Kentucky’s coach knows that it’s a John Calipari-ism, but Matthew Mitchell also sees it every day in his practices just across the hall in the Joe Craft Center.
“I wish I had coined that phrase, ‘positionless basketball,’” the women’s basketball coach joked at the start of the season. “It’s what we’ve kind of built the program on over the years.”
It’s the thing No. 20 Kentucky is building its game plans around this season.
A season ago, the Cats were just trying to make sure they had enough players to fill each position, but now they have multiple options at multiple spots with lots of overlap, especially with three freshmen in Dorie Harrison, KeKe McKinney and Tatyana Wyatt.
“We’ve brought in some versatility and some athleticism,” Mitchell continued. “When you have some athletic bigs, they give you some options to mix things up.”
Unbeaten Kentucky, which will play at No. 9 Baylor (5-1) on Thursday night, has played dozens of lineups this season and has dozens more options moving forward.
The Cats have gone four guards and one post player. They’ve gone four guards and Makenzie Cann, a senior swing player who played some in the post a season ago, but is one of UK’s top three-point weapons this season.
To go ahead in a tight game on the road recently, the Cats fed the ball on the block to 5-foot-7 junior-college transfer Amanda Paschal.
“You guys saw a lot of lineups,” Cann told the media after a win three weeks ago. “I think that’s going to be one of our strengths this year. Versatility. We just have a lot of people that can do a lot of different things.”
Kentucky (6-0) has seen it pay dividends on both ends of the court with 13 players having scored already this season. Six players are averaging at least eight points a game and nine are playing 14-plus minutes.
You guys saw a lot of lineups. I think that’s going to be one of our strengths this year. Versatility. We just have a lot of people that can do a lot of different things.
That includes Wyatt, who is returning for the Baylor game after missing the last five games with a concussion.
“Each player has her own little strengths and when you get out there on the floor, it will be hard for an opponent to face you because you have so many different players who can do so many different things whether it’s attacking, defensively,” junior guard Taylor Murray said. “We can switch. We have guards who can post up post players who can do a lot of different things.”
When asked what lineups she likes best, fellow guard Jaida Roper was wishy-washy.
It’s too hard to decide, she smiled.
“I love it all,” she said. “We can go four guards. We can go three guards and two bigs. We can put KeKe in and Dorie. …
“I love going with the bigs in so I can drive and kick to them. Or I can drive and kick to Maci (Morris) and Cann (on the perimeter). I love them all.”
McKinney and Cann can both move from the small forward to the power forward spot when called upon and both are three-point weapons for Kentucky.
Wyatt’s return gives UK even more versatility.
“Tatyana Wyatt is so versatile, can shoot the three and put it on the floor some, but also can go rip down tough rebounds and play physical,” Mitchell said.
This season, opponents have tried to switch on UK defensively and the Cats have made them pay, Murray said.
“We have a lot of long post players and guards that can do some post things, too,” she continued.
Now it’s just a matter of getting all of the ever-evolving pieces to fit together for a season, starting with this big trip to Baylor, which features 6-foot-7 center Kalani Brown (24.2 points, 10.3 rebounds per game). The junior is making 76.6 percent of her shots from the field.
“How are we going to deal with teams with great size?” Mitchell asked aloud Wednesday. “They are a lot bigger than we are on the front line and in some of the positions, but we are going to see that in our league.
“We definitely have a plan to try to attack Baylor there, but you find out a lot about what will work and what might not.”
No. 20 Kentucky at No. 9 Baylor
When: 8 p.m.
Radio: WLAP-AM 630
Live updates: Follow Jennifer Smith on Twitter @JenHeraldLeader
Records: Kentucky 6-0, Baylor 5-1
Last meeting: Kentucky won 74-64 on Nov. 17, 2014, in Rupp Arena.