By RICHARD CHEEKS
The 2016-17 Kentucky Wildcats tasted defeat for the first time, falling to UCLA by 5 points, 97-92, at Rupp Arena on Saturday afternoon. The Big Blue Nation’s reaction to this defeat has varied from calm perspective to panic about the future for this team. On the panic end of the scale, some fans have said that they saw it coming all along because all of the early season success was nothing but fool’s gold, and UCLA is the first “real” team on the schedule, and UCLA exposed the folly of UK’s high rankings. On the calm perspective scale, some fans point out that all teams have their ups and their downs over the course of a long season, and this is nothing more than one of those infrequent downs.
Both camps urge that the team has important lessons to learn from the defeat, and Coach Calipari seems to agree with this consensus based on his post game remarks. The issue is what lessons should this team take with them from this defeat, and will those lessons change the team’s approach to the remainder of the season and how this team prepares for and performs in upcoming games.
The team will appear on the big stage, under the bright lights on Wednesday evening when the Valparaiso Crusaders come into Rupp Arena. Valparaiso has a quality men’s basketball program. In 2015, the Crusaders finished 28-6 overall and lost to Maryland in the NCAA Tournament. Last year the Crusaders finished 30-7, and runner-up in the post season NIT, losing in the NIT championship game to George Washington. Valparaiso comes into Rupp Arena on Wednesday with a 7-1 record (6-1 against D1 opponents).
The Crusaders’ most impressive wins of this young season have been on neutral courts over #79 Alabama by 8 points and #59 BYU by 3, and against #41 Rhode Island by 3 points at home. VALPARAISO enters this game with an ANE of 0.065 points per possession against a strength of schedule of 0.0084 ppp. The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.317 ppp against a strength of schedule of – -0.0127 ppp.
The ANE analysis indicates a UK win by 22 points, 81-59 at a pace of 75 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 1.080 ppp and 0.787 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in UK’s favor by 19 points, 86-67 at a pace of 75 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: