On Monday, John Calipari gave some encouraging news about the status of Jarred Vanderbilt.
When asked about Vanderbilt playing in Atlanta, Calipari said, “We’ll see. It would be nice to have one more guy. It makes us a different team. He gives you one more. It may be we don’t need to play him, but I want to see if he can play”.
Cal also went to Twitter to talk about the weekend but in that tweet, he stated, “I’m looking forward to seeing Jarred Vanderbilt today to see how far he’s come along”.
So, with Cal hinting at the fact that we could see Vanderbilt this weekend in Atlanta, it makes me wonder, how should Vanderbilt be used?
Vanderbilt missed the first 17 games of the season where the Cats went 14-3. After his return, the Cats went 7-7 to finish out the year and went through a 4-game losing skid.
Now, I realize that the competition was tougher during the last 14 games, but the Cats seemed to struggle to score at times.
In the first 17 games of the season, Kentucky averaged 78 points per game, and in the last 14 with Vanderbilt, that decreased by three to 75 PPG. That may not seem very significant, but UK had four games where we struggled to hit 60 and one game where we didn’t hit 60. The scoring was a big factor during the 4-game losing streak when UK was only scoring 64 PPG.
Now, let’s look at defense. In the first 17 games, the Cats gave up 69.6 PPG. In the 14 with Vanderbilt, they gave up 67.6 PPG. With him on the floor, K’s defense and rebounding were improved with rebounding being the most important improvement.
In the last 5 games without Vanderbilt, including SEC Tournament, and the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the team is averaging 79.6 PPG, the highest average of the season.
Vanderbilt has now been out two weeks, and the team looks to be playing at their best right now. With the emergence of Sacha Killeya-Jones in the postseason, how does Vanderbilt fit in?
With Sacha taking the majority of Nick’s minutes and playing at a high level, Sacha should not take a back seat to Vanderbilt. Cal could give him some of Wenyen’s minutes, but he has been playing very well in the postseason as well.
So, if Vanderbilt can play this weekend, should Cal give him some minutes from the guys that are playing so well?
Or, should he only be an emergency guy for when we get into foul trouble?
For me, I believe he should be used mostly when UK gets into foul trouble. In the first two tournament games, UK had had foul trouble, especially in the Buffalo game and it would have been nice to have him to put in.
However, if UK advances to the Final Four, they could face a team where we really need a guy like him.
While I don’t think he should take minutes from the guys performing so well, I think it is important to get him back into the flow of things for potential matchups should we advance.
I’m eager to see what the mindset of the fan base is on him, and how everyone thinks he should be used, if available.