Kentucky coach John Calipari has been toying with lineups each game with hopes of finding that perfect recipe going forward.
Immanuel Quickley seems to have taken over the starting point guard position, while Keldon Johnson and PJ Washington have been the most reliable options at the three and four. Quade Green and Tyler Herro are still battling at the two, but both have ramped up productivity as of late.
At the center position, however, things are up in the air. Offensively, EJ Montgomery seems to be the best option, while Nick Richards has been slightly more impressive on the defensive end of the floor and on the glass. Consistency has been an issue for both throughout the season, and they have both found themselves giving up easy interior baskets against inferior competition.
As a result, Calipari has created a challenge for the lanky duo, and the winner will earn more minutes. It’s a simple challenge, really: if you block more shots and guard the interior, you win the job.
“I want to challenge Nick and EJ, whichever one is blocking shots and having a presence, you will play more,” he said. “So if you want to play more, you do that.”
Calipari’s challenge has a lot to do with just how productive PJ Washington and Reid Travis have been in the scoring department. They’ve been anchoring the middle on offense, but the Kentucky head coach wants to complement that with defense on the other block.
“With PJ and Reid if you want to play together, you can’t,” he said. “Somebody’s got to guard the basket. If you can’t and they’re shooting layups I will not play you two together. That means you’re playing when he’s not playing and if he’s playing better you won’t play as much.”
Richards finished the day with 10 points on 4-4 shooting, two blocks, and one rebound in 12 minutes. Montgomery, however, ended up with six points on 2-4 shooting, two rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in 16 minutes.
Neither racked up minutes, but they both showed some good things out on the floor in limited action. If they want more opportunities to shine, however, Calipari needs fewer miscues at the rim.