Monday, November 17, 2014

Kentucky 71 - 52 Buffalo (No. 2,142)

I don't think UK should ever start games at 11 A.M. Central on Sunday -- too much of the fan base is at church.  Look at what happened yesterday:

1st Quarter:  Buffalo 21, UK 20
2d Quarter:  Buffalo 17, UK 13 (Buffalo leads 38-33 at the half)

During halftime, fans in the Central time zone get home from church and turn on their TV's.

3d Quarter:  UK 21, Buffalo 9 (UK leads 54-47 with 10 minutes left)
4th Quarter:  UK 17,  Buffalo 5 (UK wins 71-52)

I just have a few observations about this game.  First, the Buffalo players wore uniforms that said "State University of NEW YORK Buffalo."  When they were shooting free throws, you could barely see the "Buffalo" and it looked like we were playing a team called "NEW YORK."  Personally, I don't think SUNY Buffalo is going to be able to convince people that they are actually the University of New York, but you have to give them credit for trying.

Second, UK's performance triggered the usual double meltdown on the UK message board -- a bunch of angry messages about UK's poor play in the first half, followed by a flood of messages attacking the negative posters as UK came back and pulled away.  UK's performance also led to an array of questions from the ever-hostile Kentucky press corps about whether the platoon system is a mistake.  To his credit, Calipari slapped these questions down pretty hard -- a man who has been to three Final Fours in four years has no need to fear Jerry Tipton and friends.  (Quote from Tipton's game piece: "UK won 71-52, but there was considerable toil and trouble en route."

Look, I'm sure there will come a point where I will lose my temper and go all message board over the Wildcats.  (I still haven't forgotten this post from last March, and I can't promise that sort of thing won't happen again.)  But yesterday was not the time.  In fact, I think the data shows that UK is coming along much better than it was last year.  Last November, in a home game against Cleveland State (who KenPom had as the 155th-best team in the country), UK trailed 54-44 with 7:41 left, before pulling out a 68-61 win.  Yesterday, UK was playing the 148th team in the country, and they struggled for awhile, but they were completely dominant in the second half.  That's improvement.

Second, I thought the platoon system basically worked as it was supposed to.  Buffalo played with a lot of intensity to start with, which is how they managed to lead at the half.  But in the last 10 minutes of the game, Buffalo was dead on its feet, while the Cats were running circles around them.  The platoons really did wear down Buffalo, just as advertised.

Third, the freshmen showed that they do deserve playing time.  Here were UK's top three scorers yesterday:  Tyler Ulis (12 points), Trey Lyles (12 points), and Devin Booker (10 points).  All freshmen, all from the second platoon.

Finally, the potential greatness of this team is on defense, not offense.  Last year, UK finished with the 10th-most efficient offense, but only the 41st-most efficient defense.  Too many guys were able to get to the rim, leading to too many easy shots.  Now it's early, but so far UK's opponents are shooting 29.9 percent from 2-point range, because the Cats are generally keeping people away from the rim.  So the way to judge this team is not by how many points they are scoring -- that will fluctuate considerably -- but how many points they are giving up.  I believe the big idea behind the platoons is that we are giving up some flow on offense in order to get much better performance on defense.  That's what happened in the second half yesterday.

Will it all work against Kansas on Tuesday night?  Who knows?  KenPom says the two teams are almost dead even -- he has the Cats winning 72-70.  But I will try to stay calm -- at least for now -- no matter what.


  1. They should've played this game in Puerto Rico. It was a ridiculous time to play a game. I hadn't even checked the start time; I figured it would be an early-evening tip, and it was, in fact, over before I ever even looked in the paper.