By RICHARD CHEEKS
The non-conference portion of the schedule is largely complete, and the Cats move into the annual SEC wars with a 10-2 record, having dropped its annual Yuletide war of hardwood against the Louisville Cards on Wednesday by 3 points. For the record, the loss ends the 4 game UK win streak against the Cards, and while the loss stings, it is not the end of the season for this Kentucky team.
For the record, Calipari 8-Pitino 2.
Not to put too fine a point on the situation, the NCAA is in its latter stages of its improper player benefits investigation of the Louisville basketball program, and when its final judgment comes down, it is very possible that Coach Pitino’s college coaching days will end. This week, Coach Pitino told his team, prior to their game against the Cats, “look guys. I don’t know how many more Kentucky versus Louisville games I have left. I hope I coach five, seven, or eight more of them, but you have to really enjoy it and have fun, because you are not going to see this experience too much.”
Sounds as if Coach Pitino knows the clock on his coaching career may be ticking down.
As for this game, there were no real surprises.
Kentucky missed critical free throws that cost them the game in some respects, but Kentucky has been shooting free throws poorly most of this season.
Kentucky lost the rebound battle, but this Kentucky team has struggled on the boards most of this season.
Kentucky shot the ball poorly from the perimeter, but perimeter shooting has been suspect all season, except for the UNC game. This is a double-edge sword, right; live by the sword-die by the sword. The UNC game would have been a loss but for extraordinary perimeter shooting. I suggest the extraordinary perimeter shooting is the exception to the norm here, not the poor shooting against Louisville.
Louisville’s defense disrupted Kentucky’s ability to score, but Louisville’s defense has done that most of the season.
Kentucky struggled defensively at the three and four spots. Kentucky has struggled defensively at these positions most of the season.
Yes, the game played out just about the way these teams’ season to date have played out, with Louisville getting out with a hard fought 3 point win, not decided until the final pair of possessions.
These last two games represent why college basketball is so popular. These games demonstrate how teams should play this game. In the UNC game, questions loomed about whether either team could or would play defense and the UK-UL war leaves the sense that neither team could muster an offense. Nevertheless, both games were very competitive involving teams among the nation’s elite.
Now, the Cats open their SEC schedule on the road at Mississippi.
MISSISSIPPI enters the game with a 9-3 record while the Cats left the Yum Center for their Christmas break with a 10-2 record. The Rebels losses have been to #21 Creighton by 9 on a neutral court, to #67 Middle Tennessee by 15 at home, and at #35 Virginia Tech by 5. Mississippi’s most impressive win was over #81 Memphis by 8 at home.
Mississippi enters this game with an ANE of 0.065 points per possession against a strength of schedule of -0.0054 ppp (#196). The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.304 ppp against a strength of schedule of 0.0337 ppp (#76). The ANE analysis indicates a Kentucky win by 13 points, 85-72 at apace of 79 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 1.080 ppp and 0.915 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in Kentucky’s favor by 13 points, 90-77 at a pace of 78 possessions.
Use the following link to see how other UK fans handicap this game at 247Sports, The Cats Pause message board:
You can participate in the score prediction contest at 247Sports at the following link: