2010-11 Season Analytical Writings


The Big Blue Nation celebrate the arrival of 2011 last night and today fresh from the huge 15 point win at Louisville on New Year's Eve. The Cats only have one non-conference game remaining, Pennsylvania Quakers at Rupp on Monday night before the annual SEC wars begin. At this stage of the season, most teams have defined their team identity sufficiently to look ahead to the SEC season.

Through the non-conference portion of the schedule, two SEC teams have emerged as early favorites to contend for the SEC East, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The only team in the East that can seriously challenge either of these front runners might be Florida, and Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina should battle it out to the end for the final positioning in the bottom half of the SEC East.

The SEC West has been unimpressive top to bottom through the non-conference schedules with Ole Miss emerging as the favorite and Arkansas and Alabama nipping at Mississippi's heels for the #2 spot in the West. Auburn, LSU, and Mississippi State [Without Bost so far, and without Sidney for most of the season thus far] are going to fight it out for the bottom half of the weak SEC West.

Here are the East and West Rankings, based on Adjusted NGE values for all 12 teams:

Overall, the East is stronger than the West, top to bottom, and the East will win more of the 36 East-West cross fire games than the West, probably by a margin of about 28-8. With most of the firepower located in the East, and the great parity of mediocrity of the West, the SEC regular season championship will probably be decided by the outcome of 8 key home-home SEC games involving Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Florida, key 4 game sequences for each of these three teams. Based on the pre-SEC season Adjusted NGE values for each team, the analysis indicates that the teams will finish those 4 critical games as follows:

Kentucky: 3-1, loss at Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt: 2-2, losses at Kentucky and Florida
Florida: 1-3, losses at Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and at home to Kentucky

This does not mean that Florida, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky do not face other legitimate obstacles in their SEC path for 2011, because each of them does. Each of them must make appearances at Knoxville, at Columbia, and at Athens, and any road game in the SEC can be problematic and often is, even for the eventual SEC Champions over the years. In addition, these three leaders must take their games to 3 SEC West venues through the season, as follows:

Kentucky: At Mississippi [SEC East Leader], At Arkansas, and At Alabama
Vanderbilt: At Mississippi State, At LSU, and At Auburn
Florida: At Mississippi State, At LSU, and At Auburn

As noted above, any SEC road game can be perilous, but the “numbers” do not indicate any losses to SEC West teams by these top 3 SEC East contenders in 2011.

Since my interest primarily lies with UK, the following seven game sequence appears to be crucial for the Cats to secure their second consecutive SEC regular season title since Coach Calipari's arrival in Lexington.

This sequence of seven games includes 5 of Kentucky's 8 SEC road games, three at SEC contenders' places [Mississippi, Florida, and Vanderbilt]. The remaining SEC road games are at Georgia in the SEC opener next Saturday, at Arkansas in late February, and at Tennessee in the final game of the regular season. In my opinion, the SEC Championship will be decided prior to the Cats' trip to Knoxville, and the Cats should handle their season opener against Georgia with attentive dispatch. The results of these 5 SEC road games from January 18 through February 12 will dictate Kentucky's SEC fortunes in 2011.

Based on the current Adjusted NGE for each team as of January 1, 2011, a projection of the outcome of each of 96 SEC games for 2011 produces the above final SEC Standings for the regular season. At this stage, I would expect that March Madness would include 5 SEC teams, the big 3 from the East and Mississippi and either Arkansas or Alabama depending upon how the actual season plays out over the next 11 weeks.

It is entirely likely that Mississippi State will emerge with a stronger SEC season than these projections suggest because their current “numbers” do not include any contribution from Bost, and essentially no contribution from Sidney. However, I offer no suggestion at this time regarding the magnitude of this impact upon these standings. Last season, Arkansas has a similar situation with respect to multiple players coming into action for the SEC, and that had a noticeable impact upon their SEC record, but not enough to elevate Arkansas into a championship discussion or an opportunity for post season play.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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