2014-15 Season Analytical Writings

Cats Enter Final Third of Nonconference Schedule With Columbia

The nonconference portion of Kentucky's basketball schedule is 13 games. When divided into roughly 1/3 sections, the first third included one top 10 opponent, a top 100 opponent, two opponents rated approximately 250, and Montana State (#311). The middle third included one top 10 opponent, a top 50 opponent, and two opponents rated #158 and #226.

Those nine games are in the books, and the Cats traversed that array of opponents without a loss, and but for a dismal first half against Buffalo, and a contentious dog fight of a first half against Texas, these Cats have dominated the field. The Cats' defense has been the benchmark through these nine games. They have limited opponents to less than 17 points in eight of the 18 halves of basketball. Only two opponents have scored more than 20 points in both halves, Boston University and Texas, and one opponent failed to score more than 17 points in either half, Montana State. The Cats have limited all opponents to an unheard of average of about 45 points per game, at a pace of 67 possessions per game (0.681 point per possession, when adjusted for schedule strength).

Of course, the season is not complete, and frankly I will be shocked if that defensive efficiency holds for the entire season. However, to put this into perspective, consider the following facts:

•  Best Adjusted Defensive Efficiency by Year:

•  14 0.885 ppp

•  13 0.856 ppp

•  12 0.856 ppp

•  11 0.875 ppp

•  10 0.862 ppp

•  09 0.851 ppp

•  08 0.891 ppp

•  07 0.884 ppp

•  06 0.868 ppp

•  05 0.868 ppp

During the Calipari Era, the adjusted defensive efficiency after 9 games and the adjusted defensive efficiency at the end of the season were essentially the same. In four of these five season, the adjusted defensive efficiency improved by 0.008 ppp to 0.071 ppp from game 9 to the end of the season. The exception to this rule was the 2014 team whose adjusted defensive efficiency slipped 0.134 ppp from game 9 to the end of the season.

If the Cats manage to hold the line on this defensive efficiency over the remainder of this season, this team will rewrite the record books on defensive efficiency with a final adjusted defensive efficiency below 0.70 ppp. If the efficiency slips 0.134 ppp, as it did with the 2014 team, this team's defensive efficiency will end in the range of 0.815 ppp which will still be a substantial amount under the historical best defensive efficiencies of the last decade.

The Cats start their final third of the nonconference schedule against Columbia from the Ivy League. The Lions will bring a 5-2 record into this game. To date, Columbia's most impressive win has been by 9 over #130 American, and their most difficult loss came at the hands of #294 Loyola MD by 2. Last season, the Lions posted a 21-13 record, losing to Yale in the Ivy League Tournament. COLUMBIA ended last season with a #123 rating. COLUMBIA enters Rupp Arena on Sunday with a #118 rating.

Columbia has played its first seven games at a pace of 58 to 59 possessions per game while scoring 59.0 ppg (1.010 ppp) and allowing 50.0 ppg (0.848 ppp) against an early season schedule strength of 0.3058. The Lions turn the ball over on 19.8% of their possessions and force turnovers 18.2% of the time. COLUMBIA retrieves 32.9% of their missed shots and 70.4% of their opponents' missed shots. The Lions' adjusted NGE as of this morning is 0.084 ppp ( 0.062 ppp for 2014).

The Cats will bring their #1 Pomeroy rating through nine games with an adjusted NGE of 0.435 ppp. This team is playing at an average pace of 67 to 68 possessions per game, scoring 77.6 ppg (1.138ppp) and allowing 45.8 ppg (0.683 ppp). The Cats turn the ball over on 17.0% of their possessions and force turnovers on 26.5% of opponent possessions. The Cats are grabbing an unheard of 45.5% of their own missed shots, and 68.9% of opponent misses.

Vegas has not opened for this game as of this writing, and Pomeroy sees this game as a 18-point UK advantage, 65-47. The Adjusted NGE comparison places this as a 30 point UK advantage, 73-43 in a game played at a pace of 63 possessions for Columbia and 64 possessions for the Cats, with a game NGE of 0.45 ppp. The March towards March in Search of Perfection will continue Sunday evening in Rupp Arena.

Game Summary:

Coach Calipari continues with the same platoon alignment that he used the first three games. If it “ain't” broke, don't fix it. What is broke is the health of the top 10 players, and tonight Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker will not be available due to illness. Platoon 1 consists of Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, Alex Poythress, Aaron Harrison, and Andrew Harrison. Platoon 2 consists of Trey Lyles, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Devin Booker, and Dominque Hawkins for an ill 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. In recent games, Coach Calipari has been rewarding good play with more minutes regardless of the initial platoon alignment, and realigning the platoon composition based game needs and conditions.

