2015-16 Season Analytical Writings

Cats Can Take Major Step Toward The 2016 SEC Championship

The annuls of SEC Basketball reveal 97 regular season champions crowned in 83 basketball season since the inception of this conference for the 1932-33 season. Kentucky holds 47 of those championship (one was vacated), which means the Cats have either claimed the championship or shared the championship over 56% of the seasons. As the 2016 (the 84 th season) enters the last 5 games of its 18 game schedule, the Cats sit in a familiar position, first place at 10-3, one full game ahead of the LSU, who is 9-4.

The Cats hold a full 2 game advantage over Texas A&M, Florida, and South Carolina, and a full 3 game advantage over Vanderbilt, Alabama, and Georgia. The Cats' games at Texas A&M and Florida will probably determine who will wear the crown for 2016.

•  LSU will have to beat UK in Lexington in the last game of the regular season for any chance to be champion this year. However, prior to that final encounter, LSU must travel to Tennessee and Arkansas, and host Florida in Baton Rouge and sustain fewer losses than the Cats do down the stretch run if they want their encounter at Rupp to carry any significance on game day.

•  Texas A&M must win out, including a victory over the Cats on Saturday, and then hope for help from either Florida or Vanderbilt to have a chance at the 2016 regular season championship.

•  Florida must win out, including a victory over the Cats in 2 weeks, and including wins at LSU and South Carolina, to be in the running, and even still must get additional help from either Texas A&M or Vanderbilt to catch the Cats.

•  South Carolina must win out and hope that the Cats drop 2 of its final 5 games to play their way back into SEC championship contention.

•  There may not be enough games remaining for Vanderbilt, Alabama, or Georgia to play their way into serious contention for the SEC championship, but each of them will have opportunities to play the spoiler for any of the top four teams still standing.

As has been the case for so many SEC seasons, the Cats and the LSU Tigers are the only teams in control of their own SEC destiny, as the 2016 season moves toward the finish line. With a victory on Saturday in College Station, the Cats can take a giant step toward their 48 th SEC championship. A loss will drop them to within reach of LSU, A&M, Florida, and South Carolina with only four games remaining.

The Cats moved into sole possession of first place this week with a win at Rupp over Tennessee. However, Marcus Lee left the game early with a back injury, Derek Willis commented after the game that his body is hurting from the wear and tear of the season, and Alex Poythress remains on the sideline following another knee injury. His status for Saturday appears doubtful, Marcus Lee's status for Saturday is unknown at this time, and Derek Willis' status is he plans to play. As Derek Willis has said, I “can't get my body healthy right now. Just a lot of rest tomorrow (Friday) and get some treatment on my body and get ready for that game. That's it.” Coach Calipari's cats are limping into College Station for a very important basketball game against a very strong opponent that knows it's season hinges on a win over the Cats.

Texas A&M brings a 19-7; 8-5 SEC record into this critical ncounter with the Cats. The Cats record now stands at 20-6, 10-3 in the SEC. In recent weeks, the Cats have won 7 of their last 8 SEC games while the Aggies have lost 5 of their last 7 SEC games. These programs appear headed in opposite directions. However, the Cats should make less of the current trends and more of the Aggies' ability to defeat the Cats in College Station.

Texas A&M and the Cats have faced one common non-conference opponent, Arizona State. The Cats defeated ASU at Rupp by 14 one week after the Aggies lost to the Sun Devils in Tempe by 13. The Aggies claim some impressive wins this season including an 11 point win over #23 Texas, a 1 point win over #32 Gonzaga, a 19 point win over #37 Baylor, and a 10 point win over #16 Iowa State. The Aggies most embarrassing loss this season has been at #87 Arkansas by 3 and at #80 Arizona State by 13.

TEXAS A&M has played its 26 games at an average tempo of about 70 possessions per game, scoring 75.9 ppg (1.090 ppp) and allowing an average 65.4 ppg (0.937 ppp). TEXAS A&M has turned the ball over on 18.0% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 21.5% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, TEXAS A&M has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 34.1%, and a defensive rebounding rate of 69.6%. The Texas A&M schedule has a strength of schedule of 0.6584 (#43).

In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 70 possessions per game, producing 78.8 ppg (1.128 ppp) and allowing 67.0 ppg (0.957 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 17.0% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 18.7% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats' rebounding rates have been 38.4% and 68.8% on the offensive and defensive ends. The Cats have a strength of schedule of 0.6670 (#32).

Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of Texas A&M with a theoretical margin of 4 points, 74-70 in a game played at a pace of 70 possessions for the Cats and 70 possessions for Texas A&M. Pomeroy figures the Game in A&M's favor by 2 points, 72-70 at a pace of 67 possessions. Vegas opened with the Aggies a 1 point favorite.

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Game Summary:

Coach Calipari starts Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis, Marcus Lee, Tyler Ulis, and Jamal Murray. Some have said that Alex Poythress may return in a week for the game at Vanderbilt.

TAMU controls the opening tip but after each team fails to score on their first two possessions, the Cats draw first blood on a drive by Jamal Murray. The Cats get an offensive rebound basket and lob dunk by Marcus Lee, while TAMU made 2 of 5 three point attempts as the teams close the opening segment tied, 6-6 at the under 16 media timeout. The Aggies opened the second segment with their 3 rd 3 pointer of the game to move on top 9-6, but Dominique Hawkins provided an answer with a 3 pointer of his own, and a jump shot by Tyler Ulis from 17 feet lifted the Cats into a 2 point lead, 11-9, at the under 12 media timeout. The Cats will have possession after the timeout.

In the third segment, the Cats' lead was not long lived, and TAMU hit 2-3 from long range, got 4 offensive rebounds and 6 second chance points to move on top of the Cats by 3, 20-17, at the under 8 media timeout. In addition, TAMU will have a free throw to complete a 3 point play after the break. The Cats are getting beat on the Boards, 16-10 overall, and 9-1 on the offensive end. TAMU has an early 6-2 advantage on second chance points. In the fourth segment, TAMU extended their lead to a game high 5 points, 22-17, but the Cats answered and regained the lead briefly at 25-24. TAMU got the final 5 points of the segment on a second (fourth chance) 3 pointer and an uncontested drive down the lane on Skal Labissiere. Coach Calipari took a time out with 4:09 remain and the Cats down 4, 29-25.

In the final segment, the Cats used 3 pointers by Tyler Ulis and Derek Willis to move on top at the half by 1 point, 36-35.

Kentucky scored 36 points on 27 possessions (1.33 ppp) while TEXAS A&M scored 35 points on 28 possessions (1.25 ppp). The Cats shot well in the first half making 14-26 (53.8%) including 7-11 (63.6%) from long range. TEXAS A&M shot the ball poorly, 13-39 overall (33.3%) which included 6-15 (40.0%) from long range. From the line, the Cats were 1-2 (50.0%) while TEXAS A&M was 3-6 (50.0%). The Cats committed 1 turnover, one for each 27.0 possessions, and the Cats forced TEXAS A&M into 2 turnovers, one for each 14.0 possessions.

On the boards, the Aggies did not just win, they dominated 25-14, including 15-1 on the offensive glass that resulted in a 12-2 advantage in second chance points. The Cats converted their 1 second chance opportunity into 2 second chance points while TEXAS A&M used their 15 second chances to score 12 second chance points.

TEXAS A&M had an efficiency of 0.82 ppp on its 28 first chance possessions and 0.80 ppp on its 15 second chance possessions. Kentucky had an efficiency of 1.26 ppp on its 27 first chance possessions and 2.000 ppp on its only second chance possession. The Cats grabbed 9.1% of its misses and TEXAS A&M grabbed 53.6% of its missed shots in the first half.

Second Half:

The Aggies open the second half with a basket to ease back into the lead. The teams traded scores as the lead switched back and forth several times until the Cats went on top by 3 points. At the under 16 media timeout, the Cats down a point, 47-46, and TAMU has one free throw to complete a 3 point play after the timeout. In the second segment, the Aggies extend their lead to a game high 6 points, 55-49, forcing Coach Calipari to take a timeout with 13:09 remaining in the game. The Aggies continue to live on the boards with an advantage of 6-3 overall, and 4-2 on the offensive glass, with a second half advantage of 7-5 on second chance points. After the under 12 media timeout, Tyler Ulis will be shooting a pair of free throws with the Cats behind by 8, 59-51.

During the timeout, the officials assessed a technical foul on the TAMU bench. Tyler Ulis made both technical foul shots, and Tyler Ulis made both of his foul shots to trim the lead to 4. Over an extended third segment, the Cats trim the lead to 2 points, 61-59 at the under 8 media timeout with 6:40 remaining in the game and TAMU in possession. In this segment, Derek Willis turned an ankle and was carried off the court to the locker room.

In the shortened fourth segment, the teams played on even terms but Marcus Lee and Isaiah Briscoe each committed their 4 th personal fouls, and the team continues to play without Derek Willis. At the under 4 media timeout, the Aggies lead by 2 points, 63-61, with the Cats in possession and 3:49 remaining on the clock. After the Aggies go up by 4 points, 65-61, Jamal Murray makes a 3 pointer, and a pair of free throws to trim the lead to 1 point, 67-66 with just over 2 minutes remaining. TAMU takes a timeout with 2:09 to play. The Aggies down low and draw a foul on Skal Labissiere, but only convert 1 of the 2 free throws. On the Cats' next possession, Marcus Lee walks, and then Tyler Ulis blocks a TAMU shot to regain possession down 2 with only 50.7 seconds remaining. Coach Calipari takes another timeout.

Tyler Ulis gets a lob to Marcus Lee to tie the score 68-68 with 43.9 seconds remaining. TAMU missed, and fouled Marcus Lee on the rebound with 31.4 seconds remaining Marcus Lee missed the front end and TAMU rebounded and took another time out with 22.6 seconds remaining and 22 seconds on the shot clock. TAMU fails to score, and we have OT for the second time this season, and for the third consecutive trip to College Station.

TAMU controls the tip to start the OT period, and scores quickly on the baseline. Murray answers with a 3 pointer to give the Cats their first lead in a long time. After Murray extends the lead to 2 points on 1 for 2 from the line, the Aggies tie the score and foul Marcus Lee out. The free throw lifts the Aggies back into the lead by 1 point with 2:46 remaining in the OT. Tyler Ulis makes a floater to give the Cats a 1 point lead, 76-75, with 1:07 remaining. TAMU takes a time out with 1:00 remaining. After 44 minutes, there have been 28 lead changes and 10 ties. A&M has the ball, down 1.

The Cats get the defensive stop they needed, and with 4 seconds left on the shot clock, and 23.4 seconds remaining in the OT, TAMU blocked a Tyler Ulis shot out of bounds, and Coach Calipari took a timeout to be sure the players prepared. Jamal Murray missed, and TAMU turned the ball over and fouled Isaac Humphries. Isaac Humphries slammed the ball, and gets a technical foul, his 5 th foul.

TAMU will get two technical free throws, then UK will have two free throws, and since Isaac Humphries has now fouled out, and will be unavailable to shoot his own free throws, and Isaac Humphries' replacement, Skal Labissiere, UK player from those on the floor to shoot the Isaac Humphries free throws. All of this occurring with 9.4 seconds left on the clock. TAMU made both. Skal Labissiere makes 1 or 2 to tie the game. TAMU has the ball, takes their last timeout with 4.1 seconds remaining and the score 77-77. When TAMU lines up to start their final play, Coach Calipari takes his last timeout.

TAMU scores on an offensive rebound basket as the buzzer sounds to win the game, 79-77.


UK scored its 77 points on 65 possessions for the game, and TEXAS A&M scored its 79 points on 68 possessions.

The Aggies controlled the Boards, 41-36, and the Aggies won the battle on the offensive glass 20-6. Kentucky used its 6 second chance possessions to score 11 second chance points, and TEXAS A&M used its 20 second chance possessions to score 22 second chance points. TEXAS A&M had an offensive efficiency of 0.838 ppp on its 68 first chance possessions and 1.100 ppp for its 20 second chance possessions. UK had 1.015 ppp on its 65 first chance possessions and 1.833 ppp on its 6 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 22.2% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TEXAS A&M was able to convert 40.0% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 13-17 [76.5%]. TEXAS A&M made 14-24 [58.3%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 27-54 overall [50.0%] and 10-20 from long range [50.0%]. For TEXAS A&M, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a 19-48 [39.6%] and from long range, TEXAS A&M hit 9-24 [37.5%].

The Cats committed 9 turnovers, one for every 7.2 possessions. The Cats forced 7 TEXAS A&M turnovers, one for every 9.7 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday Evening against Alabama at Rupp Arena at 7:00 PM in the 28 th regular season and 15 th SEC game of the 2015-16 season .

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Individual Efficiency Values are NOT adjusted for
Schedule Strength or Venue Weighting
Individual Efficiency Values are based on the following Criteria:

    1. A Player's Contribution To Final Scoring Margin
      Is A Measure New in 2015-16
      As such, it is in an experimental stage.
      for more information about this potential new tracking parameter.


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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