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Numbers favor 3-point win LSU win over Cats

Immanuel Quickley (Vicky Graff Photo)

By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer

On Saturday morning, Kentucky was tied with LSU and Auburn at the top of the SEC standings at 9-2. By Saturday night, Kentucky stood alone atop the SEC by virtue of its come from behind win at Rupp Arena over Mississippi and LSU’s loss at Alabama and Auburn’s loss at Missouri.

Tonight, the Cats will face LSU in Baton Rouge in a game that carries real SEC regular season championship consequences for each team. A LSU win will leave these teams tied, and since they only play once, LSU owns the tie breaker over the Cats. On the other hand, if the Cats get out of Baton Rouge with a win, the Cats will remain alone in the led and LSU will drop out of contention.

A win at LSU would probably be sufficient to secure at least a tie for the regular season SEC championship, but a UK win at LSU does not end the race to secure the #1 seed for the upcoming SEC Tournament. The Cats must face Auburn a second time in Rupp, and a loss to Auburn would leave them tied, and Auburn would own the tie breaker over the Cats. Therefore, UK must beat LSU in Baton Rouge and Auburn at Rupp to secure the sole SEC regular season championship and the #1 seed in the tournament.

LSU brings its 18-7, 9-3 record into the Tuesday night encounter with the Cats. However, after a 17-4 start, LSU has dropped three of its last four games. The Bayou Bengals lost to #155 Vanderbilt by 9 (-0.05 ppp Game ANE), to #34 Auburn by 1 (0.24 ppp Game ANE), and at #46 Alabama by 6 (0.14 ppp Game ANE),. The only win in their last 4 games was against #92 Missouri by 4 (0.12 ppp Game ANE). LSU has posted an average ANE over these last 4 games of 0.11 ppp.

Kentucky also brings a four-game winning streak into this game. After losing at Auburn, the Cats have beaten Mississippi State by 8 (0.22 ppp Game ANE), Tennessee by 13 (0.43 ppp Game ANE), Vanderbilt by 14 (0.28 ppp Game ANE), and Mississippi by 5 (0.12 ppp Game ANE), which is an average ANE of 0.26 ppp over these last 4 games.

LSU’s season ANE of 0.196 ppp against a schedule strength of 0.083 ppp and an average tempo of 71.1 possessions per game. Kentucky’s season ANE of 0.201 ppp against a schedule strength of 0.066 ppp at an average tempo of 69.3.

The ANE analysis based on these season profiles points to an 3 point LSU win, 75-72 in a game played with 70 possessions. If the teams play on Tuesday night as they each have played their last four games, then the Cats should beat the Tigers by 7, 77-70.


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  1. Hey Prof. I have a question that I believe you are the best to answer. I Looked at Ken Pom numbers thru Sundays games. It has UK at #30 but there are a half dozen teams with 8 to 12 losses that are higher rated than UK. Purdue is 14-12 2 games above 500 and still statistically better than we are. I believe it is the conference strength but could you clarify it a little better or is it just that simple?

    1. Great questions I will be looking forward for Professor to answer as well because he has a way with numbers/stats that I can’t start to figure out

      1. I’ve notice his prediction. hasn’t come to fruitation this season as far the point spread and who going to win this season.

        1. You still have not identified what facts I get wrong!!!

          When you do, then I might take your criticism seriously. Until this, it is nothing but back ground noise.

  2. I agree, Larry. I always enjoy Professors analysis & comments. He always does a great job with his projections & summary. I don’t understand every detail but his explanation always makes sense. His efficiency numbers really tell the story- The selection committee should pay attention. I enjoy his website as well. Thanks Professor!

  3. UK scored its 79 points on 67 possessions (1.179 ppp) for the game, and LSU scored its 76 points on 67 possessions (1.134 ppp).

    LSU won the battle of the boards 45-33, and LSU controlled the offensive glass 23-13 which produced a 26-12 advantage on second chance points for the Bayou Bengals. LSU had an offensive efficiency of 0.746 ppp on its 67 first chance possessions and 1.130 ppp for its 23 second chance possessions. UK had 1.000 ppp on its 67 first chance possessions and 0.923 ppp on its 13 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 37.1%of its misses as offensive rebounds while LSU was able to convert 53.5% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.

    UK hit well from the free throw line in this game, making 12-16 [75.0%]. LSU made 17-24 [70.8%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 29-61 overall [47.5%] and 9-18 from long range [50.0%]. For LSU, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 19-49 [41.3%] and from long range, LSU hit 7-20 [35.0%].

    The Cats committed 12 turnovers, one for every 5.6 possessions. The Cats forced 12 LSU turnovers, one for every 5.6 possessions.

    Next Game On Schedule: Saturday evening against Florida at Rupp in the Cats’ twenty seventh regular season game and the 14th game of the 2020 SEC season.

  4. The question about Pomeroy rating, which also applies to my rating, is relatively simple. It is based on season long adjusted efficiency. Wins and losses are important of course, but how a team wins or loses is also very important.

    Pomeroy’s method of computing the adjusted efficiency for a team differs slightly from my method, but our rankings are very similar. I have UK #33 for instance instead of Pomeroy’s #30. My ranking for UK is likely to rise slightly tomorrow, but not enough to change my view of this team as a 2nd round exit team.

  5. Professor I wasn’t knocking on your work, I got a lot of respect what you do and enjoy your column. But you need to go back and read what you wrote as far the outcome of your predictions. We won at Tenn and Lsu that you an L on the cats. I don’t think your are really being positive about this team for the most part.

  6. Statistical analyses don’t have much to do with being positive or negative. I’m sure the Professor wants them to win every game. Ha! Kentucky’s 3 point shooting would have been difficult to predict. It surprised and excited me. I tend to think we will need this to advance beyond the second round. I’m a bit concerned over whether or not we are mentally dependent on Hagan being in the game. If we are that makes us fragile no matter how physically tough we are. We’ve come a long way developmentally. Hopefully we can continue to progress these next two weeks.

    1. Well William, don’t most Calipari coached Kentucky teams always seem to develop and peak towards March? That has happened in all but one of his 10 plus years if my recollection is right. Seems like it is happening again in 2020, barring injuries. I suggest we all give a little credit to old Coach. Right Professor? LOL

  7. William understand it. Others don’t have a clue.

  8. A team ranked #30 has played better basketball than 323 other teams in the season. That is not so shabby. However, it is not sufficient to be in the hunt for a national championship. History has shown us this.

    To be in the top 8, a team must play very sound, high quality basketball from the start of the season to the end. That is difficult to do, and that is why only 8 teams achieve at that level in any given year. To be in the top 4 is even more difficult, and if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. But everyone does not do it.

    Teams that achieve at these exclusively high levels do not do it with smoke and mirrors, they do it every year with very efficient offenses, very efficient defenses, but being aggressive on the boards, by limiting turnovers and forcing turnovers, by shooting the ball consistently at high percentages, etc.

    Teams that do not achieve at these high levels of efficiency do not do so for good reasons. These teams do not do these fundamentals of the game as well over the course of time.

    The issue is not consistency vs inconsistency because all teams are inconsistent to about the same degree over the course of the season, e.g. the range between their strongest games and weakest games are about the same. The difference is the average level of performance around which these extremes occur.

    The margins of victory or defeat predicted by models like mine are based on a fundamental assumption that both teams will play their average games. However, the reality is that teams rarely play at their average, and almost always either play better or worse than their average. The standard deviation between predicted margins and actual margins is about 10 points every year. That is true for my model, Pomeroy’s model, and all the modeling done in Vegas and like places. When predicted margins are small, upsets are more likely than when predicted margins are large, and there is never a predicted margin so huge that the probability of winning equals 100%.

    1. I get what you are saying Prof. Statistical analysis is hard to grasp for most, me included, but it does paint a pretty clear picture of where a team is. Overall, we are getting better, but we have way too much inconsistency in one area or another from game to game. Luckily the win/loss record says who gets higher seeds and who doesn’t. We are trending toward a No. 2 seed in the Dance, but the four No. 1 seeds have clearly had stronger seasons than us. That’s why they play the games though…let the court decide who advances and who doesn’t. If we can stay focused and healthy, we have a good shot at playing on the 3rd weekend, but all it takes is one bad game and you go home. If Nate can keep his shot falling, our chances improve a lot. It will be fun to watch the rest of this season play out.

  9. Well you all can say what you want, but all these efficiency ratings pumped out by the good Professor are interesting, but they don’t put on uniforms or bounce basketballs around, or sink 3 pointers, players do that. A will to win, staying healthy as a team, and tradition plays a role too. To deny that you would have to erase UK basketball history. His LSU predicted outcome was off since in the real world it was a UK win on the road. I’m upset that the CATS BLEW A 15 POINT LEAD! UK now sits in undisputed first place in the SEC, to that I say GOOD!!!!. Just several weeks back many had written this team off. Also, I’m not so much knocking the Professor’s work, as I am his criticism of our Coach of late. He knocks HIS SYSTEM, and that is a knock on Calipari, and he has not been bashful about it. He has an opinion, his right yes indeed, and the rest of us have ours. I don’t agree with him about Calipari and say so. I also can’t read the Professor’s mind, but sometimes I get the impression he would rather his analysis be right than a UK victory. I could be wrong. Especially since he is predicting UK really has no chance of surviving past the first round in the big dance or in winning No, 9 based on his efficiency analysis. To that I simply say, WOW!! It must be hard for him as a fan to stay enthused . I honestly hope with all my heart UK proves him wrong. Maybe he does too, I just wish he would say so every now and then. Statistics have their place, I’m just not into them. I’m just a Big Blue fan that wants to see UK bring home the trophy. The other stuff is just noise.

  10. I have yet to get an answer to the most fundamental question of questions.

    How is it that the #1 most efficient team has won 10 of the last 18 championships, and #2 and #3 have won 5 more, leaving 3 outliers as #8, #10, and #15? Is this just meaningless coincidence?

    Answer that question, and perhaps there can be a basis for further dialogue.

    1. There absolutely is a case for it. To achieve and maintain that level of efficiency over the course of a season indicates consistent top level play. Even a top 15 rating says that team is playing pretty good ball. I would really be surprised if a team outside of a top 20 efficiency rating won it all. Sure, a team can get hot and win 6 games, but the last 18 championships don’t make it look very likely. We are not there yet, but we could possibly crack the top 20 before the Dance gets here.

  11. Here is my answer Professor. I could care less what the efficiency ratings say. Yours or anybody else’s. If I based my sports feelings on the complicated analyses you do, and their predicted outcomes, I would quit watching sports. I especially wouldn’t watch the NCAA tournament. They make for good reading if you are into that sort of thing, I suppose. Or maybe if you were betting the ranch. They are interesting, but every now and then the underdog wins too. Look, UK sits at 21-5 and 11-2 in the SEC. The LSU win was the Cats 5th straight win, and the ninth in 10 games. A record that as of today is good enough for 1st place in the league right now. Why just a few months ago some were saying this UK team is on a free fall to disaster. Not looking that way today is it? You could be right, but the fan in me says the Cats got this. I say that every year though because I’m just a fan, nothing more. Tell me Professor is it possible for a team outside the top 15 in efficiency to win it all? Anything is possible right? If so, that is how I look at it. Now answer me this, why do you knock Calipari and his achievements in a magic 10 plus years of winning basketball?

  12. Fair enough, your view is emotional, mine is objective.

    1. Ok Prof here is an objective point of view. Based on your own words.

      You don’t like this Team
      You don’t like this Coach
      You don’t like the way the program is being run.

      So why even follow this BB team? Just wait till they outplay the numbers or change coaches then you can get back on the bandwagon that you rode during Cal’s 1st 5 or 6 years. Just wondering. This is not meant as an attack but just an honest question from a fan that loves these Cats this coach and the way the program is run.

      1. So, a person cannot be a fan and point out the problems?

        I don’t think so.

        1. Never said you were not a fan. And lots of people point out problems but still support this current team. But nice try at deflection. So I will try again. Were any of my above 3 statements incorrect? Because they are based on your previous statements. Are you a fan that supports this program as it is today? You obviously don’t care about the players because as you have stated you could care less what they do after they leave UK. Just trying to figure out your definition of fan.

  13. Kentucky currently has 5 losses, and some have suggested that any team with 5 losses should be ranked ahead of teams with more losses. There are three 5 loss teams, Louisville, Kentucky, and Wright State. There are 16 teams with 6 losses and 13 teams with 4 or fewer losses.

    • Wright State 23-5; 13-2; Wright State has played 28 games, winning 23, and stands atop the Horizon League at 13-2. In 28 games, Wright State has had an average margin of 9.9 points per game.
    • Kentucky 21-5; 11-2; Kentucky has played 26 games, winning 21, and stands atop the SEC at 11-2. In 26 games, Kentucky has had an average margin of 9.1 points per game.
    • Louisville 22-5; 13-3; Louisville has played 27 games, winning 22, and stand atop the ACC at 13-3, with Duke and Florida State each ½ game behind at 12-3. In 27 games, Louisville has had an average margin of 11,5 points per game.

    If number of losses told entire story, then Louisville, Kentucky, and Wright State would be ranked tied for 14th, a sweet 16 type team and a 4 seed. The #1 seeds would go to San Diego State, Baylor, Gonzaga, and Dayton, teams with 0 to 2 losses. Kansas, Liberty, Stephen F. Austin and Duke would be 2 seeds with 3 or 4 losses each. Maryland, Florida State, Auburn and Northern Iowa in line for the 3 seeds with 4 losses each. East Tennessee State with 4 losses would join the 5 loss triplet to fill out the 4 line.

    However, these teams do not play equal schedule strengths. The average rank of Louisville opponents has been 103.9 while Kentucky’s opponents have an average rank of 113.3 and Wright States opponent rank 246.5. The respective schedule strength values are 0.084 ppp, 0.073 ppp, and -0.074 ppp.

    Clearly, the number of losses cannot be the criteria for comparing team strengths, and other factors distinguish teams from other teams, and those factors are the venue of games and the individual opponent strength for those games. These factors are the basis for converting raw efficiency values (margin normalized for pace) into adjusted efficiency values. That is why Louisville’s adjusted efficiency ranks #11 while Kentucky’s ranks #31 and Wright State’s ranks #123.

  14. Bless your heart Professor, you are the man with all these efficiency stats. Funny math if you ask me. Why do I say that? Well for one thing UK has already beaten Louisville this season. Kentucky is one their losses. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. LOL.

  15. Only funny math if one does not make the effort to understand it.

    Upsets occur, and this UK team beating this UL team is an upset.

    1. Professor you can’t compare apples to oranges in a different conference. Your numbers are baseless due to the level of equal competition that’s going on across the landscape of college basketball this season.

      1. Are you saying that the only teams that we can compare UK to are the teams in the SEC? You indicate that you can’t compare teams in a different conference. I would think that the statistics are what allows us to make that comparison.

      2. Also don’t think that the competition is equal across all of college basketball.

    2. Wrong again Prof. UK is 11-2 Verse little brother, The upset would be if we lost to them. Those number span 10 years so statistically any little brother win would be the upset, But hey I could be wrong. Please feel free to explain to me why I am.

  16. Well sports fans I will have to admit I know or care nothing about efficiency rankings. But if I’m right, and if I’m looking at the right data base, Old Pomroy has efficiency rankings out today through 2/20 showing Michigan State at No. 9, Louisville at 10, and Texas Tech at 20. Now praise the Lord UK has moved up to 28. That is solid progress for the BBN. Now poor old Auburn, who by the way has a nice victory over UK already, and has only 4 total losses, are at 35. My point, UK has already logged victories against three of the most efficient teams in the top 20. Numbers and such might prove this efficiency ranking nonsense, but actual games played show a much different outcome in many cases. From this I have to conclude UK is still in the hunt.

  17. Larry Pup, I agree with you the game is played on the floor. Numbers doesn’t win or lose games. C U@Final four anybody can be beaten on any given night that’s been a proven fact this season more often than ever has. That’s why I think college ball is more balance.

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