By RICHARD CHEEKS
Last Sunday evening, Coach Calipari emptied his bench in an impressive 108-51 domination of Clarion in the Cats’ first exhibition game in preparation for the 2016-17 basketball season. As impressive as the first contest against an outside opponent was, I am confident that Coach Calipari identified areas requiring work, and as has been his practice over the first seven years at UK, he will use the week between exhibitions to shore up these areas.
However, make no mistake. My old eyes do not see obvious areas of deficiency from the Clarion game. The 1.33 ppp offensive efficiency is the 4th best in 8 first games, and the 0.65 ppp defensive efficiency is 2nd best (2009-10 was 0.50 ppp) in Coach Calipari’s 8 years for the first exhibition game. The first exhibition performance yielded a game raw efficiency of 0.69 points per possession, which is the 2nd highest such measure in all 8 of Coach Calipari’s tenure at UK in the first exhibition.
The individual performances in the first exhibition were consistently strong. Tai Wynyard posted an amazing individual game efficiency of 7 points per possession ended. He made both of his shots and both of his free throw attempts for 6 points. While he also committed one turnover, he secured three offensive rebounds resulting in a net 1 possession consumed during his 9 minutes of playing time.
But for Tai Wynyard’s very strong showing, Isaiah Briscoe’s individual efficiency would have been worthy of top team honors in any other season at 1.45 ppp. He played 22 minutes, scored 11 points on 5 total shots and 4 of 5 from the line. Isaiah Briscoe handed out 11 assists, had 3 steals, and only committed 2 turnovers. This level of contribution to the team this season will lead this team to places prior UK teams have failed to reach.
Two other Wildcats, Wenyen Gabriel and Edrice (BAM) Adebayo, each posted game efficiencies above 1.0 ppp in their first ever real game wearing the UK blue and white. Other notable game efficiencies posted by Wildcats in the first exhibition include:
Despite this opening game performance that left fans excited about the upcoming season, this Sunday evening, Coach Calipari will send his team back into Rupp Arena for the second, and last exhibition, this time against Asbury. We will again be entertained by what could be one of the best basketball teams of the Calipari Era at UK.
Asbury will appear in Rupp Arena on Sunday, November 6, 2016 for the last tune-up before beginning the 2016-17 basketball season against Stephen F. Austin on November 11, 2016.
Over the past 7 seasons, the Cats have averaged a 58 point victory over its second exhibition opponent (109-51) a statistically significant improvement over the average 41 point average margin (96-55) in the first exhibition games. This year’s 57 point margin in the first exhibition sets a high bar for the second game this season. Based on the exhibition history and the Asbury statistical profile from 2015-16, the analysis indicates a 64 point margin, 112-48.