BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2013-14 Season Analytical Writings
John Calipari's Cats began the 2013-14 basketball season with a long agenda. Some of their agenda items can be placed into the column of objectives that every team, starting any season should have on their list: Conference Championship, National Championship, and Undefeated Season. Every fan understands that the odds of any team achieving the last of these is so small that it is almost laughable to even speak the words. Only one team of the 351 that start play can achieve the second objective, but to be sure, one team will grab that brass ring in April. However, only a handful of teams can make a national championship a goal with a serious demeanor. In the vast majority of years, Kentucky finds itself in that handful. Conference championship are more common, with 33 of these championships to claim, at least 1/3 of those 351 teams can seriously pursue their objective of a conference championship.
After three games, this Kentucky team knows that its dream of an undefeated season, of 40-0, is off the table for 2013-14, but this UK team has no reason to doubt the viability of its pursuit of another SEC Championship and their 9 th National Championship. In a tale full of irony, the 2012-13 edition of the UK Wildcat basketball team saw its dream of an undefeated season eliminated in its second game, but the reality of their ability to pursue a conference and national championship did not end until February 12 th when that team lost its heart and its soul to a season ending injury their game at Florida. Thereafter, that team knew it's primary objective could nor, indeed would not occur, and that team simply played out the remainder of their schedule, appearing for each appointed encounter out of obligation rather than passion. This culminated in a trip to the NIT with an appointment to play Robert Morris University, and to add insult to injury, the game would not even be played in Lexington. These stray cats had to travel to play a first round NIT game.
Despite the NIT road appearance, the stray Cats entered that game a modest 5 point favorite, but not many observers were surprised when the strays did not put up much of a fight in that RMU alley. Resigned to their fate, that team was content to let the inevitable season ending loss occur sooner rather than later, and they walked out of that alley a 2 point loser. For eight months, the Big Blue Nation has been target of an unending string of Robert Morris jokes. The irony in this sordid story comes Sunday night when Robert Morris must walk into the Big Blue Alley where an angry, and hungry pack of Wildcats are waiting to pounce on this unsuspecting foe.
Robert Morris finished the 2013 season 24-11, 14-4 losing at Providence by 9 in the NIT second round against the 299 th toughest schedule in the nation (0.3524) with a ranking of #144 by Pomeroy. They come into Rupp Arena with a 2-1 record, on the heels of a road loss on Thursday night at #222 Eastern Michigan by 5 points which is “good” enough to justify a #152 Pomeroy ranking against an early schedule strength of 0.3383. This Robert Morris team has many of the same statistical profile characteristics as the Robert Morris team that put those wounded, and demoralized stray cats out of their collective misery 8 months ago. The Wildcats waiting in that Big Blue Alley for them Sunday are neither wounded nor demoralized. Actually, they have a measure of payback, revenge, retribution on their minds.
After last week's 3 games in 4 days Trial by Ordeal, the Cats also bring a 2-1 record into Sunday's clash. However, the Cats' early season schedule strength is 0.5486 A side-by-side statistical comparison shows:
Based on these team profiles, the NGE analysis projects a Kentucky win by 21 points, 86-65. Pomeroy has this game with a 21 point margin, 90-69.
Coach Calipari mixes up the starting lineup by inserting Marcus Lee in the line up instead of Willie Cauley-Stein. For the first time in the history of UK basketball, the starting five are five freshmen. Marcus Lee will join fellow Freshmen Andrew and Aaron Harrison, James Young, and Julius Randle Alex Poythress has proven a capable and dependable 6 th man, first off the bench, and he will be filling that role again in this game. Willie Cauley-Stein should also play an important role from the bench.
Marcus Lee controls the tip, and RMU commits a quick foul. Young misses from the perimeter, and Lee commits a foul, sending RMU to the line for 2 shots. With the foul, Willie Cauley-Stein was off the bench to replace Lee. RMU made 1 of 2 free throws, and did not score another point in the opening segment, as the Cats scored the next 8 points for an 8-1 lead at the under 16 media timeout. In the first 5 minutes, Coach Calipari has gone to his bench with Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Hawkins, and Johnson. In the second segment, the Cats stretched their lead to 17-2 (RMU with only 2-6 from the line) before RMU scored its first basket with 11:33 to play in the first half. The protracted second segment ended with the Cats on top 17-4 at the under 12 media timeout with 10:05 to play in the first half. When play resumes, Aaron Harrison will be at the line for a pair of free throws.
After Aaron makes both, Alex Poythress takes his place on the floor. RMU answered at the other end with their first 3 pointer, but the Cats responded with a 5 point run, a 3 pointer by Young, followed by Randle's first score of the game off another RMU turnover. RMU took a timeout with 8:10 to play. Out of the timeout, RMU turned it over, but the Cats turned it back over on a charge by Willie Cauley-Stein to take the game to the under 8 media timeout with Kentucky leading 24-7. The pace for the first 12 minutes has been 70 possessions. The Cats have score their 24 points on 21 possession while limiting RMU to 7 points on 20 possessions.
In the 4 th segment, RMU cut into the UK lead for the first segment of the game, outscoring the Cats 8-6. Following the last RMU score, on a drive past James Young, Coach Calipari called a timeout with 4:20 to play, and the Cats up 30-15. In the final segment, the Cats ended on a run to extend the lead to 44-17. RMU had the ball for the final possession, but with 4 seconds to play, RMU turned it over. Andrew Harrison got the ball, and heaved the ball the length of the court, making the shot. However, the official had whistled him for walking prior to his release, and the phenomenal shot was taken down. RMU then hit a three at the buzzer to pull to 44-20 at the half.
K scored its 44 points in a total of 36 possessions for the half, and Robert Morris scored its 20 points on a total of 35 possessions. Kentucky dominated the boards, with a rebounding edge 29-14. On the offensive glass, the Cats built a 12-8 advantage at the half of the game. The Cats used their 12 second chance possessions to only score 11 second chance points while Robert Morris used its 8 second chances to score 5 second chance points. Robert Morris had an offensive efficiency of 0.429 ppp on its 35 first chance possessions and 0.625 ppp for its 8-second chance possessions. UK had 0.917 ppp on its 36 first chance possessions and 0.917 ppp on its 12-second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a powerful 66.7% of its misses as offensive rebounds while Robert Morris was able to convert 32.0% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit very well from the free throw line in this half, making 14-16 [87.5%]. Robert Morris was 6-10 [60.0%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 13-30 overall [43.3%] and 4-11 from long range [36.4%]. For Robert Morris, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a weak,4-22 [18.2%] and from long range, Robert Morris hit 2-7 [20.6%].
Turnovers were in plentiful supply for the Cats, with 10 total turnovers. Robert Morris committed 9 turnovers in this first half. The Cats committed one turnover for every 3.6 possessions. Robert Morris committed one for every 3.9 possessions.
Coach Calipari shakes the starting lineup for the second half, inserting another Freshman, Dakari Johnson for Marcus Lee.
In the first segment, the Cats get off to a slow start, only scoring 4 points on 5 possessions, while RMU for the second segment tonight outscored the Cats, 6-4 in a segment to trim the lead to 22 points, 48-26 at the under 15 media timeout. In the second segment, the Cats held RMU scoreless while running 9 points of their own to move on top by 31 points, 57-26, at the under 12 media timeout. In the third segment, the Cats continue to add to their lead, this time adding another 4 points, for a 35 point lead, 65-30, at the under 8 media timeout.
In the fourth segment, the Cats used 2-2 long range shooting to outscore the Colonials 10-8 and push their lead back to 37 points, 75-38, at the under 4 media timeout. After the timeout, Aaron Harrison will be shooting a pair of free throws. In the final segment, Coach Calipari clears his bench, and these guys finish the job for a 38 point win, 87-49.
UK scored its 87 points in a total of 72 possessions for the game, and Robert Morris scored its 49 points on a total of 74 possessions. Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 89-33, but the Cats lost the battle of the offensive glass 17-18 when the bench allowed RMU to get 4 offensive boards in the last 2 minutes. Kentucky used its 17 second chance possessions to score 13 second chance points, and Robert Morris converted their 18 offensive rebounds into 13 second chance points. Robert Morris had an offensive efficiency of 0.486 ppp on its 74 first chance possessions and 0.722 ppp for its 18 second chance possessions. UK had 1.028 ppp on its 72 first chance possessions and 0.765 ppp on its 17 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 53.1% of its misses as offensive rebounds while Robert Morris was able to convert 31.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit reasonably well from the free throw line in this game, making 24-34 [70.6%]. Robert Morris made 11-20 [55.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 28-57 overall [49.1%] and 7-19 from long range [36.8%]. For Robert Morris, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a poor 10-46[21.7%] and from long range, Robert Morris hit 6-23 [26.1%].
The Cats committed 15 turnovers, one for every 4.8 possessions. The Cats forced 14 Robert Morris turnovers, one for every 5.3 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday night at Rupp Arena against Texas Arlington.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks