By RICHARD CHEEKS
The two exhibition games against NAIA and NCAA Division II opponents are in the books, and the performances turned in by this new group of Wildcats was impressive to say the least. The Cats scored over 100 points in each of the games for the third consecutive preseason. However, in the second exhibition this season against Asbury, the Cats broke nearly every single game scoring record in route to a 156-63 pounding.
The Cats will face its first D1 opponent on Friday night when the Stephen F. Austin Jacks come into Rupp Arena to open their season. Over their last 4 seasons, the Great Danes have posted winning records, winning 27, 32, 29, and 28 last year. The Jacks earned post season play in each of those seasons, the NCAA in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and the NIT in 2013. Last year’s 28-6 record was good enough for Stephen F. Austin to win the Southland Conference with a 18-0 record with that leagues most efficient offense and most efficient defense. SFA won the Southland post season tournament before ending their season in the NCAA second round in a loss to Notre Dame by 1. Stephen F. Austin’s most impressive win was at #8 West Virginia by 14 in the NCAA First Round. SFA’s most embarrassing loss was to #200 Tulane by 1 point on a neutral court in November.
Albany has a consistent track record of solid, better than average D1 basketball accomplishments. They ended the last 4 seasons with Pomeroy ratings of #70, #69, #51, and #41 last year. Stephen F. Austin is a worthy opponent for the Cats’ first encounter with a D1 basketball team. SFA opens the 2016-17 season with a Pomeroy rating of #125 having lost 4 of their top 6 players from last season to graduation.
The Adjusted Net Efficiency (ANE) analysis for this match up, based on pre-season estimates derived from each team’s recent history, indicates a game played at a pace of 68 possessions, with the Cats winning by 16 points, 78-62. Pomeroy sees this game with UK having a 20 point advantage, 81-61 played at a pace of 70 possessions.
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