BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2014-15 Season Analytical Writings
A long, long time ago, as these Cats departed the Bahamas having lost the last of their 6 tough tune up games, we pondered what the Bahamian experience signaled for the season ahead. We wondered whether Coach Calipari warnings that the record could easily be 2-4 was simply another demonstration of coach speech, or whether the 5-1 success represented a true indication of how good this team would be.
I recall thinking at the time that Coach Calipari's foreboding warnings were probably a bit over the top, but not completely out of the realm. Prior to the first game, I was preparing my Big Blue Psyche for 2 or 3 losses over the course of 6 games. We could not tell prior to the games whether those collective opponents were even on par with an average D1 college basketball team, and more akin to the traditional early November exhibition fodder. On the other hand, Coach Calipari's comments suggested that the opponents could be equivalent to a top 75 type of NCAA team (Pitt or South Carolina), or perhaps on par with a top 30 team (Arkansas, Oklahoma State).
After the games, I forecast the team's adjusted Net Game Efficiency (ppp) values for those three possible strength of the Bahamian opponents as 0.255 ppp (Average D1 team), 0.333 ppp (#75 Team), and 0.395 ppp (#30 Team). As this team prepares for its 31 st regular season game of the season, the team adjusted Net Game Efficiency (ppp) stands at 0.388 ppp, a good indication that the average strength of the opponents in the Bahamas was closer to the NCAA Top 30 than the NCAA Top 75.
I prepared a preseason forecast, based on the most conservative team adjusted Net Game Efficiency (ppp) of 0.255 ppp, and forecast a record of 28-3, 16-2 in the SEC. At 0.388 ppp, it is no wonder that this team's March to March has actually found perfection. This is an outcome that could have been anticipated if we really believed what Coach Calipari tried to tell us about the array of Bahamian opponents. It is an outcome that because a distinct possibility as early as November 19, 2014 following the routine destruction of a quality (but young) Kansas team.
Yes, a word that has taken on a new significance this season. Coach Calipari said during the dog days of February that he wants his team to play with a pack mentality. Really! He said that. Well, that is exactly what this group of Wildcats had done prior to that remark, and are still doing as they prepare for the regular season finale.
Destruction is the word used to describe a group of wild cats, hunting together, i.e. a Destruction of Wildcats.
This team has been the Destruction of Wildcats, having left 30 consecutive D1 victims in its wake. Some of those victims were destroyed by 25 to 50 point final margins. A few like the Florida Gators were destroyed when they realized that their very best efforts against this Destruction of Wildcats was only sufficient to reduce the final margins to single digits.
With one game remaining, these Cats have found the perfection they have pursued. On Saturday afternoon, they will complete that March to March, and protect the perfection that they have established. These Wildcats will be the first team playing in a major conference to finish a regular season undefeated since the great IU teams of the mid-70s, and only the second UK team to run the table during the regular season, the first since 1953-54 finished 25-0 61 seasons ago.
The Cats played the Florida Gators 4 weeks ago in Gainesville, and took the very best punch that the Gators could muster this season. The Destruction of Wildcats left Gainesville still with a goose egg in the “L” column, a 68-61 winner. That loss dropped the Gators to 5-5 in the SEC, and 12-11 overall. The Gators enter Rupp Arena for the season finale at 15-15, and 8-9 in the SEC. The Gators have lost 4 of their 7 games since giving their all against the Cats on February 7 and still losing by 7. Remember, the Cats played that game short a key player, as Trey Lyles was ill, and did not make the trip.
FLORIDA's Gators have played 30 games at an average tempo of about 64 possessions per game, scoring 64.4 ppg (1.01 ppp) and allowing an average 59.6 ppg (0.93 ppp). FLORIDA has turned the ball over on 19.4% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 22.2% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, FLORIDA has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 31.6%, and a defensive rebounding rate of 71.1%.
In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 65 to 66 possessions per game, producing 74.9 ppg (1.14 ppp) and allowing 53.5ppg (0.82 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 16.4% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 22.0% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 40.4% and 68.1% on the offensive and defensive ends.
The Gators' schedule strength stands at 0.7074 (#15), and the Cats' schedule strength is 0.6678 (#38).
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of KENTUCKY by 18 points, 72-54 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 15 points, 67-52 at a pace of 62 possessions. The March towards March Madness concludes on Saturday, and a win that is currently a 95.5% probability, will conclude with this Destruction of Wildcats having found the perfection it has been seeking since late August.
See how other Big Blue Fans see this game's likely outcome by clicking the following link.
You can enter your prediction at any time prior to tip off by visiting the 247 Sports prediction thread for this game at:
Coach Calipari starts his three seniors in recognition of that senior day tradition. Sam Malone, Todd Lanter, and Brian Long will be joined at center circle by Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Harrison for the opening tip. Don't expect Coach Calipari to leave his trio of seniors in the game for long before inserting Trey Lyles, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Aaron Harrison to get it on in this game of epic proportions for the Wildcat program. Platoon 2 consists of Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Devin Booker, and Tyler Ulis. Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis, and E. J. Floreal to provide deep reserve help should the game require or permit Coach Calipari to go to his 10 th , 11 th , or 12 th players.
Karl Anthony Towns controlled the opening tip, and took the first shot, and as soon as the Gators got the rebound, one of the seniors commits the foul, and Coach Calipari brings in the other three regular starters. The Cats move on top by 5-0 on a jump shot from the free throw line by Andrew Harrison and a three point play by Willie Cauley Stein following his offensive rebound. However, the Gators scored back to back baskets to pull within 1 point, 5-4. After Aaron Harrison makes 1 of 2 free throws, Coach Calipari brings in the second platoon with 16:03 remaining. A steal by Andrew Harrison leads to a blocked shot off the Gators, out of bounds under the UK basket to take the game to the under 16 media timeout with the Cats on top 6-4 and in possession.
On the first possession, the Cats go deep to Marcus Lee who is fouled as he rose for the shot. Marcus missed the first and made the second to give the Cats a 3 point lead, 7-4. The Gators scored the next 7 points, a 3 pointer and 2 baskets, one following a Willie Cauley Stein turnover, to move on top 11-7. The Cats scratch back to tie the score, 11-11 at the under 12 media timeout. Florida will have the ball when play resumes.
In the first 8 minutes, the Cats have 3 turnovers and 3 offensive boards, and the Gators have 2 of each. In a prolonged third segment, the Cats moved to a 4 point lead, 17-13, but that lead was short lived as the Gators make back to back 3 pointers to move on top by 2, 19-17 at the under 8 media timeout with 6:54 remaining in the first half. The Cats will have the ball following the segment ending turnover by the Gators.
In the fourth segment, the Gators moved back into the lead, but the Cats caught up at 21-21, and moved ahead 23-21, and 26-23 on Devin Booker's first 3 pointer of the game, and the Cats' first 3 pointer of the game. However, a Gator basket with a UK foul trimmed the lead to a single point, and the Gators will have a free throw to tie the score and complete the 3 point play after the under 4 media timeout with 2:33 remaining in the first half.
In the final segment, the Cats added 2 points to their slim margin to lead 30-27 at the half.
The first half was played at a pace of 32 possessions (64 game pace). The Cats scored its 30 points on 32 possessions (0.938 ppp) and FLORIDA scored 27 points on 32 possessions (0.844 ppp). The Cats shot poorly in the first half making 13-29 (44.8%) overall and 1-4 (25.0%) from outside the arc. FLORIDA shot well for the half, making 9-21 (42.9%) inside the arc, and the Gators were 3-6(50.0%) shooting the ball from outside the arc. From the line, UK made 3-5 (60.0%) while FLORIDA made 0-1 (0.0%). Kentucky won the battle of the boards in the first half, out rebounding the Gators 19-13 overall. The Cats also won the offensive rebounds 6-3, using them to earn a 8-2 advantage on second chance points.
The Cats committed 7 turnovers (21.9% of possessions) and forced 8 FLORIDA turnovers (25.0% of possessions).
The Cats go to Karl Anthony Towns at the free throw line, and Karl Anthony Towns drives the lane for a layup to move on top by 5. Eventually, the Cats manage to extend the lead to 6 points after another 1-2 trip to the line. However, back to back 3 pointers by the Gators around another UK 1-2 trip at the line trims the lead to a single point, 36-35, at the under 16 media timeout with 15:29 remaining, and Dakari Johnson set to shoot a pair of free throws after the break.
Dakari Johnson made both free throws, the first time in this game that a Cat player made both free throw opportunities. The Dakari Johnson free throws lifted the lead back to 3 points, 38-35. Over the balance of a prolonged second segment, the Cats ease back on top by 5, 44-39 at the under 12 media timeout. With 10:54 remaining in the game, the Cats have the ball.
With 11 minutes remaining in the game, the Cats have relinquished their command of the offensive glass to the Gators, and the overall rebounding edge has been trimmed to only 2 rebounds. In the third segment, the Cats finally establish a double digit lead, 51-41, but a late basket by the Gators cut the lead back to 8, 51-43 at the under 8 media timeout with 7:06 remaining and Karl Anthony Towns set to shoot a pair of free throws after the break.
After the break, Karl Anthony Towns converted both free throws, and following another Gator baskets, Dakari Johnson scores on a hook in the lane, and Andrew Harrison steals a pass for an uncontested layup and a 12 point lead, 57-45 with 5:40 remaining. The Cats maintain the 12 point margin at the under 4 media timeout, 59-47 with 3:24 remaining in the game. After the final media break of this game, Willie Cauley Stein will be at the line for a pair of free throws. Free throws by Andrew Harrison and Tyler Ulis extend the lead to 16, 65-49. The final score is 67-50.
UK scored its 67 points in 61 possessions (1.098 ppp) for the game, and FLORIDA scored its 50 points on 61 possessions (0.820 ppp).
Kentucky won the rebounding battle 31-26, and Kentucky won the offensive rebounding 10-8. The Cats also won the second chance point battle 7-6. FLORIDA had an offensive efficiency of 0.721 ppp on its 61 first chance possessions and 0.750 ppp for its 8 second chance possessions. UK had 0.98 ppp on its 61 first chance possessions and 0.700 ppp on its 10-second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 35.7% of its misses as offensive rebounds while FLORIDA was able to convert 27.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 15-21 [71.4%]. FLORIDA made 3-7[42.9%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 25-53 overall [47.2%] and 2-6 from long range [33.3%]. For FLORIDA , their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 16-38 [42.1%] and from long range, FLORIDA hit 5-11 [45.5%].
The Cats committed 8 turnovers, one for every 7.6 possessions. The Cats forced 17 FLORIDA turnovers, one for every 3.6 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Friday afternoon, March 13, 2015 against the winner of a second round game in the SEC Tournament at 1 pm in Nashville.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks