Monday, December 6, 2021

Cats are Number 10

 After playing only one game last week, the Cats drop back to number 10 in the AP Poll.  Meanwhile, with Alabama's victory over Gonzaga, Ken Pom's interpretation of the SEC is looking more and more dramatic.  The SEC now has seven teams -- exactly half the league -- ranked between 9 and 25:

9.  Alabama:  7-1
10.  Tennessee:  6-1
14.  Auburn:  7-1
15.  LSU:  8-0
16.  Kentucky:  6-1
19.  Florida:  6-1
25.  Arkansas:  8-0

To put that list in perspective, here's UK's schedule in mid-to-late February (home games in all caps):

2/12:  FLORIDA
2/15:  at Tennessee
2/19:  ALABAMA
2/26:  at Arkansas

Ken Pom thinks that all five of those games will be decided by four points or less.


  1. Texas Southern pounds Florida 69-54 in Gainesville, and the Gators fall from 19 to 27.

  2. Davion Mintz is back tonight, so the Cats have their full team for the first time since they played Duke. Of course, that didn't work out so well.

  3. Now Mark Story is tweeting about how few people are at Rupp Arena. The H-L has been telling people not to attend for years; they should be happy folks are taking their advice.

  4. Mark Story, by the way, thought that UK should have kept Billy Gillespie after the 2009 season.

  5. Cats come out looking terrible and trail 6-2 with 17:27 left in the first half.

  6. Southern leads 9-4 with 15:51 left in the first half.

  7. K-Pom has UK winning this game 86-59. They are not on that pace right now.

  8. Southern is coached by Sean Woods. If Pitino had guarded the in-bounds pass, Woods would be remembered as the guy who scored the winning basket to knock Duke out of the 1992 Tournament.

  9. Cats starting to play better now. Score tied at 11 with 13:17 to play in the first half. Southern calls time.

  10. A lot of stoppages in this game already, with two TV timeouts and two regular timeouts. Cats lead 13-11 with 12 minutes left in the first half.

  11. For a few games there, it looked like this team might be a good outside shooting team. But they are reverting to form, and are 1-9 from three-point range tonight. Southern is 3-4 from beyond the arc, and the Jaguars lead 21-18 with 7:39 left.

  12. And they just showed Woods's last shot against Duke, and Laettner's response. Thanks, SEC Network!

  13. Grady makes some three-pointers, UK makes some fouls, and the game is tied at 26 with 3:34 left in the first half. Grady is actually a very good three-point shooter, but he has to have space and have his feet organized. Most of the time, Wheeler and the ball are just flying around the court at breakneck speed, and the rest of the team doesn't have the type of ball skill that you need to keep up. Cats have 9 turnovers and have taken a lot of weird, awkward shots.

  14. We had a whole barrage of offense in the last 3 1/2 minutes, and the Cats lead 38-34 at the half. Tshiebwe and Washington got into foul trouble, so they didn't play too much. Grady leads UK with 9 points on three 3's. Cats 5-14 from 3-point range, 10-17 from 2-point range, and 3-7 from the line. UK has 10 turnovers, which has been the biggest problem with their offense. The rest of the team has to catch up to Wheeler.

  15. This first half -- with the ball flying all over the place and Tshiebwe and Washington in foul trouble -- is pretty much exactly what Notre Dame wants to see when UK goes to South Bend on Saturday.

  16. Here's UK's performance in its first true road game each season since Cal arrived:

    12/12/09: Indiana 73 - 90 Kentucky
    12/04/10: N. Carolina 75 - 73 Kentucky
    12/10/11: Indiana 73 - 72 Kentucky
    11/29/12: Notre Dame 64 - 50 Kentucky
    12/14/13: N. Carolina 82 - 77 Kentucky
    12/27/14: Louisville 50 - 58 Kentucky
    12/03/15: UCLA 87 - 77 Kentucky
    12/21/16: Louisville 73 - 70 Kentucky
    01/03/18: LSU 71 - 74 Kentucky
    12/29/18: Louisville 58 - 71 Kentucky
    01/07/20: Georgia 69 - 78 Kentucky
    12/06/20: Georgia Tech 79 - 62 Kentucky

    That's a record of 5-7, or 3-7 if you only count games played before January. So I wouldn't get your hopes up for this Notre Dame game.

  17. On the other hand, three of Cal's final four teams at UK lost their first road game. So it's not necessarily a bad sign.

  18. I am so happy we don't play Indiana any more. I hated that game.

  19. Cats have the starters back in, and they're now up 46-36 with 16 minutes left. One thing about this year's squad: they prefer the spectacular play to the safe play. It doesn't always work, but when it does it's a lot of fun.

  20. Cats up 53-42 with 11:43 left. Tshiebwe and Wheeler both had to go to the bench with three fouls, so the UK offense has mostly broken down again. But both sides are playing hard, and it's been a very fun game to watch. Of course, UK won't be close to the Ken Pom target, so their ranking is going to fall.

  21. Without Wheeler and Tshiebwe, the Cats are just a mess. Southern closes to within 55-47, and Cal calls time with 9:37 left. Cats have scored two points, both on free throws by Mintz, in the last 4 minutes of game time. They had one possession where Grady, Washington, and Mintz all missed wide open three's. They had a bunch of others where guys went flying in a missed layups.

  22. Cal puts the starters in, and the game becomes somewhat more stable. UK leads 60-51 with 7:30 left. This will be the first time in a while that UK hasn't scored 80 points. But they've just made way too many turnovers, and they've missed a bunch of free throws.

  23. Back and forth we go. Cats lead 68-58 with 2:45 left. Tshiebwe has 19 points and 9 rebounds. Washington has 12 points and 5 assists. Wheeler has 6 points and 6 assists. That's who UK is going to rely on this year, and they're pretty good.

  24. Cats win 76-64. They score 10 points fewer than Ken Pom predicted, and allowed 5 points more, so they will slide in the rankings. On the other hand, it was a lot better than Florida's performance last night against Texas Southern.

  25. Tshiebwe finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Washington finished with 14 points and 5 assists. Wheeler had 8 points and 6 assists. UK went 6-20 from three-point range, went 22-37 from two-point range, and went 14-23 from the line. They outrebounded Southern 41-25, but had 15 turnovers.

  26. So now the real season will begin, at Notre Dame on Saturday. Unlike our 2019 and 2020 teams, which were both extremely canny, this team makes a lot of mistakes -- and that will cost them over the next two months. But I think this team has a lot of talent -- the most raw talent we've had in a long time -- and by early February they could be really good.

  27. Here are the next three games:

    12/11: at Notre Dame
    12/18: Ohio State (Las Vegas, Nev.)
    12/22: LOUISVILLE

    Those three games will set the tone for the rest of the season.

  28. Meanwhile, Texas Tech and Tennessee -- two programs that deserve each other -- are playing in the Jimmy V Classic. Tech leads 43-41 with 37.2 seconds left in the game. That's not a typo; neither team has been able to score.

  29. Now Tech and Tennessee are tied at 44, and they're going to overtime. That's what ESPN gets for inviting these two to the Jimmy V classic.

  30. It's so bad that I've gone to SEC Plus, where Temple is drilling Vandy 37-27 in Memorial Gym. If you want to watch Jerry Stackhouse coach Vandy, you better watch this year, because I don't think you're getting too many more chances after that.

  31. Kevin Stallings left Vandy after the 2016 season. Here's where Vandy has finished in Ken Pom's rankings since then:

    2017: 33
    2018: 91
    2019: 155
    2020: 169
    2021: 104

    They are currently at 76, but they will fall significantly after getting pounded at home by Temple.

  32. Vandy has to take some of that SEC money and overpay for a really good coach. The SEC is just too good for Vandy to think that it can rely on Memorial Gym for seven conference wins per year.

  33. I don't regret taking a chance on Stackhouse, but it's not working out. They need a real coach, and that's going to cost real money. Fortunately, money is one thing they have.

  34. Texas Tech beats Tennessee 57-52 in overtime. UT went 6-39 (that's THIRTY-NINE from three-point range).

  35. Also, I think Vandy has to find a way to work the gold trim back into their home uniforms.

  36. Cats fall to number 20 on Ken Pom. Here is UK's record and ranking on Ken Pom after 8 games in prior years:

    2011: 6-2 (6 on Ken Pom)
    2012: 8-0 (2)
    2013: 5-3 (13)
    2014: 7-1 (6)
    2015: 8-0 (1)
    2016: 7-1 (7)
    2017: 7-1 (5)
    2018: 7-1 (13)
    2019: 7-1 (17)
    2020: 7-1 (7)
    2021: 2-6 (49)
    2022: 7-1 (20)

  37. Temple beats Vandy 72-68 in overtime, as the Dores go 4-26 from 3-point range, 20-45 from 2-point range, and 16-24 from the line. Just a terrible performance from Vandy.