Friday, November 14, 2014

Kentucky 85 - 45 Grand Canyon (No. 2,041)

Wasn't it fun to have it all back?  Rupp Arena, Tom Leach, the best uniforms in college basketball, Mike Pratt, Coach Cal, the Blue Mist -- not to mention the Harrison Twins, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, and Dominique Hawkins.  Plus we had some new treats -- Tony Delk doing studio work for the SEC Network, and a bevy of freshmen who combined for 27 points.

It's obviously too early in the season to draw too many conclusions -- in fact, as we learned last year, we can't really draw conclusions until at least March.  But this is the sixth time now that we've been on this journey with Coach Cal, so here are a few things for us to keep in mind.

1.  He's not a big gambler on defense.  Here are UK's rankings in terms of defensive turnovers created:

2010:  218
2011:  293
2012:  301
2013;  295
2014:  303

UK is going to press more this year than it has in the past, but I think it would be a mistake to expect a whole lot of 1996-style turnovers and dunks.  Cal seems to think that constantly going for steals leads to breakdowns on defense and easy buckets for the other side.  And he doesn't want his guys getting out of position, because:

2.  He really teaches solid interior defense.  Here are UK's rankings in terms of 2-point shooting percentage allowed:

2010:  6
2011:  8
2012:  1
2013:  8
2014:  49

Last year's defense wasn't at the same level, in part because UK wasn't blocking as many shots as usual.  Here are UK's rankings in terms of block percentage:

2010:  1
2011:  6
2012:  1
2013:  8
2014:  15

Tonight the Cats blocked 10 shots and held Grand Canyon to a 2-point shooting percentage of only 24.2 percent.  That's the type of defense UK wants to play.  Meanwhile, on offense:

3.  Don't expect a lot of three-point shots.  Here is where UK ranks in terms of the percentage of shots they take from three-point range:

2010:  198
2011:  180
2012:  313
2013:  273
2014:  297

So here's the bottom line:  we shouldn't expect this team to play a high-flying, run and gun sort of style.  Instead, the goal is to be very efficient on both offense and defense -- working the ball inside when the Cats have the ball, and preventing the other team from doing the same.

By those standards, tonight's performance was quite successful.  The Cats score 1.25 points per possession -- the type of rate that would normally lead the country -- while holding Grand Canyon to only 0.66.  That's how you build up a 43-16 lead at the half, and how you win by 40 points in a game with only 68 possessions.

As for the freshmen, it's too early to say very much -- but Karl-Anthony Towns (8 points and 8 rebounds in 22 minutes, the only freshman to start) looked really good.

In any event, the best of all sports seasons is back, and we're off on another roller coaster ride.  After watching so many games as a neutral observer, I enjoyed being a fan again.

1 comment:

  1. It's almost midnight on the East Coast, and there are currently 2,519 people on the UK message board. I love this fan base.