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Since the season began on November 10, 2017, the Cats have played seven games in just 16 days. The time between games has been 2, 2, 3, 3, 2, and 4 days. As we have heard from Coach Calipari throughout this past 3 weeks, this schedule (of his making) leaves very little if any time for practice. Of course, Calipari's lament is valid, especially when the Thanksgiving holiday and the NCAA's mandatory 1 day per week off for the players are factored into this aggressive pace of games.
The pace of competition is shifting from overdrive into a much lower gear for the next month with five games over the next 33 days (since the UIC game). The time between these games will be 6, 7, 7, 7, and 6 days. Furthermore, with the end of the fall semester at UK, NCAA limitations on weekly practice time suspend and “Camp Cal” begins on December 16, 2017 and will continue through about January 8, 2018.
For sure, the non-stop game activity has identified weaknesses that this team must shore up, and quickly, because the next 6 opponents will pose increased levels of competition. For these reasons, absent substantial improvement very soon, the weaknesses that the likes of Utah Valley, Vermont, ETSU, Troy, ETSU, and Fort Wayne brought into focus will be fully exposed to the world by the likes of Virginia Tech, UCLA, and Louisville. Failure to use “Camp Cal” to its fullest effect this year could spell major problems for this team.
Once the schedule shifts to the SEC this season as the Cats' quality of play through ½ of its non-conference schedule places the Cats in the middle of the SEC pack, lagging behind Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, Missouri, Auburn, and Alabama in the ANE rankings as of this morning. Each of these SEC members have also been playing better than UCLA, or Louisville, and all but Auburn and Alabama have been playing better basketball than Virginia Tech.
On Sunday evening, the Cats turned in their second strongest game of the season with a game ANE of 0.30 ppp (The Cats' loss to #1 Kansas had a game ANE of 0.36 ppp). These two games are in stark contrast to the other five games that had game ANE values between -0.005 ppp (Utah Valley) to 0.151 ppp (ETSU). The Cats' average game ANE in these other five games has been 0.085 ppp. So, the question for the next game, against Harvard, is whether the very strong game performance last Sunday against UIC simply another high end outlier or the start of a new trend demonstrating that this team is finally on the rise.
Saturday, the Cats will entertain Harvard at Rupp Arena in the eighth game of this season. Harvard will enter the game as the #164 rated team at Pomeroy. Harvard has started the 2017-18 season with a 3-5 record. The Crimson's three wins have been over non-D1 MIT by 9, over #166 UMass by 3 in OT, and over #84 Saint Joseph's by 6 on a neutral court. However, Harvard has lost at #248 Manhattan by 4, at #253 Cal St. Fullerton by 9, and at #277 Holy Cross by 4. This enigmatic combination of nice wins and inexplicable losses make this Harvard team difficult to understand. Last year, Harvard finished 18-10 and their loss to Yale in the first round of the Ivy League Tournament ended their season with a Pomeroy rank of #112.
The Adjusted Net Efficiency (ANE) analysis for this match up indicates a 24 point Kentucky win over Harvard in a game played at 71 possessions, 83-59. Pomeroy sees this game with Kentucky having a 20-point advantage, 82-62 played at a pace of 71 possessions.
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Coach Calipari will start Nick Richards, Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Quade Green, and Hamidou Diallo in the starting lineup for the seventh game in a row. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Wenyen Gabriel, and Tai Wynyard will provide the primary bench help. Jarred Vanderbilt remains unavailable as the season opens.
I was able to attend the game at Rupp Arena, and have no game comments. Cats win 79-70.
UK scored its 79 points on 72 possessions (1.097 ppp) for the game, and HARVARD scored its 70 points on 72 possessions (0.972 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 37-36, but HARVARD won the battle of the offensive glass 12-8. Kentucky used its 8 second chance possessions to score 8 second chance points, and HARVARD used its 12 second chance possessions to score 8 second chance points. HARVARD had an offensive efficiency of 0.861 ppp on its 72 first chance possessions and 0.667 ppp for its 12 second chance possessions. UK had 0.986 ppp on its 72 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp on its 8 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 25.0% of its misses as offensive rebounds while HARVARD was able to convert 29.3% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 25-30 [83.3%]. HARVARD made 12-17 [70.6%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 26-56 overall [46.4%] and 2-14 from long range [14.3%]. For HARVARD, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a weak 11-34 [32.4%] and from long range, HARVARD hit 12-28 [42.9%].
The Cats committed 10 turnovers, one for every 7.2 possessions. The Cats forced 15 HARVARD turnovers, one for every 4.8 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden against Monmouth for the ninth regular season game of the 2017-18 season.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks