BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2014-15 Season Analytical Writings
It is a fact that the 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats transformed themselves during the SEC Tournament and left as runner up to Champion Florida, and each of them were destined to advance into the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. It is equally true that the Florida Gators swept the Cats last season in three encounters. The sting of the three consecutive losses must still serve to motivate the UK players who competed in those games last season.
This season, the roles have reversed somewhat. The Gators entered the 2014-15 season riding on a wave of high expectations, but they have stumbled their way to a 12-10 record entering this game against Kentucky. Last year, the Cats entered the 2013-14 season riding a wave of high expectations, but they also stumbled their way to a 19-5 record leading to the Gators' appearance at Rupp about 1 year ago. The Cats lost to those Gators by 10 at Rupp, and they also succumbed to the Gators in Gainesville by 19 three weeks later.
For the Cats, their focus must be on giving the effort they showed on a regular basis for the majority of this season. That effort will sustain this team on Saturday and send them from Gainesville toward Baton Rouge tied with the Rupps' Runts with a 23-0 start for the season. However, most Big Blue Fans silently ponder the disappearance of that energy over most of the last 5 games, as evidenced by the pitiful rebounding results.
Against Georgia, the Cats only got 15.6% of their misses for second chance possessions and allowed Georgia to get over 32% of the Dawgs' misses. Against Alabama, the offensive rebounding rates were 21.7% and 33.3% for the Cats and the Tide respectively. Against South Carolina, the rates were a season low 12% for the Cats, and a season high for an opponent at 41.9% for the Gamecocks. Against Vanderbilt, the Cats only managed 32.3% for offensive rebounding, and allowed a weak Commodore team to get 28%. Prior to the last 5 games that included these 4 performances, the Cats had averaged an offensive rebounding rate between 45 and 50% for the season. During these 5 games, the season average has dropped to only40.7%.
No other single element of the game demonstrates the reduced energy that the Cats have brought out of their locker room than the shift in their rebounding effectiveness. Return to domination of the Boards against the Gators, and the Cats will continue their March toward March in search of perfection. Allow the Gators to own the Boards as South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia have done, that the Cats probably won't make it to Baton Rouge undefeated.
The Gators are arguably the second best team in the SEC this season, but this game is not about the Gators, it is about the Cats, just as it should be.
The Gators completed their non-conference schedule 7-6. They beat #94 William & Mary by 23 and #96 Yale by 38, each in Gainesville. However, the Gators sustained losses to #67 Miami of Florida by 2 points, #73 UConn by 4, and at #131 Florida State by 2 points. In conference play, the Gators are 5-4, 3-1 at the O'Connell Center with wins over #161 Mississippi State by 25, #133 Auburn by 20, and #35 Arkansas by 1 point. The Gators' home loss came at the hands of #47 LSU by 18 point on January 20. The Gators won their first three conference games, but have dropped four of their last 6 games, including their last outing at #60 Vanderbilt on Tuesday by 6 points.
FLORIDA has played its first 22 games at an average tempo of about 64 possessions per game, scoring 66.0 ppg (1.025 ppp) and allowing an average 59.2 ppg (0.921 ppp). FLORIDA has turned the ball over on 19.8% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 23.3% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, FLORIDA has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 33.5%, and a defensive rebounding rate of 70.1%.
In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 65 possessions per game, producing 73.9 ppg (1.13 ppp) and allowing 51.0 ppg (0.79 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 16.7% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 23.8% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 40.7% and 66.8% on the offensive and defensive ends.
The Gators' schedule strength stands at 0.6830 (#14), and the Cats' schedule strength is 0.6432 (#32).
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of KENTUCKY by 7 points, 66-59 in a game played at a pace of 65 possessions for the Cats and 65 possessions for FLORIDA. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky's favor by 9 points, 62-53 at a pace of 60 possessions. The Vegas line opened at 9 points in favor of the Cats. The March towards March in Search of Perfection will continue Tuesday evening at 9 PM in Gainesville, Florida in a game featured by College Game Day.
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The starting players for the GEORGIA game are Willie Cauley-Stein,, Karl-Anthony Towns, Dominique Hawkins, Aaron Harrison, and Andrew Harrison. Platoon 2 consists of Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Dominique Hawkins, Devin Booker, and Tyler Ulis. Trey Lyles is not available for this game due to a personal illness. Coach Calipari has decided that he needs to return to the full platoon system. Derek Willis, and E. J. Floreal to provide deep reserve help should the game require or permit Coach Calipari to go to his 10th or 11 th players.
The Cats control the opening tip, and Willie Cauley-Stein draws first blood, but the Gators respond with back to back 3 pointers to move on top 6-2. Karl-Anthony Towns makes a 3 point play to cut the lead to a single point, but Florida closes out the opening segment with a basket, a steal, and draws a foul on Aaron Harrison taking the ball to the basket. Florida leads 8-5 at the under 16 media timeout, and the Gators will have a pair of free throws after the break. In the second segment, the Gators started by missing both free throws, but the Cats could not take advantage of the empty trip to trim the lead, and the Gator continue to put space between themselves and the Cats on 8-13 shooting, including 2-3 from long range to lead 20-11 at the under 12 media timeout with 10:00 remaining in the first half of this game. The Cats will have the ball after the timeout.
In the abbreviated third segment, the Cats trim the 9 point lead to 3 points, 21-18, but a rebounding foul by Andrew Harrison and a shot clock violation gave the Gators a 5 point lead, 23-18, at the under 8 media timeout, and the Gators will have the first possession of the fourth segment. In an extended 4 th segment, the Cats claw back into contention and trail by 2 points, 28-26, at the under 4 media timeout with 2:10 remaining and Florida in possession. In the final segment, The Cats pulled even at 28-28, but the Gators closed the scoring for the first half to take a lead of 2 points, 30-28 to the locker room.
The first half was played at a pace of 30 possessions (60 game pace). The Cats scored its 28 points on 30 possessions (0.93 ppp) and FLORIDA scored 30 points on 29 possessions (1.03 ppp). The Cats shot poorly in the first half making 11-25 (44.0%) overall and 1-9 (11.1%) from outside the arc. FLORIDA shot well for the half, making 8-15 (53.3%) inside the arc, and the Gators were 3-10 (30.0%) shooting the ball from outside the arc. From the line, UK made 5-5 (100.0%) while FLORIDA made 5-8 (62.5%). Florida won the battle of the boards in the first half, out rebounding the Cats 15-14 overall. Florida also controlled the offensive glass, 6-5, but Kentucky used its second chances to score 9 points while the Gators only managed 4 second chance points from their 6 offensive boards.
The Cats committed 8 turnovers (26.7% of possessions) and forced 6 FLORIDA turnovers (20.7% of possessions).
The Cats open the second half with a bucket by Devin Booker to tie the score, and after Florida moved back on top by 3 with their 4 th 3 pointer of the night, the Cats continued to ride strong play by Karl-Anthony Towns and Aaron Harrison to lead by 1 points, 39-38 at the under 16 media timeout.
In the second segment, the Cats moved on top by their biggest margin, 4 points, 42-38, but Florida responded with 6 quick points to regain the lead, and Coach Calipari called a timeout to regroup his troupes with 12:30 remaining in the game. After the timeout, Karl-Anthony Towns turns the ball over to the Gators on a lazy pass at the top of the key, but Andrew Harrison steals the ball back and delivers the ball to Willie Cauley-Stein who makes the basket and completes the 3 point play at the line as the Cats regain the lead, 45-44. Following another Gator turnover, Aaron Harrison is fouled following an offensive rebound sending the teams to the benches at the under 12 media timeout.
Aaron Harrison made both free throws, and the Cats fight to extend their lead to a game high 5 points, 51-46, but the Gators do not fold their tents and match the Cats basket for basket to the under 8 media timeout with the Cats on top by 3, 53-50 with 7:33 remaining and the Cats in possession. The Cats get a basket to move up by 5 again, but 2 possessions with a chance to extend the lead to 7 fail to score, and the Gators trim the lead to 3. Booker makes an 18 foot jump shot near the end of the shot clock to move the Cats back on top by 5. After the Gators pull back to within 3 points on a pair of free throws, Billy Donovan takes a timeout with 4:43 remaining in the game.
After the timeout, the Cats come up dry when Willie Cauley-Stein throws a pass from the post to a Gator player, and Tyler Ulis fouls taking the game to the under 4 media timeout with the Gators in possession and trailing by 3 points, 57-54. Cats win by 7, 68-61, making 11 of 12 free throws down the stretch.
UK scored its 68 points in 61 possessions (1.11 ppp) for the game, and FLORIDA scored its 61 points on 61 possessions (1.00 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 33-20, and the Cats won the battle for the offensive rebounds 11-6. Kentucky also won the battle of second chance points 12-6. FLORIDA had an offensive efficiency of 0.901 ppp on its 61 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp for its 6 second chance possessions. UK had 0.98 ppp on its 61 first chance possessions and 1.091 ppp on its 11-second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a more reasonable 44.0% of its misses as offensive rebounds while FLORIDA was able to convert 21.4% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 21-22 [95.5%]. FLORIDA made 7-14 [50.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 22-47 overall [46.8%] and 3-14 (21.4%) from long range. For FLORIDA, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 18-28 [64.3%] and from long range, FLORIDA hit 6-21 [28.6%].
The Cats committed 15 turnovers, one for every 4.1 possessions. The Cats forced 11 FLORIDA turnovers, one for every 5.5 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday evening, February 10, 2015 against LSU in the 11 th SEC game of the 2015 season at Baton Rouge, LA.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks