Four years ago, the Kentucky Wildcats made a trip to the Bahamas to play a series of exhibition games.
Their roster was highlighted by returning sophomores Aaron and Andrew Harrison, returning juniors Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley Stein as well as a bundle of highly talented freshman.
In 2018, Kentucky made the same trip back to the Bahamas before the fall semester is set to begin. After going 4-0 in an impressive manner against older teams, it’s hard to not wonder (with this kind of depth and talent) that this team could be as good or even better than the 2014-2015 team.
What’s astoundingly impressive is that Kentucky did all of this damage without sharp shooting redshirt freshman Jemarl Baker and EJ Montgomery hardly seeing any action.
While the roster seems already crowded enough, having those two players return may force head coach John Calipari’s hand into implementing the second “platoon” system.
Even if Baker doesn’t earn minutes, Montgomery absolutely will, despite all eight of Kentucky’s other eight scholarship players showing they should be playing based on their Bahamas performances.
The good thing for Cal is that he’ll have the better part of two months to figure this system out.
But saying the season started tomorrow and everyone was healthy, it’d be hard to argue against him going with a 3-guard lineup of Quade Green, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson along with PJ Washington and Nick Richards.
I know what you’re thinking. Immanuel Quickley had an unbelievable stretch in the Bahamas facilitating the ball, Ashton Hagans is the Marcus Smart of college basketball, and Reid Travis didn’t transfer to Kentucky to move to the bench.
And EJ Montgomery didn’t pick Kentucky over Duke, North Carolina and others to sit on the bench all yet. Not to mention Calipari has consistently praised Montgomery this offseason, even comparing him to Anthony Davis.
But that’s what a platoon system is all about: Playing 9-10 guys all around the same minutes per game.
Also, this is simply going on if the season started tomorrow. And that’s not to mention that it’d be hard to see Kentucky’s second unit ever faulting a lead during a game, making the Cats almost unbeatable.
So for the bench, Kentucky could roll out a bigger lineup with Hagans, Quickley, Montgomery, Travis and one of Richards/Washington.
This lineup would absolutely struggle to shoot the ball but their inside presence and bounce off the dribble would be second to none. Sprinkle in Baker at times to spread the floor and you’ve got almost as good of a bench as you do the starting five.
Of course, there’s always a chance someone loses steam and gets cut out of the rotation. If you recall, Derek Willis had a good showing in the 2014 Bahamas trip, but he rarely saw the floor as a sophomore the following season. Perhaps one of the Cats who played great in the Bahamas will fall out of favor, thus helping cut the rotation down to 7-8 players by the time the NCAA Tournament rolls around.
With all of this being said, it could all certainly change by March or even the season opener. Calipari has a lot of personalities and to manage and while this could be his most deep and talented team yet, it could also be his toughest coaching job we’ve ever witnessed.