2014-15 Season Analytical Writings

Cats Open NCAA Play Heavily Favored To Win It All

Yes, this team has played 8 true exhibition games. Likewise, this team has played 34 regular season games including their 3 game march through the SEC Tournament last weekend. But, even back in August, while this team was learning that it could play up to 10 players in about equal time shares and win big while doing it, the entire reason for the Bahamian experience, the entire reason for the September “Pro-Day”, the entire reason for playing 13 non-conferences opponents in November and December, the entire reason for enduring the grind of another SEC regular season, and the only reason to expose its record to a blemish during the SEC Tournament was this.

The NCAA Tournament has begun. It has all been nothing but a preliminary build up to this next 3 weeks. The stated goal has been from day 1 to win this specific championship. There had always been an uneasy, unspoken goal of finishing this tournament with a perfect 40-0 record, but the goal, regardless of the number of losses through the rest of this entire trip, has been, and remains to win the NCAA Tournament.

This epic journey begins on Thursday night for the Kentucky Wildcats, for this Destruction of Cats. The first opponent that the NCAA planners offer up to these Wildcats is the #238 Hampton Pirates. Hampton earned this “honor” by defeating Delaware State by 19 in the championship game of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament last Saturday and defeating Manhattan by 10 in the first four game played last night. The Pirates have won 5 in a row for the only time this season in reaching their encounter with the Destruction of Wild Cats. Further, the Pirates have won 9 of their last 12 games after starting the season 8-14. Hampton has lifted its record to 0.500 ( 17-17) entering Thursday's game against #1 Kentucky.

Hampton claimed its most impressive win of the season Tuesday in Dayton when it turned away #157 Manhattan. However, the Pirates probably have difficulty explaining their losses to #333 South Carolina State, #338 Savannah State, and #339 North Carolina A&T.

Hampton owns one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history when the Pirates defeated #2 Iowa State by 1 point in the NCAA Tournament's first round as a 15 seed in 2001. This is Hampton's fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and that 2001 shocker is their only tournament win until Tuesday's play in win over Manhattan. Their last NCAA appearance occurred in 2010 when they fell to eventual champion Duke 87-45.

HAMPTON's Pirates have played 34 games at an average tempo of about 75 possessions per game, scoring 71.6 ppg (0.96 ppp) and allowing an average 72.1 ppg (0.97 ppp). HAMPTON has turned the ball over on 20.3% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 20.0% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, HAMPTON has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 32.4%, and a defensive rebounding rate of 69.2%.

In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 65 possessions per game, producing 74.9 ppg (1.15 ppp) and allowing 54.0 ppg (0.83 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 16.3% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 21.7% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 40.4% and 68.3% on the offensive and defensive ends.

The Pirates' schedule strength stands at 0.3228 (#339), and the Cats' schedule strength is 0.6742 (#35).

Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of KENTUCKY by 34 points, 85-51 in a game played at a pace of 70 possessions for the Cats and 70 possessions for HAMPTON . Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky's favor by 28 points, 82-54 at a pace of 68 possessions.

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:

Game Summary:

Coach Calipari starts Trey Lyles, Willie Cauley-Stein,, Karl-Anthony Towns, Aaron Harrison, and Andrew Harrison. Platoon 2 consists of Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Dominique Hawkins, Devin Booker, and Tyler Ulis. Derek Willis, and E. J. Floreal to provide deep reserve help should the game require or permit Coach Calipari to go to his 11th or 12 th players.

Karl Anthony Towns controls the tip, and after 2 offensive rebounds, Willie Cauley Stein goes to the line where he makes 1 of 2 shots. Following a basket by Trey Lyles the Cats led 3 – 0. However, the huge underdog has not been paying attention, and instead of being nothing but fodder for the monster, the Pirates score the next two baskets to take a 4-3 lead. The Cats regain the lead, but the Pirates hang close to trail only by a point, 7-6 at the under 16 media timeout. The Pirate hang at a one point deficit again at 9-8. Then the Cats go on a 9-3 run to an 18-11 lead prompting a Pirate timeout with 11:05 remaining in the first half.