The Cats control the opening tip, but fail to score. The Lions have no trouble scoring on this Kentucky defense that through 9 games has been the stingiest defense in the land, and some say in the history of college basketball. Columbia scored the first 11 points on 4 of 7 shooting. The Cats did not score until 14:55 which sent the game to the benches for the under 16 media timeout. After the timeout, Andrew Harrison completed his 3 point play to trim the lead to 8. However, in the second segment, Columbia used 2-3 shooting from long range to match Kentucky's 2-5 shooting and a pair of free throws to maintain their lead at 8 points, 17-9 at the under 12 media timeout.

In the first 10 minutes, the Cats are shooting under 25%, 3-13 while Columbia is 6-13. A 3 point play by Willie Cauley-Stein trims the Lions' lead to 5 points. The Cats defend, and Alex Poythress pulls the Cats to within 3 points on a drive from the left wing. Columbia calls a timeout with 8:27 left and still leading by 3 points, 17-14. Out of the timeout, Columbia drains their 4 th 3 pointer as the shot clock expires to move back on top by 6, 20-14. When the Cats fail to score, Karl-Anthony Towns fouls on the rebound, sending the teams right back to the bench for the under 8 media timeout.

The Cats trim the Columbia lead to 1 point, 22-21 at the under 4 media timeout, and go to the locker room down 2, 25-23 at the half.

The first half was played at a pace of 26 possessions (52 full game pace). The Cats scored its 23 points on 26 possessions (0.88 ppp) and Columbia scored 25 points on 24 possessions (1.04 ppp). The Cats shot poorly, missing their first 7 attempts and finishing the half shooting 9-27 (33.3%) overall, and only1-7(14.3%) from outside the arc. Columbia shot poorly for the half, making 4-11 (36.4%) inside the arc, but the Liions' 5-12 (41.7%) shooting from long range has propelled it to this lead. From the line, UK made 4-8 (50.0%) while Columbia made 2-2 (100.0%). Kentucky won the battle of the boards in the first half, out rebounding COLUMBIA 16-15 overall, and 8-4 on the offensive boards, 6-7. Kentucky managed to edge the Lions 4-0 on second chance points. The Cats managed to get only 42.2% of its misses, while Columbia grabbed 33.3% of its misses.

The Cats committed 4 turnovers (154%) and forced 4 Columbia turnovers (16.7%).

Second Half:

The Cats score first in the second half to tie the score for the first time since the score was 0-0, but the Cats are not able to move into a lead. Over the first segment, Columbia maintains their lead with another 3 pointer and three baskets to match the Cats' 4 baskets. The Lions lead at the under 16 media timeout is 3 points, 34-31. In the second segment of the second half, the Cats used 5-6 free throw shooting to move into their first lead of the game, a lead that grew to a fragile 4 points, 38-34, but a Columbia 3 pointer, their 7 th of the game, cut the lead back to 1 point. Dakari Johnson was fouled taking the game to the under 12 media timeout with 11:29 remaining. Dakari Johnson will shoot free throws after the timeout.

After the timeout, Dakari Johnson missed the front end, but the Cats got the offensive rebound and the second chance points. Following a pair of Lion turnovers, the Cats score twice to move on top by 7 points, drawing a Columbia timeout with 9:47 remaining in the game. The Cats continue to force Columbia turnovers and expand their lead to 9, 48-39 at the under 8 media timeout with 7:50 remaining in the game.

The Cats get to the under 4 media timeout, with 3:07 to play and in possession of the ball with a 13 point lead, 54-41. Cats complete a very lackluster performance with a 10 point win, 56-46. This is the first UK team to open a season with 10 consecutive double digit wins since Rupps Runts in the 1965-66 season.


UK scored its 56 points in 51 possessions (1.10 ppp) for the game, and Columbia scored its 46 points on a total of 51 possessions 0.90 ppp).

Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 41-28, and the Cats won the battle for the offensive rebounds 21-9. The Cats won the second chance points 15-6. Columbia had an offensive efficiency of 0.784 ppp on its 51 first chance possessions and 0.667 ppp for its 6 second chance possessions. UK had 0.804 ppp on its 51 first chance possessions and 0.714 ppp on its 15-second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a strong 52.5% of its misses as offensive rebounds while Columbia was able to convert 31.0% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 10-17 [58.8%]. Columbia made 2-4[50.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 22-60 overall [36.7%] and 2-17 from long range [11.8%]. For Columbia, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 10-23 [43.5%] and from long range, Columbia hit 8-25 [32.0%].

The Cats committed 4 turnovers, one for every 12.8 possessions. The Cats forced 10 Columbia turnovers, one for every 5.1 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Saturday afternoon at noon at Rupp Arena against North Carolina.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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