Practices are finally underway for the 2015-16 college basketball season, including Kentucky running two-a-days over the weekend. As always with John Calipari as head coach, the Wildcats are one of the most intriguing teams in the country yet again this year. They lost seven key players from last year’s undefeated regular season team including go-to players like Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and the Harrison twins.
We all know what happened when we saw Kentucky last. The Wildcats had blown a lead against Wisconsin in the Final Four with plenty of people questioning Calipari’s coaching style along with the play calling down the stretch. We’re not going to see that type of team this year.
The Wildcats will have depth this year, specifically at the guard position, but there will be no platooning like last season. There are three true point guards on the roster in Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe and Jamal Murray and all three will likely start. Murray and Briscoe have height to them for the guard position so sliding them off the ball won’t make a huge difference in terms of losing the size advantage that they are used to since Calipari took over.
Coming off the bench at the guard spots will be Mychal Mulder and Charles Matthews, who are two very different type of players. Mulder, a transfer from Vincennes University is a knockdown shooter from deep who is also freakishly athletic. Matthews is a tough-nosed kid from Chicago, who will be one of the better defenders on the team and constantly looks to drive to the hoop.
So, with these guards and using the dribble-drive motion offense, the question has to be asked: Who will be the go-to guy during a close game or when the game needs to be put away for the Wildcats? There are obviously a ton of options, but the best option might surprise you.
Look for Isaiah Briscoe to be the guy that is taking the ball similar to Aaron Harrison the last couple of years. While Ulis is a better ball-handler and might be better under pressure, Briscoe is the most dynamic guard. He proved he can shoot from deep, winning the three-point contest at the Ball is Life Event while being a prolific scorer in high school.
Briscoe also has the personality to take the pressure of winning or losing a game and knows how to use that. A high school basketball coach in New Jersey who coached against Briscoe texted me saying, “he wants to be the man all the time as well as the fact he thrives off the attention.”
Sounds like someone who you want to have the ball in their hands down the stretch, no?
Briscoe was a point guard in high school, so it’s not like he’ll struggle dribbling or making the correct decision. Obviously if the shot isn’t there he can find an open teammate. Most people will expect Ulis to be the one to have the ball down the stretch, but Calipari has proved he’s not afraid to go to another guard.