BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2011-12 Season Analytical Writings
For the second game in a row, Kentucky's opponent choose to play at the pace of a snail, and for the second game in a row, Kentucky only had 56 possessions [Season Lows] to put away its bullying opponent, this time LSU. Bullying does not do justice to the brutish acts that LSU used against the Cats, particularly Anthony Davis, but we can discuss the demerits of the SEC officiating regarding these methods another day. Today, the topic is two-fold: Kentucky's remarkable start in the SEC and the rematch with Tennessee.
Kentucky stands at 21-1, 7-0 in the SEC, including a 4-0 start on the SEC road. The last UK team to start an SEC season with at least 7 wins without a loss was the 2004-05 team that started 9-0 before losing for the first of 2 SEC losses at South Carolina by 12 on February 15, 2005. That team also won their first 5 SEC road games prior to that South Carolina loss. If this team beats Tennessee on Tuesday, and goes to South Carolina next week and gets out with a win, it will match the 2004-05 team at 9-0 and 5-0 on the SEC road when it returns to Rupp to take on Florida.
Of course, the 2002-03 Cats are best known for running the table in the SEC, a perfect 19-0 including the SEC Tournament Championship. Prior to that, we must recall the last national champion, 1997-98, that started the SEC 8-0 including 4-0 on the road before falling to Florida at Rupp by 4 on February 1, 1998 in route to a 14-2 SEC record, and the National Championship.
4 weeks ago, as the SEC season started, there was great apprehension within the Big Blue Nation about what this team would face on the SEC road, and how it would perform. I shared that apprehension, while I did not see any statistical losses I realized that a road loss in the first ½ of the conference race was not just possible, but more likely than not. Frankly, I thought that the loss could have come yesterday. Was that wrongheaded on about every count.
This team is placing itself in some fine company, and they are not yet done.
Tennessee is the next SEC opponent that will try to derail the Wildcat Express. On first blush, Tennessee appeared to revived with the addition of Stokes to their roster and game. In his first game action against the Cats earlier this month, it seemed that he single handedly provided the Volunteers a spark sufficient to let the men in orange hang with the Cats and hold the Cats to their closest margin, 3 points, since the back to back 1 point games in December against power houses North Carolina and Indiana. However, while it appears that Tennessee may be playing a better brand of basketball with Stokes on the floor, their record since his arrival has been 2-3, and prior to his arrival, their record stood at 8-8.
Because of the perception of improvement, I debated with myself about whether to use Tennessee's full body of work as a basis of comparison for this game, or to isolate their results for the last 5 games only. I did just that, and the outcome of the analysis was mildly surprising. Since Stokes arrived, Tennessee's rebounding has improved, but their turnover margins have deteriorated. Tennessee's shooting has also declined over the last 5 games compared to the first 15 games. Tennessee is showing marked improvement in their defensive efficiency, but that improvement has not offset the decline in their offensive game. Certainly, the last 5 opponents in the aggregate have been tougher than their first 15 in the aggregate. I am not convinced that Mr. Stokes impact has been entirely a positive one, and I am using the Volunteer's complete body of work in this analysis.
TENNESSEE enters this game with a 10-11 record, 2-4 in the SEC. However, Tennessee gained one of its wins from a non-D1 opponent, so against D1 opposition, the Vols are 9-11. TENNESSEE has played its 20 D1 games at an average pace of about 68 possessions, averaging 86.8 ppg and allowing 66.3 ppg. This translates to an offensive efficiency of 1.013 points per possession and a defensive efficiency of 0.984 ppp. Contributing to those efficiencies are TENNESSEE's turnover and rebounding rates. TENNESSEE's turnover rate has been 20.8% while they have forced turnovers at a 18.4% rate. On the Boards, TENNESSEE's offensive and defensive rebounding rates have been 34.4% and 70.4% respectively. TENNESSEE's schedule strength prior to this game is 0.744.
As a basis of comparison, UK's performance against its first 21 opponents produced 69 possessions, and a score of 78.2 to 58.5 ppg for efficiencies of 1.134 ppp and 0.864 ppp on the offensive and defensive ends. Contributing to those efficiencies are Kentucky's turnover and rebounding rates. UK's turnover rate is 18.3% and UK has forced turnovers at a 19.8% rate. On the boards, the Cats posted rates of 39.1% and 69.2% at the offensive and defensive ends. Kentucky's schedule strength prior to this game is 0.575
The NGE analysis indicates a game played at a pace of about 68 possessions for UK and 68 possessions for TENNESSEE with the Cats winning their twenty second game in twenty three starts this season by 16 points, 76-60. The analysis projects an offensive efficiency of 1.118 ppp and a defensive efficiency of 0.882 ppp.
Sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb will start along with the three freshmen Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, and Marquis Teague. Darius Miller will be the #6 man with Eloy Vargas, Kyle Wiltjer and Twany Beckham coming off the bench. However, Coach Calipari has not used Vargas or Beckham in recent games, and has played with a 7 player rotation.
The Cats take the opening tip, and ride 5-5 shooting on the first 6 possessions to race out to an early 8 point lead, 10-2 at the under 16 media timeout. In the second segment, Kentucky continues its perfect shooting, as tempers flare and frustrations mount for the Volunteers, and the Cats move on top 17-5, prompting a Tennessee timeout prior to a pair of free throws by Kidd-Gilchrist. At the under 12 media timeout, the Cats lead by 15, 20-5 and have possession.
In the first 8+ minutes of play, each team has had 13 possessions [65 possession pace] and the Cats have scored 20 points to 5 for the Vols. In the third segment, the Cats extended their lead to 18 points, 26-8, but Tennessee scored the last 5 points of the segment, to trim the lead back to 13 at the under 8 media timeout, 26-13, with Teague to shoot a pair of free throws after the timeout. In the fourth segment, Tennessee's Woolridge hits 3 straight 3 pointers, his 5 of the game, to pull the Vols to within 10 points, 32-22, prompting a Kentucky timeout with 4:42 to play in the first half. After the timeout, the Cats go back up by 12, on a put back basket by Davis. That was the first offensive rebound of the game for the Cats. At the under 4 TV timeout, with 3:11 to play, the Cats lead 34-22. The teams play out the final segment with the Cats maintaining a 13 point lead, 38-25, at the half.
UK scored its 38 points in a total of 29 possessions [1.310 points per possession] for the half, and TENNESSEE scored its 25 points on a total of 29 possessions [0.862 ppp]. Kentucky and Tennessee battle to a 15-15 tie on the boards, but Tennessee won the battle of the offensive glass 9-2. Tennessee also used their second chances to win the second chance points battle, 6-4. TENNESSEE had an offensive efficiency of 0.655 ppp on its 29 first chance possessions and 0.667 ppp for its 9 second chance possessions. UK had 1.172 ppp on its 29 first chance possessions and 2.000 ppp on its 2 second chance possession. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a weak 25.0% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TENNESSEE was able to convert a strong 40.9% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit 12 for 14 free throws in the first half [85.7%]. TENNESSEE was 0-0 [00.0%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 13-19 overall [68.4%] and 0-3 from long range [0.0%]. For TENNESSEE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 2-20 [10.0%] and from long range, TENNESSEE hit 7-12 [58.3%].
The Cats committed 5 turnovers, one for every 5.8 possessions. The Cats forced 6 TENNESSEE turnovers, one for every 4.8 possessions.
The Cats open the second half with the first 5 points to re-establish their biggest lead, 18 points, 43-25 before Tennessee gets to the line for the first time tonight, making 1 of 2. The teams then traded baskets for a 17 point lead, 45-28, at the belated under 16 media timeout with 14:41 to play and the Cats in possession of the ball. In the short second segment, the teams traded baskets to a 49-32 score at the under 12 media timeout, and Darius Miller will be shooting a free throw to complete the “and one” play.
Miller failed to convert, but the Cats used the 4 th segment to stretch their lead to a game high 23 points before Tennessee scored the last 4 points of the segment to close back to 19 point, 61-42, at the under 4 TV. When play resumes, Jones will be shooting a pair of free throws. Cats close out the game, and win by 25, 69-44.
UK scored its 69 points in a total of 59 possessions [1.169 ppp] for the game, and TENNESSEE scored its 44 points on a total of 59 [0.746 ppp].
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, 34-29, but Tennessee won the battle of the offensive glass 13-6. Kentucky won the second chance points battle 10-8. TENNESSEE had an offensive efficiency of 0.610 ppp on its 59 first chance possessions and 0.615 ppp for its 13 second chance possessions. UK had 0.999 ppp on its 59 first chance possessions and 1.667 ppp on its 6 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a weak 27.3% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TENNESSEE was able to convert 31.7% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit very well from the free throw line in this game by making 24-27 [88.9%]. TENNESSEE made 5-7 [71.4%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 22-41 overall [53.7%] and 1-10 from long range [10.0%]. For TENNESSEE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a weak 9-39 [23.1%] and from long range, TENNESSEE hit 7-18 [38.9%].
The Cats committed 11 turnovers, one for every 5.4 possessions. The Cats forced 11 TENNESSEE turnovers, one for every 5.4 possessions.
Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 16 point UK win, 76-60 at a pace of 68 possessions for UK and 68 possessions for TENNESSEE. The final score was 69 (76) to 44 (60) at a pace of 59 possessions for the Cats and 59 possessions for TENNESSEE. The UK offensive efficiency for the game was 1.169 (B-) and the UK defensive efficiency was 0.746 ppp (B+).
Next Game On Schedule: February 4, 2012 at South Carolina in the rematch with the Gamecocks.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks