By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
This past week was something of a roller coaster ride for the Cats during a two game home stand that saw them fall to LSU by 2 points on a disputed tip in at the buzzer and soundly defeat the consensus #1 Tennessee Volunteers by 17 points in a game that was never really in doubt for the Cats once P J Washington outscored the Volunteers 7-4 in the first 4 minutes of the game.
These outcomes clarified the situation for the SEC race. LSU and Tennessee remain in control of their own destinies as the current leaders with only one conference loss each and a single game between them to determine which of them will continue in control of the conference race. Kentucky on the other hand, finished this week with two conference losses and now must depend upon help if it can pass LSU for the championship and #1 tournament seed.
Each team has six conference games remaining, and with regards to the conference race, there are only seven of all the remaining 42 SEC games this season that will impact this three-way race. For the Cats, only two games remaining on the schedule really matter, and that is the March 2, rematch with Tennessee in Knoxville followed by a trip to Mississippi on March 5.
For the Volunteers, in addition to the March 2nd rematch, Tennessee’s games at LSU and at Auburn will probably factor into the final standings for these top three teams. LSU has their game against Tennessee, but alslo must travel to Florida and Alabama over these closing three weeks.
Kentucky must finish their final six games without a loss and get help from others to hand LSU at least two losses to win the SEC title this season. Therefore, the two games with head to head matchups are critical games for all three teams. Further, the Kentucky road trip to Mississippi and the two road games each for Tennessee and LSU are going to determine how these three teams finish at the top of the conference. The other 35 SEC games only will determine the seeding for the remaining 11 spots, and which of those 11 teams will enjoy a double bye as the #4 seed.
For Kentucky, the remaining schedule includes trips to Missouri, Tennessee and Mississippi with home games against Auburn, Arkansas, and Florida. Next up will be the road game at Missouri.
#103 MISSOURI brings a 12-12, 3-9 SEC record into this game against the Cats.
In SEC play, the Tigers have been perfect while the Cats have dropped two games, at #54 Alabama by 2 points, and to #19 LSU by 2 at Rupp. MISSOURI defeated Alabama by 3 points in Knoxville and has not played LSU yet, and will only do so once this season. In posting a 9-3 non-conference record, Missouri lost at @14 Iowa State by 17 points, to #35 Kansas State by 15 on a neutral court, and to #83 Temple at home by 2. Among the 9 non-conference wins, Missouri’s most impressive win was over #49 UCF by 2 points in OT at home. In their SEC play, they have claimed victories at #100 Texas A&M by 23 points, and home wins over #116 Vanderbilt by 10 and #66 Arkansas by 1.
The Tigers schedule has a SOS value of 0.0781 ppp (#38). The MISSOURI ANE for the season stands at 0.071 ppp and their ANE over the last 5 games is 0.068 ppp.
The Cats’ schedule has a SOS value of 0.0885 ppp (#26). The Cats’ ANE for the season stands at 0.298 ppp, their season ANE since game 7 has been 0.360 ppp, and their ANE over the last 5 games is 0.362 ppp.
The ANE analysis based on Kentucky’s ANE since game 7 indicates a Kentucky margin of 23 points, 80-57, in a game played at a pace of 67 possessions. As a matter of record, the traditional ANE analysis indicates a 19 point Kentucky advantage and a “last 5” analysis indicates a UK advantage of 23 ½ points. Pomeroy has this game as a 9 point Kentucky win, 70-61, at a pace of 64 possessions.
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