By RICHARD CHEEKS
The last six games, the Cats have only outperformed their season average performance once, against South Carolina, and the last three games include back to back losses and an ugly overtime win over Georgia last Tuesday at Rupp Arena. To add to the team’s struggles, they lost the services of Mychal Mulder several games ago due to an unspecified illness, and on Tuesday against Georgia, De’Aaron Fox and Sacha Killeya-Jones were unable to suit up due to illness. Coach Calipari has said that Mychal Mulder is at least 10 days away from returning to action, and characterizes De’Aaron Fox and Sacha Killeya-Jones status as day to day. On Friday, reports emerged that others on the team may have become ill.
Despite the illness issues, it is essential for this team’s post season positioning that it get well on the court on Saturday night when they must confront a bunch of gators who are playing their best basketball of the season. This team must have the collective basketball light come on, primarily at the defensive end of the court where opponents have been able to waltz to the rim, and if they miss, get offensive rebounds in position to score easy second chance points. On the offensive end of the court, this team must learn how valuable each possession is to success and reduce their turnover rate from mid to high teens per game to low teens or even single digits.
Prior to the Georgia game, I surmised that the Georgia game was a crossroad game. However, with an ugly win in overtime, the team did not chose to leave the intersection on the path to a strong finish, but at the same time, the team is still sitting at the crossroad, burning time, but at least with an opportunity to choose the right path, and start moving in that direction. To accomplish this, this team must get out of Gainesville with a win.
Next up is Florida in Gainesville for College Game Day. FLORIDA enters the game with a 17-5; 7-2 record. The Gators have lost to #1 Gonzaga by 5 on a neutral court, to #13 Duke by 10 on a neutral court, at #15 Florida State by 5, at #22 South Carolina by 4, and to #52 Vanderbilt by 2 at home. Florida’s most impressive win this season has been over #35 Tennessee by 13, and since losing back to back games in mid January, the Gators have won three in a row by 35 (LSU), 32 (Oklahoma), and 39 (Missouri). FLORIDA enters this game with an ANE of 0.283 points per possession against a strength of schedule of 0.0904 ppp (#16). The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.315 ppp against a strength of schedule of 0.0812 ppp (#24).
The ANE analysis indicates a Florida win by 2 points, 76-74 at apace of 74 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 0.994 ppp and 1.021 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in Florida’s favor by 2 points, 81-79 at a pace of 74 possessions. Vegas opened with the Cats favored by 2, but the line quickly moved in line with the ANE and Pomeroy margins, and is currently Florida by 2, 81-79.
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