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2011-12 Season Analytical Writings
Over the course of the past three seasons, Coach Calipari's Cats have returned to NCAA action, losing to West Virginia in the Elite Eight, advancing to the Final Four for the first time since 1998, losing to Connecticut, and now this year advancing to the Championship Game where they will play the Kansas Jayhawks on Monday night for the right to carry the big prize home. Only one team ends its season with a win, and on Monday night we will learn if Coach Calipari's third Kentucky team can take care of business one last time and bring it to Lexington for the 8 th time in school history.
Speaking of history, Monday night will mark Kentucky's 11 th appearance in a national championship game. In the first ten tries, the Cats delivered the trophy 7 times. However, during the years of my personal fandom (1966-Present) I have witnessed 6 of the 10 prior games, and the Cats are 3-3 in those games, winning in 78, 96, and 98, and losing in 66, 75, and 97. Coach Rupp was 4-1 in his championship game appearances. Coach Hall was 1-1. Coach Pitino was 1-1, and Coach Smith was 1-0.
Given the opponent, this game provides multiple storylines. Some can argue that modern college basketball was birthed in Lawrence, KS with Phog Allen and his lineage of protégés including Coach Rupp. Over the last 80 years, Kentucky has defined college basketball as the winningest program, its 7 championships, and its enduring success over a lineage of championship coaches. Kansas-Kentucky represent what college basketball is all about, and the Championship game for 2012 shapes up to be an instant classic.
Over the years, Kentucky and Kansas have played 25 times, and the Cats have won 19. The Cats and Jayhawks have met twice in NCAA action, splitting the pair of games. In 1999, the Cats defeated Kansas at New Orleans by 4 points, and in 2007, Kansas sent the Cats home in Chicago in Tubby Smith's last game as Kentucky's coach. Ironically, in 1999, the teams played a regular season game on a neutral court [Chicago], and the Cats won that meeting as well. Despite the rich basketball histories of these two programs, Monday will be their first NCAA encounter so deep in the tournament.
No one ever hands any team an opportunity to play on college basketball's biggest stage for a championship. Every competitor who has ever reached this game has gotten there the old fashioned way, they earn it. Kentucky has earned this spot. So has Kansas. These are the last two standing, and they will play on Monday night in the season's last game. Both teams will return home when it is over. One will return home the Champion, the other won't. It will be a war. Coach Self has never reached a final four and returned home a loser. Coach Calipari has never reached a final four and returned home a winner. In 2008, these coaches and their teams faced off in the championship game, and Self's Jayhawks snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and missed free throws down the stretch by Coach Calipari's Memphis team was the open door that the Hawks flew through.
Suffice it to say that Kentucky enters this game as the most efficient team in the game, but Kansas is no slouch, as the 4 th most efficient team. In November, these teams met in Madison Square Garden in the second game of this season; Kentucky left the Garden that night with a 10 point victory, 75-65. In that game, Lamb led the way with 17 points as five Wildcats scored in double figures [Lamb, Jones, Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Teague]. Miller was the only other Cats to put points on the board that night, and Wiltjer and Vargas were the only other reserves to play in the game. Does that profile not indicate that Coach Calipari understood by game 2 how this team would function best? Kansas was led by Tyshawn Taylor's 22 points, and Thomas Robinson's 11 points and 12 rebounds. Coach Self played nine, and got points from seven of his players. Conner Teahan and Elijah Johnson each scored 8, and Withey scored 7. The Cats held Releford to only 4 points and 3 rebounds in that first meeting.
Since that game, the Cats have reeled off 35 more wins against only 2 losses, and the Jayhawks have posted 31 wins against only 5 losses. These teams have both occupied spots in the Pomeroy top 5 throughout this season. So the stage is set, and it is time to play the game.
KANSAS has played 38 games at an average pace of about 67 possessions, averaging 73.8 ppg and allowing 63.2 ppg. This translates to an offensive efficiency of 1.097 points per possession and a defensive efficiency of 0.938 ppp. Contributing to those efficiencies are KANSAS's turnover and rebounding rates. KANSAS's turnover rate has been 19.4% while they have forced turnovers at a 20.4% rate. On the Boards, KANSAS's offensive and defensive rebounding rates have been 35.2% and 71.0% respectively. KANSAS's schedule strength prior to this game is 0.749.
As a basis of comparison, UK's performance against its first 39 opponents produced 67 possessions, and a score of 77.6 to 60.6 ppg for efficiencies of 1.161 ppp and 0.907 ppp on the offensive and defensive ends. Contributing to those efficiencies are Kentucky's turnover and rebounding rates. UK's turnover rate is 17.0% and UK has forced turnovers at a 17.5% rate. On the boards, the Cats posted rates of 38.0% and 68.6% at the offensive and defensive ends. Kentucky's schedule strength prior to this game is 0.695
The NGE analysis indicates a game played at a pace of about 67 possessions for UK and 67 possessions for KANSAS with the Cats winning their thirty eighth game in forty starts this season by 4 points, 71-67. The analysis projects an offensive efficiency of 1.060 ppp and a defensive efficiency of 1.000 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.
Kansas takes the opening tip, and draw first blood. The Cats answer with one of two free throws by Kidd-Gilchrist, and a basket to ease on top 3-2, but Kansas drains a 3 pointer to move back on top 5-3. After a 7-5 Kansas lead, the Cats run off 6 straight points to go up by 4 points, 11-7, and maintain that lead, at 13-9 at the under 16 media timeout with 14:18 to play in the first half. Kansas will be shooting a pair of free throws when play resumes. In the second segment, the Cats extend their early lead to a game high 9 points, 23-14. Out of the timeout, Kansas makes their second 3 pointer of the game to cut the 9 point lead to 6 points. However, the Cats then go one an 8-2 run, capped by the Cats' first 3 pointer of the game, by Teague, to extend the Kentucky lead to 12 points, 31-19, forcing Kansas to take a timeout with 7:14 to play in the first half. In the fourth segment, the Cats add 4 more points to the lead, on 3 pointers by Lamb and Miller to lead by 16, 37-21 at the under 4 media timeout. Kansas will have the ball after the timeout. In the final segment, Davis joins Jones on the bench with 2 fouls, and Kansas takes advantage of Kentucky's depleted front court to cut the lead to 14 points, 41-27, at the half.
UK scored its 41 points in 34 possessions [1.206 points per possession] for the half, and KANSAS scored its 27 points on 35 possessions [0.771 ppp]. Kentucky won the boards in the first half, 25-14 in total rebounds, and Kentucky controlled the offensive rebounds 5-4. Kentucky won the second chance points 4-0. KANSAS had an offensive efficiency of 0.771 ppp on its 35 first chance possessions and 0.000 ppp for its 4 second chance possessions. UK had 1.088 ppp on its 34 first chance possessions and 0.800 ppp on its 5 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a low 33.3% of its misses as offensive rebounds while KANSAS was able to convert 16.7% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit 6 for 8 free throws in the first half [75.0%]. KANSAS was 3-6 [50.0%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 16-30 overall [53.3%] and 3-7 from long range [42.9%]. For KANSAS, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 9-29 [31.0%] and from long range, KANSAS hit 2-4 [50.0%].
The Cats committed 5 turnovers, one for every 6.8 possessions. The Cats forced 3 KANSAS turnovers, one for every 11.7 possessions.
The Cats are 20 minutes away from glory, and open the second half with a 14 point lead. However, the Cats open the second half cold, and Kansas scores the first 3 points of the second half before Lamb gets a put back basket to ease the lead back to 13 points, 43-30, at the under 16 media timeout. Kentucky will have the ball when play resumes. Out of the timeout, Davis scores his first point of the game with one of two free throws, and following empty trips by Kansas and Kentucky, Terrence Jones steals the ball for a quick layup to put the Cats up by 16 points, 46-30, forcing another Kansas timeout with 14:44 to play in the game. Out of the timeout, Kansas comes roaring back with 4 quick points of their own off a Kentucky miss and a Kentucky turnover, prompting a Kentucky timeout with 12:52 to play in the game and the Cats up by 12, 46-34. Over the balance of the second segment, Kansas trims the lead to 10 points, and has the ball after the under 12 media timeout, with the score 48-38 and 11:12 to play in the game.
Out of the timeout, Doron Lamb hit back to back 3 pointers to lift the Cats back on top by 16 points, prompting another Kansas timeout with 10:00 to play in the game. Over the balance of the third segment, Kansas battles back to a 12 point deficit, and has the ball at the under 8 media timeout, with 6:50 to play, and Kentucky leading 56-44. In the abbreviated 4 th segment, Kansas cut the lead to 9 points, and will have free throws after the timeout that could trim the one time 18 point lead to 7 points. The score is 59-50 with 3:52 to play in the game at the under 4 media timeout. The foul at the timeout was Jones' 4 th foul of the game.
In the final segment of the 2012 season, Kansas continues its assault on the Wildcats, trimming the lead to 5 points, 62-57. On the Cats' next possession, Terrence Jones saves a loose ball scramble, and gets the ball to Davis. But Davis only makes 1 of 2 free throws to ease the lead out to 6 points with 1:11 to play in the game, 63-57. Following a Kansas turnover, the Jayhawks begin to extend the game by fouling Teague who makes them pay by making them both. Kansas makes a basket at the other end to pull back to within 6 points, and they burn their final timeout following the basket with 39 seconds to play in the game.
Cats win 67-59, and bring home the big trophy for the 8 th time.
UK scored its 67 points in 66 possessions [1.015 ppp] for the game, and KANSAS scored its 59 points on 67 possessions [0.881 ppp].
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, 43-35, and Kentucky won the battle on the offensive glass 12-11. Kentucky used their second chance possessions to win the second chance points battle 7-6. KANSAS had an offensive efficiency of 0.791 ppp on its 67 first chance possessions and 0.545 ppp for its 11-second chance possessions. UK had 0.909 ppp on its 66 first chance possessions and 0.583 ppp on its 12 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a below average 33.3% of its misses as offensive rebounds while KANSAS was able to convert 26.2% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well from the free throw line in this game by making 15-21 [71.4%]. KANSAS made 10-15 [66.7%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 23-56 overall [41.1%] and 6-14 from long range [42.9%]. For KANSAS, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a weak 17-51 [33.3%] and from long range, KANSAS hit 5-11 [45.5%].
The Cats committed 11 turnovers, one for every 6.0 possessions. The Cats forced 9 KANSAS turnovers, one for every 9.4 possessions.
Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 4 point UK win, 71-67 at a pace of 67 possessions for UK and 67 possessions for KANSAS. The final score was 67 (71) to 59 (67) at a pace of 66 possessions for the Cats and 67 possessions for KANSAS. The Cats' offensive efficiency was 1.015 ppp (D+) and the Cats' defensive efficiency was 0.881 ppp (B-).
Next Game On Schedule: Big Blue Madness next October.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks