BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2010-11 Season Analytical Writings
What has seemed like an eternity of waiting came to a crushing end last Thursday afternoon on the eve of Kentucky's opening game of the 2010-11 basketball season. The NCAA has declared UK Freshman recruit Enes Kanter permanently ineligible due to a loss of his amateur status. So, finally, after months of waiting and speculating, the Kentucky roster for 2010-11 is now set, and has only 10 total players, one of which is a preferred walk on freshman.
Last week, the Cats played their two annual exhibition games in preparation for the regular season, and the team performed very well in beating Pikeville College by 31 points [97-66] and Dillard by 68 points [122-54]. The Canadian Tour in August was a success, Big Blue Madness was “sold out” again, the Blue-White game was entertaining, and the two exhibitions are safely in the books recording two impressive pre-season performances. Now it is time to lace them up for real.
First up for the Cats will be ETSU at Rupp on Friday night. The Cats played this same ETSU team last year in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, getting the victory by 29 points, 100-71 on the neutral court. While the 2010-11 Cats are essential a new team following the exodus of 3 seniors, 5 underclassmen to the NBA, and the exit of Dodson from the roster. In contrast, this version of the ETSU team is essentially the same team that UK played in the NCAA last season. Last year's ETSU team had only 2 seniors, and only one of them played in last year's game, Jocolby Davis, who did not score in 15 minutes of action. Everyone else returns for ETSU this year, plus they have added two freshmen, Josh Johnson, a 6-10 forward, and Ryan Woumn, a 6-3 guard.
Last season, ETSU finished their season with a 20-15 record, 17-14 in the regular season, and 3-1 in the post season, ending 5 th in the Atlantic Sun Conference behind Lipscomb, Campbell, Jacksonville, and regular season champion Belmont. However, ETSU earned the conference's automatic NCAA bid by winning the ASC post season tournament with victories over Campbell, Kennesaw State, and Mercer.
As noted above, this version of the Kentucky Wildcats are a completely new team, with only 4 players returning off of last year's roster. Senior Josh Harrellson, Juniors Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins, and Sophomore Jon Hood. Added to this mix are JUCO transfer, Junior Eloy Vargas, and five true freshmen; Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, Stacey Poole, and preferred walk on Jarrod Polson. The most reliable indication of how this new group might play this season can only be gleaned from the two exhibition games last week. While the Cats were nothing short of very impressive in those two games, it is equally true that the speed of the game, starting with ETSU, will be much faster, and the strength of every opponent on the schedule will exceed the strength of either of the exhibition opponents.
Nevertheless, the Cats finished these two games with an average offensive efficiency of 1.299 points per possession. This offensive efficiency is the best average offensive efficiency in the 2 exhibitions over the last 12 seasons. The previous best had been was in 2004. On the defensive end, the Cats' performance was nearly as impressive with an average defensive efficiency of 0.717 points per possession. This is the 5 th best defensive performance in the exhibition games over the last 12 years, and the better defensive efforts occurred in the previous 4 seasons. The combined effort, measured by Net Game Efficiency, was 0.582points per possession for the two games. That is the best pre-season NGE posted by any UK team over the last 12 seasons. To achieve these impressive results, the Cats limited turnovers in these games to about 14.5 per game, and hit the boards as well as last year's team did on both ends of the floor.
While these early season match ups are more about what UK will do, indeed can do, than about what the opponents present, ETSU also enters this game with a two game exhibition track record. In their exhibitions, ETSU demonstrated capable offensive efficiencies and defensive efficiencies in beating Tusculum and Carson Newman by 37 and 35 points respectively. The average ETSU offensive efficiency in these games was 1.244 ppp, with a defensive efficiency of 0.719 ppp, and a NGE of 0.525 ppp. These exhibition performances are every bit as impressive as the Kentucky pre-season results.
In these early season match ups, it is impossible to make direct comparisons of performance data for the current teams against D1 competition. The only direct comparisons that are possible are (1) the 2010 Exhibitions, and (2) the 2009-10 season ending statistics. Based on these comparisons, it is my opinion that UK should defeat ETSU at Rupp Arena in the season opener. However, those two comparisons yield significantly different projections. In the former, the strong exhibition performance by ETSU suggests a closer game than the latter comparison of last year's overall performance data. The Exhibition games only suggest a UK win in single digits [4 to 8 points] while the 2009-10 data suggests a UK win by about 30 points.
Which will it be on Friday night? Of course, that is why they play the games.
The NGE analysis indicates a game played at a pace of about 70 possessions with the Cats winning by 30 points, 84-54. The analysis projects an offensive efficiency of 1.200 ppp and a defensive efficiency of 0.771 ppp.
Calipari starts Freshmen Knight, and Jones with Juniors Miller and Liggins and senior Harrellson. This is a change from the exhibition games with Doron Lamb giving way to senior Josh Harrellson.
The Cats open by hitting 3 of their first 4 shots while ETSU made 3 of their first 8 shots, but two UK turnovers and one ETSU offensive rebound that produced 3 second chance points allowed ETSU to hang close, 8-7 at the under 16 TV timeout. In the first segment, Josh Harrellson had to go to the bench with two quick personal fouls in the first 2 ½ minutes of this game. Vargas also picked up a foul at the end of the segment. In the second segment, the teams traded baskets to a 13-12 Kentucky lead, and then the Cats ran off 8 points to extend the lead to a game high 9 points, 21-12 prompting an ETSU timeout. Over the remainder of the segment, the teams again traded baskets to a 26-19 score at the under 12 TV timeout with 10:32 to play in the first half.
Vargas picked up his second foul with 9:00 to play in the half. In the abbreviated third segment, the Cats eased back to the 9 point lead they had established earlier, 34-25, at the under 8 TV timeout. When play resumes, the Cats will be in possession. In the fourth segment, the Cats extend their lead to 12 points, 39-27 at the under 4 TV timeout. When play resumes, ETSU will be shooting a pair of free thows. In the final segment the Cats continue to expand their lead, to 15 points, 50-35 at the half.
UK scored its 50 points in a total of 34 possessions for the half, and ETSU scored its 35 points on a total of 35 possessions. Kentucky dominated the boards, with a rebounding edge 24-13, and won the battle of the offensive glass 10-1. The Cats used their second chance possessions to score 9 second chance point while ETSU used its 1 second chance to score 3 second chance points. ETSU had an offensive efficiency of 0.914 ppp on its 35 first chance possessions and 3.000 ppp for its 1 second chance possession. UK had 1.206 ppp on its 34 first chance possessions and 0.900 ppp on its 10 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a powerful 47.6% of its misses as offensive rebounds while ETSU was able to convert only 6.7% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this half, making 4-9 [44.4%]. ETSU made 7-12 [58.3%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 18-35 overall [51.4%] and 10-17 from long range [58.8%]. For ETSU, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 11-19 [57.9%] and from long range, CU hit 2-7 [28.6%].
Turnovers were in short supply in this first half. The Cats committed 3 turnovers, one for every 11.3 possessions. The Cats forced only 5 ETSU turnovers, one for every 7.0 possessions.
The Cats open the second half with a turnover and little defense, allowing ETSU to score the first 5 points, trimming the lead to 10 points, 50-40 and prompting a quick UK timeout with about 18 minutes to play in the game. Out of the timeout, the Cats settled down as Terrence Jones takes the offensive burden on his shoulders and scores the Cats' 6 points for the entire segment, as they ease back out to a 14 point lead, 56-42 at the under 16 TV timeout. When play resumes, Jones will be shooting a pair of free throws. Out of the timeout, Jones missed both free throw attempts, but not to be deterred, he continued to carry this team on his shoulders by scoring the next 6 points, on an old fashioned 3 point play, and a three pointer to extend the lead to 20 points. By the end of the second segment, the lead was 26 points, 70-44 at the under 12 TV timeout. In the prolonged third segment, ETSU trimmed the UK 26 point lead to 21 points, 76-55 at the under 8 TV timeout with 6:27 to play in the game. In the fourth segment, ETSU trims the lead to 18 points, 78-60 at the under 4 TV timeout. The final score is 88-65.
UK scored its 88 points in a total of 71 possessions for the game, and ETSU scored its 65 points on a total of 72 possessions.
Kentucky dominated the boards, with a rebounding edge 51-33, and the Cats won the battle of the offensive glass 19-7. Kentucky won the second chance points battle 16-9. ETSU had an offensive efficiency of 0.778 ppp on its 72 first chance possessions and 1.286 ppp for its 7 second chance possessions. UK had 1.014 ppp on its 71 first chance possessions and 0.842 ppp on its 19 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 42.2% of its misses as offensive rebounds while ETSU was able to convert only 17.9% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well below average from the free throw line in this game, making 9-23 [39.1%]. ETSU made 14-19 [73.7%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 33-68 overall [48.5%] and 13-26 from long range [50.0%]. For ETSU, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a fair 18-44 [40.9%] and from long range, ETSU hit 5-17 [29.4%].
Turnovers were in rare supply in this game. The Cats committed 10 turnovers, one for every 7.1 possessions. The Cats forced 10 ETSU turnovers, one for every 7.2 possessions.
Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 30 point UK win, 84-54 at a pace of 70 possessions for each team. The final score was 88 (84) to 65 (54) at a pace of 71 possessions for the Cats and 72 possessions for ETSU. The UK offensive efficiency for the game was 1.239 ppp (1.200 ppp) and the UK defensive efficiency was 0.903 ppp (0.771 ppp).
Next Game On Schedule: Friday night, in Portland, Oregon when the Cats will play Portland on their way to Hawaii for the Maui Classic.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks