By RICHARD CHEEKS
On Wednesday afternoon, the Cats served a pre-Thanksgiving appetizer to the Big Blue Nation with a 31-point win over the Cleveland State Vikings at Rupp Arena. On Friday, the Cats will be serving a post-Thanksgiving dessert, the Tennessee Martin Skyhawks. This will be the Cats’ sixth game, five at Rupp Arena, over the first 2 weeks of the 2016-17 regular season, and this game marks the end of the introduction to this team.
On Monday, when the Cats again leave the friendly confines of Rupp Arena to face #78 Arizona State in the Bahamas, the Cats will move into the second phase of this season, 5 non-conference encounters that includes in addition to #78Arizona State, #24 UCLA, #73 Valparaiso, #2 North Carolina, and #7 Louisville. Over the ensuing 4 weeks, the Cats will learn whether they have learned the early season lessons are ready for a steady prime time diet.
But, before the team officially can move into this next phase with elevated opponent difficulty, it must take care of the post-Thanksgiving dessert.
Tennessee Martin has already played six games, with a 5-1 record. UTM’s only loass occurred in their opening game at #79 Mississippi by 3 points. Tennessee Martin has beaten #224 Cleveland State by 11 points, and at #235 Canisius by 3 points and at #203 Duquesne by 3 points. In addition, UTM has posted an 8-point win over #l345 UT Rio Grande Valley and against non-D1 opponent Cumberland by 31 points. They enter this game as the #230 team in the Pomeroy ratings with an ANE of -0.055 ppp with strength of schedule of -0.0360 ppp. The Cats enter this game at #4 with an ANE of 0.305 ppp with strength of schedule of -0.0405 ppp. The Adjusted Net Efficiency (ANE) analysis for this match up indicates a game played at a pace of 77 possessions for the Cats and 77 possessions for the Skyhawks, with the Cats winning by 28 points, 90-62 with game efficiencies of 1.169 ppp and 0.805 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game with UK having a 29-point advantage, 94-65 played at a pace of 77 possessions.
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