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2015-16 Season Analytical Writings
Prior to this season, most forecasts prefaced their remarks noting that there are no dominant teams in 2015-16. Of all the statements that have been or could have been made about this season, this one has proven more accurate than most.
To put it in terms I understand and work with daily, the 0.3 point per possession Adjusted Net Efficiency (ANE) has been a reliable threshold for teams to be legitimate national contenders. This criteria has proven valid for the last 15 years for which such data exists. Not this year because not a single team satisfies this criteria, and it is not even close. My analysis shows the highest ANE value is 0.27 ppp. Last year, this level of efficiency would not qualify for an Elite 8 position, a Sweet 16 type of team in a year that included 4 teams in excess of the 0.3 ppp threshold for competitiveness. A Sweet 16 type team is the best this season can offer.
2015-16 Top 20 ANE
2014-15 Top 20 ANE
Using Pomeroy's numbers, the disparity is even starker. This year's highest Net Game Efficiency per Pomeroy's Adjusted Offensive and Defensive Efficiencies is 0.259 ppp. Last year, this level of efficiency (per Pomeroy) would have ranked #14, and arguably barely a Sweet 16 type of team. Last year, this measure included 6 teams with Net Efficiency values above the 0.3 ppp threshold.
2015-16 Top 64 Net Game Efficiency (Pomeroy)
2014-15 Top 64 Net Game Efficiency (Pomeroy)
Another way to look at these two seasons is the theoretical point spread between the top team and others in the field. Generally, when the theoretical point spread is less than 10 points between teams, upsets occur at a frequency that many regard as common, while games having theoretical margins greater than 10 points rarely end in an upset. In 2015, only 11 teams were within a 10 point theoretical margin of the #1 team, Kentucky, but in 2016, there are 51 teams within 10 points of the #1 team. If one examines a theoretical margin of 4 points, in 2015 there was only one team within 4 points of UK, and that was Wisconsin (they got it done too). However, in 2016, there are 14 teams within 4 points reach of the #1 team.
This season, UK started as it usually does ranked very high by the pundits, but as losses to clearly weak teams began to mount, the Cats fell in Pomeroy (and my ranking) out of the top 20. Pomeroy demoted them to #30 at the low point, and as I recall, my system had them at about #32 at the low point. However, given the general weakness at the top this season, there has been a compression of power at the top, and that compression results in road losses in greater proportions. Now that conference play is intense, losses are mounting for the top tier of teams.
This morning I thought of this as a falling tide, dropping all ships. But that is not exactly what is happening, because as the tide goes out and water levels decline, the ranking position for most teams (falling with the tide) remain about the same, relative to one another. However, UK's stock has been on the rise. UK is the rising ship in a falling tide.
Pomeroy now has UK at #14, up from #30, and steadily climbing the chart as its play has clearly improved. On my system, after last week, UK had risen to #23, up from a low point of #32, and I believe after the Georgia game, my numbers would show continued climb for the Cats, probably into my top 20 (I only update that every Sunday)
Last week, I had the game at South Carolina as a loss. Today, I have UK a 4 point favorite for Saturday. As recently as Monday, Pomeroy had this game as a loss, and today he has UK as a 1 point favorite.
At this late stage of a season, it is very unusual, and very difficult for any team to make such dramatic climb in this particular rating system because after 20+ games, one additional game should not affect the overall numbers. However, when the overall numbers for the majority of the top teams are falling, any team with rising numbers will appear to shoot up the chart.
I believe Coach Calipari knows where the problems have been and are today, and I am confident that he is taking care of business with his team. When this team is playing well it is stronger than the rest of the field. When this team does not play well, it has played very poorly. However, splitting the record between opponents in the top 50 vs opponents ranking outside the top 50 is quite revealing. This UK team is 4-1 against its top 50 opponents to date with the loss at Kansas being the only top 50 loss. However, when the Cats play against the weaker teams, this UK team is 14-5, with losses to #65 UCLA, #73 Ohio State, #58 LSU, #185 Auburn, and #90 Tennessee. In my opinion, each of those losses are embarrassing, but this record also indicates the Cats' level of play is more a matter of the perception the UK players have of its opponent than anything else. When this team is convinced they have a worthy opponent, this team comes to play, and has delivered even in its loss at Kansas in OT. When the team does not have a similar respect for its opponent, this team has been prone to being a no show.
Make no mistake, I fully understand that the playing field for these last 7 games has many land mines hidden from our view, but I am as optimistic today as I have been since this team handled Duke with ease way back in the 3rd game of the year.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks