2019-20 Season Analytical Writings

Will The Cats Be Ready For Prime Time on the Big Stage?

The 2019 exhibition season's wins over Georgetown and Kentucky State sent a warning about the toughness of this edition of Cal's Cats on the boards and how this group struggles to put the ball in the basket in a highly efficient manner. In addition, these games have exposed a low basketball IQ with poor shot selection.

Now, the Cats open their regular season on one of basketball's premier stages under some of basketball's brightest lights against the consensus #1 Michigan State Spartans in the Champions' Classic in New York City's Madison Square Garden. As Coach Calipari has said repeatedly since his arrival in Lexington, his players cannot hide their weaknesses when they go onto the floor under such bright lights and scrutiny.

The Calipari loyalists will argue that this UK team will be a contender for the championship when March arrives. Implicit in such pleadings is that Calipari teams are not legitimate contenders in November. Tell that to the 2012 group that brought home the hardware. Tell that to the 2015 bunch that rolled through a 38-0 start before derailing in the Final Four against a very strong Wisconsin group. Yes, some of Calipari's teams have started slow only to grow into strong finishers, but more often, fast starts yield very strong seasons and slow starts end with an earlier than desired NCAA exit.

As compared to nearly every other Calipari team at UK, this team has stumbled out of the starting gate through its two exhibition games. Despite this clear slow start, Mike Pratt and Tom Leach, late in the second exhibition game, said that the team obviously knows who its opponent is, and come Tuesday night, when the opponent is arguably the strongest, toughest team in the land, this group will respond with a worthy effort. Such a statement only has significance when this same team did not respond with worthy efforts in the two exhibitions. If that is the case, then there is a fundamental flaw in the psyche of this team that would allow such a nonchalant approach to an opponent that the players do not respect. If the assertions by Leach and Pratt is not correct, then the BBN will likely be greatly disappointed come midnight Tuesday.

Following the exhibition season, three UK players graded well in these outings. Nate Sestina, Immanuel Quickley, and Ashton Hagans all posted individual efficiencies above 0.4 ppp for those two games. No one else on the roster graded high enough for positive comment, and three players ended in red numbers, E. J. Montgomery, Kahlil Whitney, and Keino Brooks.

Prior to the exhibition games, Coach Calipari identified the issue he wants to see this group of Cats demonstrate on the floor, Toughness!!!! It should be clear to any objective observer that this team did not demonstrate sufficient toughness.

So, for the second season in a row, the Cats open in the Champions' Classic rather than using two early season games to round a young team into playing condition before confronting one of the other three participants in this annual war. Last year, Duke taught a young group of Cats that their effort was inadequate. Will this group of Cats be up to the challenge that will be Michigan State, or will the Spartans spank the Cats as Duke did a year ago?

We will all find out on Tuesday night.

Over the last two seasons, Michigan State has won 32 and 30 games with an ANE of 0.308 ppp and 0.254 ppp respectively. Kentucky has won 30 and 26 games with an ANE of 0.275 ppp and 0.204 ppp respectively. Kentucky and Michigan State have averaged about 67 possessions per game during those earlier seasons.

Based on these prior season tendencies, it seems reasonable to give a slight edge to Michigan State in this matchup in a game played at a tempo of about 67 possessions. This analysis projects a Michigan State win by 2 points, 74-72.

Game Summary:

Pre-game reports indicate Nick Richards may not be available tonight due to the ankle injury he sustained on Sunday in the Kentucky State exhibition game. Coach Calipari juggles the starting lineup with Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Nate Sestina, E. J. Montgomery, and Kahlil Whitney. Immanuel Quickley, Johnny Juzang, Nick Richards, and Keino Brooks will come off the bench tonight. Dontaie Allen remains on the disabled list.

Michigan State controls the opening tip and MSU wastes no time scoring on a layup by Winston. The Cats ease into an early lead with 3 free throws, and extend their lead to 11-4. A MSU 3 pointer late in the segment trimmed the early lead to 4, 11-7, at the under 16 media timeout. In the second segment, the Cats did not score until Ashton Hagans made a pair of free throws with 12:16 left. The free throws matched the only two points by the Spartans in the segment as the Cats continue to lead by 4, 13-9, at the under 12 media timeout.

In the 3 rd segment, the Cats eased out to a 7 point lead, 16-9, but the Spartans caught up at 16-16, at 18-18 before Tyrese Maxey made the Cats' first 3 point basket of the game to give the Cats a 3 point lead, 21-18, at the under 8 media timeout with 7:17 left in the first half. In the 4 th segment, the Cats maintain the lead between 1 and 4 points, and lead by 4, 27-23, at the under 4 media timeout with 3:40 left in the first half.

In the final segment, the Cats extended their lead to a game high 11 points, 34-23, before MSU closed out the first half scoring with a point from the free throw line. The Cats lead by 10, 34-24, at the half.

The Cats scored 34 points on 37 possessions, 0.919 points per possession, and Michigan State managed their 24 points on 37 possessions, 0.649 ppp. The Cats made 32.0% (8-25) of their first half shots, including 2-9 (22.2%) from outside the arc. Michigan State made 8-27 (29.6%) shooting in the first half and only managed to make 2-11 shots from long range (18.2%) and only 6-16 (37.5%) from inside the arc.

The Cats made 16-20 free throws (80.0%) and Michigan State managed to make 6-10 (60.0%) free throws.

On the Boards, the Cats and Spartans each grabbed 19 total rebounds and 5 offensive rebounds. Each team grabbed 26.3% of their own misses for second chance possessions. The Cats committed 8 turnovers, one for each 4.6 possessions while Michigan State committed 10 turnovers, one for each 3.7 possessions.

Second Half:

MSU opens the second half with the first two scores, the second coming in transition following the Cats' 9 th turnover Coach Calipari called a quick timeout while clinging to a 6 point lead, 34-28, with 18:08 left in the game. After the timeout, the Spartans trimmed 2 more points from the one-time 11 point lead to cut the lead to only 4 points, 36-32, at the under 16 media timeout. In the 2 nd segment of the 2 nd half, the Cats maintained the lead in the 4 to 6 point range, and lead by 4, 45-41, at the under 12 media timeout. After this timeout, Tyrese Maxey will be at the line for 3 free throws.

Tyrese Maxey makes all three of his charity shots, and the Cats add back to back 3 point baskets to extend the lead to a game high 13 points, 54-41. Tom Izzo called a timeout with 9:57 left in the game. The Spartans respond to their timeout and cut the lead to 6, 54-48, at the under 8 media timeout with 7:57 left in the game. At the under 4 media timeout, the Cats continue to hold a 4 point lead, 60-56 and MSU will have the ball when the timeout ends.

MSU trims the lead to 2 points on a 3 point play with 1:20 left in the game. Tyrese Maxey drains a long 3 point basket to restore the Cats' 5 point lead. Tom Izzo takes another timeout with 59 seconds left and the Cats leading 65-60. A missed 3 pointer by MSU followed by another pair of free throws extended the lead to 7 seconds with 37 seconds left. MSU trims the lead to 5 with 21 seconds left, and Coach Calipari takes a timeout, leading 67-62. When Ashton Hagans could not get the ball inbounds, he burns the Cats' last timeout. Neither team has a timeout left with 21 seconds left to play. The Cats get the ball in bounds to Kahlil Whitney who makes a pair of free throws.

Cats win 69-62.


UK scored its 69 points in a total of 69 possessions (1.000 ppp) for the game, and Michigan State scored its 62 points on a total of 70 possessions (0.886 ppp).

MSU won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 38-32, and MSU won the battle of the offensive glass 10-7. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed a weak 20.0% of its misses as offensive rebounds while Michigan State was able to convert 28.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 25-32 [78.1%]. Michigan State made 13-18 [72.2%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 19-50 overall [38.0%] and 6-18 from long range [33.3%]. For Michigan State, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 17-30 [56.7%] and from long range, Michigan State hit 5-26 [19.2%].

The Cats committed 11 turnovers, one for every 6.2 possessions. The Cats forced 16 Michigan State turnovers, one for every 4.4 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Friday night against Eastern Kentucky in the second game of the 2019-20 regular season.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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