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Guest Post – Kentucky’s quality of performance showing decline, not improvement


Some say the team is “not playing hard” and others “the players are not committed to the program, only to their NBA futures” and yet others “that they are playing better ball” but all of those kind of statements lack any objective measure to support the assertion.  How does one measure “how hard” a player is playing?  How can one know what a player is or is not committed to?  These subjective assertions can’t be objectified, if that is a word.

However, the quality of performance can be measured.  Here are a couple of ways of thinking about it.

This shows the adjusted offensive, defensive and Net Game Efficiencies of the 5 Calipari teams at UK.  For 2013, I have two measures, a snapshot after 22 games, prior to Nerlen’s injury, and the season ending conditions.  For 2014, all we can show is what has occurred, through 24 games.

People want to justify this team because it has such a strong offense, and it has, but its defense has been very bad.  Last year’s team, through 22 games, was playing outstanding defense, but struggled offensively, thus the general perception of how bad it was again was driven by the offensive side of the equation.  However, the Net Game Efficiency of both teams were the same.  NGE is the most reliable measurement of quality of play I have found.  Nerlens’ going down did impact the offense on the margin (1.106 to 1.088) but his loss was devastating to the team defensively.  I think most observers have commented on his importance to that team defensively, but here is the measure of that importance.  This of the defensive efficiency from game 22 to game 33 that is needed to raise the average from 0.890 to 0.991.

These two teams are weaker than the 2011 team, 2010 team, and the 2012 championship team of course.


This graph shows the Pomeroy Ranking of three UK teams after each game in the season for 2011, 2013 and 2014.  Again, the similarities between 2013 and 2014 through this point of the season are so similar, and both are weaker than the 2011 team through this point, and of course the way the 2011 team finished their season.    Fans were up in arms last year over the team, before Nerlens went down.  The same fans want to somehow argue to protect this team from criticism.  I believe the difference is found in the offensive side of things because fans can see the better offense, but they can’t discern the quality of defensive play nearly as easily.


One last point about the graph for all years.  Pomeroy, and others, start a season with guesses.  So the first 5 to 10 games of this graph are influenced by those pre-season guesses, but after about 8 games, in my experience, these graphs reflect the current team’s quality of play, free from the influence of the pre-season guesses.  Since game 8, this team has moved from a #6 ranking to a #14 ranking.  That shows a decline in the quality of play, not an improvement.

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/guest-post-kentuckys-quality-of-performance-showing-decline-not-improvement/


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  1. cats79

    Richard we all know the facts and the status of this team, We need to cheer them on regardless how they play. There only 18-19 years old kids doing there best, some players catch on quicker and some don’t and it’s obviously they need another season under there belt. GO CATS!!! BY 3 tonight.

  2. Little Baron

    “The numbers don’t lie” is once again confirmed with the Professor’s excellent analysis and the inclusion of Pomeroy’s graph.

    The chart exposes that this year’s team is playing virtually identical to last year’s, prior to Noel’s injury.

    This team arrived at the crossroads when we went to LSU and Missouri, with 2 games played in completely different ways. We have lingered at the crossroads without making a statement that UK has chosen the higher road toward a shot at the FF.

    I do expect UK to show up with a lot of heart, energy and enthusiasm tonight. So will FL, but I do expect UK to win. We are at home with a crowd being primed all day long. Today’s game must be followed up by more games with the same effort. Othewise, we will not be a top competitor in the post-season.

  3. Little Baron

    Regardless of the stats and analysis the Professor posts, which are based on facts, I do know there is no bigger fan who cheers the CATS on any more than he does.

    Observing and calling out inadequate effort and performance is something many fans do, but they don’t have or use stats to back it up… therefore, presenting stats may appear to look like the Professor does not support the team, but I don’t know of any bigger fan… maybe some match it, but it would be difficult to top it.

    1. UKFMLY

      Observing and calling out inadequate effort and performance is something many fans do, but they don’t have or use stats to back it up… therefore, presenting stats may appear to look like the Professor does not support the team,

      It’s not what you say but how you say it. I respect the Prof and the numbers but it sometimes feels like the Prof has an ax to grind and uses the stats to do so. The last two UK teams(not Cal’s teams UK’s) are the youngest of his tenure and I believe that is also reflected in the numbers but that is not being shown. The numbers don’t lie but they may to not be telling the whole truth. IMO.



      1. TheProfessor

        What ax am I trying to grind? In 2012, when the numbers pointed toward a national championship, I wrote extensively about that, and was criticized by many readers then for having no basis for the unabashed optimism for that team’s ability to win it all.

        Frankly, I write about what the number say, what I believe the numbers mean, and nothing more. I want UK to be successful, and right now I want Calipari to be successful. However, my allegiance is and always will be to the program, not to any coach, or any player, or to any fan. I watched for 10 years while Tubby Smith took this program from the top of the mountain when he arrived to the valleys of mediocrity. That decline was gradual, and many fans either never recognized it, or refused to see it. Yet, the same numbers that show decline in the Calipari led program showed the decline in the Tubby program.

        The fan base must remain the guardian of the program.

        If I have an ax I want to grind, that is it.

        1. UKFMLY

          And you do a good job of it.

        2. Anonymous

          Professor, in all of your stellar athletic talent in years past, have you ever played against a team, left it all on the field or floor, and still lost the game after great effort on your part? Have you ever lined up against a great athlete and no matter what you tried to do, he beat you?

  4. larry clemons

    agree with your statements…But, as I stated before, we’re starting 5 Freshman. It’s totally uncharted territory. There has to be, different strategies applied, that We all, have never seen before,” No One Has.” College Basketball is seeing something At Kentucky, with these Coaches, that’s never been done, accomplished or even attempted…WE, need to expect some disappointment or impatience, I mean We Are Old School Kentucky Blue…But, I say, ” Let Our Coaches do their strategy with this forced System,(Rule)…And when the NCAA & the NBA, finally change it to 2years of College Play or 20 years old, or BOTH. We at Kentucky and BBN, will be in a better position, to reap the rewards of those NEW Rules, that College Basketball Coach’s have no control over. Hec, Beating Louisville in a Final Four, is still a major, awesome accomplishment and Wall, that Louisville will have to climb over. And, these Coaches accomplished that for BBN,,,” I say Thank You “, now do your thing, Just Coach Our Team

    1. Kokamo Joe

      We are starting five freshmen and it is uncharted territory. But it is designed that way. If Calipari is going to glorify in sending them on and if he is going to get number one recruiting classes every year we really cannot keep on using the excuse that the players are young. By the time that freshmen play 22 or 23games they are no longer young. No we do not need to expect disappointment. Regardless of what ever system our coach or future coaches uses, one thing that the Big Blue has never done is to expect disappointment. While it is true that the NBA sits an age limit on incoming players, no body, but no body has latched on to the one and done thing as Calipari.

      Having said that I believe that our fan base should support this team and I will. But if they do not jell and move on smartly in the NCAA tournament I will not accept age, NBA rules, or system as excuses. If such a case happens, I will sit this team aside and look forward to next year’s new beginning.

      1. Anonymous

        Its not designed that way…..And, nobody else does it, cause they don’t get the Players…..KOKO, Two simple questions, Now Stay Focused….Who would you start ? and…What College Team would YOU trade Our Current Wildcats For….Simple, plain, easy questions, no conjecture, no dribble, no 2 paragraph answer ! Focus, focus, just 2 simple answers ! Thank You

      2. UKFMLY

        You won’t except age as a factor but you would prefer a team with less young players is that correct? Because if it is then you have already killed your own statement. Age is a factor.

        1. larry clemons

          TOO FUNNY !!! But, don’t expect logic to work on KOKO, he’s a tough ole Bird…just hope it’s not RED….jus kiddin KOKO , I know Your a True Blue Kat.

          1. cats79

            You got it right UKFMLY AGE IS A FACTOR, Hopefully that will change the new NBA commisioner stated yesterday one topic he wants to change is the age to college 20 by next year and i’m all for it. It may or may not hurt Kentucky recruiting. But would be better for the game.

        2. Kokamo Joe

          Calipari’s system is designed to be young. He is exchanging experience by less talented players for youth with exceptional talent. It will always be young. You cannot use youth as an excuse when the system was designed for youth.
          That is all I am saying. I have posted several times that I enjoy the recruiting and the suspense each year as we find out how or brand new young team will function. No other program has that advantage. If the reach that great 8 I will be delighted and if they don’t I know that I can read about the new comers and that I will get to follow this year’s team and try to figure out which will go and if any will stay.

          1. larry clemons

            Then every now and then….” The Newcomers ” will be of the likes of Davis & Gilchrist, with a couple of seniors, (probably on this Team now) and We Win A National Championship…….So even if we don’t Win it all, every year, We have to go,” this route to achieve ” Victory on a National Level, as ” IT IS MEANT TO BE ! ” Damn, I hate it when I’m this Good…lol

      3. TheProfessor

        Calipari assembles these teams, he makes the decisions, and they are his teams, as he always reminds us throughout every season with his “I like my team” proclamations.

        It is his team. He can shape it anyway he wants, but he is accountable for the results.

        If all freshmen, rebuilding the roster every year, produces winners, then it is great for the program and the fans. But, if that approach does not produce teams that are competitive on the national stage, that is bad for the program, bad for the fans, and ultimately bad for Calipari too.

        1. larry clemons

          Just for the record….” It’s my Team, Too ! ” And I’m enjoying the Process….Go Cats !!! Crazy for tonight’s Game…Always learning from Your Post Professor, thank you…

  5. Bill

    The statistics do surprise me. This team, to me, doesn’t look anything like last year’s team. I couldn’t see how last year’s team was going to improve at this point of the season. They didn’t have the depth or the talent I’ve seen demonstrated on this team. Inconsistent would be a nice way of describing the way this year’s talent has performed. It also seems to me that the rule changes on what constitutes a foul make it difficult to compare performances from this year to last year, or any previous year for that matter. I’ve seen rough play under the basket before, but this year it’s unreal. Now it could be I don’t understand the rules.

    1. larry clemons

      As crazy as it may sound….” We only need WCS to step up and be consistent, that happens, everything else will fall into place…imo

  6. Little Baron

    Larry C…
    WCS can be a game changer, as he has been at times – one of my favorites with potential beyond what most of us can imagine, IMO. Something happened in the the Ark game when he was called for fouls for breathing & then the very next game a slug-Fest was allowed. That’s my theory. He could make a major impact in this game, and if Dakari continues to work & perform, we will have a nice advantage … However the essential ingredient for these players to be a TEAM starts with Andrew & also relies on Young sharing the ball. A win with whoever steps up would be great.

  7. King Ghidora

    Stats like these certainly tell you what a team has been doing. But they don’t tell you what a team is capable of doing. This team is miles ahead of last year’s team in that regard. There were pronounced weaknesses at certain positions last year and others that were on the fence. This year the talent is there. Not bringing that talent to the game is a sad thing for the players. It will hurt them more than anyone. This is just another year and I can live with a team that doesn’t make the final 4 or even a team that doesn’t make the NCAA. It could happen again. But the players will lose far more than that. Their draft stock will go way down and along with it their earning potential.

    The great players bring it every night. If this team learns to do that on both ends of the floor they will do fine. If not then we might see a great team next year because they won’t be the youngest team in the country again. A lot of players from this team will still be in Lexington.

  8. Little Baron

    A tough loss… UK lost 59-69 getting outscored 4-12 to end the game.

    BIG double-double by Randle!
    Did Billy Donvan ask our perimeter players to keep the ball away from him 2nd half???

    Some poor shooting by the twins until Anfrew hit his shots late in the second half. The bench players must not have remembered to wear their jerseys with numbers on ‘em ??

    Unfortunately a 15 point “loss” by the books – losing by 10 at home when favored by 5 – will only enhance the Stastical Decline”.

    Wilbeken would not be goof enough to play in a game like this if he was at UK – a walk-on without the athletic ability of the CATS he ran circles around and scores to a of points.

    Stats in FL game “consistent” (but not in a good way) with season’s poor FT shooting, more turnovers than assists while allowing opponent a 9/5 A/TO ratio (nearly 2:1).

    We did an awesome job blocking out on defensive glass for more than than 12 minutes in second half and then gave up some critical ones.

  9. TheProfessor

    The general sense I am hearing and reading this morning is that the Florida Defense was the difference. I do not see it that way at all. It was UK’s lack of defense that was the difference.

    Florida scored 69 points on a mere 57 possessions (fewest for a game this season for UK), which is an efficiency over 1.2 points per possession. That is the weakest performance by this defense this season. It is not the 69 points yielded that makes it so, but the fact that Florida only needed 57 possessions to post that many points.

    Kentucky scored its 59 points on the same pitiful 57 possessions, and efficiency of 1.04 ppp. That is the ninth lowest offensive efficiency by this team this year, but against what some had proclaimed the best defense in the game leading up to this game, I might have expected that the Florida defense might have held UK to something close to its lowest efficiency production of the year. Again, it is not that UK only scored 59 points, but that they did so with only 57 possessions. Any team can reduce opponent scoring by slowing the game and reducing the number of possessions.

    The same bugaboos that haunted this team in November emerged again when the opponent was very difficult.

    1. Free Throw shooting
    2. Turnover margin

    AND, Florida negated the one strength that UK has had nearly this entire season on the Boards.

    Those three factors are why this was a 10 point home court loss instead of a single digit UK win.

    Isn’t it interesting how the same flaws emerge from the shadows to bite this team when they needed a win the most?

    Go back through the annuls of your big blue history and tell me if that characteristic has not been observed in most years? My review, my memory is that the problems a team displays early in a season are the same problems that knock it out of the big dance at the end.

    UK dropped to #18 on Pomeroy this morning, and the huge Florida win has lifted them to #2. It is not the winning or losing that did that, it is the relative performances of these teams, efficiency based, that did that. Florida probably secured a 1 Seed last night, and UK has probably slipped into 5 seed range.

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