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2013-14 Season Analytical Writings
In October, the majority of observers believed that this UK basketball team would be a title contender and a probable final four participant. At the mid-point of the regular season, very few experts include Kentucky in their final four conversations (Except for Cat Hater Digger Phelps). The reason is the Cats have simply not performed at a level worthy, and consistent with one of the top 5 teams in the nation thus far. This is not conclusive that the Cats either cannot or will not make tournament run that ends in Dallas at the Final Four, because the final chapters have not been written. Until these final chapters are in the book, fans everywhere, including Big Blue Fans, will, and should well remain optimistic.
In recent years, I believe the Calipari teams have not defined themselves, in terms of their post season prospects until after game 20. This was true for even the 2012 Championship team because in games 20 through 26 that team's collective light came on, and they elevated their play to such a high level for the remainder of the season, that the rest of the entire NCAA was looking up, and trying to match their play. The 2011 Final Four team did not make its surge to final four status until the SEC tournament and into the NCAA March Madness. We are approaching game 16, a little too early to even have expectations of that proverbial light showing these youngsters the path to high acclaim.
Even though it may be too soon to look for them to achieve milestones in rapid succession, it is not too early to expect them achieve successive inch pebbles. This initial 3 game SEC sequence was set up for them to do just that. Camp Calipari is technically still in session; the first of three is at Rupp; the last two are SEC road tests; and the opponents due to venue and ability, get progressively stronger. Against Mississippi State, the team fell 4 points shy of the projected margin, and at Arkansas, the team surpassed the projected margin by 3 points. The “improvement” between MSU and Arkansas is only an inch pebble. Tuesday at Arkansas, the Cats need to put another inch –pebble down with their second SEC road win of this season.
Unfulfilled expectations equal disappointment; I hope I am not setting myself up for another disappointment driven by another unfulfilled expectation. However, I have the very expectation for Tuesday that I stated, e.g. out perform the projected model by 4 to 10 points..
During the non-conference season, Arkansas' play was the second strongest in the SEC, only lagging behind Kentucky's and edging out the highly regarded Gators. Based on that start, Arkansas figured to win its opener at Texas A&M and beat the Gators yesterday. The model gave the Hogs a slight edge even over the Cats in SEC game 3. However, the Hogs left College Station a 16 point upset loser, and lost in Fayetteville Saturday to the Gators in OT. The Hogs had the Gators' number for the first 38 minutes, but missed critical free throws down the stretch to allow the Gators to force the OT, and in the OT, the Hogs fought, but dropped a home game by 2 points.
This illustrates how the landscape of college basketball can change over the course of a few days when conference play begins. Arkansas figured just 5 days ago to be hosting the mighty Wildcats, each at 2-0, for the early lead in the SEC race. The best laid plans (and expectations) of men often go awry, and today, the Hogs prepare to take on the Cats with an 0-2 SEC start, with the realization that an 0-3 start could put their post season hopes into great peril. Mid-season, and Arkansas faces a do or die situation when the Cats come calling on Tuesday. At that added incentive to get their first win to the frenzy that Bud Walton Arena is once again, and the task of getting this second road SEC win that the Cats face on Tuesday will be very difficult, to say the least.
Will the Cats post another important inch-pebble in Fayetteville, and come home 3-0, or will the dynamics of necessity and intensity converge for Arkansas and send the Cats home with another loss?
As noted above, Arkansas comes to this game with a record of 11-4 and 0-2 in SEC play. Their non-conference losses came to #36 California by 8 and #26 Gonzaga by 10, both on neutral courts. Arkansas's most impressive wins have been over #31 SMU by 11, #40 Clemson by 8, and #42 Minnesota by 14. The Arkansas schedule strength is 0.4498 (267 th most difficult).
ARKANSAS has averaged 74 to 75 possessions per game, scoring 84.5 ppg (1.134 ppp) and allowing 67.9 ppg (0.911 ppp). ARKANSAS has turned the ball over on 16.2% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 24.7% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, ARKANSAS has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 34.8% about 3% above the 32% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 65.8%, about 2% below the NCAA average.
In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 69 to 70 possessions per game, producing 80.5 ppg (1.152 ppp) and allowing 65.8 ppg (0.948 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 18.0% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 16.3% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 45.4% and 69.7% on the offensive and defensive ends against a schedule strength of .5962 (#60).
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of ARKANSAS by 3 points, 73-76 in a game played at a pace of 72 possessions for the Cats and 72 possessions for ARKANSAS. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky's favor by 2 points, 81-79 at a pace of 75 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.
The Cats win the opening tip and proceed to turn the ball over to the Hogs, who drain a 3 pointers. After Young answered with a basket, the Hogs hit their second 3 pointer, and a layup to move on top early 8-2. The Cats caught up at 8, 10, 12, 15, and 17 before taking their first lead, 3 points, at 20-17. Into the second segment of the game. At the under 8 media timeout, the Cats are clinging to a 2 point lead, 23-21, and the Hogs will have the first possession when play resumes
Through 12 minutes, the Cats have committed 9 turnovers, and only forced 1 Arkansas turnover. The Hogs have 3 offensive rebounds, and the Cats have only 1. The Cats are staying in the game with 67% shooting compared to 35% by the Hogs. In the 4 th segment, Arkansas benefitted from some home cookings that produced a 7 point trip, converting a delicate 2 point lead into a commanding 9 point lead with 4-4 from the line and a 3 pointer due to a flagrant foul called on Lee in a fight for rebounding position on Arkansas's first free throw attempt. The officials used the tape replay to assess the flagrant foul, after an earlier review of a clear Arkansas elbow was ignored by the officials. At the under 4 media timeout, with 3:25 to play, the Cats trail by 5, 37-32, and Young will shoot a pair of free throws after the timeout. The Cats withstand the home cooking with a 10-0 run to reclaim the lead, 38-37. For the final 2 minutes the teams swap scores. The Cats miss 4 of 7 free throws in this segment and trail at the half by 2 points, 43-41.
UK scored its 41 points in a total of 38 possessions for the half, and ARKANSAS scored its 43 points on a total of 38 possessions. Kentucky won the battle of the boards in the first half, 21-13, but Kentucky grabbed only 1 offensive rebounds while the Hogs claimed 5 offensive rebounds in the first half. Kentucky used its 1 second chance possessions to score 2 points while ARKANSAS converted their 5 second chances into 3 second chance points. ARKANSAS had an efficiency of 1.053 ppp for its 38 first chance possessions, and 0.600 ppp for its 5-second chance possessions. UK had 1.028 ppp on its 38 first chance possessions and 2.000 ppp on its 1-second chance possession. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 11.1% of its misses as offensive rebounds while ARKANSAS was able to convert 20.0% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this half, making 13-22 [59.1%]. ARKANSAS was 13-16 [81.3.%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 13-19 overall [68.4%] and 2-4 from long range [50.0%]. For ARKANSAS, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a weak 9-24 [37.5%] and from long range, ARKANSAS hit 4-12 [33.3%].
The Cats committed 10 turnovers in the first half, 1 for each 3.8 possessions ARKANSAS committed 2 turnovers in this first half, one for each 19.0 possessions.
Arkansas opens the second half with a miss from outside the arc, but after Randle ties the score with a muscle move in the lane, the Hogs make back to back baskets to move out by 4 points, 47-43, prompting Coach Calipari to take a quick timeout. After the timeout the teams play with a margin that moves from 3 to 6 points in favor of the Hogs to the under 16 media timeout, 55-52 and the under 12 media timeout, 61-58.
In the third segment, the teams continue to trade scores, but back to back baskets by the Cats trim the lead to a single point, 65-64, prompting an Arkansas timeout with 9:28 to play in the game. The Cats pull even at 65-65, and at the under 8 media timeout, Randle is fouled, and will have two free throws to give the Cats their first lead of the second half after the timeout. Randle made 1 of 2, and after Arkansas reclaimed a 1 point lead of their own, the Cats score 4 straight to go up by 3 points, 70-67. Arkansas answered with a 3 pointer, to tie the score 70-70 at the under 4 media timeout. In the first 2 minutes of the final segment, each team can only manage 1 of 2 free throws to a 71-71 tie, and in possession with 1:29 to play, Arkansas takes a timeout. Out of the timeout, the Hogs turn it over, but the Cats return the favor. Arkansas has the ball with 42 seconds. A driving basket and a foul by Willie Cauley-Stein gives the Hogs a 3 point lead, 74-71 with only 9.5 seconds to play. Andrew Harrison makes a 3 pointer to tie the score, 74-74 with 1.2 seconds left, and Arkansas takes its last timeout. For the first time this season, the Cats will play overtime. This is the second straight overtime for the Hogs at Bud Walton Arena. On Saturday, Florida made a 3 pointer at the buzzer to send that game into the extra stanza before pulling out a 2 point win over the Hogs. Can the Cats make lightning strike twice in Bud Walton in a matter 3 days.
In the overtime, the Cats take 2 point leads twice but after the second Cats basket, Arkansas scored 4 straight to go up by 2, 80-78, and Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 2:13 to play. With 38 seconds to play, the Cats are down by 1 point, 83-82, Arkansas has the ball and must take the ball the length of the court. The Hogs take a timeout to play their last possession of this overtime period. Kentucky fouled early in the possession, and Qualls makes both. Kentucky makes a 3 pointer to tie the score with 9 seconds to play, but Arkansas gets an offensive rebound slam with 0.2 seconds left for the win, 87-85.
UK scored its 85 points in a total of 77 possessions (1.103 ppp) for the game, and ARKANSAS scored its 87 points on a total of 78 possessions (1.115 ppp). Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 50-32, and the Cats won the battle of the offensive glass 15-14 Kentucky used its 15 second chance possessions to score 12 second chance points, and ARKANSAS converted their 14 offensive rebounds into 14 second chance points. ARKANSAS had an offensive efficiency of 0.936 ppp on its 78 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp for its 14 second chance possessions. UK had 0.948 ppp on its 77 first chance possessions and 0.800 ppp on its 15 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 45.5% of its misses as offensive rebounds while ARKANSAS was able to convert 28.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 26-40 [65.0%]. ARKANSAS made 29-41 [70.7%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 27-56 overall [48.2%] and 5-11 from long range [45.5%]. For ARKANSAS, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a low 20-48 [41.7%] and from long range, ARKANSAS hit 6-21 [28.6%].
The Cats committed 17 turnovers, one for every 4.5 possessions. The Cats forced 6 ARKANSAS turnovers, one for every 13.0 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Saturday afternoon against Tennessee at Rupp Arena.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks