BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2011-12 Season Analytical Writings
Ten days ago, when the first 4 games tipped off the 2012 NCAA Tournament, there were 68 teams prepared to compete at the highest level of this sport in a single elimination tournament. Sixty games later, only eight of them remain standing. The Elite Eight!!!
On Saturday and Sunday, these eight survivors will square off to determine which four of them will return home and which four will travel on to New Orleans. When the tournament began, 33 of the 68 teams came to the big dance by way of one of the six major conferences, and 38 of the teams came out of one of the minor conferences. Only 2 of the minor conference entries remained standing for the Sweet 16, and tonight, the entire Elite 8 are BCS Conference members. Among this year's Sweet 16 competitors, 13 have claimed the big prize at least once in the past [Ohio University, Xavier, and Baylor the exceptions]. Big Boy Basketball begins in the NCAA Tournament in earnest in the Sweet 16, and only the strong survive these NCAA tests of fire to reach the Elite 8.
Coach Calipari's Kentucky teams are there for the third year in his three tries. In the four years prior to Coach Calipari's arrival at UK, the Cats never reached Big Boy Basketball, losing twice in the round of 32, once in the opening round, and once not even making the field. Coach Calipari changes that pattern of irrelevance the day he arrived in Lexington.
The Elite Eight for 2012!
Syracuse will play Ohio State. Louisville will play Florida. North Carolina will play Kansas. Kentucky will play Baylor.
The Elite Eight is not for the faint of heart or the timid. The Elite Eight is not for the short handed. The Elite Eight is not for the inexperienced. North Carolina and Kansas both have won this championship multiple times, as have Louisville, Florida, and Kentucky. Ohio State and Syracuse each claim one championship in from their rich basketball histories. That leaves Baylor, Kentucky's Elite 8 opponent as the lone team out with regard to championships, but in a twist of fate that never seems to elude tradition rich UK basketball, Baylor once reached the championship game once (1948) before losing to Adolph Rupp's and Kentucky's first of seven champions by 16 points.
So now it is big boy basketball. Kentucky has been there before, reaching a Final Four 14 times in 51 tournament appearances. The Cats have reached the final game 10 times, winning the Championship in 7 of those 10 appearances. Two other true “blue bloods” of the NCAA remain in 2012's title chase. North Carolina has reached the final four 18 times in 42 tournament appearances, and UNC has won it all 5 times.
One last point about this year's Elite 8 field. This Kentucky team has played Kansas, North Carolina, Louisville, and Florida (3 times) posting a combined 6-0 record in 2011-2012. If the Cats do advance to the Final Four, it will have a rematch against either Florida or Louisville, and on the other side of the bracket, either North Carolina or Kansas still loom as potential championship game opponents. Just as “payback” played some role in Kentucky's 12 point win over Indiana in the Sweet 16, revenge can be a double-edged sword that could be turned on these Cats in the Final Four and potentially a championship game in 2012.
However, all of this talk of final fours, and revenge factors are completely premature because Baylor stands in the path to all of that, and the Cats must do on Sunday what it has done 35 times in 37 tries this season, take care of business against Baylor. Baylor opened this season by winning its first 17 games, including its first 4 Big 12 games before losing twice to #4 Kansas by 18 and 14 points, twice to #10 Missouri by 15 and 1 points, to #25 Kansas State by 1 point, and to #28 Iowa State by 8 points. Baylor finished the season 25-6, 12-6, and lost in the Championship game of the Big 12 Tournament to Missouri by 15 points. In their NCAA run to the Elite Eight, Baylor has defeated #58 South Dakota State by 8, #74 Colorado by 17, and #50 Xavier by 5.
Baylor's most impressive win of the season occurred in the Big 12 semi-final round when the Bears defeated #4 Kansas by 9 points. It is hard to say that Baylor has sustained an embarrassing loss in 2011-12 because the lowest ranked team to defeat the Bears was at #28 Iowa State. While Baylor may not enjoy the rich basketball tradition and history of Kansas, UNC, Ohio State, Syracuse, or Kentucky, make no mistake that this Baylor team is the real deal despite the 7 losses they have accumulated in their 37 games.
BAYLOR has played 37 games at an average pace of about 68 possessions, averaging 74.8 ppg and allowing 64.9 ppg. This translates to an offensive efficiency of 1.104 points per possession and a defensive efficiency of 0.960 ppp. Contributing to those efficiencies are BAYLOR's turnover and rebounding rates. BAYLOR's turnover rate has been 20.3% while they have forced turnovers at a 20.9% rate. On the Boards, BAYLOR's offensive and defensive rebounding rates have been 38.4% and 68.1% respectively. BAYLOR's schedule strength prior to this game is 0.697.
As a basis of comparison, UK's performance against its first 37 opponents produced 66 to 67 possessions, and a score of 77.8 to 60.4 ppg for efficiencies of 1.161 ppp and 0.909 ppp on the offensive and defensive ends. Contributing to those efficiencies are Kentucky's turnover and rebounding rates. UK's turnover rate is 16.7% and UK has forced turnovers at a 17.5% rate. On the boards, the Cats posted rates of 38.5% and 69.1% at the offensive and defensive ends. Kentucky's schedule strength prior to this game is 0.681
The NGE analysis indicates a game played at a pace of about 67 possessions for UK and 67 possessions for BAYLOR with the Cats winning their thirty sixth game in thirty eight starts this season by 7 points, 73-66. The analysis projects an offensive efficiency of 1.090 ppp and a defensive efficiency of 0.985 ppp.
Coach Calipari uses his usual starting lineup with Darius Miller taking the 6 th man role for the game. Sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb along with the three freshmen Marquis Teague, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Anthony Davis. Kidd-Gilchrist 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 Davis drains a 18 footer when Baylor elects to not guard him on the perimeter, and after a couple of early Baylor turnovers, the Cats go up 5-2. At this point, Davis missed a fast break dunk, and Baylor converted on the other end, to begin an 8 point run and a 10-5 Baylor lead, prompting Coach Calipari to call a timeout with 16:15 to play in the first half. Out of the timeout, the Cats get a basket by Kidd-Gilchrist to stop the Baylor run, and Baylor's 4 th turnover of the game stops play for the under 16 media timeout with 14:54 to go and the Cats down 3, 10-7. In the first 5 minutes, each team has had 10 possessions, and the Cats have only made 3 of 10 shots while Baylor has made 4 of 6 early shots, including the only 3 pointer attempted by either team in the early going.
Out of the media timeout, the Cats tie the game on Teague's 3 pointer, and a fast break by Davis following a steal to regain the lead, 12-10, prompting a Baylor timeout with 13:05 to play. Out of the timeout, Terrence Jones is key to converting 2 of his rebounds into 5 Kentucky points in less than a minute to extend the Cats' lead to 7 points, 17-10, forcing Baylor to call a second timeout within a minute with the Cats up 17-10, and currently working on a 12 point run. Out of the timeout, Jones gets his third straight rebound, and Miller drains the jumper to extend the run to 14 points, and then another miss leads to a Kidd-Gilchrist fast break basket to extend the run to 16 points, and the lead to 11, 21-10 before Baylor stops the run on basket with 11:11 to play and a stoppage leading to the under 12 media timeout. Baylor will shoot one free throw when play resumes.
In the third segment, the Cats extended their lead by another 6 points, to 30-15, with 7:12 to play and Baylor in possession. Through 13 minutes, the Cats have had 22 possessions and Baylor 21. The pace is just about 70 for the game. As was the case on Friday night, the Cats are scoring at an efficiency of 1.36 ppp in the early going. However, unlike Friday when IU maintained a similar scoring pace, Baylor is limited to 0.71 ppp in the early segments. In the 4 th segment, the Cats add 4 more points to the lead, lifting it to 19 points, 36-17, at the under 4 media timeout and Davis will be shooting a pair of free throws after the timeout. With 4 minutes to play in the first half, Kentucky's Teague and Kidd-Gilchrist each have 2 fouls, while Acy and 3 of his teammates have 2 fouls each. The Cats take a 20 point lead to the locker room, 42-22.
