By RICHARD CHEEKS
Each summer and early fall, we have all grown accustomed to Coach Calipari’s familiar refrain that his team is so young, the road will be bumpy, but he really likes his team. The common response to these annual warnings has included a subtle rolling of the eyes, and a silent retort, “Yeah Coach, we know.”
However, this team is clearly different, and if our expectations are based on how Coach Calipari’s previous eight teams have matured and developed, especially early in the schedule, we are very likely to be disappointed this season. This team has had the slowest start of the Calipari Era, as shown in the Table below:
The typical Calipari teams have completed their first two games with an Adjusted Net Efficiency (ANE) between 0.166 ppp and 0.285 ppp. There are two outliers on the high end, 2010-11 (0.435 ppp) and 2011-12 (0.419 ppp). There has been one outlier on the low end, 2009-10 (0.071 ppp), and the current team sets a new low for their first two games at 0.045 ppp.
This does not mean this team cannot or will not develop into a team capable of competing on the national stage. For proof of this assertion, we only need to look at Calipari’s previous slowest starting team, 2009-10. The Cousins, Wall, Bledsoe group were quick learners, and we all know how competitive that team was as it ran through the regular season with only two losses, at South Carolina and at Tennessee. However, it does mean this current team has not climbed its learning curve much during its three exhibitions and first two regular season games.
As has become the custom with Coach Calipari schedules, the Cats now travel to Chicago to appear in the annual Champions’ Classic, and this year their opponent is #4 Kansas. Yes, Kentucky does bring a current ranking of #5 into this game, but the differences between this Kansas team on November 13 and this Kentucky team on November 13 are substantial.
Kansas has also played three exhibition games this pre-season. They opened their exhibition season against Missouri at a neutral court, winning by 6, 93-87. This Missouri team controlled that game into the second half before the Jayhawks pulled away. Kansas also took care of business in its two traditional exhibitions, beating Pittsburg State by 46, 100-54, and beating Fort Hays State by 29, 86-57. Coach Self’s Jayhawks opened their regular season Friday night, disposing of #219 Tennessee State by 36, 92-56.
It appears that this Kansas is on par with most Kansas teams, but it also appears that this Kentucky team is not on par with most Kentucky teams in the early going. The Adjusted Net Efficiency (ANE) analysis for this match up, based on early season experience for each team, indicates a 24 point Kansas win over Kentucky in a game played at 78 possessions, 65-89. Pomeroy sees this game with Kansas having a 1-point advantage, 77-78 played at a pace of 75 possessions.
See how other UK fans handicap this game at 247Sports, The Cats Pause message board at:
You can participate in the score prediction contest at 247Sports at the following link: