BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2013-14 Season Analytical Writings
For the third time in the last four seasons, Coach Calipari has molded an essentially new roster into a national championship contender capable of advancing to the NCAA Final Four. That means the University of Kentucky will lift yet another banner into the rafters at Rupp Arena; all that remains to be determined is whether it will say 2014 Final Four, 2014 Runner Up, or 2014 Champion. By any measure, that makes the 2013-14 season and team a resounding success, worthy of the heritage and traditions that this program embodies.
This will be the 16 th appearance in a final four by the Wildcats. The 15 previous trips have produced eight national championships, and three runner ups. That means the Cats have won in the Final Four 11 of the 15 times they have competed in the National Semi-finals. The Final Four winning percentage has been 73.3%, and the Cats' winning percentage in the Championship games has been 72.7%.
If the Cats take care of business on Saturday night, Monday night will come along soon enough. For the present, the entire focus is on the Cats' Final Four encounter with the Wisconsin Badgers.
These teams may be the basketball equivalent of the irresistible force and the immovable object.
Wisconsin is 30-7 against a schedule strength of 0.7399 (2 nd ) and Kentucky is 28-10 against a schedule strength of 0.7321 (4th). Wisconsin currently holds the #6 position on Pomeroy, and the Cats hold to #8 at present. Both teams are on the rise in the Pomeroy ratings. Wisconsin began the tournament at #13, and have risen 7 spots to #6. Kentucky began the tournament in the #17 spot, and have risen 9 spots to #8. As the #2 seed in West Region, Wisconsin coasted by its first opponent, #107 American by 42 points. In the Round of 32, Wisconsin turned by #29 Oregon by 8 and in the Sweet 16, the Badgers easily turned away #24 Baylor. The Badgers needed overtime to get past #2 Arizona by 1 point in the Elite 8. The Cats, with the #8 seed in the Midwest Region, beat #43 Kansas State by 7 and # 5 Wichita State by 2 to reach the Sweet 16. The Cats had to fight from behind to get past #3 Louisville by 5, and the Aaron Harrison's 3 pointer with 2.6 seconds remaining provided the 3 point win over #10 Michigan in the Elite 8.
Among Wisconsin's the 30 wins, nine have come at the expense of teams with Pomeroy ratings of 100 or higher, and five of those opponents were rated at #150 or lower. That leaves 28 games against teams rated in the top 100, but of those, 19 have been against top 50 opponents with a record of 13-6 in those 19 games. Wisconsin's can claim wins over #1 Florida, #4 Virginia, #9 Michigan State, #10 Michigan, and #2 Arizona, with losses to #9 Michigan State, #10 Michigan, #20 Ohio State, #44 Nebraska, #48 Minnesota, #66 Indiana, and #131 Northwestern. As strong as the Wisconsin schedule has been, it still will have trouble explaining its home loss to #131 Northwestern on January 29, 2014, just as the Cats have trouble explaining their loss to #111 South Carolina.
Everything surrounding this matchup suggests another game that will not be decided until the last few possessions.
WISCONSIN has averaged 64 possessions per game, scoring 73.5 ppg (1.154 ppp) and allowing 63.7 ppg (0.990 ppp). WISCONSIN has turned the ball over on 12.7% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 15.4% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, WISCONSIN has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 28.2% about 1% below the 29% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 72.8%, about 2% above the NCAA average.
In contrast, the Cats have averaged 67 to 68 possessions per game, producing 75.4 ppg (1.114 ppp) and allowing 66.6 ppg (0.990 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 18.0% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 16.0% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 42.5% and 70.1% on the offensive and defensive ends against a schedule strength of 0.7321 (#4).
Based on this distribution, the NGE analysis tips in favor of Wisconsin by a 2 points, 69-71. Wisconsin hold a slight advantage with offensive efficiency, and their defensive efficiencies have been about identiical. The pace of this game should be about 66 possessions for each team. Pomeroy has this game in Wisconsin's favor by 1 point, 69-70 in a game played at a pace of 62 possessions. Vegas see this game in Kentucky's favor by 1 ½ points, 71-69.
See how other Big Blue Fans see this game's likely outcome by clicking the following link.
You can enter your prediction at any time prior to tip off by visiting the 247 Sports prediction thread for this game at:
Coach Calipari stays with the all freshmen starting lineup with Dakari Johnson, Julius Randle, James Young, Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison, to start the game. Willie Cauley-Stein is not available for this Final Four contest due to an ankle injury sustained after only 4 minutes on the court against Louisville in the Sweet 16. UK also announced that should the Cats advance to play on Monday night, Willie Cauley-Stein will not be available for the Championship game either. Alex Poythress, Hawkins, Lee, and Polson will probably see action off the bench. Wisconsin starts Kaminsky (7-0), Dekker (6-7), Jackson (6-3), Brust (6-1), and Gasser (6-3).
Wisconsin controls the tip, and after using nearly all of the shot clock miss a 3 pointer to open the game, and James Young makes a 3 pointer at the other end following an offensive rebound to give the Cats an early 3 point lead. The Cats move up 5-2, and after ties at 5-5 and 7-7, James Young scores on a drive into the lane to give the Cats a 9-7 lead at the under 16 media timeout. The Badgers will be shooting a pair of free throws after the break. Each team has opened 3-5, and 1-2 from the arc, but the Cats have 2 free throws and 1 offensive rebound to its credit at the first break. After making both free throws to tie the score for the third time, the Badgers get fast break off a long rebound and a 3 pointer after another UK miss to move on top by the biggest lead of the game, 5 points, 14-9, prompting Coach Calipari to call a timeout with 13:50 remaining. Aaron Harrison stops the Wisconsin run at 10 points, and the Cats trail by 6 points, 17-11, at the under 12 media timeout. The Cats have possession. In the first 8 minutes, Wisconsin has been called for 5 fouls, putting the Cats on the line for 4 free throws, but Randle missed both of his, leaving the Cats at 2-4 so far in the game. UK has only committed 1 foul so far.
The early pace is 65 to 70 possessions. In the third segment, the Cats pulled back to within 2 points, 19-17, but Wisconsin built the lead back to 5 points, 25-20, at the under 8 media timeout and the Cats in possession after the timeout. In the third segment, the officials evened up the fouls to 6 on each team, but one foul on Lee was after a punk push by Kaminsky that the officials ignored. After the timeout, Andrew Harrison pulls the Cats to within 3, but another 3 pointer by the Badgers put them back on top by 6, 28-22. Then after a Kentucky miss, Brust is fouled and makes a pair of free throws to put the lead back to 8. Following a foul by Kaminsky, the officials assessed a dead ball technical on Johnson. Johnson made 1 of 2 and Brust made both free throws for the Badgers, who then scored on the next possession to go on top by a game high 9 points, 34-25. Julius Randle got a put back basket and was fouled to cut the lead to 7 at the under 4 media timeout, and Randle will have one shot to trim the lead to 6 after the timeout.
The Cats continue to fight back with a basket by Hawkins, and two by Randle to cut the lead to 4 points, 40-36 with 31 seconds left. Wisconsin takes a time out to plan the last possession of the first half. The Badgers miss on their final shot of the half, and take a 4 point lead to the locker room, 40-36.
UK scored its 36 points on 31 possessions for the half, and WISCONSIN scored its 40 points on 32 possessions. Kentucky won the battle of the boards 17-12, and UK won the offensive glass, 4-3. Kentucky converted its 4 second chance possessions to score 10 second chance points, and WISCONSIN used its 3 second chance possession to score 3 second chance points. WISCONSIN had an efficiency of 1.156 ppp for its 32 first chance possessions, and 1.000 ppp for its 3-second chance possession. UK had 0.839 ppp on its 31 first chance possessions and 2.500 ppp on its 4 second chance possessions. The Cats managed to grab 30.8% of their misses as offensive rebounds while WISCONSIN managed to get 18.8% of their misses for second chance possessions.
The Cats shot poorly from the free throw line making 7-11 [63.6%] for the half. Wisconsin got to the line 14 times in the first half and made them all, 100.0%. Field goal shooting for UK was 14-26 overall [53.8%] and 1-3 from long range [33.3%]. For WISCONSIN, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 7-16 [43.8%] and from long range, WISCONSIN hit 4-11 [36.4%].
The Cats committed 4 turnovers in the first half, one for each 7.8 possessions. WISCONSIN committed 2 turnovers in this first half, one for each 16.0 possessions.
In the first half, the difference for the Badgers came from the free throw line where they got 14 points, while the Cats got 10 of their points from offensive rebounds and second chance points.
Cats open the second half with a block of a shot by Randle, and at the other end, after missing a 3 point attempt, Wisconsin slapped the ball out for an offensive rebound that produced a 3 pointer on a second chance possession to put the Badgers up by 7, 43-36, forcing a quick Kentucky timeout. After the timeout, the Cats blow up with an 11-0 run to move on top by their largest margin of the game, 4 points, 47-43, forcing a Wisconsin timeout with 16:30 left in the game. After the Badger timeout, the Cats continue their run to 13-0 and a 6 point lead, 49-43, at the under 16 media timeout. After the timeout, the Cats will be shooting a pair of free throws.
During the 13-0 run following the UK timeout, the Cats have gotten 9 of their points following offensive rebounds, and got 5 offensive rebounds during the flurry. The Cats have finally exerted their board strength, all with Randle on the bench due to cramping. Young made them both to put the Cats on top by 8 points, but during the second segment, Wisconsin used 3-3 three point shooting, and a put back basket to regain the lead, 56-55 at the under 12 media timeout with the Cats in possession. In the third segment, the Cats made 3-6 shots, and 1-2 from the line, but Wisconsin's 4-4 shooting was sufficient to add a point to their lead, lifting it to 2 points, 64-62 at the under 8 media timeout with 7:26 remaining in the game and Wisconsin in possession. The teams play on even terms in the fourth segment, as Wisconsin maintains their 2 point lead, 69-67 at the under 4 media timeout. After the timeout, the Cats will have possession with one and bonus, following Julius Randle's offensive rebound on which he was fouled.
Randle made both free throws to tie the game, and following back to back Wisconsin turnovers, Alex Poythress gets a lob for the go ahead basket, 71-69, forcing a Wisconsin timeout with 2:11 remaining in the game. Wisconsin gets a put back basket by Kominsky to tie the score 71-71, and after Andrew Harrison missed a 3 point attempt, Wisconsin gets to shoot 3 free throws with 16.4 seconds remaining after Andrew Harrison took the fake and Jackson lunged into Harrison to draw the foul.
He missed the first, the first miss by Wisconsin tonight. He made the second shot to lift Wisconsin up by 1 point. He made the third. The Cats have the ball, and Aaron Harrison drains a 3 pointer with 5.7 seconds left to put the Cats up by 1, 74-73. Wisconsin takes a timeout. After the Badgers set up for the play, Coach Calipari called a timeout. Each team has 1 timeout left. Jackson takes the inbounds pass, moves down the floor and takes the shot from 15 feet at the left elbow. It is a miss, the Cats get the rebound, and win 74-73 to advance to the Championship game on Monday to face Connecticutt.
UK scored its 74 points in a total of 59 possessions (1.254 ppp) for the game, and WISCONSIN scored its 73 points on a total of 60 possessions (1.217 ppp). Kentucky won the battle of the boards with a 32-27 advantage, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive glass 11-6 Kentucky used its 11 second chance possessions to score 23 second chance points, and WISCONSIN converted their 6 offensive rebounds into 10 second chance points. WISCONSIN had an offensive efficiency of 1.050 ppp on its 60 first chance possessions and 1.667 ppp for its 6 second chance possessions. UK had 0.864 ppp on its 59 first chance possessions and 2.091 ppp on its 11 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 34.4% of its misses as offensive rebounds while WISCONSIN was able to convert 22.2%, of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 14-21 [66.7%]. WISCONSIN made 19-20 [95.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 29-58 overall [50.0%] and 2-5 from long range [40.0%]. For WISCONSIN, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 15-30 [50.0%] and from long range, WISCONSIN hit 8-20 [40.0%].
The Cats committed 4 turnovers, one for every 14.8 possessions. The Cats forced 8 WISCONSIN turnovers, one for every 7.5 possessions.Next Game On Schedule: The Championship Game of the NCAA Tournament as the Midwest Region Champions against the East Region Champions, Connecticutt on Monday, April 7, 2014.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks