By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
The Cats have not just won seven in a row since losing at Alabama, they have done so in a most impressive manner. Saturday’s come from behind win at Florida was just as impressive as the 35 point walloping the Cats handed Vanderbilt a week ago in Nashville, and just as impressive as the three consecutive wins over top 25 opponents that preceded this latest 2 game road swing through Music City and the new Alligator Alley.
The Cats’ recent achievement have not gone unrewarded, as the Cats returned to the top 5 ranking in both major wire service poll this week. While I do not usually subscribe to the opinions expressed in the polls over the less emotional ratings generated by analytics, especially net game efficiency, in this instance, I believe the top 5 ranking is more accurate than the #9 rating currently reported at kenpom.com or produced from my own ANE ratings.
The reason is that poll voters tend to give greater weight to recent developments and reduce the weight assigned to the total body of work, and this year for this UK team, that weighting difference makes complete sense because of the Cats’ pathetic start over its first 6 games as compared to its accomplishment since game 7.
Tuesday night, the Cats will host South Carolina in the 22nd game and 9th SEC game for each team this season. The Cats enter 7-1 while the Gamecocks come to Rupp sporting a 6-2 SEC record. Other than this curios similarity, nothing else about these two teams are closely similar. The Cats’ overall record is 18-3 while the Gamecocks are 10-10 against D1 opponents. In the non-conference portion of the schedule, South Carolina finished 4-8. The wins came at the expense of #325 USC Upstate by 13,#254 Norfolk State by 17, #253 George Washington by 35, and #139 Coastal Carolina by 6. The Gamecocks lost non-conference games to #163 Stony Brook by 2, to #316 Wyoming by 9, and #87 Providence by 9.
Yes, South Carolina has recorded 6 SEC wins since the beginning of the year, including a 2 point win at #33 Florida. However, the overall quality of South Carolina’s play has been lacking for the entire season, and currently stands at 0.072 ppp following the first 21 games. Even USC’s 5 game moving average ANE currently is 0.084 ppp. Recall, Big Blue Fans, that the Cats’ dismal start to this season had a 5 game ANE value higher than either of these USC measures.
The Gamecocks’ schedule has a SOS value of 0.0875 ppp (#18). The South Carolina ANE for the season stands at 0.072 ppp and their ANE over the last 5 games is 0.084 ppp.
The Cats’ schedule has a SOS value of 0.0685 ppp (#33). The Cats’ ANE for the season stands at 0.277 ppp, their season ANE since game 7 has been 0.360 ppp, and their ANE over the last 5 games is 0.439 ppp.
The ANE analysis based on Kentucky’s ANE since game 7 indicates a Kentucky margin of 25 points, 85-60, in a game played at a pace of 73 possessions. As a matter of record, the traditional ANE analysis indicates a 19-point Kentucky advantage (82-63), and a “last 5” analysis indicates a UK win by 29 points, 87-58. Pomeroy has this game as a 17 point Kentucky win, 82-65, at a pace of 70 possessions. Vegas has opened with the Cats a 17 point favorite over the Gamecocks.
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: