Everyone points to recruiting as the key to John Calipari’s success, and for the most part, they’re right, but ESPN’s John Gasaway has another theory this morning. Gasaway writes that the secret to Cal’s success has been assembling multiple rim protectors on one team, creating a wall around the basket:
Calipari has taken the role of “rim protector” and made it plural. Ordinarily, this role is supposed to be filled by one guy who’s susceptible to foul trouble and less than skilled offensively, but UK’s paying no price to speak of for having center-type players logging minutes at the 4 spot. These rim protectors don’t foul often, and they’re also excellent offensive rebounders. This season, the Wildcats have pulled down 46 percent of their missed shots.
The way college basketball is supposed to work, Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee should be playing the 5 spot for four different teams. Instead, they’re playing alongside each other. Calipari has flouted convention and built a wall of size around the basket. That wall won’t always be the determining factor — Columbia and North Carolina actually shot somewhat normal percentages on their 2s in back-to-back games against Kentucky. But having multiple rim-protectors on the floor at the same time gives the Wildcats the potential to simply nullify any opponent’s aspirations to compete, let alone win. Just ask UCLA.
Calipari is famous for developing point guards, but after DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Karl Towns, Marcus Lee, etc. etc. etc., his bigs may be his calling card so far at UK.