Kentucky Basketball: Playing "What If" -- Suffocats vs. 2009-10 Wildcats

One of my all-time favorite Kentucky teams is the Suffocats (2002-03), despite the fact that they fell to Dwyane Wade and the Marquette Golden Eagles in the Elite Eight.  They may not have won the national championship, or even made a Final Four, but they played some of the prettiest offensive and most determined defensive basketball I have ever witnessed in a Kentucky team.

The Suffocats had no superstar, and only one five star recruit on the entire roster -- Keith Bogans.  Despite that fact, they blasted the SEC, running through the conference undefeated, and winning the SEC tournament on the way to a #1 seed in the 2003 NCAA Tournament.

Everyone knows the story about Keith Bogans suffering a high ankle sprain in the Sweet Sixteen game versus the Wisconsin Badgers.  Absent a season-ending knee injury, the high-ankle sprain is one of the very worst injuries a basketball player can suffer because of its long healing time.  Bogans played against Marquette, but he was only a shell of himself, unable to move laterally and lacking any lift on his jump shot.  He essentially played the game one-legged, and Wade memorably went off for 29 points and sent the favored Wildcats home early.

Another team that got sent home unexpectedly early was the 2009-10 Wildcats.  After most of the favorites lost in the first three rounds, Kentucky entered the Elite Eight game against the West Virginia Mountaineers heavily favored to win the 2010 NCAA Tournament championship.  Like the Suffocats before them, they fell just short of the Final Four by losing to the Mountaineers, primarily due to loathsome shooting by the 'Cats from behind the arc.

I wondered who would win a game between these two powerful Wildcat teams that had an unexpectedly early end to their respective tournament runs.  It's a the five star Cadillac team of John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson against the working-man's Ford pickup of Keith Bogans, Gerald Fitch, Eric Daniels and Chuck Hayes.  Who wins a seven-game series between these two teams?  Think about it, pick your winner, and follow me past the jump.

Through the magic of WhatIfSports.com, we can play this series in almost unlimited detail.  Just to make it easy on yours truly, and to keep the post length reasonable, we have performed this exercise using just the summary stats.  Here were my results:

2002-03 vs. 2009-10
GAME TEAM MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB ASST BLK STL TO PF TP
1 2002-03 200 30-62 5-14 9-14 33 19 6 10 15 14 74
48.4% 35.7% 64.3%
2009-10 200 25-55 2-11 17-21 33 15 5 11 17 18 69
45.5% 18.2% 81.0%
2 2002-03 200 28-55 7-16 17-22 38 19 3 10 16 18 80
50.9% 43.8% 77.3%
2009-10 200 26-58 5-17 18-28 32 15 8 12 14 19 75
44.8% 29.4% 64.3%
3 2002-03 200 33-63 7-21 13-18 35 22 9 14 13 18 86
52.4% 33.3% 72.2%
2009-10 200 27-61 7-23 15-20 37 16 2 9 17 16 76
44.3% 30.4% 75.0%
4 2002-03 200 25-59 6-18 14-17 36 14 4 15 15 19 70
42.4% 33.3% 82.4%
2009-10 200 21-58 3-19 16-19 37 13 6 10 16 17 61
36.2% 15.8% 84.2%
5 2002-03 200 30-64 6-15 17-18 43 21 3 8 18 23 83
46.9% 40.0% 94.4%
2009-10 200 29-60 7-16 22-33 27 19 6 14 10 12 87
48.3% 43.8% 66.7%
6 2002-03 200 27-58 4-12 16-22 42 15 3 13 17 18 74
46.6% 33.3% 72.7%
2009-10 200 26-53 4-11 11-17 26 17 8 12 16 17 67
49.1% 36.4% 64.7%
7 2002-03 200 29-57 6-12 14-19 32 17 4 10 15 16 78
50.9% 50.0% 73.7%
2009-10 200 24-49 4-18 17-23 26 16 7 11 16 18 69
49.0% 22.2% 73.9%
Overall Shooting Percentages

2002-03
52.1% 37.6% 76.9%







2009-10
44.6% 28.9% 71.7%






Final series winner: 2002-03 6-1

Surprised?  I'm not.  The Suffocats were a dominant defensive team -- take a gander at the shooting percentages that the 2009-10 team were able to muster.  That team shot almost 48% from the field, but the Suffocats held them to an average of 44.6% in this hypothetical series.

But the main problem for the 2009-10 team was the same thing that gave them trouble all year long -- the 3-point shot.  That was the big difference, although not the only one -- the only game they managed to win in this series was one in which the Suffocats had major ballhandling problems and turned the ball over 23 times.

We'll be performing this exercise with other teams periodically throughout the summer.

Mandatory disclaimer:  I am unable to accurately evaluate the efficacy or realism of WhatIfSports' algorithm.  It is what it is, and if you run the same test, you will likely get somewhat different results, although I expect them to be similar over a seven-game series -- I ran  several series that gave me substantially the same results.  This isn't reality, this is fantasy, and just for fun and comment while we wait for Big Blue Madness over a long summer.

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