By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
It only seems like yesterday that the 2018-19 Kentucky Wildcats traveled to the Bahamas in August to give the Big Blue Nation a sneak peak at this year’s basketball team. Yet, on Saturday the 2018-19 regular season will close when the Cats face the Florida Gators at Rupp.
The journey from the Bahamas to now has been a rocky ride.
After an impressive showing in August, these Cats got off to a very tough start to the season in November with back to back lackadaisical exhibition games, a complete meltdown against Duke, followed by five additional games in which the Cats played very poorly. Then, starting with the 7th game of the season through the 22nd game of the season, this team steadily improved, and by the end of January, was playing as well or better than anyone in the nation. The last 8 games (23rd through 30th) have been marked by a steady slide from the peak achieved after the Cats manhandled South Carolina on February 5.
The big question for this team, as it prepares to shift gears and move into the post season, is whether its post season will be brief due to the slippage since February 5, or whether this team can find that magic that enabled it to win 10 consecutive games and post an average ANE of 0.43 points per possession for an amazing 7 game run from game 16 through game 22 and propel itself to #9 on the first Monday of April.
Including this final game against Florida, the Cats have a possible maximum 10 more games to play. The Cats could play as few as 3 games.
If the team plays as it has been playing, it will play fewer games in the post season and this season will end short of the Big Blue Nation’s expectations. If the team can capture the magic of January again, the post season could easily extend the full 10 games with a legitimate chance to win the Championship in April.
#32 Florida enters Rupp today needing a win over Kentucky and at least 1 win the SEC tournament next week to solidify their claim to a spot in the NCAA tournament because their 17-13; 9-8 in the SEC record is marginal, at best. In addition, the Gators have lost their last two games at the McConnell center to #120 Georgia by 6 and to #17 LSU by 1 in OT. The Gators schedule has a SOS value of 0.1057 ppp (#21). The FLORIDA ANE for the season stands at 0.191 ppp and their ANE over the last 5 games is 0.182 ppp.
The Cats’ schedule has a SOS value of 0.1050 ppp (#23). The Cats’ ANE for the season stands at 0.292 ppp, their season ANE since game 7 has been 0.335 ppp, and their ANE over the last 5 games is 0.245 ppp.
The ANE analysis based on Kentucky’s ANE since game 7 indicates a Kentucky margin of 13 point, 73-60, in a game played at a pace of 64 possessions. As a matter of record, the traditional ANE analysis indicates a 10 1/2 point Kentucky advantage and a “last 5” analysis indicates a UK advantage of 8 point. Pomeroy has this game as a 10 point Kentucky win, 68-58 at a pace of 62 possessions.
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: