BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2014-15 Season Analytical Writings
Only once every 4 years a UK team can play real games during the official "off season" and for the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats, this is one of those years. In August, the team took full advantage of the opportunity and got the nation's attention at the same time. However, the Kentucky Wildcats are not the only team that will appear in Rupp Arena tonight with real game experience already tucked away. The Pikeville Bearcats opened their 2014-15 season with a resounding victory over Grace Bible College last week, winning 100-63.
The Pikeville Bearcats are pre-season favorite to win the NAIA National Championship, and they sent a message to their peers. The Bearcats also won the NAIA Championship in 2011, and they finished the 2013-14 season with an impressive 31-3 record, losing in the NAIA Tournament's second round to the eventual National Runner-up by 5 points.
As a native of Pikeville, I know Pikeville's basketball program is proud, shaped through the decades by that region's support for and admiration of the basketball traditions established by the Baron of the Bluegrass decades ago. The Wildcats should approach this game with a proper level of respect, because this opponent not only knows how to play this game, they will be ready to strut their stuff on college basketball's biggest stage.
The Wildcats also started their 2014-15 season early, with an impressive 5-1 Bahamian record last August. The Wildcats are also the pre-season favorite to win the NCAA Division I basketball championship at the end of this season, and the Wildcats are a recent champion, claiming ownership of the 2012 championship trophy.
We know this team is loaded, perhaps even over loaded with so much talent that Coach Calipari does not have the resolve to treat the onset of the season demanding that his players must earn the playing time. In years gone by, Coach Calipari has insisted that his Kentucky program does not promise playing time; playing time must be earned. Well, not in 2014-15 it seems, because 10 players have been promised nearly equal playing time, and to make it work out that way, Coach Calipari has turned to a platoon system.
This evening, Coach Calipari will lift the curtain on his platoons. Will these "teams" be aligned as they were for last Monday's Blue-White game, or did that one-sided affair give pause to the platoon idea? Last Monday, Platoon A and Platoon B each had 1 Junior, 2 Sophomores, and 2 Freshmen. That balance of experience did not translate into a balance of ability. Platoon A, consisting of Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles, and the twins, Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison controlled the game against Platoon B, Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, dvb, and Tyler Ulis. Platoon A pulled away to an impressive double-digit lead before Coach Calipari ended the experiment, and directed the final 12 minutes with all experience opposing all new-bloods.
It is difficult to predict how exhibition games such as this one against Pikeville will be played. Nevertheless, the track record in these games over the last decade have provided a reasonable peak into how the season to come will be. I expect a margin in the low 20s tonight, but frankly, that guess is based on both teams' statistical profile from last April. If these Wildcats are significantly better than last season's edition, no one should be surprised by a final margin of 40 or more points, as many UK fans openly admit is consistent with their expectation.
My wild guess is UK 87, Pikeville 64 in a game played at a moderate pace of 73 possessions.
Go 4 nine N 15!!!
Coach Calipari raises the curtain on the the Platoon system with Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, Alex Poythress, Aaron Harrison, and Andrew Harrison on the Opening Platoon. Trey Lyles, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Devin Booker, and Tyler Ulis are the five members of the Closing Platoon. Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis, and E. J. Floreal will provide reserve help to the platoons should injury or fouls become an issue during the game.
Karl-Anthony Towns controlled the first jump ball of the season, but the Cats were not well organized on their first possession, Aaron Harrison missing a 3pointer from the right corner. However, Pikeville turned the ball over, and the Cats scooted out to a 7-0 lead. Once Pikeville scored, they became encouraged, and the team traded baskets to the 14:55 mark when Coach Calipari inserted Platoon 2 with the score 19-14
The second group played 3 ½ minutes to the under 12 media timeout with the Cats leading 32-23. After the timeout, the Platoon 1 returned to action. Coach Calipari continued the rotation of platoons at each media timeout. The Cats used a 19-0 run midway through the half to move on top by 27 points, 67-40 at the half.
The Cats scored 67 points on 44 possessions, 1.523 points per possession, and Pikeville managed their 40 points on 43 possessions, 0.938 ppp. The defensive efficiency was the biggest disappointment of the first half of this game, but a closer examination shows Platoon 1 yield points at a rate of 1.19 ppp while Platoon 2 held Pikeville to a stingy 0.53 ppp for their 7 minutes of playing time in the first half.
The Cats made a whopping 75% of their first half shots, but only 1 for 3 from outside the arc. Pikeville was limited to only 35% shooting in the first half, but managed to make 6 of 13 shots from long range (46.2%) and only 7-24 from inside the arc where the Cats' interior defense was nearly air tight.
The Cats made 12-16 free throws (75%) and Pikeville managed to make 8-8 free throws.
On the Boards, the Cats controlled the glass on both ends, 22-12 overall, and while Pikeville managed 7 offensive rebounds to the Cats' 5, the Cats secured 50% of their misses and limited Pikeville to only 29.2% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
The First Platoon played 13 minutes, with a game NGE of 0.385 ppp, but the second platoon played 7 minutes with a game NGE of 0.915 ppp.
Coach Calipari continued with the Platooning through the second making squad changes at each media timeout, and over the last 8 minutes, Coach Calipari inserted his three reserves into the action. The Cats defeated a good Pikeville team 116- 68 in a game played at a pace of 78 possessions.
UK scored its 116 points in a total of 78 possessions for the game, and Pikeville scored its 68 points on a total of 79 possessions.
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 49-25, and the Cats won the battle of the offensive glass 18-15. Kentucky used its 18 second chance possessions to score 37 second chance points, winning the second chance points battle 37-13 Pikeville had an offensive efficiency of 0.696 ppp on its 79 first chance possessions and 0.867 ppp for its 15 second chance possessions. UK had 1.013 ppp on its 78 first chance possessions and 2.056 ppp on its 18 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed an awesome 64.3%of its misses as offensive rebounds while Pikeville was able to convert a respectable 32.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 14-20 [70.0%]. Pikeville made 11-14 [78.6%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 49-75 overall [65.3%] and 4-18 from long range [22.2%]. For Pikeville, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a low 15-48 [31.3%] and from long range, Pikeville hit 9-21 [42.9%].
The Cats committed 13 turnovers, one for every 6.0 possessions. The Cats forced 18 Pikeville turnovers, one for every 4.4 possessions.
The platoon approach was interesting, if nothing else. The first platoon played 21 minutes, scoring 60 points on 37 possessions, and allowing 37 points on 39 possessions. The second platoon played 19 minutes, scoring 56 points on 41 possessions, and allowing 31 points on 40 possessions. The second group played at a faster pace with more effective defense. The first group was more efficient on the offensive end. The NGE for the first unit was 0.673 ppp while the second unit finished with a NGE of 0.591 ppp.
Next Game On Schedule: Sunday night, again at Rupp Arena, the Cats will take on Georgetown in the second, and last exhibition game of the 2014-15 season
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks