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Jon Rothstein says UK may have the deepest team, but he’d take Arizona’s starting five

Chris Reynolds |

Chris Reynolds |

Chris Reynolds |

CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein is the latest national media member to weigh in on how stacked the Cats will be next season. Rothstein wrote last night that while Kentucky has “talent on top of talent and depth on top of depth,” he’d still take Arizona’s starting five:

Sean Miller’s team has a fifth-year floor general in T.J. McConnell who has been through the gamut, along with a blue chip shooting guard in freshman Stanley Johnson who will be elite from day one on both sides of the ball. Arizona’s front court is seasoned and talented as well. Six-foot-7 lefty Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is primed to take a major step forward as a sophomore and Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski will form arguably the best power forward-center combination in the sport.

However, Rothstein adds that “no one can compete with Kentucky’s bench”:

No one can compete with Kentucky’s bench. Calipari will have four — yes, four — high level first-year players in reserve in Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, and Karl Towns along with a valuable defensive specialist in Dominique Hawkins. There is no team in America that has depth like Kentucky, but as of right now there’s not a team that looks like it’s as complete as Arizona in terms of the first five players it will put on the floor to start a game. 

Of course, one of the problems with Rothstein’s argument is that no one knows what Kentucky’s starting five will be. There are endless possibilities. Will Cal do the unthinkable for him and start a lineup without a single freshmen? With the Harrisons, Alex, Willie, and Dakari, it could happen. Or, will Karl Towns or Trey Lyles make their way into the starting lineup?

Leave your best guesses for the starting lineup in the first game in the comments.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

61 Comments for Jon Rothstein says UK may have the deepest team, but he’d take Arizona’s starting five

  1. Mc
    11:36 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

    Lee starting at the 3, and no mention of Dakari Johnson. This guy gets it.

    • Mc
      11:42 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

      I guess he doesn’t say positions so Lee at the 4 could make sense. Still, no mention of Dakari=no credibility

  2. Mc
    11:39 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

    First game: Harrison, Harrison, AP, Lyles, Towns. Last game? Who knows. So many options though.

  3. bosshog
    11:41 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

    Worst part about sportswriters……..they’re sportswriters and must always have something to write…..

  4. dg
    11:43 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

    1- Andrew H
    2- Aaron H
    3- AP

  5. Musehobo
    11:44 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

    So lets get this straight. Like UK, Zona loses its top 2 scorers to NBA, replaces them with a player ranked (by Scout) as 3rd. Keep in mind Karl Towns is ranked 4th. But they have the better starters? Our guys just got a TON of tourney experience in one year. I don’t see it.

    • Chris
      11:52 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

      Expect alot of idiotic articles like this!! U are 100% correct !! Judging how poorly Arizona played in the tourney this is soo stupid!! At best he could say they may have as good as a starting 5 as UK but better is totally baseless .. It doesnt factor a freshmen not being as good as advertised , it doesnt factor a player coming back and struggling .. And if that happens we have a huge bench to choose from for a new starter Arizona does not!! Again i still think we have at least as good of a starting 5 if not better!! This article is written to try to get BBN to respond!!

    • raccoon
      12:29 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      Zona didn’t play terrible in the tourney. They went to OT against Wisconsin in one of the best games of the tourney – in the Elite Eight. Remember that was the Wisconsin team we beat on a last second shot.

      They did struggle against SDSU, but that was partly because the one guard went ice cold and SDSU basically had home court in Anaheim.

      Arizona will be a top-5 team no question. Probably top-3 with UK and Duke. And if they wanted to troll UK, don’t you think they would do it with Duke? Duh, twice as much rage would ensue.

  6. Eazy E or Eric Wright it's all the same
    11:44 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

    G Ulis
    G An Harrison
    W Aa Harrison
    F Poythress
    C WCS

    • Musehobo
      11:46 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

      I would love to see Ulis start at PG. This would free up Andrew to do what he does best. Drive. Ulis can work the pass.

    • The Chief
      4:45 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      I think Ulis has to come off the bench until he can take the job away from Andrew. When that happens, I think you’ll see Ulis, two guards (choose from Harrison, Harrison, Booker), (Lyles/Poythress/Lee) and a center.

  7. Huh
    11:46 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

    By ‘been through the gamut,’ does he mean been to an Elite 8? That’s hardly the gamut.

  8. kd
    11:52 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

    I have no problem with that statement at all.
    But it reinforces exactly why I really want to see Calipari use our depth to wear teams down.
    Make fatigue a factor for the other guys.

    • Chris
      11:54 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

      How is their starting 5 better though? Not by stats or by high school rankings !! I just think its almost impossible to know that Arizona starting 5 is better!!

  9. uhh what
    11:52 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

    The obvious starting lineup is:


    Townes has enough skill to start at the 4 and that’s what he’ll play in the nba

  10. Brian the Derpface
    11:54 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

    PG An Harrison
    SG Aa Harrison
    SF Poythress
    PF Lyles/Towns split
    C WCS/Dakari split

    Cal’s already said he’s going to try moving Towns to a stretch 4 at times, so why anyone would expect him to start at center over three different sophomore centers is beyond me. Finding time at the 5 is going to be Cal’s biggest challenge. Moving Towns over helps some, but you’ve still got WCS and Dakari who cannot play the 4, and Lee who is stuck at 3rd on the depth chart at the 5 and possibly 4.

    • Casper
      12:05 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      unfortunately everything you said is correct.
      we need to get better by playing Lyles more at 3 and
      Lee more at 4, but i doubt it will happen.

    • Mc
      12:10 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      The reason I had him at the 5 is because I think Lyles is too skilled to not start. Time will tell of course. If Lyles is starting at the 4, and I feel Towns is more of a threat than WCS and Dakari, I’ll project Towns at the 5. WCS can get minutes at the 4. So can Lee. So can Towns. So can Lyles. So can Poythress (although he’ll mainly play the 3 because the 4/5 is too crowded). Other than Dakari, all of the other 4/5’s are capable of playing either positions.

    • Brian the Derpface
      10:21 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      WCS can’t play the 4, and Lee is quite the stretch to put at the 4. Why? It just doesn’t work on offense. Neither of those guys is a threat more than 5 feet from the basket, so it just lets teams sag, clog the middle and stop any penetration.

  11. Michael F. Jox
    11:54 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

    TJ McConnell is gonna be the Aaron Craft of college ball next season for all the sportswriters, which means I’ll be sick of hearing about him by December.

    • Chris
      11:55 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

      Did Aaron Craft make a final four?

    • Michael F. Jox
      12:37 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      Ohio State made the final four in 2012, but I don’t see your point. My point was they’re both overrated and TJ’s gonna get all the ridiculous praise that Craft got for the past few yrs by the sportswriters this season.

  12. James Milicki
    11:58 am May 2, 2014 Permalink

    AZ’s starting five? After losing Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson and adding only Stanley Johnson? No way, Give me Aaron, Andrew, WCS, Lyles and AP any day – would love to see that game

    • AaronJ
      12:07 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      It’s closer than you probably think, you can only play 5 guys at a time and their 5 are very good. If we play a fast pace to wear down the other team and take advantage of our depth then I’ll take us over anybody. However with that being said, we do have the team that was the runner-up last year that is returning and adding a ton of talent and experience.

  13. no
    12:01 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    All of our big men are better than all of their big men.

  14. Mack
    12:06 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    He either forgot or did not know about Dakari during his article??? Even BTI could have written a better and more complete article!

  15. shorty blue
    12:07 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    I completely agree, Arizona’s starting five is very good and can score. I hope we shoot a little better this year. And I really really wanted Stanley Johnson, I love his game, the kid is a baller

    • brain
      12:42 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      Arizona sucked offensively against good defenses all season last year.

  16. NBA league pass
    12:07 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    I would argue Wisconsin’s starting 5 is better than AZ. they’re losing only 1 player from what I understand and are returning their center. so basically the same team that knocked last years AZ team out of the tourney.
    I would take our starting 5 over both.

  17. bluebloodtoo
    12:09 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    If it were unanimous, there would be nothing to talk about. He’s got a decent argument there.

  18. Jordan
    12:16 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    PG – Harrison & Ulis
    SG – Harrison & Booker
    SF – Poythress & Lyles
    PF – Towns & Lee
    C – Johnson & WCS

    • Casper
      12:48 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      i like it.

    • 615CAT
      1:04 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink


    • CorntuckyJoe
      1:05 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      If we would play all these guys at a fast pace,(even press?) we could simply were out anyone else, Duke, Wisconsin, Arizona. They would die in the second. And then we could us a fresh Hawkins to harass the PG!

    • CorntuckyJoe
      1:06 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink


    • Mc
      1:20 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      Dakari and Towns. Good luck getting back on defense in transition.

    • jus sayin
      1:24 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      Why does everybody keep saying Lyles at 3? He can’t play small forward. Have you guys watched him play?

    • Mc
      1:45 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      I agree. He’s a 4. Although I do think he’ll get a couple minutes here and there at the 3 to steal some minutes. He guarded Stanley Johnson quite a bit in the Jordan game and did ok.

  19. Not undone
    12:32 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    Rothstein’s argument is not really undone because “no one knows what Kentucky’s starting five will be.” Rothstein is saying that he thinks McConnell, Johnson, Hollis-Jefferson, Ashley, and Tarczewski at Arizona are better than any five players at Kentucky or anywhere else.

    And I understand his viewpoint. UK will have the most depth in college basketball, the most talent in college basketball, and the most experienced team Coach Cal has had in the past 6 years. However, no player on UK’s 2014-15 roster has produced consistently on the college court the way Julius Randle and James Young have. Those two players accounted for more than a third of the team’s points and rebounds last year.

    We have seen the greatness that the Harrisons, Poythress, WCS, Dakari, Lee, Hawkins, and Willis (to a lesser extent) are capable of. But these eight players and the freshman will have to work hard to improve, if the team hopes to realize its potential.

    I like our team, but I am sure there will be good ones on other campuses too.

    • STEVE!
      1:06 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      Arizona lost just as much as we did when Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson went pro. The remainder of our returnees are much better than theirs.

    • Mc
      1:21 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      If I merged the 2 teams together and picked a starting 5 between those 20+ players, I’d only start Stanley Johnson.

  20. brain
    12:39 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    He can have them. I like my team.

  21. blueblue
    12:40 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    Harrison 6’6
    Harrison 6’6
    Johnson 7’0
    Cauley-Stein 7’0
    Towns 7’0

  22. Jason M.
    12:40 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    I think Towns and Booker make it into the starting lineup, w/ Booker taking over the 3, instead of young, we just need Bookers shooting on the floor as much as possible, and no way Dakari starts over Towns.

  23. Dingbat
    12:42 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    These are still the players that lost 10 games last year. UK will be good but they still have to prove it

    • L1C6
      1:48 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

      Yeah 10 games and mostly due to inexperience and trying to figure out their roles on the team. As you saw, they gained experience and figured things out. 1 of those 10 was in the championship game so let’s not act like this was a 10-loss Tubby season.

  24. Dingbat
    12:47 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    Either Willis or booker will get significant PT next year. How is everybody missing this we need a shooter. These two will be battling each other to be that shooter

  25. jluver
    12:56 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    child please!

  26. Bdmnky81
    1:22 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    Dude is obviously trying to stretch and break away from the UK love the other sports writers are doing. His arguments are based on conjecture and hypothetical without giving a comparison to whatever starting 5 we would have. Weak sauce article

  27. Dumbstein
    1:39 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    Jon rothstein can eat a dick. Bag of dicks maybe.

  28. Megan
    1:48 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    Ever notice how players on other teams are “primed to take a major step forward,” but no one says the same about Kentucky’s players? Others seem to believe the Harrisons et al. will be little better than they were last year.

  29. Andrew
    1:59 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    Would still take Kentucky’s starting 5. And guess what Rothstein?? They’ll probably have MORE experience than AZ who got bounced by the team we beat in WISC.

  30. jeffrey
    2:00 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    We have two guards that took us to the championship, they have a guard that has never sniffed it. I’d rather be in our shoes.

  31. John Ellis
    2:18 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    He must be watching some Arizona team other than the one I saw struggle so badly offensively and lose to a Wisconsin team that UK beat (without Willie). Arizona lost its two best players to the draft, as UK did, but UK added better players than Arizona – besides Willie’s return. So he’s just hunting hits.

  32. UKBlue1!
    2:22 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    A Harrison/Ulis/ Hawkins
    A Harrison /Booker
    A Poythress/Willis
    T Lyles/ Lee
    D Johnson/WCS/Towns

    I’m expecting big things from Poythress, Johnson, WCS and Harrisons. I think now that they have gone down the road there will be a major off season differences made in their games.

  33. LEE
    2:50 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    Just think, the scrimmages in practice most often will be stiffer competition than the teams they will be playing next. IMO, the only way to keep this team together is to platoon 5 man “teams” much like Pitino did in 1996. If he sees an advantage due to other team’s personnel, mix and match. But generally, it is the only way to keep this much talent happy. When subbed in together, no man feels singled out…the same philosophy of showing each player how many minutes they are getting, and that who starts does not really matter helps keep players focused. As many as 6 players on this team could average low double digit points at some point in the season (not for the season), and I guarantee you will see much better passing on next years team (Ulis’s ability to pass will pressure Andrew to do more of the same). They will be exciting to watch, will definitely lead the country in rebounding, and average margin of victory will increase drammatically over last year. The one thing that concerns me a little is 3 point shooting. Booker and Aaron are deadly, but the rest (Lyles, Andrew, Poythress, and Ulis) have to combine for a decent percentage (possible solution, Aaron, Lyles and Booker in at the same time). Free throws should improve, but if not, could be the only real achilles heel of this team, because teams will definitely foul us even more next year.

  34. LEE
    2:53 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    The beauty of it, motivation for more minutes means playing better defense. Has always been that way with Calipari teams.

  35. Keith
    2:54 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    Ok let’s assume he’s right. Then I’d take Cal over Miller any day!

  36. jp7
    3:54 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    Don’t forget to take into account the fact that Arizona annually chokes in the NCAA, much the same as Duke has for the last few years. All the talent both have had and they still flame out when it counts most.

  37. rainman
    6:06 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    There is a reason their point guard is a fifth year senior!
    He’s not that good, otherwise, he would be getting paid to play!

    One guy on that team would get major minutes at Ky., Tarzewski, thats it!
    The rest would be roll players at best!

    STUPID article, shows the writers, BIAS, or IGNORANCE!

  38. Beezer
    8:02 pm May 2, 2014 Permalink

    Can’t agree with Rothstein here. We are better at them at almost every position. Further, they don’t have a guy who can hit the broad side of a barn from deep. Jefferson struggles to shoot, McConnell is gun shy, and Johnson will be in the low 30’s from deep. Not to mention Johnson isn’t a two guard.

    Give me the Harrisons, WCS, Lyles, and one more and I like the balance much more than what Zona has.