BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2012-13 Season Analytical Writings
In the 1960s, network television delivered into American homes each week a satirical look at current events with a show often called TW3, “That Was The Week That Was.” Well, on Saturday afternoon, the Senior Day Ceremonies that precede a Kentucky-Florida basketball game the will draw attention to the fact that the 2012-13 Kentucky basketball season is nearly over. However, in all candor, this season ended for the Kentucky program almost a month ago in Gainesville, Florida when Nerlens Noel's college career ended with a torn ACL.
One of the criticisms of this team has been a lack of all out effort on the floor that yielded a team that appeared ready to whip the basketball world one minute, and incapable of defending its home court the next. But, through all of that vacillation of the first 23 games, no one could find that specific fault in Nerlens' game. He was racing to the Gators' basket in an attempt to prevent an easy scoring opportunity created by the lax, effortless play of a teammate. Yes, his season ended on one of his well known all out efforts, and we now know that play marked the end of this team's season as well.
That Was The Season That Was.
Any flickering hopes that this team, and their base of fans had for a transformation from the Jekyll and Hyde split personality that resulted from Nerlens Noel's solitary commitment and dedication to sustain, all out effort flickered out that February evening at the Gators end of the O-Connell Center court. The Gators shut the door by sealing their 17 point win over the Cats. If you recall, this clearly superior Gator team was statistically 19 points better than this Kentucky group on February 12, 2013 at O'Connell, at least on paper. That loss, even the magnitude of the final margin, was not really a surprise to objective viewers.
However, the 30 point loss at Tennessee, the 4 point escape act against Vanderbilt in Rupp, the 13 point loss at Arkansas, and the 10 point loss at Georgia are not consistent with the play this team exhibited during those first 23 and ¾ games prior to Nerlens' final play. Even the overtime win over Missouri was a clear over-extension of this team's capability without the Big Flat Top on the floor.
This team has been in a statistical free fall since that night. Prior to the Cats' trip to Gainesville, they were riding a 5 game win streak, this team's longest. Their cumulative play over 23 games produced a 17-6 record and the nation's 18 th highest Net Game Efficiency. That performance level is sufficient to keep a Kentucky team in the conversation for a 4 to 5 seeding in the NCAA Tournament, and in the conversation for the SEC race against these Gators. Since then, the team's Net Game Efficiency has been in free fall, and entering Saturday's finale against the same Gators, is barely the nation's 44 th best effort. At 44 th , there are probably not enough NCAA at large bids to reach this team. The Cats, without their heart and soul, Nerlens Noel, will be on the outside looking in one season removed from a classic championship run by the previous Kentucky team.
Such are the up and down fortunes of freshmen dominated, re-constituted annual teams, as compared to the tradition of sustained results from perennial teams, of which this Kentucky program had always prided itself, at least prior to the one and done era ushered in by Coach Calipari 4 years ago. The statistical comparison that follows has been reduced to an esoteric blur.
Florida enters this game with a 25-4 record, 14-3 in the SEC, having secured the out right SEC regular season championship well over a game ago. Overall, Florida's schedule has been very respectable the 56 th most difficult in D1 basketball (0.6654 per Pomeroy). Florida will be the #1 seed in next week's SEC tournament regardless of Saturday's outcome. However, the Gators are still in contention for one of the coveted #1 seeds in the big dance, and rightfully so with their #1 overall Net Game Efficiency per Pomeroy. That is why Florida realizes the importance of this game. A win at Rupp, indeed a big win at Rupp could be the boost this group of Gators needs to lock up one of those #1 spots. Have no doubt that Coach Donovan's players will fully appreciate the importance of this final game for their post-season hopes.
In contrast to the focus that the Gators will certainly bring to this game, the Wildcat camp is in disarray following the back to back road losses of this past week. Players are opening criticizing teammates. Coach Calipari is publically trying to shift the attention from his players to himself. I see overwhelming doubt that Coach Calipari's players will fully appreciate the importance of this final game until the reality of its outcome begins to soak in at some point after about 2 pm Saturday. The rest is academic.
FLORIDA has averaged about 63 possessions per game, producing 72.5 ppg (1.15 ppp) and allowing 53.0 ppg (0.84 ppp). FLORIDA has turned the ball over on 17.6% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 22.8% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, FLORIDA has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 34.0% about 1% better than the 33% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 71.5%, about 5% better than the NCAA average.
In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 69 possessions per game, producing 74.3 ppg (1.08 ppp) and allowing 64.9 ppg (0.94 ppp) against a schedule strength of 0.6392 (70 th ). The Cats have committed turnovers on 19.3% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 17.6% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 34.6% and 68.3% on the offensive and defensive ends.
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of Florida by 6 points, 63-69 in a game played at a pace of 66 possessions for the Cats and 66 possessions for FLORIDA. Pomeroy figures the Game in Florida's favor by 9 points, 61-70 at a pace of 64 possessions. The likely margin range for this matchup is Florida by 15 to Kentucky by 3 points.
As he throughout the three game home stand, Coach Calipari will start three freshmen Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, and Archie Goodwin with Sophomore Ryan Harrow and Senior Julius Mays.. That will leave Kyle Wiltjer, Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood coming off the bench.
The Cats control the opening tip, and Willie Cauley-Stein takes the ball directly to the hoop on a drive. Even though he missed his contested left hand attempt, Alex Poythress was on the weak side waiting on the rebound and put it in. On Florida's first possession, Willie Cauley-Stein blocked a shot and set the Cats up for a Goodwin fast break. Billy Donovan called a timeout only 48 seconds into the game. After the timeout, the Gators turned the ball over, and the Cats converted for a quick 6-0 start before the Gators managed their first score of the game. By the end of the opening segment, the Cats sprinted to a 9 point, 11-2 lead at the under 16 media timeout. Florida will have a pair of free throws after the break.
For the third consecutive game, the Cats have opened with high energy and intensity, and opened up a sizeable early lead. The last 2 outings, the Cats relaxed after the first media timeout, and the opponent pulled even, or into the lead by the under 12 media timeout. Today, the opening intensity must be maintained. The Gators converted both free throws, and following a stagnant Kentucky possession, Florida drained their first 3 pointer of the day to trim that lead to 4 points, 11-7. Then after each team failed to score on their next 2 or 3 possessions each, Florida picked Harrow's pocket and got a run out basket to trim the lead to only 2 points, 11-9, forcing Coach Calipari to call a timeout with 12:58 to play in the first half. The Gators add another bucket to extend their run to 9-0 in this segment that draws them even with the Cats at 11-11.
Harrow ends the run with a three pointer, and at the end of the prolonged segment, the Cats foul a Gator on a shot attempt, taking the game to the under 12 media timeout with 10:55 to play. Florida will again be shooting 2 free throws after the break. Florida made the first, but missed the second, and the teams played with the Cats either in the lead or tied throughout the 3 rd segment, with the segment ending on a rebounding foul by Harrow and the Cats up 19-16 at the under 8 media timeout. Harrow and Willie Cauley-Stein have 2 first half fouls.
In the fourth segment, the Cats ride a Mays 3 pointer to a 4 point lead, 24-20, but the Gators answer with 7 straight points to take their first lead of the game, 27-24, forcing Coach Calipari to take another timeout with 4:25 to play in the first half. Out of the timeout, the Cats turned the ball over, and the Gators converted to move on top by 5, 29-24. The Cats ended the second 9 point Gator run of the game, and then moved on to a 6 point run of its own to reclaim the lead, 30-29, at the late under 4 media timeout with 1:50 to play. The Cats will have the ball after the timeout. The Cats fail to score, and the Gators reclaim a 1 point lead. With 5 seconds to play, Goodwin is fouled, but he missed both. Kyle Wiltjer got the rebound, and Goodwin was fouled again. This time, Goodwin converts 1 of the 2 to draw the Cats even with the Gators, 31-31, at the half.
UK scored its 31 points on 33 possessions for the half, and FLORIDA scored its 31 points on 33 possessions. Florida won the battle of the boards in the first half 21-19, but Kentucky won the offensive glass, by a 6-5 margin. Florida converted its 5 second chance possessions into 6 second chance points, and Kentucky used its 6 second chances for 7 points. FLORIDA had an offensive efficiency of 0.758 ppp on its 33 first chance possessions and 1.200 ppp for its 5 second chance possession. UK had 0.727 ppp on its 33 first chance possessions and 1.167 ppp on its 6 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a weak 27.3% of its misses as offensive rebounds while FLORIDA was able to convert 27.8% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this half, making 4 of 8 attempts (50.0%). FLORIDA finished 3-4 [75.0%] from the free throw line. The Cats hit 12 of 31 (38.7%) shots in the first half including 3-11 (27.3%) from long range. For FLORIDA, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 11-22 [50.0%] and from long range, FLORIDA hit 2-9 [22.2%].
The Cats committed 4 turnovers, one for every 8.2 possessions. The Cats forced 5 FLORIDA turnovers, one for every 6.6 possessions.
The Gators open play in the second half by taking the ball directly at Willie Cauley-Stein and his 2 fouls, but Willie Cauley-Stein blocks the shot, and Harrow scores at the other end to lift the Cats back into the lead. Following a Gator turnover on the second possession, Willie Cauley-Stein works free inside for a dunk, prompting Billy Donovan to call a quick timeout just as he did at the beginning of the game, this time after about 1 ½ minutes. After the timeout, Willie Cauley-Stein got another block, his 4 th of the game, and his 2 nd of this half, to trigger a break for the Cats on which Goodwin is fouled and makes 1 of 2 free throws. The Cats complete the opening segment of the second half, much the way they did the opening segment of the game, outscoring the Gators 9-3 (11-2 in first half) to take a 6 point lead at the under 16 media timeout. The Cats retain possession after the timeout.
