With Alex Poythress lost for the season, who steps up?

Three quick things on the news that Alex Poythress is out for the season after tearing his ACL in Thursday’s practice.

1. It’s a tough, tough break for the junior from Clarksville, Tenn., who was averaging 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game. As part of the first platoon, Poythress had started all eight games in which he has played this season. He missed two games because of illness.

Since Poythress arrived in Lexington, there has been the feeling that the forward hasn’t lived up to his full potential. He has shown flashes but hasn’t had a consistent stretch. He had yet to reach double figures in points this season. He had a season-high nine rebounds against UT-Arlington.

UK can apply for a medical redshirt year for Poythress, which if granted would give him two years of eligibility. The guidelines state that a player must not have participated in more than 30 percent of the season, which in UK’s case could stretch to as many as 40 games.

Injury postpones Poythress’ hope for a breakout season

2. Who steps up? The guess here is that freshman Trey Lyles will see a larger role and could take Poythress’ spot on the first platoon. The former Indiana Mr. Basketball is coming off back-to-back double-digit rebound games. He scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 22 minutes against Eastern Kentucky. He scored seven points and grabbed 10 rebounds Wednesday night against Columbia.

Plus, even though Lyles is 6-foot-10, he can play out on the floor. He has good quickness and has shown a capable perimeter shot. He lacks Poythress’s experience, but Lyles has a lot of ability and athletic skill.

If Calipari sticks with his platoon system, this could also mean more time for Derek Willis, the 6-8 sophomore who has played sparingly to this point. Willis and fellow Kentuckian Dominique Hawkins have often been the two men out in the platoon system. But Willis could slide into Lyles’ spot on the second platoon if Lyles is bumped up to a starting role.

3. Will Calipari stick with the platoons? With Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker missing the Columbia game because of “minor” injuries, the UK coach got away from the platoons a bit Wednesday. Now comes the Poythress injury.

The good news is that all experts agree that Kentucky is the deepest team in the country. No other team could employ two platoons. Calipari has plenty of options. He could go either way on the platoon question. That surely will be one of the questions asked when we meet with the UK coach this afternoon to preview Saturday’s noon game with North Carolina.

Related link: Kentucky individual game-by-game stats through Dec. 10 in Excel

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