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Guest post: Kentucky has been the most consistent SEC team

Kevin Knox (Vicky Graff Photo)

By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer

The 2017-18 regular season has ended, and there are some conclusions we can draw about this season, particularly this UK basketball team.

This team finished with the 4th best adjusted net efficiency in the conference behind Tennessee, Auburn and Florida.

This team earned the #4 seed for the post season SEC Tournament

The SEC from top to bottom had no team outside the ANE top 100 at the end of the regular season, one of the most balanced seasons in SEC memory.

Kentucky was the most consistent teams in the SEC.

What! How can I make such an absurd assertion when everyone knows this team’s biggest bugaboo was its unacceptable absence of consistency?

However, let’s be clear about what consistency is. It is measured by the degree of variation that occurs between the highest and lowest levels of performance over the course of the full season. The table above shows relevant data for the top 7 SEC teams, and Mississippi the last place finisher.

First for some fundamentals. No team plays at the same level or quality game in and game out. Rather, because this is a human endeavor, (“the kids are not machines” John Calipari), performance levels vary. Some games, and actually it is about ½ of all games, a player, a team, an anything will perform at a level above its average level and in some games, and actually it is about ½ of all game, a player, a team, an anything will perform at a level below its average level. Therefore, every fan should know that his/her team will experience these normal human variations.

There are several ways we could measure the inconsistency of play.

The magnitude of the difference between a team’s very best effort and its poorest effort, shown in the Table as “Range.”

The Standard Deviation for the data set.

The variance for the data set, where variance is the Standard Deviation divided by the mean for that same data set.


Kentucky’s best performance this season was against Louisville with a game ANE of 0.496 ppp and its worst performance was 0.039 ppp against UCLA. The magnitude of this swing from its best to poorest performance is 0.458 ppp. This is the second smallest magnitude in the SEC this season, second only to Vanderbilt’s 0.422 ppp. The SEC average magnitude is 0.644 ppp. The three teams that finished ahead of Kentucky in the SEC had Magnitudes of 0.599 ppp (Auburn), 0.746 ppp (Tennessee), and 0.778 ppp (Florida). LSU claims the highest magnitude in the conference at 0.985 ppp.


Kentucky’s standard deviation is 0.126 ppp for this season, the third lowest standard deviation for the SEC this season. Vanderbilt claims the lowest ANE standard deviation for the season at 0.115 ppp,, and Mississippi is second in this category at 0.125 ppp. The largest standard deviation in the SEC belongs to Florida at 0.207 ppp. Auburn is fourth at 0.130 ppp and Tennessee finishes 11th at 0.164 ppp. The SEC average standard deviation is 0.154 ppp.

Some argue that standard deviation may not be as useful for comparing teams, and a better comparative measure is variance, i.e. standard deviation expressed as a percentage of the team’s average. In this case, Kentucky is second at 64.95% to Auburn’s 58.44%. The highest variance belongs to Mississippi (192.79%), and Tennessee (69.84%) and Florida (104.53%) are 4th and 7th respectively.

Kentucky is # 2, #3, and #2 in the three proposed measures of consistency (inconsistency) for the 2017-18 season. Averaging the rank of all three methods yields an average o. 2.33 for the Cats, which is the lowest overall average of the three methods, followed by Auburn (3.33) and Vanderbilt (3.67). Thereafter, the average ranking drops substantially to the group headed by Mississippi and Mississippi State at 6.33 each. The least consistent SEC teams have been LSU, Florida, and Alabama.


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  1. To add a touch of emotion, the 0.039 ppp, Min ANE, is awful to the point of being painful to watch. On the other hand, we are the best at being the worse, followed by Vanderbilt at 0.093.

  2. I guess it’s pretty easy to be consistent when you aren’t getting better.
    Yes, I know they have gotten better in some areas, but I think the one thing this shows is they have not gotten consistently better to any great degree.

  3. this team has not improved relative to the field. All teams improve as the season moves forward. The key is net gain on the field between November and March. This team has simply not gained on the field at all. This is an anomaly for Calipari teams that start the season a little on the slow side, in the past, all of his slow starters have gained on the field by March. Not so with this group.

    Yogi said, “it aint over ’til its over” so there is always some room for hope, but the realities are rather stark.


    Three teams featured are shown in black, maroon, and purple. One of the three is this UK team, one of the teams is another SEC team from this season, and one of the teams is an SEC team from last season.

    Which one is this UK team?

    Which one do you think was the most consistent, and most inconsistent from these 3? Explain your thinking on each selection.

    I will provide the answers in a few days.

  5. Let’s hope we turn down the N.I.T….we have all been punished enough.

  6. This team will make the Big Dance, they just won’t dance that long.

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