To neutralize Kentucky's overwhelming size, opponents may collapse a zone defense in the lane and invite perimeter shots. Fine with sophomore Derek Willis, who all but scoffed at the notion that UK might lack reliable outside shooting.
"If that happens, it happens," he said with an air of unconcern. "We're just going to get it in the middle. Just do our stuff.
"We've played the game long enough to know how to break a zone. It'll be fine."
Besides Willis, Kentucky's perimeter shooters include sophomore Aaron Harrison (who hit game-winning jumpers in three straight NCAA Tournament games last season), highly regarded freshman Devin Booker, don't-sleep-on-him freshman Tyler Ulis and junior Alex Poythress.
Teams within team
UK Coach John Calipari spoke last month of wanting to experiment with various combinations. He said the idea was to find out which units work best in any given situation.
"If an opponent is hurting us with a zone, what's the best shooting team?" he said.
What's the best "catch-up" team when opponents build a lead?
What's the best combination when UK wants to convert good defense into transition points?
What's the best pressing team? "That may be your 'catch-up' team," Calipari said.
What's the best suffocating defensive team? Calipari suggested it might be Willie Cauley-Stein, Marcus Lee "and another 'big' and two guards all guarding. ...
"I don't even know what the grouping will be."
To foster a faster pace of play this season, Calipari said he had instituted two innovative "rules" for pickup games this offseason.
"So we can establish some things that become habits," he said.
Those rules include:
■ The ball must be advanced beyond half-court in three or four seconds, not the 10 seconds as required in games.
■ All players must cross halfcourt within five seconds of a score, or there's a change of possession.
At Monday's Tip-Off Luncheon in Louisville, Calipari noted the potential value in analytics. UK could use statistics beyond scoring average and shooting accuracy. Calipari mentioned gauging player efficiency and prorating stats compiled in, say, 20 minutes into a 34-minute stint. In other words, a player who averaged eight points and 20 minutes per game might feel better about himself (and the UK team) if he had a 13.5-point scoring average prorated to 34 minutes.
In late August, UK announced it had hired a high school coach from North Carolina, Joel Justus, as its director of analytics.
When asked how strongly he believed in analytics, Calipari gave qualified support.
"The guy who never played or coached, but looks at numbers and tells you how your team should look? Beat it," he said as a way of dismissing the notion of numbers as a be-all, end-all. "Then there's the old-school guy. Never looked at numbers. Doesn't know how to open a computer. Doesn't know how to Twitter (and) Facebook. Which would be me. He doesn't want to look at numbers."
Calipari spoke of statistics and analytics as a good way for players, fans and media to judge a game. But, he seemed to add, it's imperfect.
"The reality of it is we can all watch a game," the UK coach said. "And if you have a feel for the game at all, you can say, he played a great game even if the numbers say he only played OK."
Calipari said that certain hustle plays were "non-negotiable." That would include diving for loose balls.
"There's no analytic that can (reflect) it," he said. "They don't have one that's invented."
GPA and GNP
Ever the marketer, Calipari lauded UK's performance in the classroom. He said he'd be surprised if the players did not continue their streak of 3.0 grade-point averages in future semesters.
Calipari also said that guaranteed money in current NBA contracts by former UK players totaled about $720 million. Counting shoe deals, the number reaches $1 billion.
"That's, like, Rhode Island," he said.