UK scored its 42 points in 33 possessions [1.273 points per possession] for the half, and BAYLOR scored its 22 points on 32 possessions [0.688 ppp]. Kentucky won the boards in the first half, 15-13 in total rebounds, but Baylor controlled the offensive rebounds 4-3. Kentucky and Baylor each score 2 second chance points. BAYLOR had an offensive efficiency of 0.625 ppp on its 32 first chance possessions and 0.500 ppp for its 4 second chance possessions. UK had 1.212 ppp on its 33 first chance possessions and 0.667 ppp on its 3 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a low 25.0% of its misses as offensive rebounds while BAYLOR was able to convert 25.0% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit 7 for 10 free throws in the first half [70.0%]. BAYLOR was 5-6[83.3%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 16-29 overall [55.2%] and 3-6 from long range [50.0%]. For BAYLOR, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 7-21 [33.3%] and from long range, BAYLOR hit 1-4 [25.0%].
The Cats committed 3 turnovers, one for every 11.0 possessions. The Cats forced 9 BAYLOR turnovers, one for every 3.6 possessions.
The Cats open play with a basket to match their biggest lead of the game, 22 points, but Baylor works to trim the lead to 18 points, but a pair of free throws and a 3 pointer by Lamb elevates the lead to a new biggest, 23 points, 51-28 prompting a Baylor timeout. Baylor scores to stop UK's mini-run, and a charge by Kidd-Gilchrist stops play for the under 16 media timeout with 15:28 to play.
During the opening segment, Davis banged his knee against a Baylor player's knee. While he did return to play after the injury, he grimaced when he landed with his first rebound. In the second segment, Baylor trimmed the Kentucky lead to 17 points at the under 12 media timeout, 56-39. Doron Lamb will be shooting free throws when play resumes. In the third segment, Baylor continues to chip away at the UK lead, that hit a maximum at 23 points, 51-28. Since that time, Baylor has outscored the Cats 19-10 to cut the lead to only 14 points. In addition, the foul troubles continue to mount with Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis each playing with 4 fouls. At the under 8 media timeout, Baylor finds itself down by 13 points, 63-50, the closest they have been since it was 30-17 in the first half with 7:12 to play in the first half at the other under 8 media timeout.
In the 4 th segment, the Cats added 4 points back onto their lead, now at 17 points, 73-56 at the under 4 media timeout. When play resumes, Davis will be shooting a pair of free throws. Cats win 82-70.
UK scored its 82 points in 71 possessions [1.155 ppp] for the game, and BAYLOR scored its 70 points on 70 possessions [1.000 ppp].
BAYLOR won the battle of the boards, 34-32, and BAYLOR won the battle on the offensive glass 16-8. BAYLOR used their second chance possessions to win the second chance points battle 14-7. BAYLOR had an offensive efficiency of 0.800 ppp on its 70 first chance possessions and 0.875 ppp for its 14-second chance possessions. UK had 1.056 ppp on its 71 first chance possessions and 0.875 ppp on its 8 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a below average 30.8% of its misses as offensive rebounds while BAYLOR was able to convert 40.0% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game by making 30-44 [68.2%]. BAYLOR made 16-19 [84.2%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 24-45 overall [53.3%] and 4-9 from long range [44.4%]. For BAYLOR, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 21-50 [42.0%] and from long range, BAYLOR hit 4-14 [28.6%].
The Cats committed 13 turnovers, one for every 5.5 possessions. The Cats forced 14 BAYLOR turnovers, one for every 5.0 possessions.
Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 7 point UK win, 73-66 at a pace of 67 possessions for UK and 67 possessions for BAYLOR. The final score was 82 (73) to 70 (66) at a pace of 71 possessions for the Cats and 70 possessions for BAYLOR. The Cats' offensive efficiency was 1.155 ppp (B-) and the Cats' defensive efficiency was 1.000 ppp (C).
Next Game On Schedule: Saturday in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament in New Orleans against Louisville.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks