2019-20 Season Analytical Writings

Cats Need Rare Win In Knoxville
To Retain SEC Championship Self-determination

On Tuesday night, the Cats took care of business at Rupp Arena and handed the Mississippi State Bulldogs an 8-point loss. However, the path ahead does not get easier for the Cats as they head to Knoxville. Coach Calipari's team have lost 6 of the last 10 meetings between the Vols and Cats since Rick Barnes became the head coach at Tennessee. Furthermore, the Cats have lost each of the four times the Cats have played in Knoxville with Barnes working the sidelines.

•  In 2016, the 16-5 Cats lost by 7 to a UT team that finished the season 15-19

•  In 2017, the 17-2 Cats lost by 2 to a UT team that finished the season 16-16

•  In 2018, the 12-3 Cats lost by 11 to a UT team that finished the season 26-9

•  In 2019, the 24-5 Cats lost by 19 to a UT team that finished the season 31-6

During these last four seasons, the Cats have lost to Tennessee teams that have not been strong, and the Cats have sustained double digit losses in Knoxville on their last two visits. Now the Cats take a 17-5, 7-2 record into Knoxville to face a UT team that currently has a 13-9 record and is 5-4 after the first half of the SEC schedule. The task before this crop of Cats to get out of Knoxville in 2020 with rare win, and even though this Tennessee team has not measured up to the last two, the Cats will face a difficult challenge to secure a win in Knoxville even against this struggling bunch of Volunteers

On Wednesday night, the SEC front runner, LSU, put its 8-0 SEC record on the line in Tennessee at 0-8 Vanderbilt, and LSU left the State of Tennessee 8-1. Prior to this upset, Kentucky's SEC Championship plans not only depended upon defeating LSU in Baton Rouge later this month, but on Auburn or someone else also beating the Bayou Bengals to deliver a second loss to LSU. In addition, that scenario required the Cats to not stumble in other games over the balance of this season Kentucky's fate was not entirely in its own control. However, with LSU's loss to Vanderbilt, Kentucky's path to another SEC Championship is now completely within their sole control. But, as noted above, the Cats need to beat Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday to retain that self determination.

Clearly, Tennessee has not had the type of season in 2019-20 that many people expected based on the strength of the Tennessee team each of the last two seasons. Their 13-9, 5-4 record must be a disappointment for them that must be compounded by the Vols' 3 losses in their last 4 games. Their 5-point loss to #145 Texas A&M must be especially troubling, and their 13 point loss at #30 Mississippi State, the team the Cats defeated at Rupp on Tuesday should alarm the Vols as they prepare to host the Cats.

Tennessee's current ANE is an 0.148 ppp against a schedule strength of 0.075 ppp and a tempo of 66.8 possessions per game. The Tennessee home court advantage, based on several years' of home-away SEC games is 0.053 ppp. The Cats bring an ANE of 0.199 ppp into this game having played a schedule strength of 0.067 ppp at a tempo of 69.7 possessions per game. The game ANE difference, with the home court advantage added is -0.002 ppp.

Based on this data for these teams, an ANE analysis indicates this game will have a tempo of 68 possessions. Given the home court advantage, the game computes as a “pick ‘em” matchup at this venue producing a rare 50% probability for each team. There cannot be a tie, so in this case, since the objective standard is inconclusive, I must rely upon my subjective leanings.

Subjective factors tip the scales in favor of the Cats. As the SEC moves into the final half of the schedule, Kentucky still controls its own destiny at 7-2 with game a game remaining at LSU, against Auburn at Rupp, and home and home against Florida, the three teams still in the hunt for the SEC Championship and one of the four double byes for the SEC Tournament. However, a loss at Tennessee on Saturday changes the Cats' position relative to the championship race and the four double byes. For these reasons, this is a critical road game for the Cats.

Tennessee, on the other hand, is probably not a viable contender for the championship or a double bye because of their 4 losses to date and road trips to Auburn, Arkansas, and Kentucky remaining on their schedule.

For these reasons, I believe the Cats will prevail in Knoxville in a close game. Cats by 1, 68-67.

It is intuitively clear than not all pick ‘em games- are created equal. The quality of any win depends upon the final margin, the strength of the opponent, and the venue of the game.

The table provides tools to evaluate this game's final margin considering the relevant factors. This table separates game outcomes into three ranges, red, tan, and green. Over the years, Calipari's strongest teams play more of their games in the green range than in the red range over the course of the season. Conversely, Calipari's weakest teams play more of their games in the red than in the green range. A game ANE moves toward the red zone with smaller margins (or losses) and toward the green zone with larger margins.

Game Summary:

Coach Calipari starts Tyrese Maxey, E. J. Montgomery, Nick Richards, Immanuel Quickley, and Ashton Hagans against Tennessee. Nate Sestina, Keion Brooks, and Johnny Juzang will come off the bench.

Kentucky controls the opening tip and misses their first field goal attempt, a 3 pointer. However, the Cats continue the possession with an offensive rebound and then turns the ball over on a shot clock violation. After a UT turnover, Tyrese Maxey opens the scoring. Tennessee moves into their first lead on a pair of baskets around Kentucky's second turnover of the game. The Cats answer with a 3 point basket, and Immanuel Quickley adds another basket with a floater to give the Cats an early 3 point lead, 7-4, at the under 16 media timeout. In the opening segment, the Cats only got 4 shot attempts due to 4 early turnovers. In addition, the Cats committed 3 early fouls.

In the second segment, the Cats complete a 7-0 run to move on top by a game high 5, 9-4, but Tennessee closes the gap to 1 point, 9-8 at the under 12 media timeout. Johnny Juzang will be at the line for a pair of free throws after this media timeout. Through the first 8 minutes, fouls and turnovers continue to plague the Cats, with 6 turnovers and 5 fouls compared to 2 of each for Tennessee. In the third segment, the Cats move on top by a game high 7 points, 18-11, on a 3 point play by Tyrese Maxey. However, Tennessee scores the next 4 points to trim the lead to 3, 18-15, at the under 8 media timeout.

Through 12 minutes, the fouls and turnovers continue to mount to 10 and 8 respectively compared to just 6 and 3 for the Volunteers. E. J. Montgomery, Keion Brooks, and Tyrese Maxey each have 2 fouls. In the 4 th segment, The Cats stop the Volunteers by forcing a turnover, and the Cats get a 3 point play at the other end by Nick Richards to extend the lead back to 6, and then following a Tennessee missed shot, go up by 8 points, 23-15. Tennessee takes a timeout with 6:44 left in the first half. The Cats get another defensive stop and extend their lead to a game high 11, 26-15 with a 3 point basket. Nate Sestina picks up his second foul, and the Volunteers trim the lead to 10, and following a Kentucky miss, trim the lead to 7 on a 3 point play. Then Nate Sestina commits his 3 rd foul allowing Tennessee to cut the 11 point lead to only 6, 26-20. The Cats respond and push the lead back to 10, 30-20. Tennessee's first 3 point basket of the day followed by a drive by Tyrese Maxey gives the Cats a 9 point lead, 32-23, at the under 4 media timeout, and Tyrese Maxey will be at the line after the break.

In the final segment of the first half, the Tyrese Maxey missed the front end opportunity.

Tyrese Maxey scores to extend the lead to the game high 11 points, 34-23, but Tennessee trims a pair of points off the lead from the foul line after Nick Richards commits his second foul. Kentucky takes a timeout with 1:22 left. The Volunteers outscore the Cats 5-3 to close the half with the Cats on top by 7, 37-30.

The Cats scored 37 points on 34 possessions, 1.088 points per possession, and TENNESSEE managed their 30 points on 33 possessions, 0.909 ppp. The Cats made 56.0% of their first half shots, including 3-7 from outside the arc. TENNESSEE managed to make 32.0% of their first half shots, including 2-11from outside the arc.

The Cats committed 10 turnovers in the first half to 5 turnovers by Tennessee.

The Cats made 6-7 free throws (86.7%) and TENNESSEE made 12-16 (75.0%).

On the Boards, Kentucky controlled the glass with a 18-13 advantage, but Tennessee owned the offensive glass with a 5-4 margin. Tennessee earned a 8-4 advantage on second chance points. The Cats secured 33.3% of their misses and allowed TENNESSEE to grab 26.3% of their misses as second chance opportunities.

Second Half:

Kentucky opens the second half in foul trouble with Nate Sestina having 3, and E. J. Montgomery, Keion Brooks, and Tyrese Maxey with 2 each. Tennessee opens the second half with a basket to trim the lead to only 5 points. After a 3 pointer by Johnny Juzang, E. J. Montgomery commits his 3 rd foul and Tennessee trims the lead to 6, 40-34. After the Cats move on top by 10, 44-34, Tennessee scores 5 straight to cut the lead to 5. Immanuel Quickley scores at the end of the opening segment to lift the Cats on top by 7, 46-39 at the under 16 media timeout, and Immanuel Quickley will have a free throw after the break to complete a 3 point play. With 14:10 left, Nick Richards commits his 3 rd foul with the Cats on top by 10, 49-39. With 12:39 left, Nate Sestina commits his 4 th foul with the Cats on top by 8, 49-41. After the Cats go back on top by 10, 51-41, the Volunteers makes back to back 3 pointers to trim the lead to 4, 51-47, forcing a Kentucky timeout with 9:12 left in the game. On the second 3 point basket, Tennessee missed two attempts from outside the arc, but maintained possession with offensive rebounds to get their successful 3 rd attempt on the possession.

The Cats score to move on top by 6, but the Volunteers respond with a lob basket to trim the lead back to 4, 53-49, at the under 8 media timeout and Nick Richards will be at the line for a pair of free throws after this break. Nick Richards made the first and missed the second, but Johnny Juzang scored with an offensive rebound to push the lead back to 7 points. After a Tennessee basket, Nick Richards scored and was fouled on the shot and finishes the 3 point play to lift the Cats to an 8 point lead, 59-51. The Cats move on top by 10, 61-51, but the Volunteers claw back to within 6, 62-56. At the under 4 media timeout, the Cats are clinging to the 6 point lead, 64-58 and Immanuel Quickley will be at the line for the one + one after the break.

Immanuel Quickley converts both, but Tennessee answers with another 3 point basket to trim the lead to only 5 points, 66-61. Nick Richards makes a pair of free throws, and Immanuel Quickley hits the Cats' 5 th 3 point basket to push the lead back to 10, 71-61 with 1:21 left in the game. The Cats close out the game converting from the free throw line.

Cats win 77-64.


UK scored its 77 points on 64 possessions (1.203 ppp) for the game, and TENNESSEE scored its 64 points on 63 possessions (1.016 ppp).

Kentucky won the battle of the boards 33-29, but Tennessee controlled the offensive glass 12-7, which produced a 19-8 advantage on second chance points for the Volunteers. TENNESSEE had an offensive efficiency of 0.714 ppp on its 63 first chance possessions and 1.583 ppp for its 12 second chance possessions. UK had 1.078 ppp on its 64 first chance possessions and 1.143 ppp on its 7 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 29.2%of its misses as offensive rebounds while TENNESSEE was able to convert 31.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 22-25 [88.0%]. TENNESSEE made 19-24 [79.2%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 25-46 overall [54.3%] and 5-10 from long range [50.0%]. For Tennessee, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 12-29 [41.4%] and from long range, TENNESSEE hit 7-26 [26.9%].

The Cats committed 14 turnovers, one for every 4.6 possessions. The Cats forced 8 TENNESSEE turnovers, one for every 7.9 possessions.

Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday night at Vanderbilt in the Cats' twenty fourth regular season game and the 11 th game of the 2020 SEC season.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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