Kentucky coach Jon Calipari hasn’t settled on a starting lineup.
Although five players will be introduced as starters when Kentucky takes on Northwood in the first of two exhibition games set for 7 tonight at Rupp Arena, Calipari plans to use several different combinations against the Seahawks to get a feel for his squad in game situations. As of Wednesday, Calipari wasn’t set on a starting five.
Returnee Kyle Wiltjer said tinkering with different combinations in practice is nothing new, adding that “similar” changes occurred last season.
“We did that last year,” he said. “This year there is a lot more because there are a lot more new guys so we are getting as many lineups as possible so we learn how to play together.”
Kentucky freshman Alex Poythress said finding a consistent lineup has been a work in progress behind the scenes and nothing has been set in stone.
“(There will be) four or five different lineups,” he said. “There are a whole bunch of lineups going on right now. There are different lineups, I can play the four, and the three and some lineups where I play the two. It just depends on where (coach) Cal (Calipari) puts me. It depends if we go big or not.”
Kentucky is the only program in the BCS that doesn’t have a starter back from last year, but the Wildcats do have the top-ranked recruiting class, giving Calipari and his staff the right tools to work with in the school’s bid to become Kentucky’s first back-to-back national champions for the first time since the 1948-49 seasons.
Wiltjer said the newcomers are catching on to the team’s schemes.
“It is interesting and it is great because all these guys are great learners as well,” he said. “(They’ve) been able to pick up (the offense) fast so we have been fortunate to have another great group of guys who are able to come in and work hard and learn a new system.”
Despite a roster stocked with talent, Calipari knows the Cats “have a long way to go” before reaching the accomplishments that last year’s team attained in a nine-month period.
“Defensively, we are just awful right now,” he said. “We don’t stay in front of anybody. We have guys stopping left and right and thinking it’s OK or not my man, it wasn’t my man, stuff like that.”
Northwood lost to Michigan State 85-57 in its first exhibition contest Tuesday night, but the Spartans just led by six at halftime and didn’t pull away from the Seahawks until the second half. Calipari said the defending NAIA national runner-up, coached by Rollie Massimino, will be a good test for his young squad.
“The greatest thing about playing a team like this, the No. 1 team in the NAIA and a team that was down six the Michigan State at half that made nine threes, has some post-up game, has a really quick guard, is that the weaknesses or the things that we are not doing well will be glaring,” he said. “As much as I don’t like to play a team this good, this early, this is going to be great for this team because the more I’m watching tape, the more I’m seeing that they have to change and they have to understand that it has to be a habit.”