By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
Basketball games are a full 40 minutes, and trying to cherry pick a portion of the game, say 20, 24, 33, or even 38 minutes, to make a point is deceptive in its intent and affect. For example, so games end with an opponent scoring a flurry of very late points against reserve players with the effect of reducing the final margin and reducing the game’s ANE. Other times, the winning team may finish the game with a flurry of unanswered points against a defeated and dejected weaker opponent with the effect of increasing the final margin and increasing the game ANE.
Last Saturday’s game against North Carolina Greesboro is an example of the latter, as the Cats found themselves in a nip and tuck encounter. Greensboro led by 3 points at the half. The Cats did not lead in the second half until a 3 point play by Ashton Hagans lifted them into a brief 1 point lead with 10:28 left in the game. Over the next 5 minutes, the Cats stretched their fragile lead to 5 points, 64-59 with 5:25 left. From that point in the game, the Cats finished on a 14-2 run to finish with a 78-61 win. The game ANE at the 5:25 mark was about 0.15 points per possession which coincidently was slightly greater than UK’s season average ANE coming into this game. However, the final margin has a game ANE of about 0.31 ppp, which increases the team’s average ANE by about +0.02 ppp.
Therefore, looking at Saturday’s game in its entirety, the Cats have played at an elevated level in each of their last two games. Five games define a trend, and the Cats are hopefully 40% into a trend-setting phase. Can this new trend continue this Saturday when the Cats travel to MSG to face Seton Hall? Seton Hall brings a 5-3 record into this MSG matchup on Saturday. The Pirates’ losses have been at #24 Nebraska by 13, to #76 Saint Louis by 2, and to #41 Louisville by 5. Seton Hall’s best win this season has been over #42 Miami FL on a neutral court by 2.
The Seton Hall body of work against D1 opponents has produced an ANE of 0.116 points per possession. Kentucky’s last two wins has raised its’ ANE from the 0.085 ppp it had entering the Monmouth game to 0.160 ppp entering the Seton Hall game on Saturday. The ANE analysis indicates a 4 point advantage for the Cats at this neutral location, 75-71 in a game played at a pace of 71 possessions. Pomeroy projects a 7 point Kentucky win over Seton Hall, 78-71, at a pace of about 71 possessions.
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