[Editor’s note: This was published right after New Years, and I am just getting around to elevating it, thus some of the numbers are slightly dated and don’t reflect the Ole Miss game. That is my fault, not the author’s. His points remain cogent.]
Though I always like to throw my two cents in during college basketball season, this year it seems like it’s all been said, or at least as far as I can offer. Thus, I thought I’d just point out some notable statistics per KenPom.com at this point in the season. Feel free to comment (or not as it sometimes goes):
Ken Pomeroy Player of the Year (kPOY)
At this juncture Jahlil Okafor, Duke has a commanding grip at number 1 given that all roads offense at Duke seem to go through this formidable 6-11 All-American lock. Kentucky is well represented in the top ten however with number four, Willie Cauley-Stein, and no.s five Dakari Johnson and seven, Karl-Anthony Towns. It’s worth noting that Virginia is well represented with no. three, Anthony Gill and eight, Justin Anderson. Also Louisville’s Terry Rozier is 6th and Kyle Wiltjer is 9th. The kPOYaward is an effort by Pomeroy to quantify a player’s all-round performance as it relates to his team’s success. The algorithm, too much for here can be found at KenPom.com for subscribers.
Speaking Virginia, without stating the obvious about great the job Tony Bennett has done recently, the Cavaliers along with Kentucky are the only two teams KP currently projects to win every remaining game before Tourney time. Of course, these probability percentages will change each game as results are tallied. Good luck with that Virginia as they will play UL twice, UNC and Notre Dame away, and have a home game with Duke, not to mention the regular ACC gauntlet with many other teams who can win on a given night. Yes, there may be a Santa Claus Virginia, but you might better watch out for the groundhog too.
Virginia has built a reputation for solid play at both ends using players without stars beside their names, but loaded with plenty of talent. The Cavs play (modified Tubby-ball?) with extreme caution, using large amounts of clock on offense and forcing their opponents into working late for shots as well, having one of the lowest possessions per game in Division 1.
It is interesting to note that Virginia has no less than three players on the KenPom All-ACC team thus far (with the two above mentioned along with Malcom Brogdon– all Juniors), a new feature Pomeroy has added in spots. The other two are Okafor andRozier. The SEC does not include this feature of yet as far as I can tell. And, of course Virginia now ranks second only to Kentucky in the KenPom ratings with the fourth best Adjusted Offense and Adjusted Defense while the Cats are ranked 7th and 1st respectively. Duke is third with the number 1 AO and 16th ranked AD.
Oddly, Virginia is ranked 321st in defensive turnover%, right up there with… you guessed it, Indiana. It is strange that such excellent defense does not create more turnovers. Perhaps then again, that is the key to keeping the defense connected without taking unneeded risks?
THE SEC NOTES
KenPom has Florida slipping to 23rd (from a pre-season top 10) and South Carolina steadily rising of late to 28th after big wins vs. Iowa Sate and crushing Oklahoma State by 26 and Clemson by 23 after some early season hiccups. Clemson, as you know has already beaten Auburn, LSU, and Arkansas.
Anamoly anyone? USC has the respectable 13th ranked 3 pt. defense, but somehow is ranked 316th in defensive 3pt.Assist%. Is it just happenstance that USC foes don’t shoot well or is it something else? UK is excused with the 9th ranked 3pt.Defense but only the 153rd ranked defensive 3pt.A%, since presumably it is the Cats unusual length that bothers opponents shots. But USC is an average height/length team? Better have someone check the rims at the Gamecocks home court before we go laying wide-open bricks… like everyone else has without a hand in face.
To be fair, South Carolina’s recent surge is thanks to their KenPom 6th ranked Adjusted Defense (86.1) in Division 1. The Cats will get their defensive challenge on January 24th at USC, always a tough place to win. They will be lying in wait, that’s a promise.
ODD AND ENDS – DEFENSE
Kentucky’s phenomenal Adjusted Defense rating of 81.8 ranks number one to Louisville’s also unheard of 82.4 rating. Compare these numbers to last year’s number 1 ADefense Arizona at 88.5, or the 2012 NCAA Champs at 89.9. The lowest ending year best since 2002 was the 2009 John Calipari coached Memphis Tigers at 85.1. Hmmm? This guy can’t coach, only recruit. It’s easy when recruiting all those High School defensive stars, huh? Yeah, but where in the AAU do you find them?
It’s interesting that UNC ranks 3rd in 3 pt. defense (24.9%) while the Cats (26.7%) rank 7th especially when one realizes that in the Ky.-UNC contest Carolina shot 46.2% and Kentucky 46.7% from 3, both teams’ season highs (or lows defensively). BTW, Duke (27.1%) is notable at 10th.
Kentucky’s 2pt. defense% (31.2) stands alone as the lowest ever recorded by a team at this juncture in KenPom’s history (2002). Compare to 2012’s team season ending (39.6), a pretty decent defense by anyone’s standards, and number one 2pt. D% in 2012.
If you’re getting excited that’s not all: 2012’s Anthony Davis led team recorded the number 1 Div. 1 defensive blk% at 20.2%. Not bad until you compare it to this year’s 22.4%. That’s % per defensive possession.
Another notable stat is defensive Assist%, or not allowing opponent to create assisted plays. Kentucky ranks 2nd opposed to 2012’s ranking of 40th.
If you’re looking for a defensive weakness try defensive FT%. We suck at a horrendous 67th ranking as opponents card 72.3% of their free throws. C’mon Cal, what’s up with that?
OFFENSE – OFFENSIVE?
OK, the good news is that Kentucky has improved upon it’s early season 3 pt. shooting slump, moving up to a 224th ranking, at a not-too-respectable (32.1%). We were once near the 300th ranked team in that department, so obviously 3pt. shooting was more a statistical outlier than a problem with shooting mechanics. Still, these are numbers that would make the Freemasons proud, if you’re into that sorta thing.
Puzzling to many is our 2pt. shooting percentage of 53.4% (ranked 30th) considering many shots are taken with arms firmly inserted into hole. This leaves an array of gimmes and layups that for some reason fail to find their mark, even if it is from a distance measured in inches, not feet. In fact, I dare say Trey Lyles has a better chance of making a 16 foot baseline jumper than Dakari does of making a layup. Of course, Dakari does seem to always gather an offensive board or two before the put-back. Stat-Stuffer?
Even more unappealing is a look at our free throw percentage of 66.2% and ranked 229th, especially in lieu of teams like Mississippi ranked 2nd at 78.4%. Anyone think they’ll be trying to get us to foul them on Tuesday?
In fairness, Kentucky has somehow managed to score at a rate of 116 pts. per 100 possessions, a clip ranked number 7 among Div.1 teams. One can imagine if the offensive engine actually begins to purr… can you say juggernaut?
I think the brightest offensive stat is our Assist percentage of (61.3% of poss.). This speaks to an unselfish Ky. Team… more so than any other I’ve witnessed recently. It’s my opinion that if we keep passing the ball like we have, shooters will start making shots… at least at a higher rate than we’ve seen to date. There’s nothing to hate about that (and I haven’t said Tyler Ulis once).
Well… this has gotten longer than I had originally planned. I was hoping to highlight the individual performances as well, at least as statistically implied by Ken Pomeroy’s website. If you would like to read this kind of thing for individual players, please note in the comments and I will post it soon.
Happy New Year Cats fans everywhere…
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IN THIS FANPOST
- Duke Blue Devils
- Kentucky Wildcats
- Louisville Cardinals
- Memphis Tigers
- North Carolina Tar Heels
- South Carolina Gamecocks
- Virginia Cavaliers