2016-17 Season Analytical Writings


The Cats' game against UCLA in the NCAA Sweet 16 ended late, and by the time I could quiet my mind and sleep, it must have been 3 am .  After some sleep, I want to reflect a little on what I think I saw last night from the Cats, and take a very quick peek ahead to Sunday evening's war with North Carolina.

Defense was important, but not as significant last night as one might think or nearly as effective as one might have hoped.  UCLA scored 75 points on only 65 possession, 1.153 points per possession.  That is a huge number if one is looking for defensive effectiveness.  In the game at Rupp, UCLA's offense produced 97 points on 82 possessions, 1.183 ppp.  So, there was some improvement, despite the high number.

The pace of the game was a huge advantage for the Cats, and while UCLA's offensive efficiency for the game was high by any standard evaluating defensive performance, the UK defense forced UCLA to run offense most of the night, and limited them to only 65 possessions for the game when the first game in December had 82 possessions.  That was impressive, and as we had discussed here all week, an essential ingredient for the Cats to win this game.  The other keys to victory, according to our chattering this week would be rebounding.

What really impressed me last night was in the second half, UCLA made 8-9 from 2 point range and 4-8 from 3 point range (12-17 shooting) in the first 16 minutes yet UK extended its halftime lead from 3 to 11 points at the under 4 media timeout. They did this with a complete team game (yes Fox and Monk were the scorers for the most part) that did not allow a single UCLA offensive rebound or second chance point, and forced 7 UCLA turnovers in this 16 minutes. Add to this, UCLA only got to the free throw line twice, making 1 for 3.

The Cats shooting in this 16 minutes was not earth shattering, 9-18 from 2 point range and 5-11 from 3 point range (14-29 shooting). The Cats only got to the line 3 times in this time frame, making 4-5 free throws. The Cats only committed 1 turnover in this 16 minutes, got 5 offensive rebounds that produced 8 second chance points. The difference in number of shots, 17 for UCLA vs 29 for UK is due to the turnover margin and the offensive rebounding advantage.

Calipari has taken UK to 5 Elite 8 games in 7 previous seasons, and is 4-1 in those games, including the 2011 win over UNC after UNC had beaten the Cats in Chapel Hill earlier in the season. Like I said before, my heart clearly screams that UK advances to the Final Four again, but I see this as a much more difficult game for the Cats than UCLA. 

Finally, I have been buying UK postseason stock for the entire season, and I am not about to move into a sell mode now!


Go Cats, Beat the Heels! 

I believe the keys will be the same in this game.  Contain the high powered UNC offense, be rebounding warriors, and force UNC to play at both ends of the court in a grind it out type of game.  This formula will propel this team to the final four for the fifth time in Calipari's eight seasons.  If the Cats allow UNC to dictate pace, and own the boards as they usually do, I do not see another UK explosive offensive performance like Monk's 47 likely to happen again. A review of the first UNC-UK encounter is enlightening.

A review of the official box score for December's UNC-UK game reveals important information about how the Cats managed to win this game, and most importantly, how UNC managed to hang with the Cats to the end, and almost winning. Of course, Malik Monk's 47 points were critical to this win. However, please consider the following facts:

•  The Cats had 78 total possessions to 79 total possessions for UNC (41 each in the first half, and 39/38 in the second half).

•  The Cats had 15 offensive rebounds to only 10 offensive rebounds by UNC.

•  The Cats had 39 total rebounds, to 35 for the Heels.

•  The Cats only got 8 second chance points in the game, but UNC got 18 second chance points

The Cats had an efficiency of 1.321 points per possession for the game, but when we examine that efficiency on first or second chance possessions, we see a first chance efficiency of 1.218 ppp but on second chance possessions, the efficiency drops off to only 0.533 ppp. The Tar Heels had an efficiency of 1.266 ppp, but their split is 0.911 ppp for first chance possessions and 1.800 ppp for second chance possessions.

As you know, I believe this has been an Achilles Heel for this UK team most of the season, and the Tar Heels exploited this weakness throughout the game, allowing them to hang in to the end.

These game characteristics were on full display in the 62 nd possession of the game. With 9:13 remaining, Bradley missed a layup that would have trimmed UK's lead to 5 points. Hawkins got the rebound and then the following events occurred over the next 1 minute and 9 seconds, during which UK controlled the offensive possession with 4 offensive rebounds culminating in a 1-2 trip to the free throw line by Edrice (BAM) Adebayo to extend the UK lead to 8 points, 82-74 with 8:02 remaining.

I believe this 1 point, obtained as a result of very hard work on the offensive glass over a span of slightly over 1 minute, provided the ultimate victory because without this point. When UNC moved on top by 3 points, 98-95 with only 1:37 remaining, the margin would have been 4 points, and Malik Monk's 3 pointer with 1:21 would not have tied the score. This single point would have placed both teams in a dramatically different posture for those final 81 seconds.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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