2018-19 Season Analytical Writings

Have The Cats Really Transformed Into A Championship Team Before Our Eyes?

Over the last 3 Saturdays, the Cats have turned back a respectable Utah team by 27 points at Rupp, defeated highly ranked North Carolina in Chicago by 8, and defeated arch rival Louisville by 13 at the YUM center. They accomplished this impressive 3 game winning streak while participating in this year's version of Camp Cal, taking a 4 day Christmas vacation, and coming off the overtime loss to Seton Hall at MSG.

There is little doubt that this team's start through the first 6 games was nothing short of dismal, and as November was turning into December, I was not bashful in proclaiming this season a lost cause because no Calipari led UK team had started so poorly, and based on the first 9 seasons, the way UK has finished has depended upon how UK had started the season.

The loyalist within the Big Blue Nation took issue with my pessimism. While I do not apologize for the analysis that provided my bleak outlook, I do admit that there are very strong reasons to believe the loyalists' faith in a strong team led by Coach Calipari may be closer to reality than my dismal forecast. Here are the reasons for optimism that I simply could not fathom just 4 weeks ago.

•  The average ANE for games 1through 5 was a pitiful 0.095 ppp, but the average ANE for games 6 through 10 rose to a respectable 0.229 ppp. Even moreso, the average ANE for games 11 and 12, against North Carolina and Louisville, has been an astounding 0.478 ppp.

•  The average ANE since game 7 through game 12 (6 games) has been 0.342 ppp, which is clearly in championship quality play, and if we can do some focused cherry picking, and eliminate from all memory and records the first 6 games, this ANE is second highest in the country, behind DUKE.

I am not one to advocate cherry picking data to support the answer I desire. Make no mistake, UK's average ANE through all 12 games, currently stands at 0.205 ppp. However, that value is substantially above the trend line that the historical data would suggest and is rising at a rate that will end after the regular season very near the magical threshold ANE value of 0.3 ppp that history tells us is necessary to be a legitimate contender. I do not like cherry picking. I do not advocate cherry picking.

However, this situation is different from the typical cherry-picking events because the overall quality of play has made a quantum leap since Thanksgiving. In the first 6 games, UK played only one game with a game ANE above 0.14 ppp (game 3 against North Dakota), and since that time, UK has had a game ANE above 0.3 ppp four of the six outings.

For these reasons, I have modified my analytical model. The model uses each team's average ANE value and the venue adjustment to compute a theoretical margin for the game. As noted above, the average ANE value for UK probably understates the strength of UK. However, the average ANE value for the most recent 5 games probably provides a better picture of how this team is playing at present. However, to shift the basis of prediction to the ANE for the last 5 games for UK and not doing so for opponents may make the cherry picking exactly that. Therefore, starting with this game, I will be using the ANE values for each team over their most recent 5 games.

The Cats now move into SEC competition, and start the 18 game SEC season at Alabama on Saturday. Alabama enters this game with a 9-3 record. The Tides' twelve games have seen six opponents ranked in the top 60 and 1 of those opponents are in the top 40 (ANE). The Tides' schedule to date has been relatively strong with a SOS value of +.0382 ppp (#74). Alabama has lost to #142 Northeastern by 16 on a neutral court, at #35 UCF by 6, and to #127 Georgia State by 3. The Tide beat #53 Ball State by 18 on a neutral court in Alabama's strongest game of the year, and also claim victories over #47 Arizona by 3, #56 Liberty by 9, and #62 Penn State by 9. Overall, Alabama's ANE stands at 0.106 ppp, but over their last 5 games, the Tide has improved to 0.135 ppp.

The Cats' schedule has been slightly weaker at 0.0034 ppp (#158), with four of the first twelve opponents in the top 60 and three opponents in the top 30. The Cats lost to #1 Duke and to #59 Seton Hall on neutral courts and defeated #10 North Carolina also on a neutral court and have added the road win over #30 Louisville to their list of defeated highly ranked opponents. As described previously, the Cats' ANE for the season stands at 0.205 ppp and their ANE over the last 5 games is 0.312 ppp.

The ANE (Last 5 game basis) analysis indicates a UK margin of 9 points, 79-70, in a game played at a pace of 72 possessions. As a matter of record, the traditional ANE analysis indicates a 4 point Kentucky advantage (77-73). Pomeroy has this game as 4 points in Kentucky's favor, 76-72, at a pace of 70 possessions.

Use the following link to see how other UK fans handicap this game at 247Sports, The Cats Pause message board:

You can participate in the score prediction contest at 247Sports at the following link:

Game Summary:

Coach Calipari stays with the starting lineup that delivered the current 3 game winning streak with Ashton Hagans, Reid Travis, PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson, and Tyler Herro to start the 13 th game of this season. Immanuel Quickley, Nick Richards, E. J. Montgomery, and Jemarl Baker will come off the bench.

Alabama controls the opening tip and waste no time scoring the game's first basket. After trading baskets to a 6-6 time, Alabama moved into a 5 point lead, 11-6. The Cats cut the lead to 1 point, 16-15 at the under 16 media timeout with 14:56 left. Ashton Hagans will have a free throw after the break to complete the 3 point play. In the second segment, the Cats tied the score at 16-16, and again at 18-18 before Ashton Hagans layup gave the Cats their first lead of the game, 20-18. At the under 12 media timeout, the Cats lead by 2, 23-21, with 10:46 left in the first half. During the timeout, the officials awarded Alabama an additional point, changing a 2 point basket to a 3 point basket upon review.

In the third segment, the scoring pace slowed from 20+ points by each team in the first 2 segments, to only 4 and 0 points for Kentucky and Alabama respectively. The Cats lead by 5, 27-22 at the under 8 media timeout, and the Cats will have the ball when play resumes. In the 4 th segment, the Cats trade baskets to another 5 point lead, 29-24, but the Tide go on an 8 point run to regain the lead, 32-29 at the under 4 media timeout. PJ Washington will be at the free throw line for a pair of free throws after the timeout with a chance to stop the Alabama run at 8 points.

In the final segment, the Cats eased into a 2 point lead at the half, 40-38, on the strength of 7-8 free throw shooting during the closing 4 minutes.

The Cats scored 40 points on 35 possessions, 1.143 points per possession, and ALABAMA managed their 38 points on 35 possessions, 1.086 ppp. The Cats made 50.0% of their first half shots, including 2-6 from outside the arc. ALABAMA managed to make 48.4% of their first half shots, including 7-11 from outside the arc.

The Cats made 8-9 free throws (88.9%) and ALABAMA made 1-3 (33.3%).

On the Boards, the Cats controlled the glass 17-16 overall, and Kentucky and Alabama each grabbed 4 offensive rebounds and each scored 5 second chance points. The Cats secured 25.0% of their misses and allowed ALABAMA to grab 23.5% of their misses as second chance opportunities.

Second Half:

Kentucky opens the second half with a turnover, and Alabama responds with another 3 pointer, their 8 th of the game to regain the lead. Following another turnover, Alabama extends its lead to 3 points, and then 6 points on another 3-pointer following the Cats' 3 rd turnover of the half. The Cats regain the lead, 47-46, but Alabama eases back into a 1-point lead, 48-47 at the under 16 media time out with 15:20 left in the game. After the timeout, the Cats commit their 4 th turnover of the second half to start the segment. Alabama controls the lead between 1 and 3 points during the second segment to a 54-53 lead at the under 12 media time out with 10:27 left in the game and Alabama in possession of the ball.

In a short 3 rd segment, Alabama takes control of the ball game and extends their 1-point lead to a game high 6 points, 59-53 at the under 8 media timeout, and Alabama will have a pair of free throws with an opportunity to extend the lead to 8 points after the break. In the 4 th segment, Alabama extended their lead to a game high 10 points, 68-58. The Cats managed to trim 3 points from the lead at the under 4 media timeout, but Alabama will be at the line for a pair of free throws after the final media timeout of the game.

In the final segment, Alabama moves on top by 11, 72-61 before Keldon Johnson makes a 3 pointer to trim the lead to 8 points. Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 2:15 left on the clock. PJ Washington scores on a lob at the end of a fast break to trim the lead to 6, 72-66 with 1:17 left. Tyler Herro makes a 3 pointer to trim the lead to 5, 74-69 with 38 seconds left and Coach Calipari takes another timeout. Following another Alabama turnover, the Cats trim the lead to 3 points, 74-71 with 22 seconds left. Kentucky begins to foul, and the free throws extend the lead back to 5 points. Ashton Hagans scores to trim the lead back to 3 points with 16 seconds left. An Alabama turnover results in a fast break basket to cut the lead to 1 point with 5 seconds left. Alabama uses its last timeout.

After Alabama gets the ball in bounds, Tyler Herro fouls with 4.3 seconds left. Alabama makes 1 of 2 from the line to seal the win, 77-75.


UK scored its 75 points on 78 possessions (0.962 ppp) for the game, and ALABAMA scored its 77 points on 77 possessions (1.000 ppp).

Alabama won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 40-32, and Alabama won the battle on the offensive glass 7-6. Kentucky won the second chance point battle 10-9. ALABAMA had an offensive efficiency of 0.883 ppp on its 77 first chance possessions and 1.286 ppp for its 9 second chance possessions. UK had 0.833 ppp on its 78 first chance possessions and 1.667 ppp on its 6 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 15.4%o f its misses as offensive rebounds while ALABAMA was able to convert 21.2% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 14-17 [82.4%]. ALABAMA made 13-17 [78.5%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 28-65 overall [43.1%] and 5-18 from long range [27.8%]. For Alabama, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 17-36 [47.2%] and from long range, ALABAMA hit 10-23 [43.5%].

The Cats committed 11 turnovers, one for every 8.0 possessions. The Cats forced 17 ALABAMA turnovers, one for every 4.5 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday evening at Rupp for the fourteenth regular season game, and second game of the 2019 SEC season.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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