Calipari has what amounts to six starters with two more players who are contributors off the bench. That is the extent of Calipari's available recruited scholarship players after an offseason knee injury sidelined junior Jon Hood and the decision by Stacey Poole to transfer at the conclusion of the fall semester left the team short on bodies.
Among those top eight players in the rotation are two seniors, two sophomores and four freshmen.
UNC's advantage heading into Saturday's game was experience. Experience is a great thing to have in your favor. On Saturday it did not aid the North Carolina cause enough to lead the Heels to a win in Rupp.
In evaluating the two squads it is impossible not to recognize that with the number of minutes they are going to see in games and practice the young Cats are going to keep getting better and better.
Depth is not really an issue with the UK team, as they are extremely flexible. Darius Miller is the perfect example. When Doron Lamb or Marquis Teague go to the bench Miller can come into the game and play the guard position, as we have seen in the past he is capable at either guard position. Miller also plays either forward position, he is the perfect sixth man. It doesn't matter who is taken out of the game first Darius comes off the bench and takes their place.
When Miller's perimeter shot is falling he is lethal, when it is not falling he seems to be able to get to the paint with ease, elevate and put the ball in the basket with his deft touch.
We have not seen much of Darius Miller at the point this season because Lamb is reminiscent of one of those Joe B. Hall guards, when guards were guards without a distinction between the two and the point. He is an old school guard at this point in his career, he can run the team, he can slash to the basket, can stop and pop the midrange jumper or shoot the perimeter shot.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can play either forward spot, as he has the toughness and wing spread to guard the four spot.
Calipari has two options in replacing Terrence Jones and Anthony Davis, he can go with Kyle Wiltjer or Eloy Vargas. Wiltjer is going to bring more of an offensive threat and as the season evolves will score more. Like Jones he can drag the defender to the perimeter where the lane becomes less crowded for drives to the hoop and for Davis to roam.
Vargas, a senior, isn't going to supply much offense, but he is going to play tough defense and rebound.
The ceiling on this team is very high, and right now they are laying on the floor. This team is just scratching the surface of what it can be in March.
With only eight available scholarship players one would thing practice would be difficult. Not so. Walk on transfer Twany Beckham will become eligible at the semester break, and likely has spent a lot of time guarding one Doron Lamb, as Calipari has stated he has spent a lot of time scrimmaging with this squad. Beckham has a rep as a solid defender and will make Lamb work for his shots.
Transfer point guard Ryan Harrow, who is sitting out this season and will be eligible next season, is likely going at Marquis Teague every day. This situation is only going to improve both players.
Wiltjer going against Anthony Davis in practice is going to make him much more adept at getting his shot off, and gives Davis another player with a large wingspan to have to play against.
The Jones and Vargas matchup will make each more physical and really push Vargas defensively.
Should Cat fans be concerned about the lack of depth on this team? No. Calipari is not a coach that is going to play a lot of players, the current eight that saw action against UNC is pretty consistent with the number of players Calipari has traditionally used. This hasn't prohibited him from taking teams to multiple Final Fours in the past.
What the limited number of players will do is cut down on dissatisfaction, especially in the postseason when coaches typically cut down their playing rotations to eight players.
In short, Kentucky's youth and corresponding potential for growth is a plus as the ten players Kentucky has available will get the bulk of the practice time and will improve greatly because of it.