Court Vision: Kentucky delivers on No. 1 ranking, thumps No. 5 Kansas
Going inside the Kentucky Wildcats' 72-40 win over the Kansas Jayhawks on Tuesday night.
1. How long will the platoon system last?
When Kentucky fans on one side of the court yell "blue" then the other side yells "white" they aren't showing their support for the Wildcats. They're asking coach John Calipari to make substitutions.
OK, not seriously.
The Wildcats have such a deep roster they'll employ a platoon system to make substitutions this season. The "Blue Platoon" is the most experienced (a term rarely used for a Calipari club); made up of freshman Karl-Anthony Towns, sophomores Aaron and Andrew Harrison and juniors Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress. This is the unit that comprised the starting five against Kansas.
The "White Platoon" is made up of three freshmen (Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis and Trey Lyles) and two sophomores (Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson).
When Calipari wants to make a substitution, he won't grab a guy or two to send into the game, he'll grab a whole platoon. Each group of five -- for the most part; injuries will happen -- will play together and stay together.
Keeping the units together will help build cohesion, and it will allow each to play as hard as possible without worrying about fatigue. This will absolutely wear out opponents.
No player among the two platoons played more than 21 minutes or fewer than 17 minutes against the Jayhawks. And each platoon brought unique abilities.
The "Blue Platoon" was the better scoring unit, and a group that will physically manhandle other teams. The "White Platoon" was better defensively and has the speed and range to offer full-court pressure every second it's on the floor.
2. Kentucky will be the most talented team on the floor in every game it plays this season.
That's what having a plethora of McDonald's All-Americans will do for a team.
The Wildcats boasted nine former McDonald's All-Americans on its roster on Tuesday. That's almost enough to man an actual franchise, although these guys won't be leaving the basketball court anytime soon.
Cauley-Stein, who tied with Aaron Harrison for the team lead with 21 minutes played, was the only member of Kentucky's 10-man rotation that wasn't a McDonald's All-American. He led the team with 10 rebounds too.
Not only is this team wonderfully talented. The Harrison twins, combined with Ulis and Booker, make up what might be the most talented backcourt in the game. Cauley-Stein blocks shots as well as anyone in the country, while Towns (who had four blocks against Kansas) is no slouch either.
But the Wildcats aren't just talented and deep, they're balanced as well. When Johnson landed a layup with 6:13 left on the clock in the first half, he became the 10th player for Kentucky to score points. He ultimately became his team's high scorer with 11 points. The lowest figure (4) was shared by four of the members of the 10-man rotation.
3.To beat Kentucky, a team had better be able to shoot from outside. Because the Wildcats absolutely owned the paint.
When the fact is brought up that Kansas scored just 12 points in the paint, it's not nearly a telling enough stat. At no moment during this game were the Jayhawks comfortable within 10 feet of the basket.
To start, Kentucky blocked 11 shots on the night. That figure could have been higher had the referees not called a few ticky-tack fouls down low.
When the Jayhawks had the ball anywhere in the paint, their shooters were in a rush to get the shot up. Every shot was contested, and if it wasn't thrown up quickly, shooters had next-to-no chance. This caused a lot of poorly formed shots as technique went out the window. In its place was an immediate urge to propel the ball toward the rim.
Fear of having a shot blocked was prevalent.
Kansas shot just 20 percent from the floor. When the Jayhawks kicked the ball outside to try from long range, their success was limited too. Kansas also shot 20 percent from three-point range. There was no bailing out the big men on the wing; shooting hands were cold, hence the mere 40 total points.
When the Jayhawks did get a shot off inside, they were only allowed one chance. Of Kentucky's 47 rebounds, 32 came on the defensive side of the floor.
These Wildcats are so big, and so aggressive in the paint, that it's going to take a stellar night of sharp shooting from long range for any team to have a chance to topple Kentucky.
STATS THAT MATTER
11: St. John's led the nation last season with 7.63 blocks per game. On Tuesday, Kentucky denied 11 Kansas shots, and should have had more. The Wildcats will likely have more than 11 blocks on a number of occasions this season, and should take over as the best team at rejecting shots in college hoops.
6: For a team that was as aggressive and active as Kentucky was on Tuesday, it's amazing that the Wildcats only had six turnovers. To show you how athletic this team was, even though it turned the ball over six times, Kansas only managed five points off turnovers. Kentucky was fast to react, and got back on defense quickly after losing possession.
14:39: Kansas went on an 11-3 run to end the first half. The Jayhawks were lucky to get to the break with only a 10-point deficit. So what happened when the Jayhawks hit the floor with a ton of momentum in the second half? Kentucky kept them from scoring until Cliff Alexander hit a free throw at the 14:39 mark. Kansas didn't register a field goal until 44 second later.