BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2012-13 Season Analytical Writings
Today has been a day for reflection, contemplation, and anticipation following the Cats' completion of a critical five game sequence that included four SEC road games with four wins, and only a single loss. After their 3 rd SEC game, as the Cats were poised to make this swing, I was not optimistic about the direction of the season, and I feared that this team would lose at least 3 of the 4 road games, with the effect of taking the Cats out of the SEC race, and requiring an SEC Tournament championship to have the opportunity to defend their National Championship come March. I hoped that the Cats would win the first two, at Auburn and at Alabama, and split the tough second half with trips to Ole Miss and Texas A&M. When the Cats let the Alabama game slip from their grasp, the sense of doom only heightened..
Then the Cats returned to Rupp a week ago on Saturday for a one game respite against a LSU team that was not among the conference elite. I expected this home break between the road swings would be a breather, but it turned into anything but that, as LSU had a three point attempt inside the last minute on the Rupp floor to steal the win. But, the Cats survive that test, and the focus shifted to Oxford Mississippi. The Cats entered the cauldron of the Tadd Smith Coliseum, overcame great adversity to deliver a 13 point win over a ranked, and unbeaten SEC leader, a road win that effectively offset the impact of losing at Alabama so long as the Cats move their game to College Station and get a victory over the team that put the 12 point beat down on them in Rupp in the SEC's second game. The rematch was huge for the Aggies. The rematch was huge for the Cats. It took overtime to decide, and the Cats managed to finish with the win, their improbable fourth win in the critical five game test by fire.
Nothing seems to be coming easy for this group of Cats, but other than one big blemish on their SEC record in 8 games, this team is doing what it needs to do to allow the time required to find its post season identity in time to make a difference in March. Five of the first 8 games have been on the road, producing 4 road wins. Four SEC road games remain, and six SEC games at Rupp to finish the season. An 8-2 finish would conclude a fine season with 23 wins, and coveted SEC Tournament bye. A 9-1 finish would be marvelous, and that is within reach for this team. A 10-0 finish would be story book time for sure, but would deliver yet another SEC Championship. (Yes, it is OK to engage in a momentary dream of what can be).
Why the optimism? I believe this team is turning a corner. I believe it began that turn at Ole Miss, and while it was a nail biter at A&M, the fact of the win indicates to me it is continuing to come around that bend. Last year between games 20 and 25, the Cats surged to a level of play that carried that group to its National Championship. This team is two games into a similar 5 game surge, and while 1 game does not a trend make, and 2 games is not definitive, the Cats have two games at Rupp, first South Carolina and then a rematch with Auburn, to establish this trend before its next road trip, to Florida and then Tennessee.
Therefore, these next two games at Rupp are very important for this team's future.
South Carolina enters this game with a 12-6 record, 2-6 in the SEC. SOUTH CAROLINA's most impressive SEC win has been that 21 point thrashing of #76 Arkansas in Columbia on January 26. However, in their next game, the Gamecocks had trouble scoring points in the first half against #1 Florida, and fell by 39 points, 75-36, and when USC returned home to face #125 Georgia, they lost by 11. Therefore, USC has lost their last two, and four of their last 5, also losing at home to #158 Vanderbilt by 7. Among the Gamecocks' most embarrassing non-conference losses came in Columbia to #174 Elon College by 12 points. The CAROLINA non-conference schedule strength was only 0..2342 (#343 rd out of 347 D1 teams) and since starting SEC play, the South Carolina overall schedule strength has risen to only 0.4091 (#268 th ).
SOUTH CAROLINA has averaged about 69 possessions per game, producing 69.1 ppg (1.00 ppp) and allowing 67.9 ppg (0.99 ppp). SOUTH CAROLINA has turned the ball over on 23.8% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 20.7% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, SOUTH CAROLINA has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 40.9% about 8% above the 33% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of68.0%, about 1% above the NCAA average.
In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 70 possessions per game, producing 76.2 ppg (1.09 ppp) and allowing 62.9 ppg (0.90 ppp) against a schedule strength of 0..5953 (72 nd ). The Cats have committed turnovers on 18.8% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 18.7% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 34.3% and 69.1% on the offensive and defensive ends.
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of Kentucky by 24 points, 81-57 in a game played at a pace of 69 possessions for the Cats and 69 possessions for SOUTH CAROLINA. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky's favor by 22 points, 82-60 at a pace of 69 possessions. If this team is surging, as I now believe they are, they should win by 33 or more points. If the team is still just fooling around, and the darker side of its prior split personality emerges, the margin could be 15 points or less. I am fully expecting the actual margin to exceed the predicted margin by 9 or more points.
During interviews on Monday, Coach Calipari suggested that he needs to find more playing time for Willie Cauley-Stein, and he can't justify reduced time for Nerlens Noel, Kyle Wiltjer, or Alex Poythress. Therefore, we may see less minutes for Harrow and Goodwin starting tonight. For the sixth game, Coach Calipari will use the three freshmen, Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin , and Alex Poythress starting with Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays. Coach Calipari will use Kyle Wiltjer, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Jarrod Polson off the bench. Jon Hood may also see some game action tonight. Twany Beckham remains unavailable due to his reinjured back.
The Cats control the opening tip, but as has been the case often this year, end the first possession of the game with a turnover. However, the Cats do manage to draw first blood when Goodwin makes 1 of 2 from the line, and eventually move to an early 11-4 lead. However, back to back 3 pointers by USC allows them to trim the lead to 3 points, 15-12, at the under 16 media timeout with 14:29 to play in the first half, and USC will have the ball after the timeout. In the second segment, 4 UK turn overs, 7 for the game, allowed USC to take their first lead of the game, 18-17 with 10:15 to play, forcing Coach Calipari to take a timeout. After the timeout, the Cats manage to get to the free throw line, and will shoot after the under 12 media timeout, with 9:56 remaining in the first half.
The Cats are 6-8, and have rebounded both of their missed shots. USC is shooting under 40% in the early going, but the Cats trail by 1 point because of 7 Kentucky turnovers. Mays makes both free throws, and the Cats begin a frantic 9-0 forcing USC to call a timeout with 8:23 to play and the Cats up 26-18. In the fourth segment, the Cats continue to pull away, outscoring USC 10-5 in the segment to take a 36-23 lead at the under 4 media timeout with 3:06 left in the first half. Kyle Wiltjer will shoot a pair of free throws after the timeout.
In the final segment, the Cats continue to build a huge lead, adding another nickel to the margin for a 21 point lead, 45-24 at the half.
UK scored its 45 points on 34 possessions for the half, and SOUTH CAROLINA scored its 24 points on 34 possessions. Kentucky won the battle of the boards in the first half 22-10, but South Carolina won on the offensive boards, 5-3. Each team used its second chance possessions to score 4 second chance points. SOUTH CAROLINA had an offensive efficiency of 0.588 ppp on its 34 first chance possessions and 0.800 ppp for its 5 second chance possession. UK had 1.206 ppp on its 34 first chance possessions and 1.333 ppp on its 3 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 37.5% of its misses as offensive rebounds while SOUTH CAROLINA was able to convert 20.8% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well from the free throw line in this half, making 12 of 15 attempts (80.0%). SOUTH CAROLINA finished 3-6 [50.0%] from the free throw line. The Cats hit 15 of 22 (68.2%) shots in the first half including 3-5 (60.0%) from long range. For SOUTH CAROLINA, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a weak 6-19 [31.6%] and from long range, SOUTH CAROLINA hit 3-13 [23.1%].
The Cats committed 9 turnovers, one for every 3.7 possessions. The Cats forced 4 SOUTH CAROLINA turnovers, one for every 8.5 possessions.
The Cats open the second half with a pair of dry possessions before Mays drains a 3 pointer to put the Cats up by 22 points. However, that is the largest the Cats can make the lead in this opening segment, as USC outscores the Cats 12-7 in the segment, and trim the lead to 16 points at the under 16 media timeout. Goodwin will be shooting a pair of free throws after the timeout. In the second segment, the Cats begin to grind on USC again, and reestablish that game high 22 point lead, 62-40, at the under 12 media timeout.
In the third segment, the Cats add a pair of points to their lead, now at 24 points, 68-44 at the under 8 media timeout. After adding 2 more points to the lead, the Cats stop scoring, and USC scores 8 straight, to cut the lead to 18 points, 70-52, prompting a UK timeout with 4:30 to play in the game. After the timeout, Willie Cauley-Stein ends the USC run with a dunk, and on the next USC possession, Mays goes to the floor trying to fight through a pick, stopping action for the under 4 media timeout with 3:54 to play and the Cats up by 20 points, 72-52. The Cats close the game for a 22 point win, 77-55.
UK scored its 77 points in 67 possessions [1.15 ppp] for the game, and SOUTH CAROLINA scored its 55 points on 68 possessions [0.81 ppp].
Kentucky won the boards, with a rebounding edge 42-25, and South Carolina won the battle of the offensive glass 9-7. SOUTH CAROLINA converted its 9 second chance possessions into 8 second chance points while Kentucky converted their 7 second chance possessions to score 8 second chance points. SOUTH CAROLINA had an offensive efficiency of 0.691 ppp on its 68 first chance possessions and 0.888 ppp for its 9 second chance possessions. UK had 1.030 ppp on its 67 first chance possessions and 1.143 ppp on its 7 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 30.4% of its misses as offensive rebounds while SOUTH CAROLINA was able to convert 20.5% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
Kentucky shot poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 18-28 [64.3%]. SOUTH CAROLINA made 16-24 [66.7%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 27-44 overall [61.4%] and 5-8 from long range [62.5%]. For SOUTH CAROLINA, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a weak 12-36 [33.3%] and from long range, SOUTH CAROLINA hit 5-23 [21.7%].
The Cats who committed 17 turnovers, one for every 3.9 possessions. The Cats forced 7 SOUTH CAROLINA turnovers, one for every 9.7 possessions.
Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 24 point Kentucky win, 81-57 at a pace of 69 possessions for UK and 69 possessions for SOUTH CAROLINA. The final score was 77 (81) to 55 (57) at a pace of 67 possessions for the Cats and 68 possessions for SOUTH CAROLINA. The UK offensive efficiency for the game was 1.149 ppp (1.174 ppp) and the UK defensive efficiency was 0.809 ppp (0.826 ppp).
Next Game On Schedule: February 9, 2013 when the Cats get a second straight game at Rupp when the Cats will host Auburn.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks