By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
These Cats played four games in the Bahamas in August, two exhibition games in late October, 13 non-conference games, mostly in November and December, the 18 game SEC schedule in January, February, and early March. This team made a brief appearance at the SEC Tournament last week. Now it all comes down to the annual basketball ritual of true one and done basketball in which 67 of the 68 participating teams will return home with a season ending loss. Only one team will return home with an intact winning streak to carry it through the coming long off season.
Kentucky has been that last team standing at the end of the road eight times, and every year the Big Blue Nation believes their Cats will do it again for the ninth time until the actual count is nine, at which time the Big Blue Nation will begin its never-ending vigil for number 10. And so it goes year in and year out, and the Cats’ 2019 March for #9 begins on tonight in Jacksonville.
Over the course of a season, fans, coaches and players may take a longer view rather than a singular focus upon the next opponent in its path. But, at this is the time of year, the focus must remain on one opponent, and one opponent only. It is “Survive and Advance” time! One stumble and it ends. Today, the only opponent that matters to this Kentucky team must be Abilene Christian.
How does Kentucky match up with Abilene Christian University?
Both teams wear Blue and White and each of their mascots are Wildcats. Both teams start this tournament with identical 27-6 records.
The similarities end there.
Kentucky posted its 27-6 record while playing the 22nd toughest schedule in the country, including five top 5 opponents, 12 top 25 opponents, and 23 of Kentucky’s 33 opponents have been top 100. Abilene Christian, on the other hand, played the 11th weakest schedule in the country that included one top 100 opponent, twenty-five (25) opponents had ANE rankings greater than #175, and four Abilene Christian opponents were not even D1 teams. Therefore, the Abilene Christian W-L record against D1 opposition has been 23-6.
Furthermore, 2019 will be Kentucky’s 58th NCAA appearance in this tournament’s 82 year history that began in 1939, and included much smaller fields for the for 40+ years. Kentucky is a NCAA Tournament mainstay. For Abilene Christian, 2019 will be the first time they have ever had the opportunity to perform in the big dance.
If Goliath can ever dodge one of David’s rocks, this should be it.
As noted, #145 Abilene Christian enters this game with a 27-6 record against a schedule with a SOS value of -0.0904 ppp (#343). The Abilene Christian’s ANE for the season stands at 0.007 ppp and their ANE over the last 5 games is 0.018 ppp.
The Cats’ schedule has a SOS value of 0.1102 ppp (#22). The Cats’ ANE for the season stands at 0.280 ppp, their season ANE since game 7 has been 0.324 ppp, and their ANE over the last 5 games is 0.292 ppp.
The ANE analysis based on Kentucky’s ANE since game 7 indicates a Kentucky margin of 21 point, 83-62, in a game played at a pace of 68 possessions. As a matter of record, the traditional ANE analysis indicates an 18 ½ point Kentucky advantage and a “last 5” analysis indicates a Kentucky advantage of 18 ½ points. Pomeroy sees this as a 14 point advantage for Kentucky, 82-78, and Vegas gives Kentucky the edge by 21 ½ points.
Use the following link to see how other UK fans handicap this game at 247Sports, The Cats Pause message board:
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