2014-15 Season Analytical Writings

Cats Return To Rupp Undefeated

The Cats' encounter with the Kansas Jayhawks in the Champions Classic on Tuesday was nothing short of a classic beat down, an old-fashioned poleaxing. However, rather than the usual college basketball beat down in which the victor simply owns the game at the offensive end, and puts up as many points as it wants to score regardless of the opponent's best defense, this edition was just the opposite. The Cats' defense was so smothering that Kansas was unable to score. In the first half, the Cats' defense limited Kansas to 24% field goal shooting and 28 points. Some on air and some in the Jayhawk locker room consoled the Kansas contingent that their team is only down 10, and they could not play more poorly.


In the second half, the Cats' defense held Kansas to 13% field goal shooting and 12 total points.

If this were simply some aberrational defensive effort from the UK team this season, it would be much easier to discount the significance of the beat down.

•  Kansas got caught in a Buzzsaw

•  Kansas is simply way over rated (#5 prior to the game, #9 after the game)

KUt, these typical attempts to explain away the beat down that we all witnessed simply do not ring true. Prior to the game, the same people on-air that want to now explain that Kansas is young, and over rated, were explaining how good the Jayhawks are, despite losing Wiggins and Embiid to the NBA draft from last year's team. The “buzz saw” effect usually describes a team whose shots fall from every conceivable position on the floor, regardless of how many players to challenging the shot, or the manner of the challenge. This UK team only shot the ball at a 43% rate, and was only 16-26 from the free throw line. Those are now numbers for a Buzz saw.

Consider this. The Cats have now played 6 halves of basketball this season. The offensive efficiency of this team in these six halves of basketball set the low water mark in the first half against KUffalo at 0.86 ppp. Last year's team finished the season with an offensive efficiency of 1.159 ppp, and over the last 5 years, the UK season offensive efficiency has ranged between a low of 1.093 and a high of 1.159 ppp with an average of 1.141 ppp. This year's average offensive efficiency is 1.157 ppp, and against Kansas, the offense operated at 1.12 ppp, not exactly the elevated levels usually associated with an old-fashioned poleaxing.

Furthermore, consider this. The defensive efficiency of this team in these six halves of basketball set the high water mark in the first half against KUffalo at 1.04 ppp. Last year's team finished the season with a defensive efficiency of 0.946 ppp, and over the last 5 years, the UK season defensive efficiency has ranged between a high of 0.946 and a low of 0.871 ppp with a 5 year average of 0.906 ppp. This year's average defensive efficiency is 0.697 ppp, and against Kansas, the defense operated at 0.78 ppp, not exactly the elevated levels usually associated with an old fashioned poleaxing.

What we witnessed on Tuesday night was consistent with this team's standard operating procedures for 5 of the 6 halves of basketball it has played thus far this season. The aberation in this data sample occurred in the first half against KUffalo, not in either of the halves against the Jayhawks.

Based on what we have seen thus far, there is every justification to describe these Cats as “scary good.”

Make no mistake, I fully expect this team to have games in which they can't seem to find their game, hit their stride. However, as I always try to explain, teams are defined by their average level of efficiency, not their best or worst efforts, and so it will be with this team, and a mere 3 games into the 2014-15 season, this team is showing indications of being off the charts on the defensive end of the court. That is the easiest end to sustain because it requires more effort than skill, and this team has shown its willingness to give the effort. The offensive end is more volatile because it requires sustained use of skill at high levels, and the skill performance, game to game is more variable despite the effort.

This team is “scary good.”

The Boston University Terriers are the next opponent to place themselves in front of this continuing buzz saw. The Terriers enter Rupp Arena tonight with an early season 1-1 record, with a 6 point loss to #93 Northeastern on a neutral court, and an 8 point win over #291 Norfolk State on the road. Last year, the Terriers finished 24-11, Champions of the Patriot League, with a #21 Pomeroy rating. Their season ended with a first round NCAA loss to Illinois by 4. This season, the Terriers bring a #163 Pomeroy rating into this game, and their early season schedule strength has been 0.5411 (#160).

Boston University has played its first two games at a tempo of 64 to 65 possessions, scoring 68.0 ppg (1.063 ppp) and allowing 67.0 ppg (1.035 ppp). The Terriers turn the ball over on 19.5% of their possessions and force turnovers 17.0% of the time. The Terriers' get only 29.3% of their missed shots back and only 67.6% of their opponents' missed shots. The Terriers' adjusted NGE as of this morning is 0.044 ppp (0.043 ppp for 2014).

The Cats, who started the season as Pomeroy's #2 team, dropped to #3 following the Buffalo aberration, are now sitting at the top of the Pomeroy list with an adjusted NGE through 3 games of an embarrassing (and proud) 0.461 ppp. This team is playing at an average pace of 66 possessions per game, scoring 76.0 ppg (1.152 ppp) and allowing 45.7 ppg (0.703 ppp). The Cats turn the ball over on 16.7% of their possessions and force turnovers on 25.1% of opponent possessions. The Cats are grabbing an unheard of 52.7% of their own missed shots, and 70.2% of opponent misses.

The Cats are 29 point favorites in Vegas, and Pomeroy sees this game as a 21 point UK advantage. The Adjusted NGE comparison places this as a 30 point UK advantage, 81-51 in a game played at a pace of 66 possessions for Boston and 67 possessions for the Cats, with a game NGE of 0.4947 ppp. The March towards March will continue tonight in Rupp Arena.

Game Summary:

Coach Calipari continues with the same platoon alignment he used the first three games. If it “ain't” broke, don't fix it. However, Alex Poythress is ill, and Dominque Hawkins will start for Platoon 1 in his place tonight. Platoon 1 consists of Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, Dominque Hawkins, Aaron Harrison, and Andrew Harrison. Platoon 2 consists of Trey Lyles, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Devin Booker, and Tyler Ulis. Derek Willis, and E. J. Floreal will provide reserve help for either platoon should injury or fouls become an issue during the game.

The Cats control the opening tip, and waste no time getting the first score on a 15 foot jump shot by Aaron Harrison, but BU answers to tie the game at 2-2. The Cats move back on top 4-2 on a fast break dunk by Willie Cauley-Stein, but again, BU responds with a tying basket to make it 4-4. The Cats break the tie on a 3 pointer by Aaron Harrison, and after changing platoons, Devin Booker hits a 3 pointer to put the Cats up 10-4 at the under 16 media timeout.

After the timeout, the Cats go inside to Marcus Lee for a 12-4 lead before BU stops the run with a 3 pointer. The Cats then score the next 4 points, each basket coming after a BU turnover, to push the lead to 9 points, 16-7, prompting a Boston timeout with 13:06 remaining in the first half. However, out of the timeout, Boston throws over the press for an easy layup, and following a missed UK shot, a 3 pointer cuts the lead back to 4 points, 16-12 at the under 12 media timeout. When the first platoon returns to the floor, Derek Willis makes his first appearance in the place of Dominque Hawkins.

Through the first 8 minutes, the Cats have scored 16 points on 15 possessions while Boston has 12 points on the same 15 possessions. Out of the timeout, Boston continues its run to tie the score 16-16 and continue their run to 9 straight points. The Boston zone has confused the UK offense. However, the UK defense turns up its pressure, to spur an 8-0 run for the Cats forcing another Boston timeout with 8:51 to play and the Cats on top 24-16. The Cats tag another basket onto their run to extend it to 10 points, and a 26-16 lead at the under 8 media timeout with 7:31 remaining. Boston will have the ball after the timeout. In the 75 seconds after the media timeout, the second platoon turns the ball over 3 straight possession, and Boston finally makes a 3 pointer to trim the lead back to 7 points. Coach Calipari saw enough and brought the first platoon back with 6:19 remaining. Hawkins gets the 3 points back quickly. However, Boston answers with their second 3 pointer in a row, their 4 th for the game. After Boston trims the lead to 6 on 1 of 2 free throws, Aaron Harrison gets a second chance basket and Willie Cauley-Stein makes a basket to push the lead back to 10 points at the under 4 media timeout with 3:43 remainins and the score 33-23. The pace of the game is in the upper 70s range through the first 16 minutes of this game.

Coach Calipari leaves the first platoon on the floor after this timeout. However, this unit turns it over on the next two possessions with a Boston 3 in between Coach Calipari changes platoons again, but a pair of Boston free throws trim the lead to only 5 points, which is the lead the Cats take to the locker room, 40-35.

The Cats lead 40-35 at the half in a game played at a pace of 38 possessions (76 full game tempo). The Cats scored its 40 points on 38 possessions (1.053 ppp) and Boston University scored 35 points on 39 possessions (0.897 ppp). The Cats shot well, 17-30 (56.7%) overall, and only 4-12 (33.3%) from outside the arc. Boston University shot even less effectively, making 5 of 13 (38.5%) inside the arc and 6-16 (37.5%) from outside the arc. From the line, UK made 2-5 (40.0%) while Boston University got to the stripe 8 times, making 7 (87.5%).

The Cats controlled the Boards, but just barely, 16-15, but Boston won the battle of the offensive glass 5-2, but the Cats won the second chance points, but only 4-0. Boston University has taken away the Cats powerful rebounding advantage of the first 3 games, and kept the Cats from getting to the line, and forced the Cats' offense into a perimeter game. This game plan is the recipe for beating this team. The Cats managed to get only 16.7% of its misses, while Boston University grabbed 26.3% of its misses.

The Cats committed 8 turnover (21.1%) and forced 11 Boston University turnovers (28.2%).

Second Half:

The Cats score quickly to begin the second half, but a Boston second chance basket, and a turnover that led to a basket trimmed the UK lead to only 3 points. The Terriers continue to not just hang around, but place themselves in a position to take a lead should the Cats fail to score on a single possession, cutting the lead to 2 points, 46-44, at the under 16 media timeout. Devin Booker will be shooting a pair of free throws after the timeout. Just prior to the media timeout, a pushing contest and smack talk giving Aaron Harrison and a Boston player technicals.

In the second segment, the Cats allowed Boston to play within 1 possession until the last 90 seconds when the Cats ended the segment with their biggest lead, 11 points, 59-48 at the under 12 media timeout with 11:26 to play. In the third segment, it was the Devin Booker show, with two 3 pointers and 3 assists to account for the Cats' last 12 points, and then at the end of the segment, Devin Booker force a Boston turnover taking the game to the under 8 media timeout with 7:44 to play and the Cats hanging to an 11 point lead, 68-57. After the timeout, the Devin Booker show continues with his third 3 pointer, and a baseline jump shot, then a steal led to a basket by Aaron Harrison, forcing Boston to take a timeout with 6:42 to play, trailing now by 18 points, 75-57. In the remainder of the 4 th segment, the Cats move on top by 21 points, 86-65 at the under 4 media timeout with 2:32 remaining in the game.

Cats pull away over the last 8 minutes to secure a 24 point win, 89-65.


UK scored its 89 points in 74 possessions (1.20 ppp) for the game, and Boston University scored its 65 points on a total of 74 possessions 0.88 ppp).

Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 30-25, but the Cats lost the battle of the offensive glass 8-9. Kentucky used its 8 second chance possessions to score 10 second chance points, winning the second chance points battle 10-4. Boston University had an offensive efficiency of 0.824 ppp on its 74 first chance possessions and 0.444 ppp for its 9 second chance possessions. UK had 1.068 ppp on its 74 first chance possessions and 1.25 ppp on its 8 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a low 33.3% of its misses as offensive rebounds while Boston University was able to convert a strong 29.0% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 13-23 [56.5%]. Boston University made 16-18 [88.9%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 34-59 overall [57.5%] and 8-21 from long range [38.1%]. For Boston University , their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a low 11-28 [39.3%] and from long range, Boston University hit 9-24 [37.9%].

The Cats committed 13 turnovers, one for every 5.7 possessions. The Cats forced 22 Boston University turnovers, one for every 3.4 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Sunday night at 6 pm at Rupp Arena against Montana State.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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