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2015-16 Season Analytical Writings
During the off season, much chatter focused on an anticipation that the 2015-16 Kentucky Wildcats would again compete in the final four. We recall all of the arguments. Coach Calipari has another #1 or #2 group of incoming players. Coach Calipari has led his youngsters to four final fours in six years, and won a championship. There will not be any dominant team or teams in the land in 2015-16 like there was in 2014-15. However, amidst all of this optimistic talk, early November did arrive, and in an Olympic manner, all proclaimed, “Let the games begin.”
And, the games began with Kentucky looking impressive in its first three games including an impressive early season win over a highly regarded Duke team in Chicago. Through those early games, these Cats played at a level of efficiency worthy of all the pre-season praise and expectation. However, Coach Calipari declared shortly afterwards that his team was still developing and there are many teams playing better basketball that his Cats. Blah, blah, blah …. Coach Calipari engaging in his usual brand of coach speech. However, over the next five games, the quality of play that this team showed steadily declined, leading to the embarrassing loss at UCLA.
Oh, but wait, the Cats bounced back after UCLA to post a pair of strong showings, and perhaps UCLA was just an aberration of a young team in its first true road game. Then the team looked as bad against Ohio State as they had at UCLA. But, they beat a very strong UL team and stormed past Ole Miss in their SEC opener. Then, at Baton Rouge, this team turned in one of the poorest games in recent memory, losing to a mediocre LSU team by 22 points. They rebounded to beat Alabama, and then blew sizable second half leads against Mississippi State and Auburn, losing the Auburn game.
Last night, this team showed a level of resilency that epitomizes the roller coaster ride that the first 18 games of this season has become. Deep valleys in games 8, 11, 14, and 17, and impressive peaks at games 10, 13, 15, and last night in game 18.
Please make no mistake that the average level of performance established by this oscillating pattern is the lowest of any of Coach Calipari's UK teams. Even without the large swings in personality game to game, this team would not be a national contender this year, or any year. Furthermore, at the valleys this team is showing, they cannot beat the little sisters of the poor. However, make no mistake, at the peaks, this team is playing championship level basketball. That is true of its first three games, and is true for its games against Ole Miss, Alabama, and Arkansas last night. It is also true of its wins over UL and Duke.
I am reminder of the old, but great TV game show, “To Tell The Truth” and rhetorically ask, “Will the true UK Wildcats please stand up?” My wish is that Coach Calipari can find the secret formula that has produced those peaks, bottle it, and feed it to his players for the remainder of this season. If he can, then this team will be formidable come March.
The Cats face a new challenge on Saturday afternoon. They must travel home from Arkansas, and be prepared for another very difficult basketball game by 4 pm on Saturday afternoon. That is when the stripes will toss the ball in the air for the Cats first meeting with Vanderbilt this season.
Vanderbilt brings a 11-7 record, 3-3in the SEC, into this meeting with the 14-4; 4-2 Wildcats. Vanderbilt opened their season with five consecutive wins, before tasting defeat for the first time against #10 Kansas in Hawaii by 7 points. After a win over #185 Detroit, the Comodores lost Luke Kornet to injury. During the time that Kornet was recovering, Vanderbilt lost 6 of their next 8 games, losing at #22 Baylor by 2, to #45 Dayton by 5, at #9 Purdue by 13, and losing their first 3 SEC games to #65 LSU and at #65 Arkansas and at #40 South Carolina.
Well, Mr. Kornet has now returned to action, and Vanderbilt has won its last three games, beating #153 Auburn by 14, #85 Alabama by 8, and at #89 Tennessee by 14. The Commodores will enter Rupp Arena with a confidence revived by Kornet's return, and their team's return to their early season winning ways. Even with a total of seven losses, Vanderbilt's most embarrassing loss was to #65 LSU by 8 without Luke Kornet. However, on the other side of their ledger,Vanderbilt's most impressive win came at the expense of Stoney Brook by 7 in OT.
Vanderbilt and Kentucky have not played a common non-conference opponent but have both played LSU, Arkansas, Auburn and Alabama.
VANDERBILT has played its first 18 games at an average tempo of about 72 possessions per game, scoring 78.9 ppg (1.094 ppp) and allowing an average 65.8 ppg (0.914 ppp). VANDERBILT has turned the ball over on 16.8% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 15.8% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, VANDERBILT has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 26.4%, and a defensive rebounding rate of 71.2%.
In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 70 to 71 possessions per game, producing 76.9 ppg (1.094 ppp) and allowing 67.6 ppg (0.956 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 17.9% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 19.1% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 40.4% and 69.5% on the offensive and defensive ends.
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of Kentucky by 1 point, 73-72 in a game played at a pace of 71 possessions for the Cats and 71 possessions for Vanderbilt. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky's favor by 4 points, 73-69 at a pace of 69 possessions.
Coming back to the roller coaster theme, if this team plays at its valley level, it will lose to Vanderbilt on Saturday by 10 points or more, and if this team plays like the champions that the entire Big Blue Nation wants to see and expects, the Cats will beat Vanderbilt by 10 points or more. That is the nature of the roller coaster ride that this team has been having.
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Coach Calipari starts Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis, Alex Poythress, Tyler Ulis, and Jamal Murray. Dominique Hawkins may be available for the game tonight.
The Cats control the opening tip, and run the opening play to the baseline to Alex Poythress for the first score of the game. Following a Vandy miss, Alex Poythress makes a 15 foot jump shot to give the Cats an early 4-0 lead. A 3 pointer by Tyler Ulis provides the balance of the Cats scoring to a 7-2 lead at the under 16 media timeout. The Cats and the Commodores play on relatively even terms through the second segment, with the Cats continuing to maintain a 5 point lead, 13-8 with 12:00 remaining, and the Commodores trim that lead to 4, 15-11, at the under 12 media timeout with 10:51 remaining and Vandy in possession of the basketball.
After the timeout, Vandy failed to take advantage of their possession, and after the teams played to a score of 20-16. The Cats ran 7 quick points on a basket by Alex Poythress, a basket by Tyler Ulis, and a transition 3 pointer by Jamal Murray forcing Coach Stallings to take a timeout with the Cats on top 27-16 with 7:44 remaining in the first half.
In the 4 th segment, the Cats briefly extended the lead to 13 points, 29-16, but a run by Vandy trimmed the lead to only 7, 29-22 before Charles Matthews hit a 15 foot jump shot from the left baseline just before the under 4 media timeout with 2:47 to play in the first half. In the final segment, the Cats stop the Vandy run and build the lead back to 10 points, 37-27 at the half.
Kentucky scored 37 points on 33 possessions (1.120 ppp) while VANDERBILT scored 27 points on 33 possessions (0.82 ppp). The Cats shot well for most of the half, and a strong finish lifted them to 17-35 (48.6%) including 2-9 (22.2%) from long range. VANDERBILT shot the ball very poorly, 7-21 overall (33.3%) which included 3-7 (42.9%) from long range. From the line, the Cats were 1-3 (33.3%) while VANDERBILT was 10-12 (83.3%). The Cats committed 2 turnovers, one for each 16.5 possessions, and the Cats forced VANDERBILT into 8 turnovers, one for each 4.1 possessions.
On the boards, the Cats won the battle 18-16 and the Cats won the battle on the offensive glass 5-2. The Cats converted their 5 second chance opportunities into 4 second chance points while VANDERBILT used their 2 second chances to score 0 second chance points.
VANDERBILT had an efficiency of 0.82 ppp on its 33 first chance possessions and 0.00 ppp on its 2 second chance possessions. Kentucky had an efficiency of 1..00 ppp on its 33 first chance possessions and 0.80 ppp on its 5 second chance possession. The Cats grabbed 26.3% of its misses and VANDERBILT grabbed 13.3% of its missed shots in the first half.
The Commodores open the second half with basket over Alex Poythress, but they could not make the and 1. Alex Poythress answers quickly at the other end. Vanderbilt does succeed in trimming the lead to 7, 41-34, but the Cats run off 6 straight to give them a 13 point lead, 47-34 at the under 16 media timeout. In the second segment, the Cats continued the run that ended the first segment to build their lead to 17, 53-36, and continue to hold to a 15 point lead at the under 12 media timeout, 55-40.
In the third segment, the Cats extended their lead to 21 points before a Vandy 3 pointer cut the lead back to 18, 67-49 at the under 8 media timeout with 7:03 remaining in the game. In an extended fourth segment, the Cats maintain complete control of the game and extend their lead to a game high 23 points, 76-53 at the under 4 media timeout with only 2:12 remaining in the game.
Cats win 76-57.
UK scored its 76 points on 63 possessions for the game, and VANDERBILT scored its 57 points on 64 possessions.
The Cats and Commodores battled to even terms on the Boards, 32-32, and Vanderbilt won the battle on the offensive glass 10-6. Kentucky used its 6 second chance possessions to score 6 second chance points, and VANDERBILT used its 10 second chance possessions to score 10 second chance points. VANDERBILT had an offensive efficiency of 0.734 ppp on its 64 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp for its 10 second chance possessions. UK had 1.111 ppp on its 63 first chance possessions and 1.0000 ppp on its 6 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 21.4% of its misses as offensive rebounds while VANDERBILT was able to convert 27.8% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 4-6 [66.7%]. VANDERBILT made 20-25 [80.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 33-60 overall [55.0%] and 6-19 from long range [31.6%]. For VANDERBILT, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a 11-35 [31.4%] and from long range, VANDERBILT hit 5-15 [33.3%].
The Cats committed 7 turnovers, one for every 9.0 possessions. The Cats forced 12 VANDERBILT turnovers, one for every 5.3possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Wednesday evening against Missouri at Rupp Arena in the 20 th regular season and 8 th SEC game of the 2015-16 season .
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks