Numbers favor Kentucky by 9 over Kansas

This Kansas fan was wise for wanting to keep Tyler Ulis off the court last year. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By RICHARD CHEEKS

For teams like Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, Villanova, and a very small group of programs that set sights each year on Championships, Game 20 and Game 21 mark the mid-point of a season. 31 regular season games followed by 3 conference post season tournament games, followed by up to 6 NCAA Tournament post season games. For Kentucky during the Calipari era, Games 20 and 21 have marked the time for the one and done kittens to grow into ferocious Cats.

Coach Calipari knows the time is now. He has initiated his annual recitals of “I need to do a better job;” “It is time for these kids to move beyond the AAU mentality and play with discipline;” and “I like my team” in the aftermath of the Cats’ most embarrassing loss of the season this past Tuesday at Tennessee.

The Cats played with very little, if any, discipline, and the Cats lack of discipline resulted in various Cats missing shots that are literally “unmissable.” The Cats played with no discipline on the offensive end, willing to settle for awkward, forced shots rather than work the ball into their post man, Edrice (BAM) Adebayo. The Cats played with no discipline on the defensive end, allowing various Volunteer players to reach the basket without defense, and if they missed, too many easy second chance baskets.

The result of this team abandonment of the discipline that Coach Calipari has been teaching and emphasizing was this loss to a good, but certainly not great, 10-9 Tennessee team. In fact, the final 2 point margin was much closer than the reality of the game itself, which saw Tennessee seize control early, and maintain a lead of 7 to 11 points for the vast majority of the game.

It is true that all teams stumble a few times over the course of a season, and strictly by the numbers, the home loss in December to UCLA was a weaker overall performance. However, this loss comes at a critical time of the season, when the team should have become more disciplined, in preparation for the drive toward a championship run. On Saturday, the Cats have an opportunity to demonstrate its readiness for that run when Kansas visits Rupp Arena for the annual SEC-Big12 Challenge, strategically scheduled at the mid-season point.

Last year, the Cats limped out of “Phog” of Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, with a disappointing overtime loss to the Jayhawks into the Smokies where the Cats lost to the Vols despite having a 21 point lead late in the first half of that game. These back-to-back losses a year ago signaled and exposed the fatal weaknesses that eventually caused that group of Cats to exit early from the post season. Will history repeat in January 2017 with another critical back-to-back loss to the Vols and the Jayhawks, or will the 2017 Cats return to the Rupp court and show the discipline necessary to beat a legitimate title contender?

The Big Blue Nation will get its answer on Saturday night as the entire basketball world watches. ESPN’s College Game Day has rolled into town. Their spot lights are bearing down on the Rupp Court, and a huge television audience will supplement the 23,000+ who will pack into Rupp on Saturday night.

Two of the “blue bloods” of college basketball.
Two of the highest ranked teams in the nation on January 26, 2017.
A game with national championship ramifications.
Teams populated by some of the best players in the college game.
Teams led by a pair of bigger than life coaches.
Fan bases that are rabid and extensive in their reach.
A marquee game that will be as big as its primetime billing.

KANSAS enters the game with a 18-2 record. The Jayhawks have been rock solid since the season opened in November when it dropped its opener to #38 Indiana by 4 in overtime on a neutral court. The Jayhawks then won their next 18 games including a 2 point win over #16 Duke, a 6 point win at #34 TCU, a 2 point win over #26 Kansas State a 7 point win over #27 Oklahoma State, and a 4 point win at #24 Iowa State. Yes, the Jayhawks fell by 16 points, 69-85, at #3 West Virginia on Tuesday night. The world will be also watching how the Jayhawks respond to their Tuesday loss as much as how the Cats respond their whipping on Tuesday.

KANSAS enters this game with an ANE of 0.274 points per possession against a strength of schedule of 0.0839 ppp (#15). The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.325 ppp against a strength of schedule of 0.0691 ppp (#25). The ANE analysis indicates a Kentucky win by 9 points, 83-74 at apace of 77 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 1.077 ppp and 0.960 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in Kentucky’s favor by 8 points, 90-82 at a pace of 76 possessions. Vegas has opened favoring the Cats by 5.

Use the following link to see how other UK fans handicap this game at 247Sports, The Cats Pause message board:
http://bigbluefans4uk.com/2016-17DataandWritings/247_PREDICTIONS/21_Predictions.png

You can participate in the score prediction contest at 247Sports at the following link:
http://kentucky.247sports.com/Board/296/Contents/Kansas-Prediction-Thread-50797345

1 comment

  1. Analysis:
    UK scored its 73 points on 83 possessions (0.880 ppp) for the game, and KANSAS scored its 79 points on 85 possessions (0.929 ppp).
    Kansas won the battle of the boards 35-34, but the Cats won the battle of the offensive glass 10-9. Kentucky used its 10 second chance possessions to score 7 second chance points, and KANSAS used its 9 second chance possessions to score 17 second chance points. KANSAS had an offensive efficiency of 0.827 ppp on its 85 first chance possessions and 1.889 ppp for its 9 second chance possessions. UK had 0.917 ppp on its 83 first chance possessions and 0.700 ppp on its 10 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 27.8% of its misses as offensive rebounds while KANSAS was able to convert 27.3% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
    UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 13-22 [59.1%]. KANSAS made 10-18 [55.6%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 26-55 overall [47.3%] and 8-20 from long range [40.0%]. For KANSAS , their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 27-45 [60.0%] and from long range, KANSAS hit 5-19 [26.3%].
    The Cats committed 17 turnovers, one for every 4.2 possessions. The Cats forced 12 KANSAS turnovers, one for every 6.2 possessions.
    Next Game On Schedule: Tuesday Evening, January 31, 2017 at 9:00 pm at Rupp Arena against Georgia in the 22nd regular season game and 9th SEC of the 2016-17 season.

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