2014-15 Season Analytical Writings

Cats Prepared For Season Opener with Pikeville and Georgetown
The Ready For Primetime Cats Start the 2014-15 Journey Against Grand Canyon

Most basketball seasons start with a taste of the feast's dessert before the Cats serve up any of the main course. This season, the season began in August with a buffet that included 6 appetizers served over an eight day from the Bahamas. The past two Sunday evenings, the team served its customary two preseason dessert tasters, you know the kind like Baskin Robbins delivers on those tiny little tasting spoons. These appetizers, and the tastes of desserts to come provide little substantive nourishment for the true Big Blue Fan, but they do tend to reinforce that sense of anticipation that is usually so strong at this time of year.

The Cats impressed the world with its 5-1 Bahamian tour without Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles contributing. The Cats at full force took apart two respectable NAIA champions in a fashion that is usually seen from UK teams past capable of serious championship runs. This year's samplings, appetizers and desserts, have only intensified the high expectations, and the effervescent anticipation for the 2014-15 basketball season, and this team.

The Cats now begin a 31 game journey that they hope, and most believe, will prepare them for a magnificent run of 9 post season games in March and early April. The first step of this journey is to step across the Grand Canyon, of the Western Athletic Conference. This will be Grand Canyon's second year of Division I basketball. Last year, the Antelopes finished their season with a 15-15 record while playing a schedule that ranked #215 (0.4366). That debut performance earned them a final Pomeroy rating of #239. Their best wins on the season were anything but impressive, coming against #232 Cal. St. Bakersfield twice by 9 at home and 3 away. The Antelopes most inexplicable losses were to #273 UMKC by 5 at home, #274 Chattanooga by 5 on the road, and #262 Northern Arizona by 2 on the road.

Grand Canyon starts 2014-15 with a Pomeroy preseason rating of #269, which indicates a lowered level of expectation for this team. Regardless of Pomeroy's outlook, the Antelopes are excited about their prospects and excited about opening their season at Rupp Arena against Kentucky. Grand Canyon's excitement is driven by a 27 point win in a preseason game against Western New Mexico, a NCAA Division II opponent. However, last season, the Antelopes handled Western New Mexico by 50 points. This indicates that either Western New Mexico has improved significantly or Grand Canyon has slipped more than the drop from #239 to #269 in the Pomeroy Ratings would suggest.

The Antelopes played their games last season at an average pace of 69 possessions per game, scoring 72.1 ppg (1.037 ppp) while allowing 71.7 ppg (1.058 ppp). Grand Canyon's turnover rate was 18.5%, and their work on the Boards was not very strong, only grabbing 28.4% of their own misses. They were able to secure an impressive 71.4% of their opponents' missed shots. The Cats finished 2014 averaging 68 to 69 possessions per game, scoring 75.7 ppg (1.105 ppp) while allowing only 64.3 ppg (0.943 ppp). The Cats' turned the ball over on 18.0% of their possessions. The rebounding was strong, securing 38.1% of their own missed shots and 69.0% of opponent misses.

During the preseason, the Cats averaged 80 to 81 possessions per game, scoring 118.5 ppg (1.458 ppp) and allowing 60.0 ppg (0.748 ppp) against the pair of NAIA opponents. This represents the second best pair of exhibition performances of the Calipari era, with only the 2011-12 championship team providing a stronger pair of exhibitions.

The numbers indicate a UK win by 24 points, 83-59 in a game played at a pace of 70 possessions, based solely on each team's 2014 ending profiles. Pomeroy sees this as a 27 point game, 88-61, played at a pace of 68 possessions. Vegas sees this as a 30 point game with an over/under of 151.

Most UK fans see this game as a 40 to 60 point blowout. I will not argue with those expectations given the strong preseason performance we have witnessed from this team, and I would fully expect a final margin far greater than the 2014 numbers compute because I believe this UK team is going to play at a much higher level of efficiency than last year's team managed.

Game Summary:

Coach Calipari has decided to open the regular season with the same platoon alignment he used for the two exhibition games. Tonight, the first unit will include 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, and E. J. Floreal will provide reserve help to the platoons should injury or fouls become an issue during the game. Derek Willis will not play tonight due to illness.

The Cats control the tip, and go to Andrew Harrison in the lane for the first score. Andrew Harrison scores the Cats first 7 points and they move on top 7-0, but GCU finished the segment with a 6-3 run of their own for a 10-6 score at the under 16 media timeout. When play resumes, Alex Poythress will have a pair of free throws, while Coach Calipari rotates platoon 2 onto the floor during the timeout. Therefore, Trey Lyles will have to wait for Alex Poythress to make his free throws or until the next stoppage in play to enter the game. Alex Poythress made them both, so the first platoon closed their opening segment with a 12-6 advantage.

Platoon 2 scored 7 points on 6 possessions, but held the Antelopes scoreless on 7 possessions to extend the Cats lead to 19-6 at the under 12 media timeout. The early pace is slow, 13 possessions each in the first 8 minutes. In the third segment, with 9:48 remaining Karl-Anthony Towns picked up his second foul with the Cats up 22-9. Platoon 1 finishes the third segment outscoring GCU 9-5 to extend the lead to 28-11. In two segments, the first Platoon has scored 21 points in 16 possessions while allowing 11 points in 14.

In the 4 th segment, Platoon 2 continued to pitch a shutout, outscoring GCU 6-0 on 6 possessions each. For its two segments, Platoon 2 had scoring 13 points on 12 possessions and allowed 0 points on 13 possessions.

The first platoon will play the end segment of the first half. The first platoon finish with a 9-5 advantage to send the teams to the halftime break with the score 43-16. In its 3 segments, the first Platoon managed 30 points on 23 possessions, and they allowed all 16 points on 22 possessions.

The Cats shot 44.1% from the field in the first half, 15-34 which included 33.3% (2-6) shooting from outside the arc. The Cats were 11-16 (68.8%) from the line. GCU only made 6 baskets in the first half on 25 shots (24.0%), but they were 3-6 (50%) from outside the arc. From the line, the Antelopes only made 1 of 4 attempts (25%) The Cats controlled the Boards, 27-13, and 13-4 on the offensive glass. The Cats used its 13 offensive rebounds to score 12 second chance points, and GCU used its 4 second chances to score 4 of their 16 points. The Cats retained possession after 61.9% of its misses and secured 73.7% of the Grand Canyon missed shots.

The Cats committed 6 turnover (17.1%) and forced 13 Antelope turnovers (37.1%).

Second Half:

Platoon 2 opens the second half. 3 minutes into the the second half, Coach Calipari pulls the second platoon due to a slow start. However, the first platoon does not do any better in their first 1 to 1 ½ minutes of play leading to the under 16 media timeout with the score 48-22. The 27 half time lead has been trimmed to 26 points, and GCU outscores the Cats for the first segment of the game. Karl-Anthony Towns committed his third foul, and tried an ill advised 3 pointer.

In the timeout, Coach Calipari pulled Karl-Anthony Towns for Dakari Johnson. After riding the pine for about 2 minutes, Karl-Anthony Towns returned to the agme with 14:15 remaining. At the under 12 media timeout, the Cats have reestablished their 27 point halftime lead, 54-27, and the first platoon gives way to the platoon 2. In seven segments, the first Platoon has scored 36 points on 32 possessions, and given up 21 points on 31 possessions. The second platoon has scored 22 points on 16 possessions and allowed 6 points on 18 possessions.

In the third segment, the second platoon outscored the Antelopes 10-9, bring their game totals to 32 points on 25 possessions while allowing 15 points on 23 possessions. The Cats lead 64-36 at the under 12 media timeout.

The Cats finish off their opening game with a 40 point win, 85-45.


UK scored its 85 points in a total of 68 possessions (1.25 ppp) for the game, and Grand Canyon scored its 45 points on a total of 68 possessions 0.66 ppp).

Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 51-21, and the Cats won the battle of the offensive glass 24-9. Kentucky used its 24 second chance possessions to score 29 second chance points, winning the second chance points battle 29-6. Grand Canyon had an offensive efficiency of 0.565 ppp on its 69 first chance possessions and 0.666 ppp for its 9 second chance possessions. UK had 0.824 ppp on its 68 first chance possessions and 1.208 ppp on its 24 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 66.7% of its misses as offensive rebounds while Grand Canyon was able to convert an anemic 25.0% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 14-19 [73.7%]. Grand Canyon made 8-16 [50.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 34-70 overall [48.6%] and 3-14 from long range [21.4%]. For Grand Canyon , their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a low 8-33 [24.2%] and from long range, Grand Canyon hit 7-15 [46.7%].

The Cats committed 13 turnovers, one for every 5.2 possessions. The Cats forced 21 Grand Canyon turnovers, one for every 3.3 possessions.

The platoon approach was interesting. The first platoon's scored 48 points on 38 possessions (1.26 ppp) while yielding 26 points on the same 40 possessions (0.65 ppp) and a platoon NGE of 0.61 ppp. The second platoon scored 37 points in 30 possessions (1.23 ppp) while allowing 19 points on 29 possessions (0.66 ppp) for a platoon NGE of 0.57 ppp.

Next Game On Schedule: Sunday at noon, again at Rupp Arena, the Cats will take on Buffalo in the second regular season game of the 2014-15 season

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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