BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2011-12 Season Analytical Writings
Ever since the season began in November, the conventional wisdom has been that the top tier of teams in the SEC included Alabama and Mississippi State for the now defunct SEC West Division. The early wisdom included Vanderbilt in that exclusive list, but early unexpected, and inexplicable losses, temporarily dropped Vanderbilt from the conversation. Last night, Vanderbilt reasserted itself back into the conversation, and in the process, probably eliminated Alabama as a serious contender for the SEC regular season championship in 2012.
That does not mean that Saturday's encounter with the Crimson Tide in Rupp Arena has been relegated to a mere footnote status for the SEC race in 2012 because this Alabama team remains a dangerous team that will challenge the Cats on the Rupp floor like no other opponent has done this season. Through the first 4 conference games, each team has played twice on the road and twice at home. The Cats have won all 4 of their games, while Alabama has earned a rare road victory only to see it negated by their ugly home court loss last night to Vanderbilt, thus they bring a 2-2 SEC record into Rupp on Saturday.
To be sure, that loss was a stinger for the Tide, and they will arrive at Rupp Arena with wounded pride and a determination to fight their way back into relevance in this SEC race by getting a W on Saturday from the Cats. If the Cats defend the home court on Saturday, they will advance to the middle portion of the conference schedule in a virtual dead heat with Vanderbilt, and all eyes looking ahead to a February 11 date in Nashville. That is why this game carries huge SEC Championship ramifications for Kentucky and Vanderbilt, as does Vanderbilt's Saturday date in Nashville against Mississippi State.
If the Cats want to add another SEC regular season championship to their wall, it needs to put the Alabama Crimson Tide away on Saturday and send them limping back home with their 3 rd early season SEC loss. Kentucky can put Alabama in the rear view mirror for the rest of the regular season, just as Vanderbilt can do to a reeling Mississippi State team. Those outcomes will allow Vanderbilt and Kentucky to turn their focus on Florida and each other, as the only remaining challengers still standing in the way of that championship.
Alabama enters this game with a 13-5 record, 2-2 in early SEC play. On the road, the Tide is 2-2, and at neutral locations, including Pomeroy's Semi-Away and Semi-home venues, the Tide is 4-1. However, at home, these Tide has been 7-2, and 1-1 in the early SEC with an 10 point home loss to #31 Vanderbilt and a 16 point win over #78 LSU to their credit. Alabama is 7-2 at home and 6-3 away from Tuscaloosa. Alabama's most impressive victory has been their 10 point win over #13 Wichita State on a neutral court in November, and their most disappointing loss had been the 12 point loss at #61 Dayton in early December until they laid a proverbial egg in Tuscaloosa last night against the Commodores.
ALABAMA has played its 18 games at an average pace of about 64 possessions, averaging 66.3 ppg and allowing 56.4 ppg. This translates to an offensive efficiency of 1.038 points per possession and a defensive efficiency of 0.881 ppp. Contributing to those efficiencies are ALABAMA's turnover and rebounding rates. ALABAMA's turnover rate has been 19.2% while they have forced turnovers at a 21.8% rate. On the Boards, ALABAMA's offensive and defensive rebounding rates have been 35.0% and 66.2% respectively. ALABAMA's schedule strength prior to this game is 0.644.
As a basis of comparison, UK's performance against its first 19 opponents produced 70 possessions, and a score of 79.6 to 59.1 ppg for efficiencies of 1.131 ppp and 0.873 ppp on the offensive and defensive ends. Contributing to those efficiencies are Kentucky's turnover and rebounding rates. UK's turnover rate is 18.8% and UK has forced turnovers at a 20.3% rate. On the boards, the Cats posted rates of 39.3% and 68.7% at the offensive and defensive ends. Kentucky's schedule strength prior to this game is 0.527
The NGE analysis indicates a game played at a pace of about 67 possessions for UK and 66 possessions for Alabama with the Cats winning their nineteenth game in twenty starts this season by 8 points, 70-62. The analysis projects an offensive efficiency of 1.045 ppp and a defensive efficiency of 0.939 ppp.
Terrence Jones and Darius Miller will start along with the three freshmen Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, and Marquis Teague. Doron Lamb will be the #6 man with Eloy Vargas, Kyle Wiltjer and Twany Beckham coming off the bench.
Kentucky took the opening tip, but after taking a brief 1-0 lead watched as Alabama scored 5 straight to go up by 4 point lead. However the Cats then scored the next 7 before Alabama stopped the run with a basket, and one, leading to the under 16 TV timout and the score 8-7 with the Tide to shoot the and one when play resumes. After Alabama converts the free throw to tie the score at 8-8, the Cats run off 8 straight of their own, to double up the score, 16-8, forcing an Alabama timeout with 13:48 to play in the first half. Out of the timeout, ‘Bama went inside on 2 trips to cut the Cats' lead to 4 points, 16-12, prompting a Kentucky timeout with 12:00 to play in the first half.
Kidd-Gilchrist picked up his second foul of the game with 10:04 to play in the first half. The Tide trims the UK lead to a single point, 20-19, and the Cats respond with back to back baskets to take a 3 point lead at the under 8 TV timeout with 6:30 to play, 24-21, and Alabama in possession. Through the first 13 ½ minutes, the Cats are getting whipped on the boards, and when the Cats do get offensive boards, they have been unable to put the ball back into the basket, missing on multiple opportunities.
Out of the timeout, Terrence Jones fouls a 3 point shooter, who converted 1 of the 3 free throws to once again trim the UK lead to two points. In the abbreviated 4 th segment, the Cats added a pair of points to their lead, now 5 points, 31-26, at the under 4 media timeout, and Davis will be shooting the bonus at the line when play resumes. The teams play the final segment on even terms as the Cats take a 5 points lead, 37-32, to the locker room at the half.
UK scored its 37 points in a total of 34 possessions [1.088 points per possession] for the half, and ALABAMA scored its 32 points on a total of 33 possessions [0.0.970 ppp]. Alabama won the battle of the boards 23-18, and Alabama won the battle of the offensive glass 9-8. Alabama used their second chance possessions for a 11-6 advantage in second chance points. ALABAMA had an offensive efficiency of 0.636 ppp on its 33 first chance possessions and 1.222 ppp for its 9 second chance possessions. UK had 0.912 ppp on its 34 first chance possessions and 0.750 ppp on its 8 second chance possession. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a below average 36.4% of its misses as offensive rebounds while ALABAMA was able to convert a strong 47.4% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit 4 of its 11 free throws in the first half [36.4%]. ALABAMA was 7-10 [70.0%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 14-31 overall [45.2%] and 5-10 from long range [50.0%]. For ALABAMA, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 8-26 [30.8%] and from long range, ALABAMA hit 3-4[75.0%].
The Cats committed 5 turnovers, one for every 6.8 possessions. The Cats forced 8 ALABAMA turnovers, one for every 4.1 possessions.
Alabama opens the second half with 4 quick points sandwiched around 1 of 2 from the line by Jones to trim the lead to 2 points, forcing a Kentucky timeout with 19:01 to play in the game. The teams finished the opening segment of the second half on even terms with the Cats hanging onto a 2 point lead, 45-43 at the under 16 media timeout and the Cats in possession. In the second segment, Alabama trimmed the UK lead to a single point again, but the Cats responded with a pair of Lamb free throws and a steal by Kidd-Gilchrist leading to the under 12 TV timeout and the Cats up by 3 points, 51-48 and 11:51 to play in the game. Davis will be shooting a pair of free throws when play resumes.
In the third segment, the Cats clawed their way to a 6 point lead, 58-53, but that lead was short lived, as most leads have been today because Alabama answered with another 3 pointer to trim the lead to 3 points, 58-55 at the under 8 media timeout, and Kidd-Gilchrist to shoot a pair of free throws when play resumes. With about 8 minutes remaining the Cats have narrowed the rebounding gap to -3, and taken the lead on offensive boards, +3. The Cats are winning the TO battle, +5, but the Cats have hit only 10-19 from the line while Alabama has converted 10-14 of their shots. The Kentucky free throw woes have allowed the Tide to hang around.
At the end of the 4 th segment, the Cats have the ball while clinging to a slim 4 point lead, 65-61, with 3:48 to play. The Cats simply continue to miss from the line, and Alabama will be shooting a pair of free throws with 1:06 to play as Kidd-Gilchrist fouls out, and trims the UK lead to 2 points, 69-67. One the next possession, Alabama fouls Miller who makes both. Davis fouls on Bama's next trim, and they make both to trim the lead back to 2 points. Alabama fouls Teague with 25 seconds to play, and Teague makes both. The Cats hang on for a hard fought 6 point win, 77-71.
UK scored its 77 points in a total of 67 possessions [1.149 ppp] for the game, and ALABAMA scored its 71 points on a total of 66 [1.076 ppp].
Alabama won the battle of the boards, 35-31, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive glass 13-10. Alabama won the second chance points battle 12-11. ALABAMA had an offensive efficiency of 0.894 ppp on its 66 first chance possessions and 1.200 ppp for its 10 second chance possessions. UK had 0.985 ppp on its 67 first chance possessions and 0.846 ppp on its 13 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed low 34.2% of its misses as offensive rebounds while ALABAMA was able to convert 35.7% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game but sealed their victory by making their last 8 on their way to an overall 27-40 [67.5%]. ALABAMA made 18-25 [72.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 22-51 overall [43.1%] and 6-14 from long range [42.9%]. For ALABAMA, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a weak 19-43 [44.2%] and from long range, ALABAMA hit 5-7 [71.4%].
The Cats committed 8 turnovers, one for every 8.4 possessions. The Cats forced 14 ALABAMA turnovers, one for every 4.7 possessions.
Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 8 point UK win, 70-62 at a pace of 67 possessions for UK and 66 possessions for ALABAMA. The final score was 77 (70) to 71 (62) at a pace of 67 possessions for the Cats and 66 possessions for ALABAMA. The UK offensive efficiency for the game was 1.149 (B-) and the UK defensive efficiency was 1.076 ppp (D+).
Next Game On Schedule: January 24, 2012 at Georgia in Athens.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks