups played way more time than any others: the starters (Harrisons + Young + Randle + WCS) and a “centerless” lineup (Harrisons + Young + Poythress + Randle). You could even find the scoring margin when each player was in the game (commonly called plus/minus, or +/-) in some box scores. What you won’t find in the box score, however, are the scoring margins for UK with the various lineups they played. I’ve tracked that data, and it’s quite revealing. Here are the splits with these 2 lineups and everyone else:
Top 2: 28 possessions, +13 points
Other 18: 37 possessions, -18 points
UK was able to beat UNC handily with the 2 lineups they played the most, but were dominated when they cycled through other lineups. This isn’t a one game fluke, either…of the 18 “other” lineups played, 12 have rated worse over the season than UK’s average scoring margin, and 7 actually had been outscored on the season by the opposition. In fact, UK’s scoring margin has been hurt by the numerous lineups playing just a few possessions together in a game:
In most UK games this year, half of the playing time has gone to lineups that play a short time together. In the UNC game, 37 possessions were played by 18 lineups, and the other 28 by just 2. These “other” lineups have consistently hurt UK’s scoring margin. I don’t think the effectiveness, or lack of it, is driven by how many possessions they play. I think UK has 1 or 2 lineups that are trusted and play a lot, and during the rest of the game they search for combinations that work. Using +/- data on lineups and player combinations from the season so far, can we find a better rotation for Kentucky?
I took a stab at creating a rotation for UK by giving more minutes to more effective lineups. My guidelines were: 1) Keep the starters’ minutes about where they are now and 2) give heavier playing time to lineups with higher +/- ratings per possession. I didn’t look to just play the lineups with the best +/- this season; instead, I looked to find lineups that featured combinations of 2 or 3 players who have been more successful together than apart. I used 65 possessions to represent a game (UK’s average this year), and divided these reasonably among my chosen lineups. Here’s what I came up with:
Aaron/Andrew/Young/Randle/Cauley-Stein (+0.43 pts per possession so far this season)
This implies the minutes would be divided something like this:
Julius Randle 33
James Young 33
Andrew Harrison 33
Aaron Harrison 33
Willie Cauley-Stein 31
Alex Poythress 20
Marcus Lee 7
Dominique Hawkins 7
Dakari Johnson 3
This is a bump of 2-3 minutes per game for the starters and Poythress, and a reduction of 7 for Dakari Johnson and 3 for Dominque Hawkins. Other bench players would only play in blowouts or emergencies, so that won’t have much of an impact. If you look at the lineup combos, you’ll notice I focused on a couple of ways to make some bench players more effective: playing Poythress almost exclusively alongside Randle, and playing Hawkins with Aaron Harrison. Here are some numbers that illustrate this:
Poythress + Randle together: +0.45 pts per possession; rebound 62% of UK misses and 66% of opponents
Poythress in w/o Randle: +0.03 ppp, rebound 48% of UK misses and 53% of opponents
Hawkins + Aaron (Andrew out): +.025 pts per possessions, 53% effective FG% (adjusts for extra value of 3’s), commit turnovers on 21% of possessions
Hawkins + Andrew (Aaron out): -.09 ppp, 44% effective FG%, commit turnovers on 28% of possessions
Poythress has shot less, and less efficiently, this year than last; he’s become an excellent rebounder (especially on the offensive glass) and a solid shot-blocker. Playing alongside Randle allows him to focus on defense and rebounding and not have to be a source of post offense. Hawkins has taken very few shots when he’s in the game; playing alongside Aaron Harrison lets Harrison create offense from the perimeter, something he has done frequently and effectively this season. By pairing players who have struggled on offense with players who shoot a lot (and shoot well!), UK can be more effective in the time these players share the court.
If you assume these lineups will maintain their current +/- levels, this rotation would improve UK’s scoring margin by about 22 pts per game. That’s just not reasonable; it’s likely that these lineups would regress towards UK’s average performance this year. However, even if you factor in some heavy regression towards UK’s average scoring margin, this rotation would improve UK by about 8 points per game. That’s without drastically changing the minutes played by any of the players, and keeping the starting lineup as the most used lineup by far.
The +/- numbers I list here are just averages; no lineup is consistent enough to post these figures every game. However, playing more lineup combinations that have had success together for more minutes should give UK more of an advantage. Stretch that out over a 65-70 possession game, and it’s not hard to see an opportunity to improve by a few points a game…and that can be the different between a W and an L.