After the timeout, the Cats score to move on top by 8, but Florida answers with a matching basket. Willie Cauley-Stein got a put back basket to move back on top by 8, and the Gators made a pair of free throws to ease back within 6 points, 44-38. Willie Cauley-Stein is then fouled on a drive to the rim. Despite his 36% free throw shooting, he makes the first, and the Cats rebound his miss on the second. The Cats can't take advantage of the second chance, and on the next trip, Willie Cauley-Stein commits his 4 th foul, taking Willie Cauley-Stein out of the game. With Willie Cauley-Stein on the bench, Florida scores at will inside, and the Cats' offense stalls. The Gators regain a 1 point lead, 46-45 at the under 12 media timeout and the Cats in possession.
After the timeout, Coach Calipari realizes that the team cannot compete without Willie Cauley-Stein on the floor, and Willie Cauley-Stein returns to the game with his 4 fouls. After trading baskets, the Gators move up by 4 points, 51-47, but Mays drains a 3 pointer to trim the lead to 1. Murphy answers with back to back 3 pointers to move on top by 7, their largest lead of the game. Coach Calipari calls another timeout with the score 57-50 and 7:29 to play in the game. The Gators are unable to add to their lead despite back to back Kentucky turnovers, and on the third Kentucky trip, Goodwin is fouled on a drive to the basket. On the reset, Goodwin charges for the Cats' third consecutive turnover. Again the Gators fail to capitalize, and on the 4 th possession, Goodwin is fouled again, but he misses the first and makes the second.
When Florida again fails to score, Goodwin gets to the rim for a basket, and then Goodwin steals a Florida pass for a run out basket to trim the lead to 2, 57-55. The Gators miss again, and a foul on Harrow sends him to line for a pair of free throws and he converts both to tie the score at 57-57 with 4:06 to play. Florida then turns the ball over again, taking the game to the under 4 media timeout with the Cats in possession, and the score tied at 57-57 and 3:58 to play in the game.
After each team fails to score on their first two trips, the Gators foul Willie Cauley-Stein sending him to the line for a pair of free throws. Willie Cauley-Stein drains the first, and misses the second. The Gators fail to score, and the Cats move back on offense with 2:45 to play, but the Cats fails to get a shot and turn it back over to the Gators on a shot clock violation.
The Gators again fail to score, but the Cats turn the ball back over to the Gators on a Goodwin offensive foul with 1:22 to play, and the Cats clinging to a 1 point lead, 58-57. The Gators again fail to score, and the Cats get the ball with 50 seconds to play. The Gators foul Goodwin on a drive, and he will shoot a pair of free throws with 25 seconds to play. Donovan takes a timeout to allow Goodwin to think about his situation. Today, Goodwin has only made 5 of 10 attempts from the line. He misses the first, and makes the second. The Gators again fail to score, and the Cats get the ball with 11 seconds left, and a 2 point lead, 59-57. Florida used their last timeout of the game. The Cats have 1 timeout left.
The Cats get the ball in to Mays, and the Gators foul him as quickly as possible, with 9.4 seconds to play. He makes them both. Florida misses a 3 point attempt, the Cats rebound and secure a 4 point win over the #1 Florida Gators, 61-57. The Gators failed to score after taking a 7 point lead, 57-50 at the under 8 media timeout and with 7:29 to play, 0 points on their final 14 possessions.
UK scored its 61 points in 64 possessions [0.95 ppp] for the game, and FLORIDA scored its 57 points on 65 possessions [0.88 ppp]. Kentucky won the boards, with a rebounding edge 40-34, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive glass 13-7. FLORIDA converted its 7 second chance possessions into 6 second chance points while Kentucky converted their 13 second chance possessions to score 13 second chance points. FLORIDA had an offensive efficiency of 0.785 ppp on its 65 first chance possessions and 0.857 ppp for its 7 second chance possessions. UK had 0.750 ppp on its 64 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp on its 13 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 32.5% of its misses as offensive rebounds while FLORIDA was able to convert 200.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
Kentucky shot poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 13-22 [59.1%] and missing the front end of several bonus opportunities. FLORIDA made 8-10 [80.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 22-56 overall [39.3%] and 4-17 from long range [23.5%]. For FLORIDA, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a low 17-41 [41.5%] and from long range, FLORIDA hit 5-14 [35.7%].
The Cats who committed 10 turnovers, one for every 6.4 possessions. The Cats forced 12 FLORIDA turnovers, one for every 5.4 possessions.
Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 6 point Kentucky loss, 63-69 at a pace of 66 possessions for UK and 66 possessions for FLORIDA. The final score was 61 (63) to 57 (69) at a pace of 64 possessions for the Cats and 65 possessions for FLORIDA. The UK offensive efficiency for the game was 0.953 ppp (0.955 ppp) and the UK defensive efficiency was 0.877 ppp (1.045 ppp).
Next Game On Schedule: Friday, March 15, 2013 when the Cats will open their play in the 2013 SEC Tournament in Nashville. The Opponent will depend upon the seeding and the results of Thursday games in the Tournament.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks