By RICHARD CHEEKS
As has become the scheduling custom for Coach Calipari at UK, seasons begin with a flurry of games in the first 3 weeks of the season, and then for the remainder of the calendar year, the Cats play 1 game per week, typically each Saturday. This year, Coach Calipari has lamented the lack of sufficient practice time between games to correct issues identified during the initial flurry of games, and this year there have perhaps the usual issues based on youth and inexperience have been compounded by a rash of injuries.
The first seven (7) games have been a roller coaster ride from the initial peak experienced in game 1 against Michigan State, to the bottom of the Evansville/Utah Valley games, back to a peak against Lamar, and back down against UAB. The questions created by this 4-game cyclic frequency is will that pattern continue, or will the local bottoms start rising from the previous bottoms with higher successive peaks, or will the ride begin to even out with declining amplitude at the current average?
If we listen closely, the Calipari laments suggest the former rather than the latter because he will have “eight wonderful days” between games to get some issues resolved. On Saturday evening, we will get to view for ourselves the benefits of the 8 days of practice that Calipari has been craving.
Yes, the Cats now stand at 6-1 with an Adjusted Net Efficiency (ANE) of 0.15 points per possession (ppp) against a schedule strength of -0.066 ppp. The Cats’ average tempo remains about 71 possessions per game.
#270 Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) has played seven games, six against D1 opposition with a 1-5 record in those games. The Knights lost at #49 DePaul by 11, at #320 Army by 16, at #135 Lafayette by 5, at #72 Notre Dame by 25, and beat #252 Quinnipiac by 1 on Tuesday at home.
Based on this early season data for these teams, an ANE analysis indicates this game will have a tempo of 70 possessions with the Cats prevailing by 21 points, 81-60.
It is intuitively clear than not all 21-point wins are created equal. The quality of any win depends upon the final margin, the strength of the opponent, and the venue of the game.
The table provides tools to evaluate this game’s final margin considering the relevant factors. This table separates game outcomes into three ranges, red, tan, and green. Over the years, Calipari’s strongest teams win most of their games on the season in the green range and the fewest number of games end in the red range. Conversely, Calipari’s weakest teams win most of their games in the red and fewest in the green ranges. Through 7 games this season, the outcomes have been 3 in the red, 3 in the tan, and 1 in the green. For the FDU game, a final margin between 25 and 39 points would be in the Historically Common Range, and larger margins move the game into the strong group while smaller margins move the game into the poor range.