Sunday, December 22, 2013

Kentucky 93 - 80 Belmont (No. 2,120)

Here was the score by quarters:

1st:  Belmont 18, Kentucky 14
2d:  Kentucky 27, Belmont 25 (Belmont led 43-41 at the half)
3d:  Kentucky 21, Belmont 14 (UK led 62-57 with 10 minutes left)
4th:  Kentucky 31, Belmont 23 (UK wins 93-80)

Belmont shredded UK's man-to-man defense for most of the game.  The Bruins committed only 7 turnovers, went 19-34 from 2-point range (they got a lot of layups), and 11-30 from 3-point range (a very respectable 36.7 percent).  UK did get 29 rebounds, while allowing only 6 offensive rebounds -- mainly because Belmont was sending everybody back to prevent transition baskets.  But that's about the only good thing you can say about the UK defense.  The Cats have a defense rating of 96.6, which puts them 43d in the country, and that's probably not going to get them deep into the tournament.

UK's offense, on the other hand, is pretty good.  Their offensive rating is 118.0 (they score 118 points per 100 possessions), which puts them sixth in the country.  Furthermore, each of UK's main players has an offensive rating well above 100:

J. Randle (has played in 75.8 percent of UK's minutes):  offensive rating of 115.0
J. Young (77.1 percent of minutes):  110.7
Aaron Harrison (75.0 percent of minutes):  123.8
Andrew Harrison (71.5 percent of minutes):  109.5
W. Cauley-Stein (67.3 percent of minutes):  125.6
A. Poythress (44.4 percent of minutes):  108.7

 UK's offense is really amazing when you consider that the Cats make only 67.5 percent of their free throws (231st in the country) and only 31.7 percent of their three-pointers (237th in the country).  They are also 194th in turnover percentage, mainly due to the fact that Randle and Andrew Harrison have been somewhat turnover-prone.  But they are shooting 54.9 percent as a team from 2-point range, and they lead the nation in offensive rebound percentage.  They are also second in the country in their ratio of free throws to field goal attempts.  In short, they are tall and athletic, but not all that skilled -- just as you would expect.

Will it all come together?  So far Ken Pomeroy has them as the 13th best team in the country and the second-best team in the SEC.  He thinks they'll go 23-8, which would probably put them on pace for a 5 or 6 seed -- or a 4 if they win the SEC Tournament.  (The 2011 team went 22-8, and then won the SEC Tournament to get a 4 seed.)  What happens once they get into the tournament is anyone's guess.  (It's easy to keep talking about how the 2011 team made the final 4, but we should also remember that the 2011 team almost lost to Princeton in the first round).

My guess is that Calipari will spend the next two months trying mainly to get the Cats to play better defense and to stop making so many turnovers.  If they can do those things, and get some luck in March, the Cats can, as they say, "make a run."  But I also guess that Calipari won't want to have too many more teams where he's so reliant on freshmen.

1 comment:

  1. I agree about 2011. The other thing is that that 2011 run didn't happen magically. It happened because individuals on the team (Harrelson, Liggins, Knight and Miller) got a lot better in a very short amount of time. It could happen for these guys, too, but they do actually have to individually become better at a faster rate than everyone else is getting better. It's not like time will pass and they naturally will be enough better to pass other teams. So, we'll see.