Are Calipari’s Cats getting enough respect or too much respect?

By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer

This weekend, John Calipari complained that this team is not getting the respect that is their due. It is unclear who  Calipari believes has been dissing his UK players.

Is Calipari referring to his colleagues in the coaching community? Is Calipari referring to the views of various members of the sports media? Is he doing the unthinkable, and hearing what members of the Big Blue Nation are saying about the team’s performance over the first nine games?

Calipari’s Cats are current ranked #7 in the coaches’ poll, #8 in the AP poll of sports writers. It is difficult to imagine how these rankings suggest disrespect for this team, or the players that have managed to carve out an 8-1 record in the first 4 weeks of the season. Each of these polls have the same teams in the top 6 spots, and they differ on spots 7, 8 and 9 involving Kentucky, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M, with the coaches placing the Cats above the other two, and the writers lifting undefeated Texas A&M above the Cats in their polling.

Frankly, I do not see any disrespect in these wire service polls. So, let’s look deeper. Pomeroy currently has the Cats at the #14 spot, and falling steadily from their pre-season #2 location. The Cats are even slipping following wins, and during idle periods between wins in the Pomeroy ratings. ESPN’s BPI system currently place UK at the #33 spot, which is only 5th strongest among SEC teams.

Pomeroy and the BPI are objective measures of play, based on analytics. These ratings reflect how each team has actually played, relative to all other teams, to date. Both of these systems are propriety in the sense that neither publish their complete methodology nor report how they transition from their pre-season estimates based on prior seasons to ratings based entirely upon the current season’s quality of play. However, Pomeroy’s #14 and BPI’s #33 are each influenced to an unknown degree of weighting against prior season results.

My ANE ranking is based entirely on the play that has occurred this season, without any weighting for pre-season estimates, or prior season performance. On this basis, the Cats are currently at #48. Here are the details.

The raw offensive efficiency through 9 games has been 1.10 points per possession, 73rd best in the nation.

The raw defensive efficiency through 9 games has been 0.93 points per possession, 38th best in the nation.

The Cats’ strength of schedule through 9 games has been -0.007 points per possession, 201st toughest schedule in the nation.

The adjusted net efficiency for this team through 9 games is 0.162 points per possession, 48th in the nation.

This is what this team has achieved. This team has earned this level of respect. The lofty #7 and #8 ranking by the coaches and the press are currently over valuing this team’s quality of play, which is the antithesis of the absence of respect. This places this team in the middle of the SEC pack as of December 10, 2017.

All of this discussion is about how the team performs, and does not speak to the more central point of concern that Coach Calipari mentioned. Coach Calipari said, “I’m a little disappointed that the kids aren’t getting the respect I think they deserve as players. I’ve done this for 30-something years. I know one player from another. I don’t know if it’s people’s opinion or their hope that this guy is not that good.”

So, how have the individual players contributing to this team effort? Here are the individual efficacies for the players on this team through the first 9 games. As the following Table shows, Nick Richards and Sacha Killeya-Jones have been the most efficient individual players, while Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have been the least efficient individual players among the eight players who have logged the vast majority of the game time. However, Knox and Diallo have each used about 20% of the team’s total possessions while Richards and Killeya-Jones have used only 10% of the team’s total possessions.

Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have had very similar individual contributions, each using about 13% of possessions. Similarly, PJ Washington and Wenyen Gabriel have made similar individual contributions, while using 12% and 7% of the team’s possessions respectively.

 

I do not believe that my pointing out these individual contributions to the team effort shows any absence of respect, but only pointing out what has happened during the Cats’ first 9 games.

What then is driving Coach Calipari’s public statements about a lack of respect? Coach Calipari must answer that question.

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