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Numbers favor UK by ONLY 4 points over Kansas State

Hamidou Diallo (Vicky Graff Photo)

By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer

My goodness, the NCAA Tournament landscape changed for the Kentucky Wildcats over the course of four days. Last Wednesday, on the eve of the tournament, the Cats were not favored to survive the first weekend of the tournament.

Many “experts” thought UK would not get past first round opponent Davidson, and even if they did, Arizona would bring the season to a pre-mature end in the second round. However, these “experts” were wrong about Davidson, and by the end of Thursday evening, Arizona was toast, falling to Buffalo by 20 points.

These same “experts” yawned and proclaimed that it matters not because the Wildcats from Lexington could not get past might Virginia in the Sweet 16 should Kentucky take advantage of Buffalo’s gift and advance to the Sweet 16. When all the dust settled on the NCAA’s Friday first round games, Virginia did not survive, and had to be removed from the rubble left behind by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), effective clearing a path for the Cats into the Elite 8 where the experts proclaimed that either Tennessee or Cincinnati would undo the Wildcats’ dream of another trip to the Final Four for a Coach Calipari Kentucky team.

However, the NCAA Basketball gods shouted at all the self-proclaimed “experts,” “Not so fast, slick, We are not finished with paving the way for this group of Wildcats who have been victimized in recent years by devious seeding and questionable officiating.” By the time the dust settled on the second round of the tournament, both Cincinnati and Tennessee were littering the shoulder of the highway, left in the rubble of losers by Nevada and Loyola Chicago. The path to the final four has been cleared, and the Wildcats now have their destiny in this tournament within their own hands.

The experts are reeling from all of these developments within the South Region. They believed they had stacked the deck and placed sufficient obstacles to Kentucky’s progress in place, but the best laid plans of mice and men are often taken apart by providence. Now some of these “experts” wish to reseed the remaining 16 teams, presumably to put new obstacles in Kentucky’s path.
The Cats have played their last 10 games at championship levels.

Few, if any, teams still standing in this year’s Sweet 16 can match this quality of play down the stretch. The Sagarin Ratings has published a end of season ranking based on how teams have finished, and Sagarin has Kentucky sitting atop the list of all the sweet 16 members. In my book, that means if the Cats take care of business, they are 4 wins away from #9.

First up, Kansas State because they sent UMBC back to Baltimore in a “defensive” struggle that ended with a 50-43 KSU win. KSU will bring a 24-11 record into this NCAA Sweet 16 game. The KSU schedule has been competitive, having a strength of 0.0894 ppp (#39). The KSU adjusted offensive efficiency has been 1.117 ppp, and its adjusted defensive efficiency has been 0.957 ppp. In contrast, the Kentucky offensive and defensive efficiency have been 1.157 ppp and 0.951 ppp respectively. Kentucky’s offense has been more efficient and the Kentucky defense has been much more efficient than KSU’s.

The Kentucky Wildcats have faced the KSU Wildcats nine times, winning every game. These teams have played twice in the NCAA tournament, in 1951 (A UK National Championship Season) with Kentucky winning 68-58, and in 2014 in route to the Championship game, Kentucky won 56-43.

The strong finish that the Cats have had has been a topic of regular discussion for the last 2 to 3 weeks. However, KSU has also finished the season strong as compared to the season averages. Kentucky’s last 10 games have produced 9 wins and one loss, while playing at an average ANE over those ten games of 0.315 ppp as compared to the season average 0.213 ppp. KSU’s season long ANE is 0.152 ppp, but KSU has played at a higher level over its last 10 games, posting an average ANE for those games of 0.202 ppp, and a 7-3 record.

Kentucky is favored to beat KSU by 5 points, 74-69 in a game played at a pace of 67 possessions. Pomeroy sees this game in Kentucky’s favor by 4 points, 71-67 at a pace of 66 possessions. Vegas opened with Kentucky a 6 point favorite, but the Vegas line has slipped to the current 5 ½ points.

Use the following link to see how other UK fans handicap this game at 247Sports, The Cats Pause message board:

You can participate in the score prediction contest at 247Sports at the following link:


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  1. Point spreads mean little IMO. This game will come down to who wants it most, and who gets the breaks from the officials. UK needs great FT shooting, and complete domination on the glass, and a smothering defense. Kansas State is capable, and Webber is a great coach who will have his team ready. If Kentucky does not come out focused and hungry, they could lose. Past games and records mean very little in the NCAA tourney. Just ask Virginia. Go Cats!!!!!

  2. do you think there are more upsets in the tourney this year than past years?

    1. If you are asking me, I can’t recall from the past any more eye opening upsets than we have already witnessed this year. That is a good thing for UK too in that a lot of very good teams have fallen early. For starters, I would be more worried right now if UK was having to face a Virginia instead of a Kansas State in their quest to reach the elite 8. I am still worried about this game though because of UK’s youth.

  3. The answer is NO, there have not been more upsets this year than usual for NCAA tournaments.

    1. OK, I’ll take your word for it. Never really thought about it frankly. That said though, when was the last time you or I saw a 16 seed knock out the overall No. 1 seed the first week into the tournament. A team like UMBC against a highly rated team like Virginia? Lesson learned? Don’t take any team for granted.

  4. The probability of an upset rises from near 0% when theoretical margins are very large (>30 points) to near 50% when theoretical margins approach 0 points. When the margin should be 2 points or less, technically there are a large number of “upsets” but the probabilities are so close to 50-50, that it is difficult to even speak of the outcome as an upset.

    Since 2011 through this first 52 games of 67 games this tournament, there have been 108 matchups in this category, with 40 “upsets” and this year it has been 4 of 10.

    For games having a 2-5 point margin, there have been 135 games with 54 upsets, and this tournament there have been 6-13 upsets.

    For games in the 5-10 point margin range, historically, there have been 33 of 116 upsets, and this year 3 of 11.

    For margins of 10 to 20 points, the history has been 7 of 83 and this year 1 of 13.

    The final category, >20 point margins, there have only been 27 such games in the 8 tournaments I have data, and 2 upsets, one of which has occurred this year. The other gigantic upset of this nature occurred in 2012 as I recall. The 2 for 27 upset rate is 3.7% overall, but in the year in which it occurs it feels like an earthquake has occurred.

    The average overall upset rate in all 8 tournaments has been 28.8%, and the overall upset rate this tournament has been 28.8% with 15 games remaining.

    During this entire season, there have been 5,514 games, with 1,430 of them ending with an upset, 25.9%. For the last many season, the upset rate has been 26.2%. This year has been exactly the same as every prior season I have tracked upset rates.

    Again, an upset is defined as any game in which the team favored by ANE analysis loses, regardless of the theoretical margin.

    1. Well, the way I take your analysis, KS has a 40% to 46% chance to upset UK if that means anything. Not bad odds for either UK or KS going in IMO. None the less, your history lesson was interesting. We will soon see.

  5. That is about right.

  6. Analysis:

    UK scored its 59 points on 64 possessions (0.906 ppp) for the game, and KSU scored its 61 points on 63 possessions (0.968 ppp).

    Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 38-29, but Kansas State and Kentucky each grabbed 11 offensive rebounds. Kentucky used its 11 second chance possession to score 15 second chance points, and KSU used its 11 second chance possessions to score 8 second chance points. KSU had an offensive efficiency of 0.841 ppp on its 63 first chance possessions and 0.727 ppp for its 11 second chance possessions. UK had 0.672 ppp on its 64 first chance possessions and 1.364 ppp on its 11 second chance possession. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 37.9% of its misses as offensive rebounds while KSU was able to convert 28.9% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

    UK made 23-37 (62.2%) from the free throw line in this game. KSU made 14-22 [63.6%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 16-42 overall [38.1%] and 3-12 from long range [25.0%]. For KSU, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 10-32 [31.3%] and from long range, KSU hit 9-22 [40.9%].

    The Cats committed 15 turnovers, one for every 4.3 possessions. The Cats forced 10 KSU turnovers, one for every 6.3 possessions.

    Next Game On Schedule: This ends the 2017-18 basketball season

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