Everything seems to change for this Kentucky team, after nearly every game. Someone gets hurt, someone returns. Someone soars, someone else falls back.
* Alex Poythress is back, and the offense seems to thrive with him in there. He's not as tall as Skal, nor as bulky as Isaac Humphries, nor as springy as Marcus Lee. But he's the most athletic of the group and has become a wily veteran by this, his senior season.
Getting the ball in the post or along the baseline, he showed some good moves against Alabama, an ability to get free and a nice, soft little jump hook from the lane. Maybe he'll begin getting some more oops and some more rebounds when he feels confident about both of his knees.
* Marcus Lee is currently on a bit of an upswing, showing he can avoid fouls and do some good stuff on both ends - blocking shots, keeping the ball alive on the offensive board, grabbing his share of strong, two-handed rebounds on the defensive board. Any points he scores are purely a bonus. Think of him as a skinnier, less-tatted Willie Cauley-Stein.
* Isaac Humphries showed that he earned more playing time with his performances against A&M and Alabama. Erase the stigma of that technical from your mind and hope that he has erased it from his. Not only does he give the bigs some added heft and a bunch of fouls to play with, but he's a lot more than simply a zero-sum option. He's a strong rebounder, a fairly good shot-blocker and will score some put-backs and little jumpers.
* Isaiah Briscoe is gradually building his reason for being, particularly on the offensive end. His fearless drives to the basket create havoc for other teams' defenses, openings for teammates and a fair share of layups for himself, plus he's valuable at drawing fouls. It would be great if he could begin converting more than half of his free throws, but even if he can't he puts opposing players on the bench and puts Kentucky into the bonus, where the team's good FT shooters, like Ulis and Murray, can take advantage. On defense, Briscoe is strong and hard to move, and he has that kind of pesky, irritating ability to get up into other people's spaces, impede their movement, disrupt their dribbles and passes. However, Briscoe is at his best only when Murray and Ulis are at their best. If they need him to shoot from outside or play point, the team's productivity plummets.
Of course, that bit of analysis is straight from the playbook of "Warriors suffer when Curry and Thompson are out." Thanks, Captain Obvious. But the reason I mention it is that rarely, lately, have Murray and Ulis been at less than their best. We've been spoiled to have Briscoe as a back-up point guard and third offensive option. To go back to my original point, this Kentucky team changes from game to game.
When Derek Willis returns, assuming he's not rusty and hasn't lost his fragile construction of confidence, Calipari has a multitude of options to throw at people - from that new "spread-it-out, corner-to-corner," that Willis gave them before he got hurt, to the newer "throw it into Alex and let him see what he can get" that Poythress gave them against Alabama. Plus a new "power game from the post" that Humphries has tantalized us with, and a revived "lull the defense for a Marcus Lee alley-oop" that can happen when Lee avoids fouls and stays on the court.
If all those things are happening, Charles Matthews, Dominique Hawkins, Mychal Mulder and, yes, even Skal can bring what they're capable of bringing - Matthews: incredible athleticism; Hawkins: a veteran's poise, scrappy defense and certainly the threat of 3-point shooting; Skal: a nice shooting touch, fair shot-blocking instincts, 7 feet of height and another five fouls to work with; Mulder: a good outside shooting threat.
I'm not sure anybody on this team hits the boards harder and better more aggressively than Charles Matthews.
It's a fragile house of cards, I grant you, a great more "what-ifs" than Calipari had to deal with on the 2010, 2012 and 2014 teams. (The '11 team was what it was, but it had at least settled into its six-man rotation by this point in the season. The '15 team is simply in a class by itself, it cannot be compared to any other team, whether in Lexington or Westwood or Durham or Chapel Hill or Bloomington or Columbus or Ann Arbor - I don't care who won the tournament, and I'll wait to be blasted in the comments section.)
This team can't risk many off-nights, especially by Murray and especiallier - yes, I made the word up - especiallier during the tournament.
But if it can stay healthy, and everyone does what he has to do, I do believe this team has the potential to go deep into the tournament. I remember a Connecticut team that, in early March, scored 48 points and lost to Louisville by 33. It then did pretty well in the tournament, and largely on the strength of its backcourt play.
Or was that a graveyard I just whistled past?