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By RICHARD CHEEKS
Does anyone else get the feeling that this team is in a tailspin? It sure feels that way despite what have been strong overall team numbers for the entire year. Saturday’s game against LSU is emblematic of this paradox of the 2012-13 season. Consider that if before this game, you knew the following facts, what type of victory would you have foreseen in this game.
- Kentucky 52% and LSU shoots under 40%
- Kentucky wins the rebounding, 39-26,
- Kentucky gets 46% of its missed shots as offensive rebounds, while LSU gets under 30% of their misses.
Yet, the game hinged at the end on whether an official noticed that Nerlens Noel had not quite gotten off the floor before another official handed to ball to the UK inbounds players to restart action, and LSU had a shot for a tie at the end that failed to fall. What is going on, pretty soon dogs will start sleeping with cats for all I can tell.
For those who felt the 27-point margin that I offered prior to the LSU game was too high, you were right. This morning, as I updated my databases, I discovered an error in the LSU game spreadsheet. I don’t know how this error occurred, but the reason is irrelevant, because it did happen. For the record, the NGE game margin should have been 18 points, not 27 points. Nevertheless, the game performance by the Cats against LSU failed to measure up to their average performance levels for the season, especially on defense.
Mississippi is next up for the Cats in Oxford. This edition of the Ole Miss Mens Basketball team will be long remembered in their state as the team that rewrote large sections of their record book. MISSISSIPPI brings a 17-2 record into this game, and the Mississippi has won 9 games in a row, including a 6-0 start in the SEC. MISSISSIPPI’s most impressive win have been by 15 over #56 Missouri at home where the Rebels are perfect this season in eleven games. Their two loses came at #43 Middle Tennessee by 1 point in early December, and to #85 Indiana State by 2 in OT at a neutral location just before Christmas. If there is a knock on the Mississippi record to date, it is that their non-conference schedule was extremely weak, ranked as the 328th weakest out of 347 D1 teams (0.3266), and now that SEC play is 1/3 through the season, the Mississippi strength of schedule has risen, but only to 0.4400 (#250th).
MISSISSIPPI has averaged about 73 to 74 possessions per game, producing 80.3 ppg (1.09 ppp) and allowing 63.9 ppg (0.87 ppp). However, as noted above, their strength of schedule inflate the raw efficiency values. MISSISSIPPI has turned the ball over on 16.1% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 23.2% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, MISSISSIPPI has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 35.9% about 3% above the 33% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 68.7%, about 2% above the NCAA average.
In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 70 possessions per game, producing 75.8 ppg (1.08 ppp) and allowing 62.0 ppg (0.89 ppp) against a schedule strength of 0..5489 (104th). The Cats have committed turnovers on 18.7% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 19.5% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats’ rebounding rates have been 35.0% and 70.0% on the offensive and defensive ends.
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of Mississippi by 5 points, 68-73 in a game played at a pace of 72 possessions for the Cats and 72 possessions for MISSISSIPPI. Pomeroy figures the Game in Mississippi’s favor by 4 points, 71-75 at a pace of 75 possessions. As discussed previously, this game will depend on which identity shows up in MISSISSIPPI on Tuesday night. If it is the personality that sustained high hopes over the first half of this season, I would expect a Kentucky win by 4 or more. However, if the timid personality shows up for this one, the Cats will experience a loss in the mid teens.