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John Calipari sees this being his highest scoring team at UK

Nick Richards (Chet White/UK Athletics Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

After Kentucky’s four-game sweep in the Bahamas — remember coach John Calipari said UK might lose two or three games in the Bahamas before the team left — the UK coach said rebounding and turnovers were two key statistics to take note of.

He was particularly impressed that UK averaged only 11 turnovers per game after just 10 days of practice with only three returning players.

“That means you have a skilled team that is unselfish,” Calipari said.

Then he dropped this tidbit that Kentucky fans certainly hope is true.

“We are not going to average 100 (points) per game but we will maybe average more than any team I have coached,” Calipari said.

He guessed his  highest scoring team at UK probably averaged about 80 points per game.

“That’s what this team will average. That’s a lot for us because teams will not let us run and they will try to shorten the game. That’s what I see,” Calipari said.

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  1. The scoring level is a function of two things, pace and offensive efficiency. The pace in the Bahamas was just under 80 possessions per game. Four years ago, the average pace in the Bahamas was only 69 possessions per game. The 2014-15 team played its regular season as a snail’s pace 62.4 possessions per game, Calipari’s slowest at UK.

    I think this team is likely to play at an elevated pace. The NCAA D1 average pace has been in the neighborhood of 69 possessions per game. Calipari’s teams at UK have played at an average pace of 66.5 possessions per game with an average NCAA rank of 156.9 among the 351 NCAA D1 teams:

    Year Pace Rank NCAA D1

    2018 68.8 146

    2017 72.0 26

    2016 67.4 214

    2015 62.4 274

    2014 64.0 217

    2013 65.4 135

    2012 65.4 150

    2011 65.0 184

    2010 68.3 66

    If this team meets Calipari’s highest pace (2017) of 72.0 possessions per game, it will have to have an offensive efficiency (raw) of at least 1.11 points per possession.

    This year at the Bahamas, this team had an average offensive efficiency of 1.18 ppp. The 2014-15 team had an average raw offensive efficiency of 1.16 ppp in the Bahamas in the first 4 games, and 1.13 ppp in all 6 games. During the 2014-15 season, that team had a raw offensive efficiency of 1.16 ppp.

    I believe this team will play at about the same offensive efficiency this season that they showed in the Bahamas last week, 1.18 ppp.

    Calipari’s teams have played with an adjusted offensive efficiency of 1.16 ppp with a high of 1.31 ppp in 2017 and a low of 1.04 ppp in 2011. Last year’s team had an adjusted offensive efficiency of 1.12 ppp. Given the likely strength of schedule for the coming year (unknown at this time) this team’s 1.18 ppp raw offensive efficency could equate to an adjusted offensive efficiency in the range of 1.23 ppp, second highest of the Calipari Era.

    Playing 72 possessions per game at 1.18 ppp will average 85 ppg. Calipari’s highest scoring UK team averaged 84.9 ppg. This team should compete very well near the 85 ppg level over the course of this season.

    The defensive situation is equally encouraging.

    This team will be fun to watch without a doubt.

  2. Hello Mr. TheProfessor,

    Do you think the fact that most teams will attempt to grind the game to a halt to slow our team down. Will have a bearing on the amount of possessions we have? I doubt teams will attempt to run with nor play us the way the Bahamas trip teams did. Just curious what your take is. Thank you.

    Respectfully,

    Tim

    1. The average pace, 69 possessions per game, is a key parameter. Some teams like to play slower than that, and other teams like to play faster than that. The next key factor is the deviation of team A from the mean and team B from the mean to estimate the pace of a game between teams A and B. If both teams are plodders, their game will end up being slower than either of their average pace. Similarly, if both teams are race horses, their game will end up being faster than either of their averages. When one team is a plodder, and the other is a racehorse, the game will be played at a pace in between either of their averages.

      In 2014, the UK team averaged 69 possessions per game in the Bahamas and 62.4 possessions during the 2014-15 season. This year, the average pace in the Bahamas was 77.8 possessions. I do not expect this team to play the season at 77.8 possessions, but I do expect them to play at a pace that is much faster than most if not all Calipari teams. The 72 possession pace I used in my post seems reasonable to me, but we will see.

      Pace is a battle of wills in a basketball game. Most opponents will try to slow UK down and shorten the game by reducing the number of possessions. The best way to counter that tactic in a game is to force the pace with great defense. This team has the defensive tools to do that.

      1. Amazing numbers Professor. Save that so you can update is going into conference play

      2. Thank you for your response, and after I wrote my initial question I realized that our defense should provide extra possessions in a game and you alluded to that fact in your response. Thank you Sir. As do the people who enjoy reading your posts, I truly appreciate the science behind your analysis, and the factual information it provides.

        Respectfully,

        Tim

  3. @The Professor:
    I always enjoy your science lessons.
    Like you, I expect this to be a very entertaining season.
    Here’s hoping everyone stays healthy…CHEERS !!!

    1. I agree, Hornet1,
      I’m super excited for the upcoming season. God willing we won’t have any injuries. Enjoy your evening.

      Respectfully,

      Tim

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