Throughout most of the pre-season, the talk of the town revolved around Kentucky’s starting lineup. How would Coach Calipari decide which of his superstars should start? He continuously mentioned having nine or ten players of all fairly-equal status, so how could he possibly distinguish which ones deserved a start in the opening game of the season? Would it be tall ball? Small ball? Experienced players? Hagans or Quickley? Travis, Washington, Richards or Montgomery? Or just a little bit of everything?
Well, we finally got our answer: Reid Travis, PJ Washington, Nick Richards, Quade Green and Immanuel Quickley started for the Cats last night. Exactly as we all predicted, right? Not quite…
Quickley had stellar performances in the Bahamas, often out-shining Ashton Hagans, so the point guard position makes sense. Plus, Calipari has consistently demonstrated loyalty toward his players who choose to come back for a sophomore season, which could explain the Washington-Richards-Green trio. But where’s Tyler Herro? Sure, he didn’t have the magic touch last night, but his lights-out shooting throughout the pre-season sure did make it seem like a given he would be included in the starting five. And what about Keldon Johnson?
But while last night’s bigs-oriented lineup was different than what most fans may have been expecting, it was perfect for at least one player. Was PJ Washington surprised Coach Cal made the decisions that he did?
“Not at all. We’ve been working on that a lot in practice ever since the blue and white game,” Washington said. “I feel like that lineup is really good for us – we have two shooters and then we have guys who can rebound the ball really well. So, that lineup could be really effective this year.”
What’s so great about it?
“Reid [Travis] is going to get every rebound out there; Nick [Richards] is going to make every hook and block everything. That just gives me more space to play my game,” Washington continued. “And I have shooters with me and those two guys [Travis and Richards] down low, so it’s just great. It’s a win-win situation for me.”
While Washington may be happy with last night’s lineup, don’t get too comfortable. Reports have been released for months regarding how competitive practice is, and the top five spots could change game-by-game as the season progresses. Sure, last night’s lineup was big, but was it one of the more-efficient offenses we’ve seen? Not particularly, or at least not last night.
But, of course, Calipari isn’t worried.
“We’re still exploring,” Coach Cal said of the lineup after the game. “I mean, we had seven guys in double figures.”
It’s hard to argue with that.