Guest post: Cats need win but numbers favor Vanderbilt

Tyler Ulis will try to keep smiling today at Vanderbilt. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Tyler Ulis will try to keep smiling today at Vanderbilt. (Vicky Graff Photo)


Last week, the Cats lost Derek Willis to an ankle injury at Texas A&M, and then got Alex Poythress back from a knee injury on Tuesday. Alex Poythress picked up right where he had left off, and delivered an inside presence that the Cats needed in handling Alabama with greater ease than anticipated.

As the season enters the final three games, the Cats continue to hold the #1 spot in the SEC at 11-4, but the lead is tenuous because Texas A&M sits only 1 game back with a much more favorable finishing schedule than the Cats.

The Cats must finish the season with road games at #27 Vanderbilt today and at #43 Florida on Tuesday night before closing it out at Rupp the following Saturday against a reeling LSU team. A&M on the other hand closes with road games at #169 Missouri on Saturday and at #187 Auburn on Tuesday before closing at home against #27 Vanderbilt the following Saturday. A&M is favored to win out from here, while the Cats will not be favored on Saturday at Vanderbilt, and the trip to Gainesville to face a wounded team of Gators will be a dangerous situation.

The Cats must match A&M’s record over the final three games to claim the #1 seed in the SEC Tournament because one more loss than the Aggies will drop the two into a tie, and the Aggies earned the tie breaker last Saturday in that OT win over the Cats.

The SEC Tournament significance is the difference in 3 games in 48 hours instead of 3 games in 42 hours.

Vanderbilt could still be in the hunt for a first place finish if they can beat the Cats and the Aggies over the next 8 days, and the Cats also fall to the Gators. That scenario could set up a 3 way tie for first place. South Carolina could also end up in a tie for first if they win out by winning at Mississippi State, at Arkansas, and at home over Georgia. Everyone else in the league trails the Cats by 3 or more games with only 3 games to play.

All of the possible permutations that can occur over the last 3 games do not matter nearly as much as the need to take care of today’s business today. Today’s business is to get out of Nashville with a win over the Commodores. Vanderbilt brings a 17-11, 9-6 SEC record into this encounter with the Cats. The Cats record now stands at 21-7, 11-4 in the SEC, and in their first encountered at Rupp Arena on January 23, 2016, the Cats handled the Commodores with much ease, winning 76-57. Since that first game, Vanderbilt has won 6 and lost 3 times. The Cats have also won 6 and lost 3 since their first encounter with Vanderbilt, and the Cats have won 5 of their last 6 games.

VANDERBILT has played its 28 games at an average tempo of about 71 possessions per game, scoring 77.3 ppg (1.087 ppp) and allowing an average 67.2 ppg (0.949 ppp). VANDERBILT has turned the ball over on 16.8% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 14.5% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, VANDERBILT has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 27.0%, and a defensive rebounding rate of 70.7%. The Vanderbilt schedule has a strength of schedule of 0.6854 (#25).

In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 69 to 70 possessions per game, producing 78.8 ppg (1.134 ppp) and allowing 67.0ppg (0.959 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 16.6% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 18.4% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats’ rebounding rates have been 38.0% and 68.8% on the offensive and defensive ends. The Cats have a strength of schedule of 0.6782 (#29).

Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of the Commodores with a theoretical margin of 3 points, 74-71 in a game played at a pace of 70 possessions for the Cats and 70 possessions for Vanderbilt. Pomeroy figures the Game in Vanderbilt’s favor by 1 point, 74-73 at a pace of 67 possessions. Vegas opened with the ‘Dores a 1 1/2 point favorite.

See how other Big Blue Fans see this game’s likely outcome by clicking the following link.

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1 comment

  1. Analysis:

    UK scored its 62 points on 62 possessions for the game, and VANDERBILT scored its 74 points on 65 possessions.

    The Commodores controlled the Boards, 39-37, and the Commodores won the battle on the offensive glass 11-9. Kentucky used its 9 second chance possessions to score 11 second chance points, and VANDERBILT used its 11 second chance possessions to score 19 second chance points. VANDERBILT had an offensive efficiency of 0.846 ppp on its 65 first chance possessions and 1.727 ppp for its 11 second chance possessions. UK had 0.823 ppp on its 62 first chance possessions and 1.222 ppp on its 9 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 24.3% of its misses as offensive rebounds while VANDERBILT was able to convert 28.2% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

    UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 10-23 [43.5%]. VANDERBILT made 16-23 [69.6%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 23-55 overall [41.8%] and 6-22 from long range [27.3%]. For VANDERBILT, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a 20-46 [43.5%] and from long range, VANDERBILT hit 6-16 [37.5%].

    The Cats committed 5 turnovers, one for every 12.4 possessions. The Cats forced 5 VANDERBILT turnovers, one for every 13.0 possessions.

    Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday Evening against Florida at Gainesville at 7:00 PM in the 30th regular season and 17th SEC game of the 2015-16 season.

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