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Guest post: Cats have yet to grasp meaning of team but numbers still indicate 17 point win over Vanderbilt

uk basketball logoBy RICHARD CHEEKS

When a teammate falls, his brothers rally around him, each doing a little more, to show support of their fallen brother in the interest of the team. The emotional boost that sustains that greater effort cannot be sustained for the long term. However, as the extra energy provided by the initial response to the lost teammate subsides, the coaches and the remaining players adjust their game tactics to account for the reduced resources. Usually, the team’s overall performance parameters (efficiency) are not substantially changed by the absence of the fallen comrade. This process plays out every season, and in nearly all instances, the ability of the team to be more than anyone ever imagined possible screams to the world the significance of the team. These events also teach the team itself that working together, they can be more than the sum of their individual parts, e.g. synergism.

That is clearly not going to the case with this UK group. Saturday, in Knoxville, this group was like a rudderless ship in a storm. If the wind blew from the west, the group scattered as it moved to the east. If the winds swirls, the group gets spinning sickness and can’t maintain balance. If Tennessee pushed to the baseline, the UK players moved into the cheerleaders. And so it went for the entire game, and make no mistake, the Tennessee Volunteers, their coaches, and their fans reveled in their ability to have their own way for the entire game against the mighty Wildcats. Moreover, they did just that, without any mercy, for 40 full minutes. Paybacks are HECK!

This event, not really a game in the classic sense, exposed the flaws of this group of players. They have tried to go through the motions of being a team, but they have never really grasped the meaning of the word. A collection of individuals for whom the sum of the parts cannot ever be multiplied by the synergism of a team. So, let it be written about Kentucky basketball during the 2012-13 season. This trait was exposed in game 1, and despite Coach Calipari’s personal commitment to teaching them how to be a team, this group simply never understood the importance, the essential nature, of the message.

This group has 6 games remaining, 4 at Rupp and 2 on the road. The “numbers” for this season, based on the pre-Nerlens Noel injury, are so substantial, that they cannot possibly account for the complete dissolution of this group upon his injury, and these analyses in all likelihood will overstate the group’s Noel-less ability, just as it did on Saturday for the Tennessee game. Nevertheless, I will remain true to my methods (and my madness) for these conclusion of this season.

Vanderbilt enters this game with a 10-14 record, 4-8 in the SEC. These teams opened the SEC season in Nashville on January 10, and the Cats were fortunate to escape with a 2 point win despite this being one of the weakest Vanderbilt teams in memory. Since that game, Vanderbilt has 4 wins and has lost 7. Three of their 4 wins came at home, and the Commodores did manage a rare road win at South Carolina by 7. The Commodores have lost on the road to Arkansas by 23, to Missouri by 22, to Tennessee by only 1, and to LSU by only 1. The Vanderbilt trend line of road performance would have to be regarded as rising. The Commodores come into Rupp following a sequence of games that saw them at home for 4 of the last 5 games. Vanderbilt’s schedule has been more than respectable, 64th most difficult in D1 basketball (0.6224 per Pomeroy).

At 4-8 with 6 games remaining, the Commodores appear to have little to play for beyond their pride, and while the stakes for this Kentucky group remain very high (NCAA at large bid hanging in the balance), one must wonder if the Commodores won’t enter Rupp Wednesday night thinking they have more to play for than these Cats. If that is true, they the Cats may as well mail it in for the remaining 6 games.

VANDERBILT has averaged about 63 possessions per game, producing 59.1 ppg (0.94 ppp) and allowing 60.3 ppg (0.96 ppp). VANDERBILT has turned the ball over on 21.3% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 19.8% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, VANDERBILT has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 27.9% about 5% below the 33% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 69.5%, about 3% above the NCAA average.

In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 69 possessions per game, producing 74.4 ppg (1.07 ppp) and allowing 63.8 ppg (0.93 ppp) against a schedule strength of 0…6346 (59th). The Cats have committed turnovers on 19.4% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 18.4% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats’ rebounding rates have been 34.7% and 68.6% on the offensive and defensive ends.

Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of Kentucky by 17 points, 73-56 in a game played at a pace of 66 possessions for the Cats and 66 possessions for VANDERBILT. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky’s favor by 13 points, 68-55 at a pace of 63 possessions. The likely margin range for this matchup is Kentucky by 8 to Kentucky by 26 points.


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  1. Kokamo Joe

    The SEC is UK’s friend. It is not and it always will be. The reason that UK in freefall can be favored over Vandy is because Vandy is not any good. Toss in the famed UK home court advantage and you can understand why this game should go to UK. Until Florida lost last night the Gators were projected for a number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Look at Florida’s schedule and you can see that the Florida has only played 2 ranked teams and they split with them. They have coupled a fairly weak preconference schedule with the SEC to amass a great number of wins. When you look at that is not hard to gather a bit of hope that when Florida comes to UK that the Cats will whack them just as they will whack Vandy.

    1. Larry Pup

      I would not be running this Vandy team down Joe until after the game is played. That’s bad mo-jo.

      1. Kokamo Joe

        Re: bad mo-jo.

        Simple truth, Vandy is not a good team and they proved that last night. I am not sure what we proved, if anything.

        1. TheProfessor

          Vanderbilt is not a very good team, and the two games this UK team has played against this Vandy team prove that this UK team is not as good as some, including me, once thought, and at present, the team is not playing as well as the team had been playing prior to Noel’s injury. With only 2 games to compare, it is not possible to determine how much Noel’s loss has cost this team in terms of efficiency, but it seems clear that there has been a noticeable decline. Is the -32 for Tennessee and -13 for Vanderbilt suggesting a trend that this team is adapted to life after Noel? Possibly, but not conclusively. Is the average of the differences, about -22 points indicative of the swing that Noel’s loss has caused, and we will continue to see the actual numbers falling around that center? Possibly, but not conclusive.

          One factor that is also important is that this team had been under performing the model in the 3 games prior to Noel’s injury, so a large part of the under performance of the last 2 games may be related to a broader decline, not simply the loss of Noel.

          These are all good questions, and one day, I believe we will have sufficient data to clarify them, but it is too soon after just 2 games without Noel.

        2. Larry Pup

          UK proved they could beat a SEC team after getting blown out by another, and all w/o NN, with WCS playing great, and blocking shots. Decent guard play and balanced scoring. Had Vandy beat us it would have been lights out and you know it.

  2. Larry Pup

    The CATS will come to play. They will get after Vandy.

    1. Gene

      I certainly hope you’re right Larry but as far as this article goes, this is the same writer who predicted a win (two point) in Knoxville.
      There is something going on behind the scenes that is destroying the abilities of these kids to come together as a “team”. Could it be that some are so thin skinned that Cal’s coaching methods “turn them off” ? Who knows, could be that or any number of things. I’ll watch tonight and the remaninder of the season but won’t expect too much. In my mind the 2012/13 season went in the garbage can when Noel’s knee was injured.

      1. Larry Pup

        Not according to Coach. Check out his video. He says over and over they are good kids, just have bad habits. I just think they are good players, but still freshmen and are just overwhelmed. Cal’s last three teams, before this one, were all very hard nosed with more mature players, with backups for leaders. We don’t have that with this bunch. I believe in my heart UK will come to play. I’m not predicting a win or a loss, just that UK will show some fight tonight. I hope they play hard enough to get a win. Boy do we need one.

  3. Anonymous

    I’ll be surprised if we win by 17…just don’t think so. I think we win but not by that margin.

  4. Karen Sprinkle

    If I’m reading the analysis correctly, the prediction is based on pre-Noel team tendencies. I’ll be happy with good, smart play by the Cats and a win.

  5. grant

    Not sure what the vegas odds are and don’t care as I am not much of a gambler, but I’d jump all over Vandy with that point spread . 17 Points is alot.

  6. TheProfessor


    UK scored its 74 points in 62 possessions [1.19 ppp] for the game, and VANDERBILT scored its 70 points on 61 possessions [1.15 ppp].

    Kentucky won the boards, with a rebounding edge 36-30, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive glass 11-9. VANDERBILT converted its 9 second chance possessions into 7 second chance points while Kentucky converted their 11 second chance possessions to score 13 second chance points. VANDERBILT had an offensive efficiency of 1.033 ppp on its 61 first chance possessions and 0.778 ppp for its 9 second chance possessions. UK had 0.984 ppp on its 62 first chance possessions and 1.182 ppp on its 11 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 34.4% of its misses as offensive rebounds while VANDERBILT was able to convert 26.5% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

    Kentucky shot poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 12-21 [57.1%]. VANDERBILT made 14-22 [63.6%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 29-56 overall [51.8%] and 4-12 from long range [33.3%]. For VANDERBILT, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 13-30 [43.3%] and from long range, VANDERBILT hit 10-22 [100.0%].

    The Cats who committed 7 turnovers, one for every 8.9 possessions. The Cats forced 7 VANDERBILT turnovers, one for every 8.7 possessions.

    Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 17 point Kentucky win, 73-56 at a pace of 66 possessions for UK and 66 possessions for VANDERBILT. The final score was 74 (73) to 70 (56) at a pace of 62 possessions for the Cats and 61 possessions for VANDERBILT. The UK offensive efficiency for the game was 1.194 ppp (1.106 ppp) and the UK defensive efficiency was 1.148 ppp (0.970 ppp).

    Next Game On Schedule: Saturday, February 23, 2013 when the Cats return to Rupp for College Game Day when the Cats will play the Missouri tigers;

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