Thursday, January 10, 2013

Kentucky 90 - 38 E. Michigan (No. 2,099)

This was an extraordinary result -- 52-point margins are very rare, even for Kentucky, and it underscores just how difficult it is to get a read on this year's team.  Consider this fact:  from the 1959-60 season through the 2011-12 season, UK only won nine games by more than 51 points -- but this year's team has two wins of 52 points (over Eastern Michigan and Lafayette).  But also consider this fact:  the Cats are 1-4 against BCS competition, and never led in the second half of their losses.

When you put all of this together, what do you get?  Well, the AP has decided that the Cats just aren't very good -- UK was 32d in AP's latest poll.  The Cats are even worse in the RPI, where they are currently 59th.  ESPN's Bracketology has us as a number-7 seed.  On the other hand, our old friend Ken Pomeroy says that the Cats are the 10th-best team in the country.

We will hope that Pomeroy is right, but we were also struck by this article from Glenn Logan for SB Nation, who worries that Pomeroy's formula is overstating the quality of UK's defense.  According to Pomeroy, UK has the fourth-best defense in the country.  But as Logan points out, that ranking is due in large part to some extraordinary defensive performances against some really bad teams.  (Such as the 38 points UK allowed against Eastern Michigan.)  Pomeroy's formula assumes that you can learn just as much from a team's performance against bad teams as you can from its performance against good teams.  As Logan notes, however, that may not be true if Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel are a devastating force against short teams, but not so effective against BCS squads with height.

Against this background, I think tonight's game against Vandy will tell us a lot.  Vandy is not very good, but they are at home and they will give it their best shot.  In other words, they are pretty typical of the type of opposition UK will face on the road in the SEC.  According to Pomeroy, the Cats have an 89 percent chance of victory -- he has them winning 67-55 and then rolling to a conference record of 15-3.  If UK has a relatively easy time of it tonight, we can feel confident that Ken Pom is more right than the press.  On the other hand, if Vandy pulls the upset -- or takes UK down to the wire -- we could be in for a long season.


  1. That jive gymnasium at Vanderbilt should be outlawed.

    1. It's the best gym in the country. It should be a model for everyone else.

  2. Outside the BCS games, UK's non-conference schedule was dreadful, by the way. Here is how Pomeroy ranks the 9 teams that the Cats have beaten:

    55. Maryland
    201. Marshall
    218. Long Island U.
    227. Morehead St.
    234. Portland
    257. Lafayette
    296. Lipscomb
    303. E. Michigan
    312. Samford

    1. This is one reason it's so hard to analyze UK's performance. Most observers just disregard all wins over bad teams, assuming that there's no difference between a 20-point win and a 40-point win. Pomeroy says otherwise, which is why his take on Kentucky is so different from everyone else.

  3. I decided in the first five minutes of the U of L loss that, provided they stay as healthy as they've been in the last couple of seasons, UK is going to be really good yet this year.

  4. Vegas is going with K-Pom for now; they've made UK a 12 1/2 point favorite in tonight's game.

  5. Kentucky beats Vandy 60-58, and it's pretty clear that Pomeroy doesn't know what he's talking about.