BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2013-14 Season Analytical Writings
Prior to the SEC opener against Mississippi State at Rupp, I surmised that the rigors of Camp Calipari coupled with the absence of real game opportunities would have these players chomping at the bit to show their coaches, and the fans the progress that they were making. Unfortunately, that is not how the game played out. How would progress look different from what I saw last night against the Bulldogs? Fair question I think, one that does require some level of expectation not based on any observation.
First, I would expect a team ready to compete at the opening tip, but offensively, the team was anything but ready, missing 4 of 6 free throws in the opening 4 minutes, committing 2 turnovers in the opening segment, missing all of its shots from the field, and only posting 2 points at the first media timeout. Defensively, they were allowing the MSU guards open shots at the perimeter (two 3 pointers made), and allowing the small MSU guards to penetrate and reach the rim, almost at will, allowing 12 points in that opening segment. 12-2, and the game had barely begun.
Second, I was expecting to see a team that was closer to the well oiled machine than the worn out clunker in the bone yard. However, the quality of the play cannot be compared to any machine I have ever seen operate, much less one that is well oiled, balanced, and running above capacity.
Granted, the Cats recovered from a 3 point halftime deficit to pound out a 22 point win, but the expectation I had for this game, IF the team had progressed from it shaky December, was a margin of at least 30 points. That was not to be last night. The 2-12 start virtually assured that conclusion.
So, expectations frustrated by an effort that despite a 22 point win saw this team fall 2 spots in the Pomeroy rating system from #12 to #14 overnight. I had expected a series of games early in the SEC season that would propel the team upward from #12 into the range of 7 to 9 by the time the team returns to Rupp again.
Unfulfilled expectations equal disappointment.
Prior to the Mississippi State game, I described the initial 3 game sequence of SEC opponents that the Cats must face. State at home, and Vandy then Arkansas on the road. The way this team has been playing, including the way it played last night, this team is likely to return to Rupp with at least one more loss, and perhaps two. Next in line are the Vanderbilt Commodores, in the Alumni Gym with its unique architectural features that mandate benches in the end zones, and an elevated playing surface. Many UK fans bemoan having to watch UK teams compete in this building, arguing that the building somehow influences how the teams play. However, that thinking is not consistent with the win-loss record over the years in that building, and that thinking has often been twisted into an excuse for poor play. If the Cats lose Saturday to Vanderbilt, it will not be the building that defeats them, but their own lack of intensity and effort.
Vanderbilt comes to this game with a record of 8-5, and 0-1 in SEC play after dropping their league opening Tuesday night by 5 points at Alabama. Their non-conference losses came to #72 Providence (the only common opponent) on a neutral site by 7, at #64 Texas by 6, at #62 Butler by 8, and against #24 Saint Louis by 8 in Nashville. Vanderbilt's most impressive win thus far has been in their season opener against #109 Georgia State by 6. The Vanderbilt schedule strength is 0.5431 (144 th most difficult).
VANDERBILT has averaged 69 possessions per game, scoring 70.2 ppg (1.014 ppp) and allowing 66.5 ppg (0.968 ppp). VANDERBILT has turned the ball over on 21.0% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 16.1% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, VANDERBILT has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 31.6% about the same as the 32% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 69.3%, about 1% over the NCAA average.
In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 70 possessions per game, producing 81.1 ppg (1.15 ppp) and allowing 66.1 ppg (0.95 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 18.2% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 15.8% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 45.5% and 69.1% on the offensive and defensive ends against a schedule strength of .5884 (#81).
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of KENTUCKY by 6 points, 74-68 in a game played at a pace of 70 possessions for the Cats and 69 possessions for VANDERBILT. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky's favor by 6 points, 73-67 at a pace of 67 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.
Vandy controls the opening tip, and draws first blood. The Cats match Vandy, basket for basket to a 4-4 tie at the under 16 media timeout. The Cats are 2-5, with 3 early turnovers while Vandy is 2-6 with only 1 turnover. In the second segment, the Cats only made 1 of 5 shots, but 4 of 4 free throws to ease on top by 4, 10-6 at the under 12 media timeout. In the third segment, the Cats only made 2 of 7 shots, and while they did stretch the lead to 9 points, 15-6, back to back baskets by Vandy to close the segment left the Cats holding on with a 5 point lead, 15-10 at the under 8 media timeout, and Vandy having possession. In the fourth segment, Vandy continued to chip away at the Kentucky lead, trimming the lead to 2 points, 19-17, but the Cats scored the last 4 points of the segment to move on top by 6, 23-17 at the under 4 media timeout. In the final segment, Jarrod Polson made back to back 3 pointers to extend the Kentucky lead to 10 points, 30-20 with 0:17 to play in the first half. Vanderbilt called a timeout to plan its final possession of the half. Vandy scored to cut the halftime lead to 8 points, 30-22.
UK scored its 30 points in a total of 31 possessions for the half, and VANDERBILT scored its 22 points on a total of 32 possessions. Kentucky won the battle of the boards in the first half, 23-15, and Kentucky grabbed 7 offensive rebounds while held the Commodores to only 3 offensive rebounds in the first half. Kentucky used its 7 second chance possessions to score 4 points while VANDERBILT converted their 3 second chances into 0 second chance points. VANDERBILT had an efficiency of 0..688 ppp for its 32 first chance possessions, and 0.000 ppp for its 3-second chance possessions. UK had 0.839 ppp on its 31 first chance possessions and 0.571ppp on its 7-second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 36.8% of its misses as offensive rebounds while VANDERBILT was able to convert 15.8% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well from the free throw line in this half, making 7-8 [87.5%]. VANDERBILT was 0-4 [0.0%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 10-28 overall [35.7%] and 3-10 from long range [30.0%]. For VANDERBILT, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 8-16 [50.0%] and from long range, VANDERBILT hit 2-10 [20.0%].
The Cats committed 6 turnovers in the first half, 1 for each 5.2 possessions VANDERBILT committed 7 turnovers in this first half, one for each 4.6 possessions.
The Cats open the second half with a basket to reestablish their game high 10 point lead, but 4-7 shooting by Vandy vs. 3-9 shooting by the Cats allowed Vandy to cut that lead in half, 36-31, prompting Coach Calipari to take a timeout before the under 16 media timeout. The score remained the same at the under 16 media timeout. In the second segment, the Cats moved back the 10 point lead, 45-35 at the under 12 media timeout.
In the third segment, back to back 3 pointers, one each for the Harrison twins, lifted the Cats to a 14 point lead, the biggest of the game. Vandy trimmed a pair from that margin to a 55-43 score at the under 8 media timeout. In the fourth segment, a technical foul on Alex Poythress produces a 4 point play for Vandy as Vandy cuts the onetime 14 point lead to 9 at the under 4 media timeout, and Vandy will have the ball when play resumes. In the final segment, Vandy makes back to back 3 pointers to trim the lead to 7 points, 65-58 with 1:58 to play in the game, and Vandy used a timeout after each made 3 pointer. The Comodores have 2 timeouts remaining. The Cats close out to take a victory for the first time this year for an away game, 71-62.
UK scored its 71 points in a total of 64 possessions (1.109 ppp) for the game, and VANDERBILT scored its 62 points on a total of 65 possessions (0.954 ppp). Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 41-28, and the Cats won the battle of the offensive glass 18-5 Kentucky used its 18 second chance possessions to score 15 second chance points, and VANDERBILT converted their 5 offensive rebounds into 2 second chance points. VANDERBILT had an offensive efficiency of 0.923 ppp on its 65 first chance possessions and 0.400 ppp for its 5 second chance possessions. UK had 0.875 ppp on its 64 first chance possessions and 0.833 ppp on its 18 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 43.9% of its misses as offensive rebounds while VANDERBILT was able to convert 17.9% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 13-22 [59.1%]. VANDERBILT made 6-10 [60.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 26-61 overall [42.6%] and 6-22 from long range [27.3%]. For VANDERBILT, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a high 19-30 [63.3%] and from long range, VANDERBILT hit 6-20 [30.0%].
The Cats committed 10 turnovers, one for every 6.4 possessions. The Cats forced 16 VANDERBILT turnovers, one for every 4.1 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday night against Arkansas in Fayetteville
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks