Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Revenge for Jodie Meeks

UK's next game is the annual nightmare in Knoxville.  The Cats have been to Knoxville eight times since Coach Cal came to Lexington -- they didn't have to play there in 2014, which is one of my all-time favorite seasons.  In their eight trips to Knoxville, the Cats are 3-5.  The three winning teams were:  2011 (went to the Final Four), 2012 (won the National Championship), and 2015 (went 38-0 before losing in the Final Four).

So the Cats have to be pretty good to win in Knoxville.

One of the biggest problems that UK has in Knoxville is that they cannot shoot there.  In their eight trips to Knoxville, they have taken 166 three-point shots and made only 47.  That's a shooting percentage of 0.283, which is really terrible.  The John Wall team was particularly bad -- they went 2-22 from three-point range in a preview of their loss to West Virginia in the Elite Eight.  But even if you take those numbers away, the Cats have gone 45-144 in the other seven games -- a shooting percentage of only 0.313.  To put that figure in perspective, it's about how well this year's team shoots from behind the arc.  This year's Cats have a three-point shooting percentage of 0.319, and they are ranked 238th in the country in that category.

The Cats have famously lost in their last four trips to Knoxville; in those games they have gone 25-84 from three-point range, a terrible percentage of 0.298.  Even guys who can shoot can't shoot in Knoxville:  Jamal Murray went 3-12 from three-point range in 2016, Malik Monk went 3-13 in 2017, Kevin Knox went 0-5 in 2018, and Tyler Herro went 0-5 in 2019.

Now, consider the 2012 Kentucky Wildcats -- the best team in college basketball since 1996, Anthony Davis's team.  Do you know how they solved the Knoxville problem?  They didn't shoot threes.  In the whole game, they only took five three-pointers -- making two.  (UK has shot at least 15 three-pointers in every other trip to Knoxville since Calipari became the coach.)  The 2012 Cats just kept going inside over and over.  They had to put up with the usual terrible officiating, but they wore the officials down and eventually shot 29 free throws -- making 21.  So they survived -- just barely -- 65 to 62.  What a smart team they were.

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