By RICHARD CHEEKS
The regular season is nearly over, with one home game for Senior Night against Vanderbilt tonight and a trip to Texas A&M on Saturday for their senior day celebration. The Big Blue Nation will say “thank you” to three seniors who have left their marks on the Wildcat basketball program. Two of the three are Kentucky boys, Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis, and the third, Mychal Mulder, is a JUCO transfer who is completing his second season as a Cat.
Senior night (day) games are important for the fans, and the players. Coach Calipari has won all seven of his senior night games. Gillispie was 1-1 in this game, and Tubby Smith earned a 9-1 record on his teams’ senior night games. And so the history has gone for this program through the many decades of basketball.
On Saturday, the Cats handled their rematch against Florida, avenged the loss the Cats sustained on their trip to Gainesville, and all but secured another SEC Championship, including the #1 seed for the upcoming SEC Tournament. A win on Tuesday on Senior Night will secure both on an official basis. Tuesday’s opponent is Vanderbilt, in a rematch of the Cats’ win in Nashville over the Commodores by 6 points, 87-81, on January 10. Since their first meeting, the Cats have won 10 of their 13 games, including wins in their last 6 outings. The Commodores have won 8 of their 13 games since the first meeting with the Cats, and Vanderbilt has won 7 of their last 9 and are on a 4 game winning streak.
VANDERBILT enters this game with a 16-13; 9-7 record, and many of the NCAA Seeding gurus have Vanderbilt on the bubble. A win over the Cats on Tuesday may be sufficient to put the Commodores into the big dance. Vanderbilt has claimed victories over #28 South Carolina by 9, at #55 Tennessee by 11, and at #41 Arkansas by 13. However, the Commodores have stumbled as well, losing at #155 Missouri by 20, and to #80 Bucknell by 3.
VANDERBILT enters this game with an ANE of 0.149 points per possession against strength of schedule of 0.1012 ppp (#21). The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.295 ppp against strength of schedule of 0.0949 ppp (#27). The ANE analysis indicates a Kentucky win by 18 points, 82-64, at apace of 71 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 1.158 ppp and 0.904 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in Kentucky’s favor by 13 points 83-70 at a pace of 71 possessions.
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