BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2011-12 Season Analytical Writings
A Kentucky basketball year has 3 distinguishable segments: The Non-Conference, The SEC Regular Season, and The Post Season. The non-conference portion follows a familiar pattern year after year, and the SEC regular season schedule follows a pattern when your team is one of the pre-season contenders to win the SEC. The schedule makers seem determined to push the head to head matchups between contenders to the last 3 to 4 weeks of the regular season, the last 3 weeks of February, and the first weekend of March. I believe that the idea is to prevent any of the true contenders from standing alone at the top as the final month of competition begins to maintain suspense and interest in the conference race until the last weekend of the season.
Many seasons, that plan works out that way, but it appears on its face that Kentucky could well spoil the plan this year because the relatively easy first 9 games has allowed the Cats to pile up a 9-0 record that includes 5-0 on the SEC road while all the other pre-season contenders have stumbled through their easy parts. Mississippi State has stumbled 3 times thus far, as has Vanderbilt. Even Florida, who has emerged as the only challenger with a legitimate chance to claim a regular season title in 2012 stumbled out of the blocks at Tennessee. The stage is set with this backdrop for the final 7 games that start with Florida's annual venture into Rupp Arena on Tuesday night.
Make no mistake, Florida, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State can all play well enough to beat Kentucky “on a given night.” However, the schedule maker's scheme has had another affect, an insidious one if you are any of the three challengers. This young Kentucky team has had 24 games to unify and solidify its game, and over the course of the last 3 to 6 games, these Cats have emerged as the legitimate #1 team in the nation that most observers claimed they were all season long. When conversation occurs about who can legitimately challenge this Kentucky team, the names that rightfully enter the dialogue include the likes of Syracuse, Ohio State, North Carolina, and Missouri, not Florida, Vanderbilt, or Mississippi State.
Kentucky stands at 23-1, 9-0 in the SEC, including a 5-0 start on the SEC road. This SEC start matches the 2004-05 Cats, as the current team 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, and as of this morning, Ken Pomeroy says Kentucky now has a 30% probability of repeating the 2003 unblemished conference record. However, we should also remain mindful that Kentucky's 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. This team has already placed itself in some fine company. I do not believe this team is finished adding its name and numbers to the UK record book.
FLORIDA enters this game with a 19-4 record, 7-1 in the SEC. FLORIDA has played 23 games at an average pace of about 68 possessions, averaging 80.1 ppg and allowing 65.0 ppg. This translates to an offensive efficiency of 1.175 points per possession and a defensive efficiency of 0.954 ppp. Contributing to those efficiencies are FLORIDA's turnover and rebounding rates. FLORIDA's turnover rate has been 16.2% while they have forced turnovers at a 20.6% rate. On the Boards, FLORIDA's offensive and defensive rebounding rates have been 34.3% and 69.5% respectively. FLORIDA's schedule strength prior to this game is 0.577.
As a basis of comparison, UK's performance against its first 24 opponents produced 68 possessions, and a score of 78.2 to 57.7 ppg for efficiencies of 1.155 ppp and 0.852 ppp on the offensive and defensive ends. Contributing to those efficiencies are Kentucky's turnover and rebounding rates. UK's turnover rate is 17.9% and UK has forced turnovers at a 19.3% rate. On the boards, the Cats posted rates of 39.1% and 69.1% at the offensive and defensive ends. Kentucky's schedule strength prior to this game is 0.581
The NGE analysis indicates a game played at a pace of about 68 possessions for UK and 68 possessions for FLORIDA with the Cats winning their twenty fourth game in twenty five starts this season by 12 points, 76-64. The analysis projects an offensive efficiency of 1.118 ppp and a defensive efficiency of 0.941 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 open with back to back turnovers, and Florida makes 2 of their first 4 shots to race on top, 4-0, prompting a Kentucky timeout with 17:34 to play. Out of the timeout, the Cats missed 2 more shots, and Florida extended their fast start to a 6-0 lead before the Cats got on the scoreboard with the next 4 points to pull within 2 points, 6-4, at the under 16 media timeout with 15:05 to play. In the second segment, Kidd-Gilchrist made both free throws to start the segment, and a 3 pointer by Wiltjer gave the Cats a 3 point lead, but Florida came charging back to lead by 1 point at the under 12 media timeout, 12-11.
In the third segment, the Cats hit 3 for 3 shots to offset Florida's first 3 pointer of the game and take a 2 point lead, 17-15, and Florida called a timeout with 10:00 to play. Over the remainder of the third segment, the Cats added another pair of points to their lead to lead by 4 points, 21-17, at the under 8 media timeout. The Cats will have possession when play resumes. The pace through the first 12 minutes is about 70 possessions [21 possessions each] which corresponds to early efficiencies of 1.000 and 0.810 ppp respectively.
In a prolonged 4 th segment, the Cats double their lead, to 8 points, 29-19 at the under 4 media timeout with 3:03 to play in the first half, and Florida in possession of the ball. In the final segment, Florida cuts the 8 point lead to 5 on a 3 pointer out of the timeout, but the Cats outscore the Gators 11-3 down the stretch to take a 12 point lead, 38-26, at the half.
UK scored its 38 points in a total of 32 possessions [1.188 points per possession] for the half, and FLORIDA scored its 26 points on a total of 31 possessions [0.839 ppp]. Florida won the battle of the boards 18-17, and FLORIDA won the battle of the offensive glass 10-6. Kentucky used their second chances more efficiently to tie Florida for second chance points, 8-8. FLORIDA had an offensive efficiency of 0.539 ppp on its 31 first chance possessions and 0.800 ppp for its 10 second chance possessions. UK had 0.938 ppp on its 32 first chance possessions and 1.333 ppp on its 6 second chance possession. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 42.9% of its misses as offensive rebounds while FLORIDA was able to convert a strong 47.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit 4 for 4 free throws in the first half [100.0%]. FLORIDA was 4-6 [66.7%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 15-29 overall [51.7%] and 4-8 from long range [50.0%]. For FLORIDA, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 8-21 [38.1%] and from long range, FLORIDA hit 2-9 [22.2%].
The Cats committed 7 turnovers, one for every 4.6 possessions. The Cats forced 8 FLORIDA turnovers, one for every 3.9 possessions.
The Gators open the second half with the first 4 points, just like they opened the game, and Coach Calipari called a quick timeout after his team came out of the locker room sluggish, and their 12 point halftime lead trimmed to 8, 38-30, with less than 1 minute gone. Out of the timeout, the Cats drained back to back 3 pointers, and Darius Miller continued the run with a jumper in the paint to extend the Kentucky lead to 16 points, 46-30, forcing a Florida timeout with 16:40 to play in the game. After the timeout, Florida continued missing shots, and the Cats added 2 more points to their lead at the under 16 media timeout, and Kidd-Gilchrist will be shooting the “and 1” when play resumes with the score 48-30.
In the second segment, the Cats only scored 3 points in 5 possessions and Florida trimmed 1 point from the lead to 17 points, 51-34 at the under 12 media timeout. Florida has possession when play resumes. In the third segment, the Cats added 12 points in just 5 possessions, but Florida nearly matched the output with 11 points, on 3-6 shooting from long range, and the Cats lead by 18 points, 63-45 with 7:04 to play in the game.
In the 4 th segment, neither team is playing much defense, as the Cats scored another 9 points on just 6 possession, and Florida scored 7 points on 5 possessions. Florida will have the ball to start the final segment of this game with the Cats up by 20 points, 72-52 and 3:36 to play. The Cats finish off the job by 20 points, 78-58.
UK scored its 78 points in a total of 60 possessions [1.300 ppp] for the game, and FLORIDA scored its 58 points on a total of 60 [0.967 ppp].
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, 38-31, but Florida won the battle of the offensive glass 18-13. Florida won the second chance points battle 17-11. FLORIDA had an offensive efficiency of 0.683 ppp on its 60 first chance possessions and 0.944 ppp for its 18 second chance possessions. UK had 1.117 ppp on its 60 first chance possessions and 0.846 ppp on its 13 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 50.0% of its misses as offensive rebounds while FLORIDA was able to convert 41.9% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit very well from the free throw line in this game by making 11-11 [100.0%]. FLORIDA made 8-12 [66.7%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 29-55 overall [52.7%] and 9-15 from long range [60.0%]. For FLORIDA, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a weak 16-36 [44.4%] and from long range, FLORIDA hit 6-27 [22.2%].
The Cats committed 13 turnovers, one for every 4.6 possessions. The Cats forced 9 FLORIDA turnovers, one for every 6.7 possessions.
Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 12 point UK win, 76-64 at a pace of 68 possessions for UK and 68possessions for FLORIDA. The final score was 78 (76) to 58 (64) at a pace of 60 possessions for the Cats and 60 possessions for FLORIDA. The UK offensive efficiency for the game was 1.300 (B+) and the UK defensive efficiency was 0.967 ppp (D+).
Next Game On Schedule: February 11, 2012 against Vanderbilt in Nashville.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks