Kentucky Wildcats Basketball

Kentucky Basketball: Wildcats' Best Situational Lineups for 2014-15

Bobby ReaganFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2014

Kentucky Basketball: Wildcats' Best Situational Lineups for 2014-15

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Kentucky basketball head coach John Calipari has shown over the previous five years he likes to stick to one starting lineup throughout the season. However, he does use situational lineups throughout the game depending on the opponent.

    Take for instance last year against Belmont, a smaller team that liked to shoot jumpers and use defensive pressure. That wasn't a game made for Dakari Johnson, who didn't see any playing time despite being inserted into the starting five later in the season.

    With a loaded roster that includes nine McDonald's All-American's and Willie Cauley-Stein, Calipari will be able to tinker with the five on the court in numerous different ways. Big Blue Nation will soon find out what the potential starting five will look like when the Wildcats do a preseason trip to the Bahamas.

    For now though, this slideshow will take a look at the Wildcats' best situational lineups for the 2014-15 season.  

Likely Starting Five

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
    • PG: Andrew Harrison
    • SG: Aaron Harrison
    • C: Dakari Johnson
    • SF: Alex Poythress
    • PF: Karl-Anthony Towns

    Only two positions are really open for competition: small forward and power forward. 

    The Harrison twins will slide back into their starting guard positions after leading the Wildcats to the national title game. With a summer to improve his game, Johnson will be named the starting center after taking over the role in the second half of his freshman campaign. 

    Poythress should get the nod at the small forward position, beating out Devin Booker for the starting spot. Due to his ability to defend multiple positions—something Calipari loves in a wing playerand his veteran leadership, Poythress will earn the spot. 

    The power forward battle will be the most interesting to watch leading into the season. Towns should win the battle thanks to his versatility on the offensive side of the ball, ability to stretch the defense past the three-point line and capacity to defenders off the dribble despite being 7-feet tall. The other advantage he has is both Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles are coming off injuries, setting them back quite a bit. 

When the Team Needs a Defensive Stop to Win the Game

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
    • PG: Tyler Ulis
    • SG: Dominique Hawkins
    • C: Willie Cauley-Stein
    • SF: Aaron Harrison
    • PF: Alex Poythress

    Imagine trying to bring the ball up against the backcourt duo of Ulis and Hawkins. Both players excel at pressuring opposing guards into committing turnovers and enjoy playing full-court defense. Kentucky fans saw what Hawkins could do last season, including guarding big-name players like Nik Stauskas in critical moments. 

    While the guards are noticeably smaller than usual, the Wildcats still have plenty of size with Harrison, Poythress and Cauley-Stein to grab a rebound or challenge a shot at the rim. Poythress and Cauley-Stein also provide the quickness needed to help on a pick-and-roll and recover before their man can catch the ball in the paint.

    This lineup should result in numerous tipped balls by jumping in the passing lane and forced shots late in the shot clock due to its pressure. If the team ever needs a stop with timeouts remaining, look for Calipari to go with this lineup. 

When Scoring a Bucket Wins the Game

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press
    • PG: Andrew Harrison
    • SG: Devin Booker
    • C: Trey Lyles
    • SF: Aaron Harrison
    • PF: Karl-Anthony Towns

    It's well-known John Calipari likes to run a dribble-drive motion offense. This lineup allows him the best chance to run that to perfection. With five guys who can handle the ball, shoot mid-range jumpers and finish at the rim, this lineup allows Calipari to draw up any play without the defense being able to focus on just one player.

    The combination of Lyles and Towns as the two big men gives the Wildcats the chance to run a high pick-and-roll with the option of rolling to the paint or popping for a jumper due to their ability to shoot. It also brings opposing big guys out of the paint, giving the Harrison twins more room to operate going to the basket.

    This set of five also has three players who can hurt a defense from behind the arc. Whether it's Aaron Harrison's late-game heroics coming through again or Booker and Towns' natural abilities to shoot from long range, a kick-and-dish play could be used.

    All five of these players can also beat defenders off the dribble in a one-on-one setting.

When Playing Small Ball

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press
    • PG: Tyler Ulis
    • SG: Devin Booker
    • C: Marcus Lee
    • SF: Aaron Harrison
    • PF: Alex Poythress

    With an abundance of frontcourt players, don't be surprised to see opposing teams use the Belmont approach and go small, hoping to beat Kentucky in a run-and-gun type of game. If that's the case, Calipari can use this lineup, which still gives him an interior presence in Lee and Poythress but enough quickness so the Wildcats won't get hurt.

    Lee is a natural shot-blocker, who at only 6'9" is quick enough to help on guards farther away from the basket than the other Kentucky post players. Poythress has seen time at numerous positions during his first two years in Lexington and as a freshman played the power forward spot for the majority of the season.

    It's hard to get much smaller than Ulis at any position thanks to his diminutive 5'8" stature. Sliding 6'6" Aaron Harrison to the small forward position allows him to match up against players who are commonly his size as opposed to smaller shooting guards.  

The All Big-Man Lineup That Won't Ever Be Seen

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press
    • PG: Karl-Anthony Towns
    • SG: Trey Lyles
    • C: Dakari Johnson
    • SF: Marcus Lee
    • PF: Willie Cauley-Stein

    This lineup will never be used unless every other player on the roster has fouled out of the game or has been injured. But how much fun would it be to see this true big-man lineup out there for Kentucky? 

    Would the shooting decrease? Absolutely. Would the Wildcats struggle to get the ball up the court? Very likely. Would it be comical? Without a doubt.

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