Kentucky can make it work with short bench

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Kentucky’s 11-2 and coming off its biggest win of the season, a 78-63 win at Louisville. With a team that relies on three freshmen and two guys who didn’t see much time last season, one might think John Calipari would be enjoying the impressive start.

He did. For about 10 minutes.

He’s thinking big picture. That means finding someone – anyone – who can provide a boost off the bench besides Doron Lamb. Jon Hood and Eloy Vargas aren’t cutting it. Only 13 teams give their bench guys fewer minutes.

“We can’t do this with six guys,” Calipari told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “We can’t get in foul trouble. We’ve got to find another couple guys.”

He doesn’t feel “comfortable” using either Hood or Vargas yet (video here) which doesn’t leave him many options, either. (Unless Enes Kanter suddenly becomes eligible. Then Kentucky enters entirely different territory.)

Then again, the Wildcats can make it work with six guys.

The SEC isn’t going to be massive test, even if Tennessee and Florida somehow start playing better. Provided Kentucky’s six core guys don’t have to play every minute in blowouts against the likes of Auburn, LSU and South Carolina, the Wildcats should be able to rack up 25, 26 wins before the NCAA tournament without making everyone play 35 minutes a game.

Teams that have made a short bench work last season include Ohio State, Syracuse and Butler. All three played their starters about the same percentage Kentucky is now. Average record of those three? 30-6. All three reached the Sweet 16.

If Kentucky matches that, consider it another banner year for Big Blue Nation.

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