By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
The first 23 games are in the books, and the Cats have overcome an embarrassing start, defined by its 34- point humiliation at the hands of Duke, an inexplicable overtime loss to Seton Hall at MSG, and a 2-point loss in the SEC opener at Alabama to amass a 20-3, 9-1 record.
The Cats are positioned to lay claim to the 2019 SEC regular season championship, and the two games this week against 9-1 LSU and 10-0 Tennessee are necessary wins to achieve that important goal. Two wins will place these Cats at 11-1 in the SEC and in first place in the SEC standings heading into the final 1/3 of the SEC schedule.
One game at a time is the appropriate mantra for the team, and in that vein, next up is LSU, and the entire focus of this team must be on this encounter with the Bayou Bengals at Rupp tonight. LSU brings a 19-4, 9-1 record into Rupp Arena. The Tigers completed the non-conference portion of their schedule 10-3 with losses to #29 Florida State by 3 in OT, to #92 Oklahoma State by 13, both on neutral courts, and at #17 Houston by 6. In addition, LSU most impressive non-conference victories have been over #45 Saint Mary’s by 4 on a neutral court, and home wins over #63 Furman by 18 and over #77 Memphis by 9.
In the SEC, the Tigers have rolled through the first 10 games with a 9-1 record. The loss occurred in Baton Rouge at the hands of #59 Arkansas by 1, and the Tigers claim five SEC road wins over Arkansas in OT, Mississippi, Missouri in OT, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State in OT.
One impression that a review of the LSU record leaves is the 9 games decided by one or two possessions, and the four games that required additional time to find a winner. In those games, LSU has won 6, and lost 3. LSU has demonstrated an ability to find how to win the contested ball games.
The Tigers schedule has a SOS value of 0.0701 ppp (#38). The LSU ANE for the season stands at 0.206 ppp and their ANE over the last 5 games is 0.228 ppp.
The Cats’ schedule has a SOS value of 0.0747 ppp (#34). The Cats’ ANE for the season stands at 0.293 ppp, their season ANE since game 7 has been 0.364 ppp, and their ANE over the last 5 games is 0.426 ppp.
The ANE analysis based on Kentucky’s ANE since game 7 indicates a Kentucky margin of 15 points, 83-68, in a game played at a pace of 72 possessions.
As a matter of record, the traditional ANE analysis indicates a 10-point Kentucky advantage (81-71), and a “last 5” analysis indicates a UK win by 18 points, 85-67. Pomeroy has this game as a 8 point Kentucky win, 77-69, at a pace of 69 possessions.
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