2015-16 Season Analytical Writings

A June Look Ahead To The 2015-16 Kentucky Basketball Season

I do not recall an earlier release of the OCC schedule.    The Basketball office has been busy with more than recruiting and NBA fortunes since the first of April.  The SEC portion of the schedule, while probably not precise regarding the sequence of the games, should be right for the mix of opponents and venues.  This is the 2013 SEC schedule, and when they rolled it out, the SEC said the schedule would repeat every 3 years. 

We now know that the SEC brain trust has decided to scrap the scheduling format used for 2013 through 2015, and in 2016, the Cats will have three opponents with home-home encounters each season, and increase from the last three seasons that provided only one such opponent for each SEC team. Kentucky had been matched with Florida. Under the new system, Kentucky will have home-home annual encounters with Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee. However, the use of the 2013 schedule format is still applicable at this stage because in 2013, the Cats actually played home-home games against each of these three.

Most fans like to belief the roster for the upcoming season will be set by the end of June each year, but during the Coach Calipari era, and given the NCAA's propensity to play “gotcha” with Cat prospects at any opportunity, the roster is never truly “set” this early. The 2015-16 roster has an added element of uncertainty that does not occur often. The chatter around the program has suggested 2016-17 recruit, Tai Wynyard, may be arriving earlier than initially believed. Tai may be joining the team between semesters in December.

Otherwise, the UK roster as of June 27, 2015 stands at 11 scholarship players. Alex Poythress will return for his senior season coming off his season ending knee injury after only 8 games in 2014-15. The Cats will have five, count them five (Derek Willis, Marcus Lee, Dominique Hawkins, and Floreal, each returning from their 2014-15 sophomore years, and JUCO Mychal Mulder). After seeing seven members of the 2014-15 roster elect to move on to professional basketball, the 2015-16 roster will have only one Sophomore, Tyler Ulis. Coach Calipari has added to these seven, four incoming freshmen: 2-Skal Labissiere; 10-Jamal Murray; 11-Isaiah Briscoe; and 57-Charles Matthews. The recruiting services rank this incoming UK class as #1 for the 6 th time since Coach Calipari arrived in Lexington 7 recruiting classes ago.

The data I use for all opponents are their 2015 season ending values (which will change, some up and some down, but on average, should be representative of the full slate of opponents), and for UK I used weighted average numbers drawn from the 6 previous Calipari teams, giving more weight to 2015 than 14 than 13, etc. If this Cat team performs above that projected average, the win-loss record will be better, and if the 2016 Cats perform under this projected average, the win-loss record will be worse than this projection (worse is relative).  Given the #1 recruiting class and the preponderance of pre-season rankings that place the Cats in either the #1 or #2 position, most forecasts indicate the 2015-16 Cats should outperform this early season projection.

At this early peak at the opposition, there are 11 games that have projected margins within +/- 5 points, a margin range that effectively places the outcome of the game in legitimate doubt. Of these, two games have negative projected margins (Duke -4 on a neutral court and at Kansas -1), and the other nine contested games have projected margins in UK's favor by 1 ½ to 4 ½ points. These nine opponents include 7 of the 9 SEC road games and two more nonconference opponents (Ohio State +2 on a neutral court and at UCLA +3 ½). The Cats will win the other 20 regular season games, barring a significant to major upset. The 11 contested games could end with the Cats on top of falling.

I like the schedule.   Coach Calipari is not backing down one bit from his promise to take on all comers.  UCLA and Kansas, both on the road after the embarrassing beat downs they each sustained at the hands of the Cats on neutral courts last year will be major targeted games for each of them.  Ohio State and Duke at neutral sites are great matchups for a great program.  Louisville is always a war with nothing to gain and everything to lose for any assemblage of Wildcats.

Strictly by the numbers, the projections suggest a regular season record of 29-2; 18-0 in the SEC.  However, using probabilities of upset outcomes, 26-5; 15-3, which reflects my anticipation for the 2015-16 season about 5 months before the first exhibition game (LOL!!).

Rick Pitino said after the 1993 final four disappointment that if you fish in the final four pond often enough, you will claim the trophy.  You win some that you shouldn't and you fail to win some you should.  The 2014 team went much further than they had any right to expect and the 2015 team fell one game short.  The 2011 team went further than they had played and 2010 fell short.  It happens.

This UK team will compete for the championship again.  It has a legitimate chance to win it. What more could a fan want from its program, its coach, and the players that choose to wear the blue and white.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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