BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2016-17 Season Analytical Writings
Thirty games are in the books, and the 31 st and final game of the 2016-17 regular season will occur at Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon. The Cats have navigated their schedule with 5 total losses, 2 losses in the SEC. The SEC record is sufficient to secure at least a tie with Florida for the Regular Season Championship, and the #1 seed for the SEC post season tournament. A win at Texas A&M will earn an outright regular season championship.
Arguably, the Cats are finishing the season on the upswing. The Cats are currently riding a 7 game winning streak, their 3 rd 7 game winning streak of the season. Therefore, a win at Texas A&M will also send the Cats into the post season with their longest winning streak of the season. The winning streak, some might say, nearly ended in each of the Cats' last two games. Against Florida and Vanderbilt, the Cats fell behind in the first half of each game by double digits due to a combination of a slow start by the Cats and red hot starts by each Florida and Vanderbilt. In each game, the Cats managed to substantially eliminate those huge leads by the halftime break, and in the second half, pulled away for wins.
Is the glass half-full or half-empty? For those who see it as half-empty, these games point to a problem plaguing this team with slow starts, and games reveal an Achilles Heel for the team that some fear will prove fatal as March Madness unfolds. For those who see it as half-full, these games point to a new found grittiness, a will to win that some believe can sustain a deep run into March Madness. I take the latter, half-full, point of view.
On January 3, Texas A&M ran into a Cats Attack of epic proportion in Rupp Arena and returned to College Station after suffering a 42 point defeat, 100-58. The 42 point margin of defeat was out of character for the Aggies on January 3. In their 4 prior losses, the margins of defeat had been only 2 points to #63 USC, 7 points to #12 UCLA, 4 points to #22 Arizona, and 10 points to #59 Tennessee. The 42 point defeat remained out of character for the Aggies since that time as well. Even though Texas A&M has lost 8 additional games since that night in Rupp, they have not lost a single time by more than 14 points.
As out of character the 42 point margin was for the Aggies, it seemed like business as usual for the Cats on January 3. The 100 points scored marked the 5 th time in the first 14 games that the Cats broke the century mark, and the 10 th time in the first 14 games that the Cats scored at least 93 points. On the defensive end, it was the 3 rd time to hold an opponent to less than 60 points, and the 9 th time in 14 games to hold an opponent under 70 points. However, since January 3, the Cats have not broken the century mark a single time, and only scored 93 points or more one time, in the next game against Arkansas. Further, the Cats have allowed more than 70 points in 9 of the following 16 games.
TEXAS A&M enters this game with a 16-14; 8-10 record. Texas A&M has won three of its last four games, beating #78 Auburn and #62 Alabama at home by 19 and 3 points, respectively. The Aggies also claimed a road win at #169 Missouri by 17 points earlier this week.
TEXAS A&M enters this game with an ANE of 0.125 points per possession against strength of schedule of 0.0681 ppp (#60). The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.290 ppp against strength of schedule of 0.0942 ppp (#28). The ANE analysis indicates a Kentucky win by 5 points, 75-70, at apace of 71 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 1.060 ppp and 0.989 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in Kentucky's favor by 7 points 77-70 at a pace of 70 possessions. Vegas opened favoring the Cats by 7 ½ points.
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Coach Calipari is shaking up his usual starting lineup for the final game of the regular season, and will start with Edrice (BAM) Adebayo, Derek Willis, Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe, and daf.
Kentucky controls the opening tip and turns the ball over on its first possession. Texas A&M hits their first two shots to move out to a 4-0 lead while the Cats open ice cold, missing their first 6 shot. Another slow start for the Cats, down 4-0 at the under 16 media timeout. The Cats will have the ball from the sideline of offensive court with only 9 seconds left on the shot clock. The Cats do not get the shot attempt to the rim. The Aggies then score to extend their lead to 6-0. Derek Willis stops the scoring draught, but the Aggies then score the next 10 points, to move on top 16-2. Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 13:00 remaining in the first half.
After the timeout, the Aggies move on top by 15, 19-4 before Dominique Hawkins hits a layup off a steal and a 3 pointer to trim the lead to 12, 19-7, at the under 12 media timeout with 10:44 remaining in the first half. The Cats cut the Aggies lead to 6, 19-13, but the Aggies stop the Kentucky run and hold a 7 point lead, 22-15, at the under 8 media timeout with 6:30 remaining in the half. Texas A&M will have 1 and 1 free throw opportunity after the timeout. After making 1 free throw, the lead grows to 8.
In the fourth segment, the Cats close the deficit to 2 points, 23-21. Texas A&M takes a timeout with 3:27 remaining following the bank shot by Isaiah Briscoe. After opening the game 0-6 and 3 for 16, the Cats have made 6 of their last 11 shots. Texas A&M opened 8 for 16, but have made only 1 of its last 8 shots. The Cats are still struggling from the perimeter, making only 1 of 10 attempts from outside the arc.
The Aggies turn the ball over, and Derek Willis hits a 3 pointer to give the Cats their first lead, but Texas A&M answers with a 3 point play (lane violation on the free throw allowed a second try to convert). Dominique Hawkins responds with a basket in the lane, and one free throw. De'Aaron Fox is already on the bench with two fouls, and Dominique Hawkins commits his second foul with 2:24 remaining. The Cats manage to claw their way to a 4 point lead at the half, 32-28. After trailing 19-4, the Cats outscored the Aggies 28-9 over the last 11 minutes of the first half.
The Cats scored 32 points on 32 possessions, 1.000 points per possession, and TEXAS A&M managed their 28 points on 31 possessions, 0.903 ppp. The Cats made 38.2% (13-34) of their first half shots, including 3-14 (21.4%) from outside the arc. TEXAS A&M managed to make 37.0% (10-27) of their first half shots, including 2-5 (40.0%) from outside the arc.
The Cats made 3-4 free throws (75.0%) and TEXAS A&M made 6-13 (46.2%) in the first half.
The Cats committed 3 turnovers while forcing TEXAS A&M to commit 4.
On the Boards, Kentucky won the battle of the boards, 23-20 in the first half, and the Cats earned a 7-6 advantage on the offensive rebounds, and the Cats hold an 8-3 advantage on second chance points. The Cats secured 33.3% of their misses and allowed TEXAS A&M to grab 27.3% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
TEXAS A&M opens the second half with an empty trip, and De'Aaron Fox hits a 3 pointer from the left corner as the shot clock was nearly expired. Texas A&M misses a second straight trip, and Isaiah Briscoe gets to the line but misses both attempts. After Texas A&M trims the lead to 5, De'Aaron Fox hits his second straight 3 pointer to lift the Cats to an 8 point lead, 38-30. Texas A&M takes a timeout with 17:58 remaining after capturing an offensive rebound on the floor, risking a turnover. The teams swap baskets for the rest of the opening segment, and the Cats hold to a 7 point lead, 42-35, at the under 16 media timeout with only 14:20 remaining in the game. After this break, Wenyen Gabriel will have a pair of free throw attempts. Wenyen Gabriel makes both and yields his position on the floor to Derek Willis. Following an Aggies turnover, Derek Willis hits a 3 pointer to extend the lead to 12, 47-35. The teams trade baskets with the lead ranging between 8 and 12 points, and at the under 12 media timeout, the Cats maintain a 9 point lead, 53-44 with 10:39 remaining in the game. The Cats will have possession when the game resumes.
In the third segment, Texas A&M cuts into the lead, once at 12 points, trim it to 6, 55-49, and will have free throws after the break with a chance to trim the lead to just 4 points with 6:53 remaining in the game. During the last 4 minutes, the Cats missed all five shots from the floor, and only scored on the two Wenyen Gabriel free throws that opened the segment. In the fourth segment, Texas A&M does trim the lead to just 4 points, 55-51, but the Cats score the next 5 points, a floater by Isaiah Briscoe and a second chance 3 pointer by Derek Willis. The Cats lead by 9, 60-51 at the under 4 media timeout with 3:39 remaining. Texas A&M has the ball with 5 seconds on the shot clock, but throw the ball away on the inbounds play. After the Cats miss, the Aggies trim the lead to 7. However, the Cats get a 4 point trip. Edrice (BAM) Adebayo made the first of 2 free throws, and Isaiah Briscoe fought for the offensive rebound. De'Aaron Fox makes a basket and is fouled for the 3-point play.
Cats win by 8, 71-63. The Cats finish the season 26-5, 16-2 and claim their 47 th SEC Championship.
UK scored its 71 points on 64 possessions (1.109 ppp) for the game, and TEXAS A&M scored its 63 points on 64 possessions (0.984 ppp).
Kentucky and Texas A&M each grabbed 39 total rebounds, but Texas A&M won on the offensive end 14-10. Kentucky used its 10 second chance possessions to score 11 second chance points, and TEXAS A&M used its 14 second chance possessions to score 9 second chance points. TEXAS A&M had an offensive efficiency of 0.844 ppp on its 64 first chance possessions and 0.643 ppp for its 14 second chance possessions. UK had 0.938 ppp on its 64 first chance possessions and 1.100 ppp on its 10 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 28.6% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TEXAS A&M was able to convert 26.7% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 12-18 [66.7%]. TEXAS A&M made 12-25[48.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 26-59 overall [44.1%] and 7-24 from long range [29.2%]. For TEXAS A&M, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 18-39 [46.2%] and from long range, TEXAS A&M hit 5-18 [27.8%].
The Cats committed 6 turnovers, one for every 10.7 possessions. The Cats forced 8 TEXAS A&M turnovers, one for every 8.0 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Friday afternoon, March 10, 2017 at 1:00 pm in the quarterfinal round of the SEC Tournament in Nashville. The Opponent will be the winner of Thursday afternoon's game between the #8 and #9 seeds, to be determined after the close of play today. Today's game completes the 2016-17 regular season.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks