BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2010-11 Season Analytical Writings
When the University of Kentucky announced the 2010-11 basketball schedule way back in August, it seemed to me that this team would manage to win enough SEC road games to render this season ending date with the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville irrelevant. However, the Cats have had 3 prior opportunities to win 3 consecutive SEC games, and three times, the Cats failed. Sunday, the Cats get their 4 th opportunity to put together a modest 3 game SEC win streak, and this time the significance of succeeding or failing will be huge for this team. To put this into some context, this Tennessee team won 5 consecutive SEC games in January and early February this season, and they enter this game with a modest 8-7 SEC record.
On Saturday, the SEC West season essentially wrapped up with 95 of the 96 games now in the books. Only this final game remains, and the outcome of this game is required to set the brackets for next week's SEC Tournament in Atlanta except Florida will be the East's #1 team and South Carolina will be the East's #6 team. Vandy and Georgia must sit and watch today to know their final seedings. If the Cats win Sunday, they will secure the coveted #2 Seed from the East, and Vandy and Georgia will be placed in the #3 and #4 seeds respectively. If the Cats lose Sunday, the situation becomes very complicated because all 4 of these teams will tie with 9-7 records, and the various SEC multi-team tiebreakers kick in. First, a 4 way tie is determined based on head to head records among the 4 tied teams. Tennessee wins that test and Georgia loses for the #2 and #5 seeds, leaving UK and Vandy to revert back to the two team tie breaker rules, which UK wins. Vandy will be the #4, and Kentucky will fall into the #3 position. The significance of these seeding alternatives is huge because the #3 team must play in that late Thursday night first round game while the #2 team gets the bye and will not have to play until the Quarterfinal round on Friday afternoon.
Tennessee may be playing only for pride at this point, but that is a huge factor for a program and team that in late November appeared to be one of the best teams in the Nation after beating a top notch Pitt team on the road, and extending their record to an impressive 7-0 that included wins over #25 Villanova and #22 Belmont. However, subsequent to the Pitt victory, the Tennessee wheels began to come off with losses to Oakland, Charlotte, Southern California, and College of Charleston prior to the beginning of SEC action, finishing their pre-SEC schedule 4-4 after that 7-0 start. After a 5-2 start to their SEC season, the Vols have lost 5 of their last 8 SEC games to enter this season finale with a 8-7 SEC record. Finally, the Tennessee program is under fire and most of the rounds are being fired at their head coach, Bruce Pearl. As a result, this team could be inspired to win one for their “Gipper” because the reality is that this could be Pearl's swam song season as Tennessee's head coach.
This is the back drop for this game between the bitterest of rivals in a game that should have been a more routine finish for the Cats, had the Cats taken care of business on the road in the SEC prior to today. But, the Cats didn't do that, and this game now carries huge ramifications for both of these teams.
TENNESSEE has played these games at an average pace of about 69 possessions, averaging 70.8 ppg and allowing 66.7 ppg. This translates to an offensive efficiency of 1.031 points per possession and a defensive efficiency of 0.972 ppp. TENNESSEE's turnover rate has been 19.6% while they have forced turnovers at a 20.8% rate. On the Boards, TENNESSEE's offensive and defensive rebounding rates have been 38.6% and 68.5% respectively.
As a basis of comparison, UK's performance against its first twenty nine opponents produced 68 possessions, and a score of 77.3 to 64.5 ppg for efficiencies of 1.133 ppp and 0.944 ppp on the offensive and defensive ends. UK's turnover rate is 16.1% but UK only forced turnovers at a 18.3% rate. On the boards, the Cats posted rates of 35.6% and 69.2% at the offensive and defensive ends.
Kentucky's current Pomeroy SOS value is 0.7155 while TENNESSEE's is 0..7427
The NGE analysis indicates a game played at a pace of about 68 possessions for the Cats and 68 possessions for the Volunteers, with the Cats winning for the twenty-second time in thirty starts this season by 2 points, 71-69. The analysis projects an offensive efficiency of 1.040 ppp and a defensive efficiency of 1.015 ppp.
For the first 15 games, the same starting lineup posted a 12-3 record, but the loss to Georgia was enough for Coach Calipari to make a change, sitting Jones and moving Lamb into a starting role. Since he made that change, his Cats went 2-1, beating very weak Auburn and LSU at Rupp but losing again on the SEC road, this time at Alabama.
Coach Calipari returned to his original starting lineup for the South Carolina game, and that lineup now has a record of 15-6. After one game with Miller coming off the bench following his injury, Miller returns to the starting lineup for the South Carolina game, but Liggins came off the bench. Coach Calipari starts Knight, Jones, Miller, Lamb, and Harrellson, and Liggins will come off the bench for the 3-1.
Tennessee wins the tip, and draws first blood, and after the Cats miss 2 three point attempts and a third shot inside the arc, Tennessee's Harris drains a 3 pointer to give the Vols a 5-0 start, prompting a UK timeout with 17:47 to play. Out of the timeout, the offense continues to be stagnant, and following a UK turnover, Tennessee scores on a put back basket to extend their start to 7-0 at the under 16 TV timeout upon a foul by Harrellson under the Vol basket. In the second segment, the Cats trim the Vol lead to 2 points, 7-5, but Tennessee runs off the next 5 points before Terrence Jones hits 1 of 2 free throws to give the Vols a 6 point lead, 12-6, at the under 12 TV following a foul by Lamb. Out of the timeout, Tennessee runs its offense and Harris beats Jones off the dribble, and following a Knight turnover, the Vols extend their lead to 10 points, 16-6, forcing another Kentucky timeout with 11:03 to play in the first half.
In the remainder of the third segment, the Cats move into deeper problems as Harrellson and Lamb both pick up their second fouls and retreat to the bench. Furthermore, 1 for 4 free throw shooting by Jones represents Kentucky's entire game from the line to this point, and the Cats trail by 8 points, with possession, at the under 8 TV timeout. After the Cats trim the lead to 6 points, back to back Tennessee baskets extends the lead back to 10 points, and Coach Calipari brings both Harrellson and Lamb off the bench with those 2 fouls with 5:51 to play. A pair of free throws by Jones, trims the lead back to 8 points, 22-14, at the under 4 TV timeout, and Vargas will be at the line for a pair when play resumes.
Vargas missed the first, but after a Tennessee miss, Vargas makes a basket to trim the lead to 5 points, 22-17, as Tennessee takes a timeout with 3:12 remaining in the first half. After the teams trade score, the Cats burn their next to last available timeout for the entire game with 1:33 to play in the first half when Liggins got trapped on the sideline in front of the Tennessee bench. The foul troubles, and the use of all but one timeout is not all the bad news for this Kentucky team at the half, as they trail 29-22.
UK scored its 22 points with 32 possessions for the half, and TENNESSEE scored its 29 points on 32 possessions. Kentucky won the rebounding battle, 23-20, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive rebounds 7-4. Kentucky won a 4 point advantage with the second chance points, 7-3. TENNESSEE had an offensive efficiency of 0.812 ppp on its 32 first chance possessions and 0.750 ppp on its 4 second chances. Kentucky had an efficiency of 0.469 ppp on its 32 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp on its 7 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 30.4% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TENNESSEE was able to convert 20.0% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit 5 of its 11 free throws in the first half [45.5%]. TENNESSEE hit 5-9 [55.6%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 8-28 overall [28.6%] and 1-5 from long range [20.0%]. For TENNESSEE , their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 9-23 [39.1%] and from long range, TENNESSEE hit 2-6 [33.3%].
The Cats committed 6 turnover, one for every 5.3 possessions. The Cats forced 3 Volunteer turnovers, one for every 10.7 possessions.
The Cats start the first half with a second chance basket by Jones, and following 2 Tennessee missed shots, the Cats pulled even at 29-29 on a three pointer by Knight prompting a Tennessee timeout with 18:05 to play in the game. Tennessee gets a put back basket, but a 3 pointer by Lamb gives the Cats their first lead, 32-31. The Cats' 3 rd 3 pointer of the second half, this one by Knight, gives the Cats their largest lead, 4 points, 35-31, but the Vols close to within 2 points, 35-33 at the under 16 TV timeout with 15:35 to play in the game. The Cats will have the ball when play resumes. On the inbounds play, Knight hits his 3 rd 3 pointer of the half, and Kentucky's 4 th to extend the lead to 5 points, and following a miss at the other end, Miller gets a dunk on another inbounds play to send the Cats up by 7 points, 40-33, prompting another Tennessee timeout with 14:26 to play in the game.
Out of the timeout, Tennessee used back to back fouls by Liggins to trim the lead back to 3 points. A Miller 3 pointer pushed the Cats back up by 6, but Tennessee answered with a basket to trim the lead back to 4 points, 43-39, at the under 12 TV with Knight to get the bonus free throws when play resumes. In the third segment, the Cats first scored 5 straight to go up by 8 points, 47-39, but Tennessee answered with 6 straight of their own, all from the free throw line, to trim the lead back to 2 points, and after trading baskets, then lead remained 2 points, 51-49, at the under 8 TV timeout with 7:10 to play and the Cats in possession when play resumes.
In the fourth segment, Tennessee regained the lead, 52-51, but that lead was short lived as the Cats moved back in front with a basket and a pair of free throws to lead by 3 points, 55-52 at the under 4 TV timeout with 3:36 to play and Jones to shoot a pair of free throws when play resumes. Jones missed the first and made the second, and Hopson made a 3 point play, drawing Liggins' 4 th foul of the game to trim the 4 point lead to a single point with 3:26 to play. Miller hit a 3 pointer, and after a Tennessee miss, Harrellson threw it away, giving it back to Tennessee. On UK's next possession, they miss two three pointers, but get the offensive rebounds both times, leading to a foul on Knight who converts both to ease the Cats up by 5 points with 1 minute to play. A pair of free throws by Hopson trimmed the lead back to 3 points, 61-58 with about 53 seconds to play. After a Knight miss with 20 seconds to play, Tennessee knocked the rebound out of Harrellson's hands, for the continuation of the Cats' possession with about 18 seconds to play. After the Cats get the ball in to Jones, Tennessee fouls. He hits both, and after a Tennessee miss, Jones is fouled again, hitting one of the two to finish the scoring for the game, and sealing a huge win for the Cats, 64-58.
UK scored its 64 points on 62 possessions for the game, and TENNESSEE scored its 58 points on 61 possessions.
Kentucky won the battle of the boards 38-31, and Kentucky won the offensive rebounds 14-8. Kentucky won the second chance points battle 16-7. TENNESSEE had an offensive efficiency of 0.836 ppp on its 61 first chance possessions and 0.875 ppp for its 8 second chance possessions. UK had 0.774 ppp on its 62 first chance possessions and 1.143 ppp on its 14 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 37.8% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TENNESSEE was able to convert 25.0% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well from the free throw line hitting 19-27 [70.4%]. TENNESSEE made 20-26 [76.9%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 19-53 overall [35.8%] and 7-18 from long range [38.9%]. For TENNESSEE , their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 16-38[42.1%] and from long range, TENNESSEE hit 2-9 [22.2%].
The Cats committed 10 turnovers, one for every 6.2 possessions. The Cats forced 10 TENNESSEE turnovers, one for every 6.1 possessions.
Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 2 point UK win, 71-69 at a pace of 68 possessions for UK and 68 possessions for TENNESSEE . The final score was 64 (71) to 58 (69) at a pace of 62 possessions for the Cats and 61 possessions for TENNESSEE. The UK offensive efficiency for the game was 1.032 (C) and the UK defensive efficiency was 0.951 ppp (B-).
Next Game On Schedule: The Cats will play the winner of the first round game between Mississippi and South Carolina on Friday afternoon in the SEC Tournament in Atlanta in the Quarter Final Round.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks