By RICHARD CHEEKS
This past weekend, it seemed clear that the Cats’ schedule would begin to present progressively higher hurdles in its path through the non-conference portion of their 2016-17 schedule. While Arizona State was not likely to challenge these Cats in the sense of a single digit game, still in doubt late in the second half, no one expected the Cats to demonstrate complete superiority over the Sun Devils. But that is precisely what these Cats did on Monday night in the Bahamas, with a 115-69 poleaxing of Bobby Hurley’s PAC12 team.
The Cats made certain that the game would never be in doubt as the Cats led 14-8 and 26-12 at the first two media timeouts. Yes, dear friends, that game ended with a 46 point final margin, and Coach Calipari cleared his bench with “It’s Calipari Time” with 4:16 remaining in the game.
Well, as discussed in the last pre-game analysis, the level of competition will take another giant step up, this time to #16 UCLA in a game in Rupp Arena. Two years ago, the 2014-15 Cats completely dominated the Bruins on a neutral court, 83-44. Last year, the Cats paid a visit to historic Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, and the Bruins used their hosting opportunity to deliver a measure of payback to the Cats, handing the Cats a 10-point loss, 77-87. On Saturday afternoon, the Cats will host the Steve Alford’s Bruins for their third encounter in three seasons in what should be the rubber match in the series.
UCLA has played eight games without a defeat. Their average level of opposition has been #178. The Bruins’ most impressive wins of this young season have been over #72 Nebraska by 11 points and #34 Texas A&M by 7 points on a neutral court. UCLA enters this game with an ANE of 0.272 points per possession against a strength of schedule of -0.0364 ppp. The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.350 ppp against a strength of schedule of -0.0431 ppp.
The ANE analysis indicates a UK win by 13 points, 89-76 at a pace of 78 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 1.143 ppp and 0.976 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in UK’s favor by 10 points, 90-80 at a pace of 79 possessions.
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