BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2013-14 Season Analytical Writings
The long wait is over, and this Big Blue Fan has received one of the most special gifts imaginable: Courtside seats to see the opening game in a Season For The Ages. That's right, the Old Professor will watch this one in person, at Rupp Arena. Thank you, Nathan, for your generosity!
For the first time in Coach Calipari's time at UK, the exhibition games broke from the pattern of control over an opponent in game 1 and dominance over a similar opponent in game 2. Cat fans, including this one, are scrambling to explain why this team, earmarked to be one of the greatest of all time, did not seem to elevate its game in the second exhibition game. Some say the unexpected outcome occurred because the team's starting point guard, Andrew Harrison, missed both games with a knee bruise. Others point to opponent #2, Montevallo, as a Division II opponent rather than the typical Division III opponents of recent years. Some even expand on the latter theme and explain that Montevallo is not any Division II team, but the division's national champion, one year removed. Perhaps one or more of these explanations are appropriate, but the disappointment of “only” a 24 point win on Monday night can't be masked.
Over Coach Calipari's first four seasons, the exhibition games have established some clear trends. First, the margin that the UK teams have posted in these games against clearly inferior talent has been proportional to that opponent's NGE for the previous season, and there has been a clear increase in the magnitude of the margin between the first exhibition game and second exhibition game regardless of the opponent, or the opponents' prior season performance levels.
Now, the games all count. Starting Friday, the stakes begin to rise. Coach Calipari scheduled this game against North Carolina Ashville, another on Sunday against Northern Kentucky both to use as training for the first real test of the season next Tuesday in Chicago against Michigan State. Now, the games all count.
Ashville finished the 2012-13 season with a 16-16 record, 10-6 in the Big South Conference, good enough for 3 rd in the South Division and 4 th overall in the 12 team conference. During the season, Ashville's most impressive win was a 7 point win at St Johns (#107 Pomeroy), but losses to #285 UNC Wilmington, #237 Coastal Carolina, #284 Winthrop, and #330 Longwood in the first round of the Big South Post Season Tournament defined a season that ended with 6 losses over the last 7 games.
For the season, Ashville averaged between 70 and 71 possessions per game and scored 71.8 ppg while allowing 69.2 ppg against a schedule strength of 0.3901. The season closed with an adjusted NGE of -0.017 points per possession. In comparison, the Cats' forecast in the early stages of this new season (to justify a Pomeroy Preseason rating of #5) has an adjusted NGE of 0.243.
Based on this early season comparison, the NGE method projects a 26 point UK win at Rupp Arena against Ashville, 83-57. Pomeroy has this game with a 25 point UK margin, 87-62.
An old country song sent the proud message, “I've got a front row seat to hear ole Johnny sing.” Well, thanks to the generosity of a friend, tonight I had a front row seat to watch ole Johnny (Calipari, who might as well be Cash) orchestrate his latest edition of Wildcats play the game of basketball. From my vantage point, courtside, I witnessed the game from the same perspective as a who's who of UK basketball. Coach Joe B. Hall was about 10 feet away. Mike Pratt was within reaching distance, and the voice of Coach Calipari directing his players throughout the game was clearly audible.
The players are men among children. Julius Randle is every bit the beast that those close to the program have spoken about. The size of the team, their length and width, consumed the floor space in the vicinity of the basket. Marcus Lee made his case tonight for more playing time, Willie Cauley-Stein showed improvement over a year ago, and Alex Poythress came to battle on the boards and finish plays. At the end of the game, the Cats overwhelmed UNC Ashville by 32 points, 89-57, despite the rough edges of a freshman dominated team playing their first ever college basketball game.
UK scored its 89 points in a total of 74 possessions for the game, and UNC Ashville scored its 57 points on a total of 74 possessions. One one possession in the first half, the Cats scored 6 points.
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 48-31, and the Cats won the battle of the offensive glass 18-11. Kentucky used its 18 second chance possessions to score 25 second chance points, and UNC Ashville converted their 11 offensive rebounds into 6 second chance points. UNC Ashville had an offensive efficiency of 0.689 ppp on its 74 first chance possessions and 0.545 ppp for its 11 second chance possessions. UK had0.865 ppp on its 74 first chance possessions and 1.389 ppp on its 18 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 47.4% of its misses as offensive rebounds while UNC Ashville was able to convert 26.8% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 30-48 [62.5%]. UNC Ashville made 10-21[47.6%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 28-59 overall [47.5%] and 3-11 from long range [27.3%]. For UNC Ashville, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a respectable 19-44 [43.2%] and from long range, UNC Ashville hit 3-13 [23.1%].
The Cats committed 12 turnovers, one for every 6.4 possessions. The Cats forced 15 UNC Ashville turnovers, one for every 4.7 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Sunday afternoon, again at Rupp Arena, the Cats will host Northern Kentucky..
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks