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Guest post: Numbers from the heart say Cats by 9 over Vols

Kentucky players were happy with the way Saturday’s game against Alabama ended. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer

Coach Calipari is putting the finishing touches on his 9th UK basketball team, and guided his team to the SEC Tournament’s Championship game for the 8th time in those nine seasons. In the seven previous appearances in the Sunday Classic, Cal’s Cats have carried home the hardware five times.

Sunday afternoon, the Cats will face regular season co-champion Tennessee with the SEC Tournament Championship the prize. The Wildcats are no stranger to the SEC Tournament Championship game. Since 1979, when the conference restarted the tournament, the Cats have played in 25 of the 39 championship games, winning 18 times and losing 7 times.

That is a 72 percent winning percentage in the championship game. As noted previously, during the eight Calipari years, UK has appeared in this game seven times, winning 5 for a winning percentage of 71.4 percent.

Kentucky and Tennessee are not basketball strangers, but oddly, they have not collided in the SEC tournament since 2010, Coach Calipari’s first season at UK.

This season, Tennessee swept the two game home and home series from the Cats. In the first game, in Knoxville, the Cats led the Volunteers by 8 points, 37-29, at halftime. However, the second half was an entirely different story, as the Volunteers outscored the Cats 47-30 for an 11 point win. That game was a turning point for both teams.

Tennessee had opened their SEC season 0-2 including a home loss to Auburn while the Cats had opened 2-0 including a road win at LSU. If the Cats could have escaped Knoxville with another road win while handing the Volunteers their 3rd consecutive loss and second consecutive home loss, the prospects of each team, moving forward, would have appeared entirely different. But that was not to be the case.

In the second game, at Rupp, the Volunteers caught the Cats in the midst of their lowest point, the second loss of what would become a four game losing streak. Even though the Cats made a valiant effort, Tennessee got out of Rupp Arena with a 2 point win after Shai Gilgeous-Alexander turned the ball over twice in the last minutes, and Tennessee converted a 2 point deficit into their 2 point win. After leaving Rupp, Tennessee lost two of their next 3 games, at Alabama by 28 and at Georgia by 11. Thereafter, the Volunteers finished with seven consecutive wins, including the two wins in the tournament to advance into the championship game.

Granted, Tennessee is putting a strong finish on their clearly strong season. However, few teams in college basketball have been playing any better basketball over the last 9 games since the loss to Tennessee at Rupp. Yes, the Cats did stub their toes at Florida last Saturday, but over the final nine games, including the losses at Florida, at Auburn, and at Texas A&M, the Cats have played with an average ANE of 0.280 ppp, which is considerably higher than the team’s season long average ANE of 0.204 ppp.

In contrast, Tennessee over their last 9 games, since their victory at Rupp, has played with an average ANE of 0.160 ppp which is considerably lower than their team’s season long average ANE of 0.232 ppp.

Since I am attached to my “numbers” at the hip, I will remain true to form and report that based on these numbers, Tennessee is favored to beat the Cats by 3 points, 73-70. However, based on the recent performance by both teams as their seasons moved toward this moment, these limited scope numbers indicate a Kentucky win over the Volunteers by 9. My head stays with the traditional numbers, and my heart beats with the more limited numbers, more favorable to our Cats.

I say we all sit back, let the boys get it on and let’s enjoy this one from the heart.

10 comments

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  1. GO BIG BLUE

  2. Go Big Blue!!!

  3. From the Heart: Rejoice for our boys today. A truly amazing accomplishment.

    Analysis:

    UK scored its 77 points on 61 possessions (1.262 ppp) for the game, and TENNESSEE scored its 72 points on 62 possessions (1.161 ppp).

    Tennessee won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 34-32, and Tennessee controlled the offensive glass 18-11. Kentucky used its 11 second chance possession to score 8 second chance points, and TENNESSEE used its 18 second chance possessions to score 22 second chance points. TENNESSEE had an offensive efficiency of 0.806 ppp on its 62 first chance possessions and 1.222 ppp for its 18 second chance possessions. UK had 1.131 ppp on its 61 first chance possessions and 0.727 ppp on its 11 second chance possession. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 40.7% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TENNESSEE was able to convert 46.2% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

    UK made 20-24 (83.3%) from the free throw line in this game. TENNESSEE made 16-20 [80.0%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 25-50 overall [50.0%] and 7-16 from long range [43.8%]. For Tennessee, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 13-35 [37.1%] and from long range, TENNESSEE hit 10-27 [37.0%].

    The Cats committed 10 turnovers, one for every 6.1 possessions. The Cats forced 10 TENNESSEE turnovers, one for every 6.2 possessions.

    Next Game On Schedule: The Cats will play next in the NCAA Tournament against an opponent at a time and place to be determined this evening.

  4. What a game. These young men have beat the numbers in all three games. Good to see where your heart is Prof. I think the fouls may have cost us the heart score. But who would have thought we could out tough ut. Oh that’s right you did and I bet most did as well, I know I did.

  5. Not 9, but 5 is good enough. Great game. I hope the Cats can have fun in the tournament. They will eventually lose…possibly in the elite 8, but look good in the game anyway. I really hope the rest of the SEC dancers make a good showing. They need to develop a mindset of being competitive on a national level instead of just beating KY.

  6. I, for one, and I am sure many others, didn’t think we could do it and very, very proud for the way these guys came back and fought at the end. I would pick UT again based on season history, but our defense has come around and offensive rebounding as well. Nice way to end the weekend.

  7. Good to be a CAT FAN, I never gave up on this team. GO CATS!!

  8. An impressive win from a young team that has grown right before our eyes! So proud of our entire team/coaching staff and Big Blue Nation for having the patience to allow our young team to grow and mature. So proud.

  9. This UK team, in this tournament, looked like a Kentucky team is supposed to look. Calipari deserves a ton of credit for getting his team ready. They are SEC Tournament Champs, and won it with tough physical play. BBN should be very proud. How about ole Wenyen. What a game against Alabam!!!. I am so glad for him. I love watching UK beat that arrogant bunch from Tennessee in anything. UK shut old Rocky Top down, and put the crown on the “Wildcats.” I was not sure UK could do it, I found out different.

  10. I was very surprised that we didn’t find a way to get the ball to Gabes more since he has been so hot and has so much confidence. SKJ’s put back was a very important basket, and I hope Cal will give him more minutes and maybe even let him start. Richards just does not get it, and I hope he can find a way to transfer out. He apparently isn’t coachable and has no hands.

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