2012-13 Season Analytical Writings

Cats Start A Seven Game Season Without Nerlens Noel

For almost the entire season, Nerlens Noel has been the most efficient basketball player on the UK team. His offensive skills were raw at the start, and they developed steadily, but Nerlens Noel's real mark for this team came at the defensive end where he led the nation in blocked shots. The Cats leaned on Nerlens Noel to get the job done when others seemed unable to do so. Then on Tuesday night, in Gainesville, Florida with 8:03 to play in the game, Nerlens Noel responded to a Florida run out created off one of many Kentucky turnovers, and raced toward the Florida basket to block the attempted layup. To that point, it was classic Nerlens Noel, as we have all come to admire his hustle and his effort. Then, he crashed into the basket support and ripped his knee on its corner.

Nerlens Noel's season came to an end at that instant, and Nerlens Noel went to the floor, unable to walk. After a delay in the game to attend to his injury, his teammate lifted him from the floor, and carried him off the floor, in a tribute to their fallen leader rarely observed by this fan over many years. The Cats lost the game to the Gators that night by 17 points, but the most impactful loss was of the team's leader, Nerlens Noel. It is likely that we will never be blessed to see him play this game again in a Kentucky uniform, and it is too bad that his final appearance could not have been on the NCAA big stage for which he is most worthy. However, Nerlens Noel will forever occupy an honored position in the hearts and minds of the Big Blue Nation.

Now, this team must create a new identity, and if this new identity will enjoy an extended existence into the post season, the team will have to evolve into a winner without Nerlens Noel very quickly. Seven games remain on the regular schedule, and the first opportunity this team will have to demonstrate that it too has heart will be on the road. Over the many years, Knoxville has been one of the most difficult SEC road venues for UK teams. The litany of great UK teams that could not get out of Stokley and now Thompson-Bowling with a win is lengthy. My earliest recognition of this reality was in 1966 when the Runts suffered their only regular season loss in Stokley. The 1975 NCAA runner up lost in Stokley. The 1984 final four team lost at Stokley. The powerful 1988 Sutton coached team lost in Knoxville. The 1993 final four team lost at Thompson Bowling, as did Coach Calipari's 2010 team.

This is not the venue at which you want to unveiling a “new” team identity.

However, if the Cats can find the heart to get the W on Saturday in Knoxville, the team will send a message to the rest of the SEC and the nation that the Cats are not a one-string fiddle.

Tennessee enters this game with a 13-10 record, 5-6 in the SEC. One explanation for this record on behalf of Tennessee is the strength of its a non-conference schedule that rates 104 th most difficult (0..5701) and with the SEC games to date included, Tennessee's schedule strength rises to 0.6378 (52 nd most difficult). Six of Tennessee's losses have come on the road, at #25 Georgetown by 1, at #19 Virginia by 8, and at SEC venues #70 Alabama by 3, #18 Kentucky by 10, #39 Mississippi by 6, and #71 Arkansas by 13. The road losses do not speak to a team that is only ranked #97 by Pomeroy as the Cats travel to Knoxville. However, the three home losses may do so, to #118 Georgia by 6, #39 Mississippi by 18, and #35 Memphis by 5.

At 5-6 with 7 games remaining, the Volunteers may have as strong motivation for a respectable finish as the Cats. If the Volunteers finish with 2 or fewer wins down the stretch, they will likely finish in the bottom 4 of the SEC, requiring them to play the new Wednesday round in the tournament. Beating the Cats on Saturday would be a huge step away from that fate for Tennessee. The Cats on the other hand need a strong finish, starting with a win in Knoxville, to secure a first round bye in the tournament and eliminate any chatter about bubbles for this group.

The stakes on Saturday are high for both teams.

TENNESSEE has averaged about 64 possessions per game, producing 63.7 ppg (0.99 ppp) and allowing 61.6 ppg (0.97 ppp). TENNESSEE has turned the ball over on 20.4% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 17.3% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, TENNESSEE has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 34.5% about 1% above the 33% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 72.5%, about 5% above the NCAA average.

In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 69 possessions per game, producing 75.0 ppg (1.08 ppp) and allowing 62.8 ppg (0.91 ppp) against a schedule strength of 0…6209 (62 nd ). The Cats have committed turnovers on 19.3% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 18.2% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 34.8% and 69.4% on the offensive and defensive ends.

Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of Kentucky by 2 points, 67-65 in a game played at a pace of 67 possessions for the Cats and 67 possessions for TENNESSEE. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky's favor by 6 points, 69-63 at a pace of 65 possessions. The likely margin range for this matchup is Tennessee by 7 to Kentucky by 11 points.

Game Summary:

The loss of Nerlens Noel will force Coach Calipari to juggle his lineup again. At the start of the season, Ryan Harrow mysteriously disappeared from the scene, only to return 4 games later. In early January, Willie Cauley-Stein had to sit out due to knee surgery, and then he returned. Now, Nerlens Noel will not be available for the rest of the season, forcing Coach Calipari to make his 4 th lineup changes for reasons really beyond his control. Today, Coach Calipari will start two freshmen Willie Cauley-Stein, and Archie Goodwin However, Kyle Wiltjer will start over Alex Poythress and Julius Mays, and Jarrod Polson will open in the backcourt, with Ryan Harrow moving to the bench. That will leave Alex Poythress, Ryan Harrow, and Jon Hood coming off the bench.

Tennessee controls the opening tip, and start off with extremely cold shooting, but 5 quick offensive rebounds coupled with 3 early UK turnovers give the Vols the early lead, 7-5 forcing Coach Calipari to take a timeout with 17:12 to go. Out of the timeout, the Cats tie the score at 7-7, but Tennessee scored the last 4 points of the segment, and will have 2 free throws after the under 16 media timeout. After nearly 5 minutes of play, the Vols have had 13 shots at the basket to Kentucky's 7 due to the 5-1 advantage on the offensive glass and a 0-3 advantage on turnovers. Out of the timeout, the Vols extend their lead to 16-7, and then 22-10, and 24-12 at the under 12 media timeout with 11:17 to play. During that segment, a Tennessee possession stopped with the ball lodged between the rim and backboard, e.g. a held ball situation. However, instead of giving possession to the Cats on the arrow, the officials awarded possession to the Vols without reviewing the correctness of the scorer's arrow, and Tennessee made a 3 pointer on the inbounds play. During a subsequent dead ball, the officials acknowledged to Coach Calipari that they had awarded possession incorrectly. As an outgrowth of this situation, Doug Shows, the official who made the mistake ejected Coach Robic from the game during the timeout, and Tennessee made two technical free throws to extend the lead to 14 points.

Out of the timeout, the Cats can't find a way to score and Tennessee races to a commanding 21 point lead, 33-12 forcing yet another Kentucky timeout After the timeout, the teams play scoreless to a foul on Harrow at the under 8 media timeout, with 7:45 to play in the first half. The Vols will have free throws after the timeout. After extend their lead to 23, 35-12, the Cats scored back to back baskets to trim the lead to 19 points but Tennessee closed the scoring of the segment, and the Cats turned the ball over for the 9 th time and the Vols lead stands at 21 at the under 4 media timeout, and Tennessee will be at the line after the timeout.

In the final segment, Tennessee adds 3 points to their dominant lead to lead by 24 points, 50-26 at the half.

UK scored its 25 points on 32 possessions for the half, and TENNESSEE scored its 50 points on 32 possessions. Tennessee won the battle of the boards in the first half 20-13, and Tennessee won on the offensive boards, 10-8. Tennessee converted its 10 second chance possessions into 9 second chance points, and Kentucky used its 8 second chances for 9 points. TENNESSEE had an offensive efficiency of 1.281 ppp on its 32 first chance possessions and 0.900 ppp for its 10 second chance possession. UK had 0.531 ppp on its 32 first chance possessions and 1.125 ppp on its 8 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 44.4% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TENNESSEE was able to convert 66.7% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit well from the free throw line in this half, making 6 of 6 attempts (100.0%). TENNESSEE finished 12-15 [80.0%] from the free throw line. The Cats hit 9 of 27 (33.3%) shots in the first half including 2-6 (33.3%) from long range. For TENNESSEE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 13-26 [50.0%] and from long range, TENNESSEE hit 4-4 [100.0%].

The Cats committed 10 turnovers, one for every 3.2 possessions. The Cats forced 5 TENNESSEE turnovers, one for every 6.4 possessions.

Second Half:

Kentucky starts the second half with 1-4 shooting and a turnover, while Tennessee uses 3-4 shooting to move on top by a game high 28 points, 58-30, prompting Coach Calipari to take another timeout. Tennessee has rebounded all five the missed shots of the second half. After the Kentucky timeout, Jon Hood has a 3 point attempt blocked, and Tennessee converts that into a score at the other end to double the score on the Cats, 60-30, at the under 16 media timeout and 15:35 to play in the game.

In the second segment, Tennessee moved on out to a 34 point lead, 66-32, before the Cats scored the last 7 points of the segment, prompting a Tennessee timeout, with the score 66-39. However, the under 30 margin was not long lived, and Tennessee moved back on top by 31, 73-42 with 9:13 to play, as Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein both foul out of the game. At the under 8 media timeout, Tennessee leads by 29, 73-44, with 2 free throws coming up after the timeout.

In the 4 th segment, the Vols outscore the Cats 11-3, and the segment ends on a hard foul as Goodwin drives to the basket, and after the foul, the Tennessee player pushed Goodwin to the floor under the basket. Goodwin reacted to the push, at which time the officials step in, and assess a foul against Goodwin. After the zebras sort it out, Tennessee is given 2 free throws on Goodwin's Technical, and Kentucky got 4 free throws on the personal and the contact technical. The game comes to a merciful end with the Cats on the short end of an 88-58 score.


UK scored its 58 points in 63 possessions [0.92 ppp] for the game, and TENNESSEE scored its 88 points on 62 possessions [1.42 ppp].

Tennessee won the boards, with a rebounding edge 39-21, and Tennessee won the battle of the offensive glass 15-12. TENNESSEE converted its 15 second chance possessions into 19 second chance points while Kentucky converted their 12 second chance possessions to score 13 second chance points. TENNESSEE had an offensive efficiency of 1.113 ppp on its 62 first chance possessions and 1.267 ppp for its 15 second chance possessions. UK had 0.714 ppp on its 63 first chance possessions and 1.083 ppp on its 12 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 33.3% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TENNESSEE was able to convert 60.0% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

Kentucky shot well from the free throw line in this game, making 14-18 [77.8%]. TENNESSEE made 25-31 [80.6%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 19-53 overall [35.8%] and 6-15 from long range [40.0%]. For TENNESSEE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 24-45 [53.3%] and from long range, TENNESSEE hit 5-5 [100.0%].

The Cats who committed 15 turnovers, one for every 4.2 possessions. The Cats forced 15 TENNESSEE turnovers, one for every 4.1 possessions.

Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 2 point Kentucky win, 67-65 at a pace of 67 possessions for UK and 67 possessions for TENNESSEE. The final score was 58 (67) to 88 (65) at a pace of 63 possessions for the Cats and 62 possessions for TENNESSEE. The UK offensive efficiency for the game was 0.921 ppp (1.000 ppp) and the UK defensive efficiency was 1.419 ppp (0.970 ppp).

Next Game On Schedule: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 when the Cats return to Rupp for the first of three straight road games, first up Vanderbilt.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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