Kentucky Athletics

John Calipari on whether Kentucky will use platoons this season: ‘I think so’

Kentucky Athletics

The biggest issue facing the 2014-2015 version of the Kentucky Wildcats is, simply, playing time.

This team goes ten deep, and that’s before you factor in Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis, two local guys that could probably start for some 300 Division I teams. John Calipari’s solution to that problem during Kentucky’s six-game swing through the Bahamas was simple: platoons.

Cal broke his team up into two units during the exhibitions last week, with the starters and the players off the bench all playing right around 20 minutes per game. At every TV timeout, more or less, Cal would call for a line change, subbing all five players on the court.

With how deep his roster is — the tenth man on this team is Marcus Lee, who was a top 30 recruit in 2013 and could end up being a first round draft pick after this season even if he plays limited minutes — Cal is able to do that without taking that much of a hit with the talent that he has on the floor. In other words, Kentucky’s second five is probably better than the starting lineups of most teams outside the top 20.

It’s an easy way for him to guarantee minutes to his players, and it may actually be beneficial to get each group comfortable with playing along side the other four players they’ll spend the year playing with. And, theoretically, he could create nightmares for opposing coaches and teams if he has those two platoons playing different styles. Imagine trying to prepare for Kentucky if the first five play zone and the second five run a non-stop, full-court press.

And, based on what Cal is saying right now, it sounds like the platoon system is something he’s giving serious thought to. From the Louisville Courier-Journal’s interview with Coach Cal:

I think so. There may be games it’s difficult to win (doing that). The only ones that are the most important to win are those last six. So, yeah. And I think what happened here was, the greatest thing is everyone had a chance to show they should be playing more or less, they should be playing or not playing. You can’t say, ‘Well, I’ve never had an opportunity.’


I also think that when you two-platoon and you have guys playing 20 minutes, which is plenty of time; the reality of it is three or four more minutes a half (in a normal rotation). Just play harder. You get more done, you’re more efficient. So playing 20 minutes a game, everybody had their time. And I think every guy shined. I don’t think there’s one guy – no one hurt themselves. Some guys helped themselves more than others. That’s just how life is. But no one you look at and say, ‘Man, they’re just not ready. They can’t do this.’ No. Just other guys were better and helped themselves more.

Will it work? Who knows. Foul trouble could wreak havoc with that system, and in the final minutes, I’m sure Coach Cal is going to want to make situational changes based on matchups, who is playing well and who his best players are. In other words, I’ll believe that Cal will keep his second five on the floor in crunch time of a close game when I see him do it.

But I can see him using this platoon system for the first 16 minutes of each half. Frankly, it might be the best way to keep everyone happy. If everyone’s happy, than every one is playing hard.

And with the amount of talent that is on this roster, convincing this group to play hard all the time may be the most important part of Cal’s job this year.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?