BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2012-13 Season Analytical Writings
On Thursday night, the Kentucky Wildcats took the floor for the first time against a real, live opponent, and despite the obvious room for improvement with timing, and working as a team, the Cats ended the evening's work with a 32 point win over Northwood. Northwood is a quality exhibition opponent. They are coached by a NCAA Division 1 Tournament Championship coach, Rollie Massamino. Last year, Northwood finished 33-3, losing in the NAIA Championship game, and they return 4 of their 5 starters from that fine team.
It is no wonder that Northwood was able to take advantage of Kentucky's inexperience, and expose some clear weaknesses with this Kentucky team. However, that is precisely what Coach Calipari wanted this game to accomplish, and all UK fans know that by Monday's encounter with Transylvania in the Cats' second exhibition game, Coach Calipari will use the experience of Northwood to teach his youngsters and further the development of the team.
Coach Calipari essentially played the game with seven players, experimenting with a wide range of combinations of those seven on the floor. The twin tower experiment must be viewed as a success in its initial test drive, and Ryan Harrow's performance at point guard was strong. The largest “wow” factor from the first game was Archie Goodwin's 22 points. If there was a downside in the first game, I think it may be Alex Poythress' overall floor game. Julius Mays and Kyle Wiltjer both showed up and contributed, but I am left wondering if Coach Calipari had not hoped to get greater contributions from each of them.
While it is easy this early in the life of a young developing team to find issues ripe for criticism, this effort also is worthy of acclimation. An offensive efficiency of 1.29 points per possession, 6-9 shooting from the arc, and an offensive rebounding rate of 50% are all signs of a team that can compete with anyone as it grows to match the expectations of the Big Blue Nation. Defensively, the 11 blocks and 12 steals were both very encouraging outcomes. The Net Game Efficiency of 0.438 points per possession is a worthy accomplishment for any team against any opponent at any time.
I mention the likely improvement between the first and second exhibitions. A little history lesson can explain this expectation. In Coach Calipari's first three pre-seasons, his teams' performance has improved substantially between the first and second exhibition games each year. In November 2009, his first team posted NGEs of 0.470 ppp and 0.782 ppp in the first and second games. In November 2010, his second team posted NGEs of 0.365 ppp and 0.803 ppp in the two exhibitions. Last year, his third team posted NGEs of 0.614 ppp and 1.050 ppp in the exhibitions. It is reasonable to expect a similar improvement from Thursday to this Monday night when Transylvania walks down Broadway to their Rupp Arena encounter with Cal's Cats. So, in these first four seasons, the teams have averaged a 90-55 win in the first exhibition, and a 121-49 win in the second exhibition.
What will happen Monday? Last year, the Cats struggled early but put Transy away 97-53, a 44-point win. The model projects a 96-58 win over a pesky-good group of Pioneers this year. If the final margin exceeds 40 points, which will serve as my analytical benchmark, it will signal another powerhouse Kentucky team is emerging under Calipari's leadership and teaching.
For the second game in a row, Coach Calipari starts Freshmen Goodwin, Poythress, and Noel with red shirt Sophomore Harrow, and true Sophomore Wiltjer. That leaves Willie Cauley Stein, Julius Mays, and Jon Hood as the primary reserves on the bench for Calipari's 8 player rotation. This is a final exhibition game in preparation of the defense of a championship. Friday night the games begin to count.
The Cats take the opening tip, and Harrow drains a 3 pointer on the first possession to put the Cats into a quick lead, and the Cats used 3-6 shooting in the opening segment to east out to an early 4-point lead, 7-3, at the under 16 media timeout. However, the Cats did commit 3 turnovers in the segment, a carryover of the high turnover rate early in the game last Thursday evening. At the timeout, Coach Calipari brought in Cauley-Stein and Mays for Harrow and Wiltjer. After a 2 minute breather, Harrow and Wiltjer returned for Noel and Poythress.
In the second segment, the Cats extended their lead to 7 points, 15-8, at the under 12 media timeout. However, another 3 turnovers in the segment marred an otherwise strong segment. In the third segment, the Cats scored first to move on top by 9 points, but back to back 3 pointers, and a stuff shot by Transy cut that lead to only 1 point, 17-16, forcing Coach Calipari to call a timeout. The Cats scored out of the timeout to extend their lead back to 4 points, 20-16, at the under 8 media timeout with 6:33 to play in the first half.
In the first 13 ½ minutes, the pace has been in the low 70s range, and the Cats defense has been effective (0.727 ppp) but the Kentucky offense has been hampered by 9 turnovers, only 7 baskets, and only 1 offensive rebound for the night. In the short 4 th segment, each team only managed 2 points. The Cats lead by 9 points at the half, 27-18.
UK scored its 27 points in a total of 32 possessions for the half, and Transylvania scored its 18 points on a total of 31 possessions. Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 17-13, but Transy won the offensive boards with 2 offensive rebounds to Kentucky's 1. Neither team scored a second chance point in the first half. Transylvania had an offensive efficiency of 0.581 ppp on its 31 first chance possessions and 0.000 ppp for its 2 second chance possessions. UK had 0.844 ppp on its 32 first chance possessions and 0.000 ppp on its 1 second chance possession. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed an anemic 8.3% of its misses as offensive rebounds while Transylvania was able to convert 11.1% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well from the free throw line in this half, making 5-6 [83.3%]. Transylvania also shot well from the line, 3-4 [75.0%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 9-21 overall [42.9%] and 4-11 from long range [36.4%]. For Transylvania, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a weak 3-11 [27.3%] and from long range, Transylvania hit 3-12 [25.0%].
Turnovers were in great supply in this first half. The Cats committed a whopping 9 turnovers, one for every 3.6 possessions. The Cats forced only 8 Transylvania turnovers, one for every 3.9 possessions.
In the opening segment of the second half, Coach Calipari started Mays and Cauley-Stein in lieu of Harrow and Wiltjer, and the Cats outscored Transy 12-4 to extend their lead to a game high 17 points, 39-22, at the under 16 media timeout with 14:37 to play in the game. In a very short second segment, the Cats outscored Transy 8-0 on two 3 pointers by Mays and a dunk by Noel, prompting a Transy timeout with 12:57 to play and the Cats up by 25 points, 47-22. After the timeout, each team scored a basket as the Cats maintained their 25-point lead at the under 12 media timeout with 11:29 to play in the game.
In an extended 3 rd segment, the Cats extended their lead to 40 points, 66-26 at the under 8 media timeout with 6:06 to play. However, on the last play before the timeout, Mays went down, grabbing at his right knee.
In the 4 th segment, the Cats extend the lead to 46 points, 72-26, at the last media timeout, with 2:49 to play in the game. Coach Calipari uses this last timeout to empty his bench. The Cats close out the game for a 46 point victory, 74-28 over a solid, pesky Transylvania Pioneer team.
UK scored its 74 points in a total of 64 possessions for the game, and Transylvania scored its 28 points on a total of 63 possessions.
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 29-21, but the Cats lost the battle of the offensive glass 3-4. Kentucky used its 3 second chance possessions to score 3 second chance points, winning the second chance points battle 3-0. Transylvania had an offensive efficiency of 0.444 ppp on its 63 first chance possessions and 0.000 ppp for its 4 second chance possessions. UK had 1.109 ppp on its 64 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp on its 3 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a weak 15.0% of its misses as offensive rebounds while Transylvania was able to convert a weaker 13.3% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 9-10 [90.0%]. Transylvania made 3-4 [75.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 29-49 overall [59.2%] and 7-19 from long range [36.8%]. For Transylvania, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a low 8-22[36.4%] and from long range, Transylvania hit 3-20 [15.0%].
The Cats committed 14 turnovers, but only 8 over the last 32 minutes, one for every 4.6 possessions. The Cats forced 23 Transylvania turnovers, one for every 2.7 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Friday night, in the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NYC in the Cats' first regular season game of the 2012-13 season against Maryland.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks