By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
The SEC schedule makers decided to send a young Kentucky team on the road for four of their first six conference games, and with one road appearance remaining in this opening sequence of games, the Cats will put a 4-1 SEC start on the line in Columbia, South Carolina on Tuesday night.
With two road wins in the books without a home loss, the Cats are tied for the lead of the SEC using the following equation:
A road win = +1
A home loss = -1
All other outcomes = 0
Using this formulation, the Cats are tied with Florida and Auburn at +2. Six teams are tied in 4th place with a score of 0, with four additional teams (Mississippi State, Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Georgia) at -1. Vanderbilt is bringing up the rear at -2. The Cats can move to +3 with a win on Tuesday night at South Carolina. This is a significant potential achievement for the Cats in their quest for another SEC regular season championship because +4 has been sufficient to win the SEC regular season championship every year since Calipari arrived in Lexington and +3 would have won a share of the title in four of Calipari’s eight full seasons.
So, if the Cats can get out of Columbia with a win (won’t be easy but is likely) the Cats will be one additional road win away from championship position, presuming the Cats do not suffer a home loss to a conference opponent this season.
In the last two games, the Cats’ bench has been reduced by injuries to Quade Green and Tai Wynyard with Jarred Vanderbilt still sitting in a self-imposed exile from game action. One day prior to the upcoming war with the Gamecocks, there is no indication from Coach Calipari on the possible return of Quade Green, Tai Wynyard, or the emergence of Jarred Vanderbilt. Rather, Coach Calipari is talking about the “wisdom” of shortening the rotation to 6 or 7 players, as he had done in the past while at UMass and as advised to him by the late John Wooden.
SOUTH CAROLINA has started this season with a 10-6, 2-3 in the SEC against D1 opponents. The Gamecocks have played with an ANE of 0.099 ppp (#82) after having played a schedule strength of 0.041 ppp (#57). South Carolina’s most impressive win this season came this past Saturday when they defeated #62 Georgia by 7 in Athens, Georgia. The Gamecocks have difficulty explaining an early season loss to #168 Illinois State by 4 on a neutral court.
The Cats are ranked #37 with an ANE of 0.186 ppp after having played a schedule with a schedule strength of 0.070 ppp (#15). The ANE analysis has the Cats favored by 1 point, 72-71 in a game played at a pace of 73 possessions. Pomeroy has the Cats favored by 3, 71-68 with a pace of 70 possessions.
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