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John Calipari has his best group

It took 28 games to find it, but John Calipari has his best five.

For the Cats to make some noise in the weeks ahead, it’s clear the majority of the minutes need to go to Quade Green, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox, PJ Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt. Coincidentally, those five players led the team in points and minutes in the most impressive win all season, and three of the five came off the bench to start the game.

If that is the winning bunch moving forward, it relegates starters Hamidou Diallo, Wenyen Gabriel and Nick Richards to reserve roles, along with Sacha Killeya-Jones. Each of those players can and will pitch in on any given night, but it’s time everyone accepts they’re on the second tier of contributors. The other group just looks better when on the floor together.

You can look to the emergence of Jarred Vanderbilt as a big reason Kentucky has looked good in its last two games, and he is the final piece to the puzzle. Vanderbilt is the team’s best rebounder and maybe its best passer, and he is finally scoring the basketball, too. He reached double figures in scoring the last two times out.

Then there’s the steady hand of Quade Green, who has proven the offense goes stale when he isn’t on the floor. For all Shai Gilgeous-Alexander brings to the backcourt — and he brings a lot — the offense needs Green with the ball in his hands to be at its best.

Kevin Knox’s importance needs no explanation, and now PJ Washington is playing up to his potential. Washington recorded the second double-double of his career in the win at Arkansas; his only other one came in the second game of the season, many months ago.

Assuming you believe Kentucky is better with this five leading the way, does it change your expectations?

The team we saw at Arkansas looks to be more than capable of making a big run in the postseason.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

19 Comments for John Calipari has his best group

  1. snoopjdawg
    11:37 pm February 20, 2018 Permalink

    Great rotation.

    Why does Nick Richards foul on purpose? Does he just want to sit and watch?

  2. 4everUKblue
    11:37 pm February 20, 2018 Permalink

    JV has made a huge impact, I love his energy.

  3. jahanc2uky
    11:46 pm February 20, 2018 Permalink

    I LOVE small ball! More exciting!

  4. Parker_UKFanNC
    11:46 pm February 20, 2018 Permalink

    Hami has the potential to be a game changer in games. Just needs his opportunity to put all the time in the gym he apparently spends in a game. Hoping he can prove me and everyone else wrong. Also if Nick learns to play stronger he will be key down the stretch.

    • catsby90.1
      12:45 am February 21, 2018 Permalink

      I agree we need them both. Seems like Richards is on a short leash with cal though. I understand taking him out when he picks up some fouls, but he takes him out as soon as he makes one mistake. Keeps him from getting in a rhythm

    • kjd
      7:41 am February 21, 2018 Permalink

      Parker: it was back to bad Hami last night, talking back, ignoring Cal, bad body language. Just don’t see him, at this stage, being a major contributor. Cal’s bending over backwards for him, Diallo just not getting it.

  5. Jimi40
    11:48 pm February 20, 2018 Permalink

    I like my team……..again!!!


  6. CatBlue in LR
    11:49 pm February 20, 2018 Permalink

    Yes, they certainly looked like the best tonight, but the key is P.J. If he reverts… not so much. And it does make us kinda small. Worked out well in the 2nd half against Gafford, though.

  7. makeitstop
    11:55 pm February 20, 2018 Permalink

    That’s his best 5. I said a month ago JV was the key to this team. But to go deep in the tourney your best athlete has to show. Without Hami – and to a lesser extent Richards – emerging as major contributors they won’t make the the second weekend. If they do develop this team could be the 2014 team w the right draw and matchups and oh yea, no Roofer. 5 guys aren’t enough. But they have 9 guys who can play if they just will. Heck 8 is enough…

  8. unbridled
    11:56 pm February 20, 2018 Permalink

    If Washington can assert himself and use his massive structure to control the paint, his potential is literally unlimited. The guy is a BEAST….just needs to play accordingly. I’m fine with the five starters listed but Gabriel needs to be quick off the bench. He’s not played his best the last couple of games but the guy is a crucial component to how well this team plays. Richards and diallo need to give guys a rest and get minutes when they are playing well. Let’s roll the dice and see what we can tear up. I like my team!

    • 72uksprinter
      12:26 am February 21, 2018 Permalink

      I absolutely loved PJ’s facial expression and body language after the steal, drive, bucket and foul.
      Terrific teamwork on both ends of the court.
      Loved the assist ratio.
      They played hard until it was out of reach and they could cruise a little and enjoy the feeling.
      Great, great win.
      GO KATS!

  9. trumpetguy
    12:16 am February 21, 2018 Permalink

    Some things are looking better. One, and probably most important as far as offense is concerned, Knox reading defenders much better coming off mid range curls and is looking like an aggressive, CONFIDENT scorer. Well done and he looks very comfortable doing it. Passing and player movement much more crisp and efficient. JV big time contributor on the glass. For everyone questioning UK conditioning…did you see Ark. players that last 6-8 minutes. They were running on fumes! Have to agree with the gist of the article, those last 5 guys in as a unit looked quite a bit better than any combination we have seen thus far. Arkansas shot selection helped us a bunch as well. Big win!

  10. henderblue
    6:56 am February 21, 2018 Permalink

    This team coming together (finally) and the move to neutral courts will surely help. Although the hostile crowd didn’t seem to bother them last night. And they are putting themselves in a position to make a little run. And all you haters who have been screaming NIT, read my lips….There will be NO NIT for this team!! Go Cats

  11. Kat4Life
    8:13 am February 21, 2018 Permalink

    I could not agree more.

  12. Kat4Life
    8:14 am February 21, 2018 Permalink

    Quade Green was essential as well. A few huge threes

  13. callitlikeiseeit
    8:29 am February 21, 2018 Permalink

    I thought we would get rolled last night! I was wrong! Proud of the cats. For me, that’s the best game we’ve played all season. Minus the first 5 mins!!

  14. TJY
    10:19 am February 21, 2018 Permalink

    Quade played great until he didn’t and then he got it back together again, but he doesn’t pass enough to keep the offense from “going stale”. When Quade is in, Shai still brings the ball up and still gets it moving. Quade spots up for jumpers. I want to see Quade pass the ball, especially on a fast break since that’s what point guards are supposed to do.

    Our length and defense can push us to beat anyone. I like that Cal has defined everyone’s rolls, I’m hoping to see us continue to build off of these last two wins and just keep fighting.

  15. Luether
    12:30 pm February 21, 2018 Permalink

    Good post, Drew! I think you might be on to something…