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.