In the third segment, the Cats were not able to extend their lead, and Hampton trimmed 1 point, but Tyler Ulis will have a pair of free throws after the under 8 media timeout with 7:38 remaining and the Cats on top 20-14. Through the first 12 ½ minutes, the Cats have been shooting very poorly, 8-22 overall and 0-2 from outside the arc. The Cats score 8 points on their next 5 possessions while holding the Pirates scoreless to expand their lead to 28-14 with 5:03 remaining when Hampton uses their second timeout of the game. Following the timeout, the Cats extend this run to 12-0 to lead 30-14 at the under 4 media timeout with 3:50 remaining.

The Cats lead by 19 at the half, 41-22.

The first half was played at a pace of 36 possessions (72 game pace). The Cats scored its 41 points on 36 possessions (1.14 ppp) and HAMPTON scored 22 points on 36 possessions (0.61 ppp). The Cats shot poorly in the first half making 14-32 (43.8%) overall and 1-6 (16.7%) from outside the arc. HAMPTON shot poorly for the half, making 7-21 (33.3%) inside the arc, and the Pirates were 1-8 (12.5%) shooting the ball from outside the arc. From the line, UK made 12-17 (70.6%) while HAMPTON made 5-8 (62.5%). Kentucky won the battle of the boards in the first half, out rebounding the Pirates 25-19 overall. The Cats won the offensive rebounds 7-4, and the Cats won the battle of second chance points, 4-2.

The Cats committed 3 turnovers (8.3% of possessions) and forced 7 HAMPTON turnovers (19.4% of possessions).

Second Half:

Hampton opens the second half on an empty trip, and the Cats outscore the Pirates 8-2 in the first 3 minutes to extend their lead to 25 points, 49-24 as Hampton takes another timeout with 17:05 remaining in the game. After the timeout, the Cats added 4 more points to the run to lead 53-24 at the under 16 media timeout with 15:45. After the break, Karl Anthony Towns will have a free throw attempt to complete a 3 point play.

In an extended second segment, the Cats add 4 more to their lead to lead by 33, 65-32 at the under 12 media timeout with 10:45 remaining. After a 8-22, 0-2 from 3 point range and 4-8 from the stripe start in the opening 12 minutes, the Cats have shot 15-25, 2-5 from 3 point range, and 13-14 from the line over the last 18 minutes of the game. Over that span, the Cats have transformed the score from 20-14 to 65-32, a 45-18 run.

In the fourth segment, Hampton trimmed 8 points from the Cats' lead to reduce the margin to only 24 points, 73-49, at the under 4 media timeout. Cats win 79-56 to move to 35-0, and stand 5 games shy of perfection.


UK scored its 79 points in 74 possessions (1.068 ppp) for the game, and HAMPTON scored its 56 points on 75 possessions (0.747 ppp).

Kentucky won the rebounding battle 51-31, and UK won the offensive rebounding 13-6. The Cats won the second chance point battle 18-2. HAMPTON had an offensive efficiency of 0.720 ppp on its 75 first chance possessions and 0.333 ppp for its 6 second chance possessions. UK had 0.824 ppp on its 74 first chance possessions and 1.385 ppp on its 13-second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 34.2% of its misses as offensive rebounds while HAMPTON was able to convert 13.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 20-28 [71.4%]. HAMPTON made 18-23 [78.3%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 28-61 overall [45.9%] and 3-10 from long range [30.0%]. For HAMPTON , their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 13-43 [30.2%] and from long range, HAMPTON hit 4-16 [25.0%].

The Cats committed 13 turnovers, one for every 5.7 possessions. The Cats forced 11 HAMPTON turnovers, one for every 6.8 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Saturday afternoon in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament against Cincinnati at about 2:40 pm.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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