BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2013-14 Season Analytical Writings
There are certain events in a season that will live in the minds of the Big Blue Nation for months, if not years. The win over Louisville On December 28, 2013 is certainly in that category. Some have suggested that this may be Coach Calipari's biggest win at Rupp Arena since he arrived in Lexington in April 2009. Any victory over Louisville is viewed by fans as huge, and will remain on the tips of their tongues at least until next year's meeting at the YUM center approaches. No question it was the win over a ranked opponent that this young Kentucky team absolutely had to have if they wanted to keep any hopes for a high NCAA Tournament seed viable. For that reason, this game will be discussed for the next 3 months for sure. Three months, twelve months, 5 years, or for the remainder of this fan's life, this win was undoubtedly huge.
However, that win that occurred over a span of about 2 hours on a Saturday afternoon in late December is not the most important activity taking place in Lexington for this basketball team. The fall semester closed on Friday, December 20, the Cats beat Boise State on Saturday December 21, and then Coach Calipari dismissed his team for 4 days of R&R at their homes in Texas, Michigan, California, Massachusetts, Tennessee, New Jersey, New York, and points in Kentucky from Richmond to Madisonville. Some, including this fan, questioned Coach Calipari's judgment giving his team 4 days of rest prior to what fans universally regard as the biggest regular season game of any season, this one being intensified further by the stakes involved for this team. However, other than the second half cramping that sidelined Julius Randle for the second half against Louisville, there were no signs that the 4 day hiatus had any negative effect on the team or players, and some signs that the time off may have been beneficial.
Some of the criticism of Coach Calipari's decision also arose because these four days of no team activity are what could have been the first days of Camp Calipari, the time of year that the entire team is entirely focused on basketball, the time when Coach Calipari's team seems to experience the most significant growth. Well, Coach Calipari decided that the R&R was more important for this team than the potential gain that he had to delay until after the Louisville game. However, make no mistake, Camp Calipari is now in full force, and the Cats do not play again until January 8, 2014 when Mississippi State comes to town, and the do not travel again until the week after Camp Calipari must end. Camp Calipari will run in full force from December 29, 2013 through January 14, 2014, the day before classes begin for the Spring semester at UK. During that 17 day span the Cats will take to the Rupp floor twice (Mississippi State 1/8, Vanderbilt 1/11) before closing out the period of intense focus with their first SEC road game of the season, at Arkansas.
This 3 game sequence will be the opportunity for Coach Calipari and his players to showcase the progress they are working so hard to accomplish.
Kentucky and Mississippi State will both begin SEC competition after posting 10-3 non-conference records. However, that is where the similarities end. Mississippi State's 10-3 record has earned them a #197 rating by Pomeroy who rates the Bulldogs' schedule strength at the weakest (#351) in the nation. MSU's three losses have been at #82 Utah State by 19, against #62 UNLV at their non-home court venue in Las Vegas by 16, and to #171 TCU by 10 in Starkville. The Bulldogs' most impressive win to date has been by 5 points over #159 South Florida also in Las Vegas. 9 of their 10 wins came at the expense of teams rated #216 (Florida Gulf Coast) to #348 (Kennesaw State).
MISSISSIPPI STATE has averaged 70 possessions per game, scoring 70.8 ppg (1.008 ppp) and allowing 65.5 ppg (0.935 ppp). MISSISSIPPI STATE has turned the ball over on 20.1% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 24.2% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, MISSISSIPPI STATE has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 32.6% about 1% above the 32% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 69.4%, about 1% over the NCAA average.
In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 70 possessions per game, producing 80.8 ppg (1.15 ppp) and allowing 66.3 ppg (0.96 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 18.3% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 15.4% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 45.4% and 68.7% on the offensive and defensive ends against a schedule strength of .6101 (#66).
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of KENTUCKY by 26 points, 84-58 in a game played at a pace of 70 possessions for the Cats and 70 possessions for MISSISSIPPI STATE. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky's favor by 20 points, 82-62 at a pace of 70 possessions.
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Coach Calipari continues to start Willie Cauley-Stein with the four freshmen Randle, Young, and the Harrison Twins. Poythress, Hawkins, Lee, and Johnson will be first off the bench. Lee has returned from a one game illness, and Jon Hood has returned to practice following his head injury that kept him sidelined for the last several games.
Kentucky controlled the opening tip, but the Bulldogs draw first blood. A combination of UK 2-6 from the line, 2 turnovers, no baskets, allowed MSU to move on top 10-2 with 16:30 to play, forcing an early timeout. The timeout did not stem the Bulldog tide, and MSU extends their lead to 12-2 at the under 16 media timeout. In the second segment, a 3 pointer by Young cut the lead to 7, but the Bulldogs answered the call and ended the second segment with the same 10 point lead, 18-8, at the under 12 media timeout. In the third segment, a basket by Young, and two baskets by Willie Cauley-Stein cuts the lead to 4 points, 18-14, prompting MSU to take their first timeout with 10:09 left in the first half.
After the Cats caught up and took a brief 2 point lead at 22-20, MSU answered right away, and then when the Bulldogs responded to the Cats second 2 point lead, 26-24, Coach Calipari called another timeout with 4:35 left. However, the timeout did not accomplish its purpose because the Cats missed again, and at the end of a MSU fast break, they made a layup with a foul, which the officials assessed as an intentional foul against the Cats. After the under media timeout, the Bulldogs will have free throws on the intentional foul, and possession, setting up a potentially productive possession for MSU with 3:38 to play in the first half.
Through the first 4 segments, the Cats are making fewer than 1 of every 3 field goal attempts, 7 of 12 from the line, and only 1-12 from outside the arc. But for offensive rebounds that have produced 12 second chance points, the Cats would be facing a huge first half deficit. After the timeout, MSU made both of the technical free throws and on their ensuing possession, Randle commits his second foul of the half and goes to the bench for the balance/ MSU scores to complete a 6 point possession. MSU uses that 6 points to move from a 2 point deficit to a 3 point halftime lead, 40-37.
UK scored its 37 points in a total of 38 possessions for the half, and MISSISSIPPI STATE scored its 40 points on a total of 37 possessions. Kentucky won the battle of the boards in the first half, 25-17, and Kentucky grabbed 12 offensive rebounds while held the Bulldogs to only 6 offensive rebounds in the first half. Kentucky used its 12 second chance possessions to score 14 points while MISSISSIPPI STATE converted their 6 second chances into 6 second chance points. MISSISSIPPI STATE had an efficiency of 0.919ppp for its 37 first chance possessions, and 1.000 ppp for its 6-second chance possessions. UK had 0.605 ppp on its 38 first chance possessions and 1.167 ppp on its 12-second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 52.2% of its misses as offensive rebounds while MISSISSIPPI STATE was able to convert 31.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this half, making 9-14 [64.3%]. MISSISSIPPI STATE was 8-8 [100.0%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 13-35 overall [37.1%] and 2-14 from long range [14.3%]. For MISSISSIPPI STATE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 13-27 [48.1%] and from long range, MISSISSIPPI STATE hit 2-6 [33.3%].
The Cats committed 8 turnovers in the first half, 1 for each 4.8 possessions MISSISSIPPI STATE committed 7 turnovers in this first half, one for each 5.1 possessions.
Kentucky opened the half with a 14-7 run to move from 3 down to up by 4 points, 51-47, prompting a MSU timeout with 16:03 to play in the game. In this start, the Cats have hit 5-6 shots in this run . ln the second segment, the Cats quietly move on top by 8 points, 59-51 at the under 12 media timeout. After the timeout, MSU will have the ball. In the third segment, the Cats outscored MSU 9-2 to extend their lead to 15 points, 68-53, at the under 8 media timeout, and the Cats will have the ball following MSU's 11 th turnover of the game. In the 4 th segment, the Cats added 6 more points to their lead, moving on top by 21 points with 5:53 remaining forcing another MSU timeout. The score stands at 74-53. At the under 4 media timeout, the Cats lead stands at 20 points, 78-58. The Cats close the game a 22 point winner, 85-63.
UK scored its 85 points in a total of 73 possessions (1.164 ppp) for the game, and MISSISSIPPI STATE scored its 63 points on a total of 70 possessions (0.900 ppp). Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 44-28, and the Cats won the battle of the offensive glass 17-9 Kentucky used its 17 second chance possessions to score 19 second chance points, and MISSISSIPPI STATE converted their 9 offensive rebounds into 9 second chance points. MISSISSIPPI STATE had an offensive efficiency of 0.771 ppp on its 70 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp for its 9 second chance possessions. UK had 0.904 ppp on its 73 first chance possessions and 1.118 ppp on its 17 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 47.2% of its misses as offensive rebounds while MISSISSIPPI STATE was able to convert 25.0% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 21-33 [63.6%]. MISSISSIPPI STATE made 14-18 [77.8%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 30-61 overall [49.2%] and 4-20 from long range [20.0%]. For MISSISSIPPI STATE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a high 20-46 [43.5%] and from long range, MISSISSIPPI STATE hit 3-11 [27.3%].
The Cats committed 12 turnovers, one for every 6.1 possessions. The Cats forced 15 MISSISSIPPI STATE turnovers, one for every 4.7 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Saturday afternoon against Vanderbilt in Nashville
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks