By RICHARD CHEEKS
t has finally happened. I suppose it was always simply a matter of time when Coach Calipari would experience a loss on the Rupp Arena floor, but that inevitability does not lessen the sting at all. The streak ends at 55 games, and it is time to start a new streak. However, the way this group of Cats is playing at this time, any home court streaks in the near term are likely to be very short, and this team is not likely to hand a streak in progress over to next year’s group. When one looks at how this team is playing relative to the Gators, a season ending home loss to the Gators seems more likely than yesterday’s loss to Baylor on Saturday.
It is safe to say that seven games into this season (over ½ of the non-conference schedule), this team does not even come close to getting it. As a result, there are other inevitabilities staring these Cats in the face given the quality of their play that has produced a 4-3 record, with a two game losing streak. For starters, this group is the likely to lose to Louisville on December 29 at the Yum Center. This group is not likely to win another SEC Championship for the school and they may find themselves fighting for that important Bye to the quarterfinals in the SEC Tournament. This team is not likely to advance deep into the tournament come March.
The good news is that there is still time for this group to “get it” and respond to Coach Calipari’s teaching and coaching. They get to play four games at Rupp before it must travel to Louisville. During that time, Coach Calipari should be able to intensify the practice regime once the semester ends. The time will be spent mostly teaching and coaching, with games against Samford (December 4), Portland (December 8), Lipscomb (December 15), and Marshall (December 22) prior to the date with the Cards on December 29 that will give us all the next chance to measure this team’s progress.
Samford has opened the season with two wins in nine starts, and one of the two wins came at the expense of non-D1 opponent Martin Methodist by 19 points. Samford’s only win over a D1 opponent was yesterday by 9 points over #275 Georgia Southern. Among Samford’s early season losses are by 11 to #291 Austin Peay, by 4 to #356 Alcorn State. #7 Louisville defeated Samford at the Yum Center by 26 points, 80-54.
Samford has averaged about 64 possessions per game, producing 60.4 ppg (0.94 ppp) and allowing 71.3 ppg (1.12 ppp) against an early schedule that Pomeroy rates as the 176th toughest (0.5228). Stamford has turned the ball over on 21.3% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 19.5% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, Samford has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 30.0%, slightly below the the NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 61.0%, which is 6% better than the national average.
In contrast, the Cats have started the season averaging 68 to 69 possessions per game, producing 75.9 ppg (1.11 ppp) and allowing 66.6 ppg (0.964 ppp) against a schedule strength of 0.6761 (37th). The Cats have committed turnovers on 18.0% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 19.2% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats’ rebounding rates have been 32.5% and 67.2% on the offensive and defensive ends.
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of the Cats by 33 points, 85-52, in a game played at a pace of 66 possessions for the Cats and 67 possessions for Stamford. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky’s favor by 28 points, 81-53 at a pace of 62 possessions. Another performance like the last two on the offensive end will allow Stamford to remain in contention into the second half before the Cats finish them off with a victory of 20 points or less. If that occurs, it will continue to signal problems for this team. Of course, we can always hope for a 40 to 50 point blow out to heal some bruised Wildcat Psyche.