By RICHARD CHEEKS
Despite my best efforts to put a happy face on the direction that the 2016-17 basketball season is following, the fact of the matter is this team has been in a slide spanning the last 5 games, and arguably 6 games (at Vanderbilt through Kansas at Rupp).
In games 10 through 16, the Cats committed a total of 62 turnover, an average of about 9 per game. In games 17 through 21, the Cats committed 77 turnovers, an average of about 15 ½ per game. Arguably, turnovers played a huge role in the losses to Tennessee and Kansas. This season, opponents have averaged 11.1 offensive rebounds per game resulting in 11.3 second chance points per game.
However, in the last 5 games, opponents have grabbed 45 offensive rebounds that have produced 66 second chance points, 9 offensive rebounds and 13.2 second chance points. Against Kansas, the Cats allowed 17 second chance points on 9 offensive rebounds, which was also a major factor in the loss to Kansas.
This team has reached a crossroads for their season. The time to choose the direction and path it will follow for the final half of the season is NOW!!!. The path that the Big Blue Nation wants this team to take is a path that will lead to the Final Four with a legitimate opportunity to bring home #9. To move in that direction, this team must take better care of possessions and must go to war on the defensive glass.
So my friends understand my view, I am not suggesting that all is lost, that the sky has, or is falling upon our heads. However, just as the 2012 championship team did in the last half of that season, NOW is the time for this team to move its game to another level. In 2012, after 20 games, there was much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth within the Big Blue Nation. Coach Calipari was taking hits from all corners due to a widely held conclusion that his one and done philosophy would never produce a champion. Well, it did then, and it can now, and the Cats must take it to a new level against the remainder of the SEC schedule and SEC Tournament.
Next up is Georgia tonight at Rupp. GEORGIA enters the game with a 13-8; 4-4 record. The Bulldogs have a road record of 3-4 this season, having wins at #77 Auburn by 12, at #95 Mississippi by 22, and at #71 Georgia Tech by 17. The most perplexing losses sustained by this Georgia team has been at #127 Oakland by 7.
GEORGIA enters this game with an ANE of 0.131 points per possession against a strength of schedule of 0.0773 ppp (#25). The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.320 ppp against a strength of schedule of 0.0786 ppp (#21).
The ANE analysis indicates a Kentucky win by 20 points, 84-64 at apace of 75 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 1.125 ppp and 0.857 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in Kentucky’s favor by 17 points, 85-68 at a pace of 74 possessions. Vegas favors the Cats by 16 ½ points.
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: