Thursday, January 30, 2020

Cats Update

Last night, according to Ken Pomeroy, the MVP of the UK-Vandy game was Saban Lee of Vandy.  That's the sixth time this year that the MVP of a UK game did not play for the Cats.  It happened in all four of UK's losses (to Evansville, Utah, Ohio State, and South Carolina).  It also happened in the wins over Vandy and UAB).

Here are the MVP's of the other 14 games so far:

Tyrese Maxey (4):  Michigan St., Lamar, Louisville, Georgia (away)
Nick Richards (4);  E. Kentucky, Utah Valley, Arkansas, Texas Tech
Ashton Hagans (3):  Mount St. Mary's, Georgia Tech, Georgia (home)
Immanuel Quickley (2):  Missouri, Alabama
E.J. Montgomery (1):  Fairleigh Dickinson

Here are a few other nuggets:

1.  Nick Sestina is now making 41 percent of his three-point shots (16-39).  Quickley has made 39.5 percent (34-86).  The rest of the team has combined to go 46-172, for an average of 26.7 percent.

2.  The Cats are 13th in the nation in free throw shooting, at 77.6 percent.

3.  The Cats are 34th in the nation in offensive efficiency, with a rating of 111.2.  Their biggest problem compared to typical Calipari teams is offensive rebounding.  This statistic is usually a big strength for UK, but this year's team is 77th in the nation.

4.  The Cats are 45th in the nation in defensive efficiency, with a rating of 94.0.  Their biggest problem compared to typical Calipari teams is two-point shooting percentage.  Under Calipari, UK has often ranked in the top 10 in this category, but this year's team is 50th.

Basically, the Cats are a guard-oriented team that is not as strong around the rim as the typical Calipari squad.  But the guards are not good outside shooters.  Those two sentences summarize the challenge UK faces going forward.

One more point.  It's always dangerous to argue with Pomeroy.  But this year's UK team is like two teams -- one version that shows up when the Cats are in trouble, and another that appears when they are over-confident.  Last night, for example, they were supposed to beat Vandy by 17, but they only won by 9.  That sort of thing kills you in the analytics.  What actually happened, however, was that UK simply didn't play at all until there were about 18 minutes left in the game.  At that point, they trailed 40-30.  In the last 18 minutes, they outscored Vandy 41-22  That sort of behavior explains why the Cats can lose to Evansville at home, and beat Texas Tech on the road.

Here's the bottom line:  the over-confident version of UK is terrible, but the focused version is really good.  We will hope that they can keep their focus the rest of the way.


  1. Ken Pom gives individual Wildcats the following offensive ratings (I have no idea what these numbers mean):

    Nick Richards: 125.2 (35th in the country)
    Nate Sestina: 117.2 (172d in the country)
    Immanuel Quickley: 114.1 (282d in the country)
    Ashton Hagans: 106.8
    Tyrese Maxey: 103.3
    E.J. Montgomery: 101.1

  2. To put those figures in perspective, here is last year's team:

    Tyler Herro: 118.1 (183d in the country)
    Reid Travis: 117.1 (218th in the country)
    P.J. Washington: 116.1 (262d in the country)
    Keldon Johnson: 112.8 (411th in the country0)
    Immanuel Quickley: 107.5
    Ashton Hagans: 102.8

    Richards had a rating o 117.9, but he appeared in only 29.9 percent of minutes. This year he is playing 71.7 percent of minutes.

  3. Actually, when you look at it from this perspective, it looks as though Maxey is the key to the team's future -- at least on the offensive end. Richards is doing better than P.J. Washington did last year. Sestina is doing about as well as Reid Travis. Quickley is doing better than Keldon Johnson. And Hagans is doing better than he did last year. But Maxey isn't nearly as a efficient as Tyler Herro was last year.

  4. Here are Maxey's numbers so far:

    2-point shooting percentage: .496
    3-point shooting percentage: .306
    FT shooting percentage: .821
    FT rate: 37.7
    Turnover rate: 18.7

  5. Here are the numbers for Herro:

    2-point shooting percentage: .538
    3-point shooting percentage: .355
    FT shooting percentage: .935
    FT rate: 23.1
    Turnover rate: 14.8

    Maxey gets to the line more often -- Herro shot 93 free throws all year, and Maxey has already taken 78. But on every other number, Herro has a significant advantage.

  6. On the other hand, we've all seen Maxey take over games -- he was the MVP against Michigan State and Louisville, and he destroyed Vandy down the stretch last night. One big question is how often can he do that the rest of the way.

  7. This is kind of where I think UK could actually end up making a serious challenge for the national championship. I don't know that the numbers like you're showing would bear out this feeling, but it seems like Calipari's very best freshmen kind to slog through January and most of February--and then get really great very late in the season. I think Maxey might be that type of player (based on his performances in the games you cited). Richards has gotten legitimately good this year; Hagans and Quickley are good, and Sestina does valuable things. If Maxey gets pretty consistently great here at the end of the season, then that's a real load.

  8. I think you're right -- Maxey is the key. Their biggest problem is that they really struggle to score down the stretch of big games. But Maxey can create his own shot, and he can get to the line. When he gets hot, he is very difficult to stop.

    Of course, last year they had Herro, who had similar qualities but much greater consistency. And in the Elite Eight, against Auburn, Herro did this:

    2-point shooting: 2-6
    3-point shooting: 1-5
    Free throws: 0-0
    7 points, 3 rebounds. So long, thanks for playing.

  9. In fact, it's because of that Auburn game that I had forgotten how good Herro really was. Last year, in one of the best regular season games I can remember, the Cats went to Auburn and won 82-80. Herro had 20 points in that game, and played a huge role in the victory. He did that sort of thing a lot -- but he was terrible in the Elite Eight, and that's why we didn't make the Final Four.

  10. Well, that's the biggest reason. They also went 12-21 from the line against Auburn in a game where they lost in OT.

    1986: LSU beats Kentucky in the Elite Eight 59 to 57. UK goes 9-16 from the line.
    1997: Arizona beats Kentucky in the National Championship in overtime. UK goes 9-17 from the line. (Nazr Mohammad was 0-6).
    2019: Auburn beats Kentucky in the Elite Eight in overtime. UK goes 12-21 from the line (PJ Washington was 6-11, but he did score 28 points and was by far UK's best player).