We were promised a reboot instead of a tweak by John Calipari earlier in the year, but now it looks like the Kentucky Wildcats are getting both the reboot and the tweak.
During his Monday appearance on the SEC Coaches Teleconference, Calipari revealed that some tweaks are coming, primarily because his Cat still haven gotten quite where he wants them to be entering postseason play.
Cal mentions his team will "tweak" a few things before the SEC Tournament. Says he's in a good frame of mind and wants his players the same.— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 6, 2017
"We're still not quite where we want to be but I'm loving the fact that this team has learned to fight and has a will to win," Calipari added. "There's something that's not quite right that we have a couple days to try to fix."
There’s always a tweak, especially with Calipari’s best teams, but what will that tweak be? Here’s a few ideas.
Starting Dominique Hawkins over Isaiah Briscoe
This is one that’s been popular among some of the fan base over the past couple weeks. Hawkins is playing his heart out every chance he gets, and he’s earned more minutes. There are just two problems with this idea.
First, Isaiah Briscoe has been a stat-sheet stuffer these past two games. Against Vanderbilt, he had seven points on 50% shooting, seven rebounds and six assists. Against Texas A&M he had seven points, eight assists and six rebounds. Hawkins did put up a solid statline against A&M as well, scoring eight points, dropping three dimes and swiping two steals, but despite his incredible effort he’s not producing as much as Briscoe has the past week or so.
The second issue is that Briscoe is the best defender on the team and he’s being misused a bit on the defensive end. The critics seem to forget that with this three guard lineup, the 6’3” Briscoe is guarding small forwards. Benching Briscoe for Hawkins would force you to put either De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk or Hawkins on a small forward. Not only would Fox and Monk have a size disadvantage in that matchup, but they have proven to be defensive liabilities time and again, and despite Hawkins’ intensity, he’s only 6’0”.
Getting Hawkins minutes would be great, and it’s something Cal will probably do, but I don’t see a place for him in the starting five.
Play a zone defense
This is another thing the fans were clamoring for earlier in the season. Kentucky’s defensive liabilities off the dribble had everyone wishing that Calipari would break down and play a zone defense. Cal refuses. It wouldn’t surprise me if he saw his teams playing zone defense in his nightmares because something about the zone haunts him. This team is certainly improving in man-to-man, and it’s going to have to continue to do so because I doubt Cal will run a zone even though it’d be to his benefit.
Even just for certain portions of each game, Cal.
Full-court press more
This is the most likely of the three. We saw Calipari press Vanderbilt en route to a 19-point comeback, and it worked pretty well. Kentucky is at its best when the game is being played fast, and the full-court press forces the other team to speed up, leading to sloppy possessions, turnovers and fast-break opportunities for the most exciting team in the country on the fast break.
Cal doesn’t seem to hate the full-court press like he does the zone defense, so it’s much more likely to happen. He’d have to be careful who he runs it against in the NCAA Tournament though, as some of the higher seeds would be able to carve it up.
In reality, Cal will probably pull his tweak out of left field and it’ll be none of these or something no one was expecting.
Hey, as long as it works.