BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2013-14 Season Analytical Writings
If ever a young team entered the Trial by Ordeal of their first three games in 4 days and impressed even the cynical in the crowd, that is exactly what the young Kentucky Wildcats have done, 2 days into the 4 day Ordeal. On Friday, this team laced up their new blue sneakers for the first time against a real opponent. While they looked ragged in the first half, they hit their stride in the second half, and in their second outing on Sunday, they hit the floor with the ragged first half experience nothing but a distant memory in taking Northern Kentucky apart in the first 20 minutes on the way to a 26 point halftime lead, 48-26. The team eventually extended the lead into the mid-30s before Coach Calipari emptied the bench with over 6 minutes to play.
Based on Northern Kentucky's impressive, yet disappointing 1-point loss on Friday at Purdue, most observers would view Northern Kentucky as a stronger opponent than UNC Ashville. However, the change in the opponent quality between games 1 and 2 is insignificant compared to the jump in opponent strength that Kentucky will face on Tuesday night in Chicago for the Champions Classic. The Champions Classic features two games with the top four teams in the nation hitting head to head in the double header. #1 Kentucky faces #2 Michigan State, and #3 Kansas will face #4 Duke in the nightcap. (For the record, Pomeroy has the four rated #2 (Michigan State), #3 (Duke), #4 (Kentucky), and #8 (Kansas)) Is this a preview of the 2014 Final Four? May well be, but I have read that this is the earliest in a season that a #1 v #2 (wire service polls) game has ever occurred in college basketball.
A night for the ages at the beginning of a season for the ages, involving teams that each strive to leave a legacy of the ages for their respective programs. Kentucky's third element in its “Trial by Ordeal.”
Michigan State will leave Lansing with one game under its belt, and the Cats will leave Lexington with two games on their resume'. Last Friday evening, the Spartans sounded defeated #289 McNeese State 98-56 in a game played with 79 total possessions. When this 2013-14 game is factored into the recent Michigan State programmatic record, the Spartans average about 69 possessions per game, scoring 75.5 ppg (1.095 ppp) and yielding 58.4 ppg (0.855 ppp) against a schedule strength of 0.704. The Cats, when these first two games are factored into its recent programmatic record, average about 74 possessions per game, scoring 88.6 ppg (1.193 ppp) and yielding 66.0 ppg (0.894 ppp) against a schedule strength of 0.5715.
When adjusted for schedule strength, this edge in this game tilts ever so slightly to the Michigan State side of the ledger, 71-73. Pomeroy has this game as a 1 point game as well, but his analysis gives the Spartans the slim edge, 69-70.
No one wants this prediction to be wrong more than I do, yet all who have studied the UK schedule for this season have pointed to this game as the most difficult test during the regular season for the Cats. The reason for that alarm about this game is not a concern that this team will not be the monster that we all want and expect in March, but because it comes so early in the schedule, and Kentucky has such a young group of players. I suppose this is what “Trial By Ordeal” is all about. However, just as the original trial by ordeal of the dark ages did not provide valid results of guilt or innocence, this trial by ordeal will not yield any conclusive results about how this season will play out for these Cats. Finally, since my team, The Big Blue Cats, have Julius Randle, I would not discount my team's chances on Tuesday night in any respect.
This is WHY THEY PLAY THE GAMES .
Michigan State punched the young wildcats at the opening bell, and before the Cats could get their bearings, they were down 10-0. The remainder of the first half was played on essentially even terms with Michigan State going to the break, up 12 points, 44-32. The Cats opened the second half with the first 6 points, but could get no closer as Michigan State stretched the lead back to 12 points in response. The teams battled one another, and the Cats scratched their way to a 66-66 tie, but Michigan State answered the call with the next 6 points, and the Cats could not get even again, losing 78-74.
The young Cats were in the game at the end despite turning the ball over 17 times, and missing 14 of 34 free throws during the game.
UK scored its 74 points in a total of 71 possessions for the game, and Michigan State scored its 78 points on a total of 68 possessions. Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 44-32, and the Cats won the battle of the offensive glass 18-10. Kentucky used its 18 second chance possessions to score 24 second chance points, and Michigan State converted their 10 offensive rebounds into 14 second chance points. Michigan State had an offensive efficiency of 0.941 ppp on its 68 first chance possessions and1.400 ppp for its 10 second chance possessions. UK had 0.694 ppp on its 71 first chance possessions and 1.333 ppp on its 18 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 45.0% of its misses as offensive rebounds while Michigan State 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 game, making 20-34 [55.6%]. Michigan State made 13-17 [76.5%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 25-55 overall [45.5%] and 4-20 from long range [20.0%]. For Michigan State, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a respectable 25-51 [49.0%] and from long range, Michigan State hit 5-12 [41.7%].
The Cats committed 17 turnovers, one for every 4.2 possessions. The Cats forced 7 Michigan State turnovers, one for every 9.7 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Sunday night at Rupp Arena against Robert Morris.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks