Kentucky Basketball: 2012 Defense Charting Wrap-up

Anthony Davis stuffs Tyshawn Taylor in the national title game.

The 2011-12 basketball season was pretty exciting, no? A National Title, undefeated run through the SEC (regular season anyway), a mansion-full of POY awards for Anthony Davis, and topped off with 6 Wildcats drafted by the NBA.

This was also a good year to chart defense - the Wildcats featured three outstanding individual defenders in Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. It was a great pleasure to watch these guys shut down opposing players and help lead the team to the NCAA's 9th best defense according to Ken Pomeroy's rankings. Darius Miller once again played solid D, doing a great deal to solidify an otherwise young team on that end of the floor. Marquis Teague steadily improved throughout the season and while Doron Lamb was definitely more valuable on offense than defense, he certainly had some big defensive games.

The team set the NCAA record for blocks in a season with 344, led by Anthony Davis's Freshman record 186. Perhaps more impressively: they blocked all those shots without fouling, holding opponents to the 8th lowest Free Throw Rate in the country (25.8 free throws attempted for every 100 field goals attempted). Not surprisingly, they were the toughest team in the country to make a two against.

After the jump I'll have the full-season composite DSS results for the top eight rotation players this year.

To make things easier to read and digest, I've broken up the stats into various categories. I've also included the NCAA Average and UK Team average to help provide some context as to how well (or how poorly) players did in each category.

Shooting Defense

2P FG% 3P FG% FG% eFG%
NCAA 47.8 34.3 37.4 49.0
Team 39.6 31.8 43.4 42.0
E. Vargas 32.1 33.3 32.1 33.1
A. Davis 31.8 27.7 31.2 33.2
T. Jones 38.0 27.3 36.2 38.5
MKG 39.0 25.8 34.9 38.9
D. Miller 36.5 30.5 34.4 39.7
K. Wiltjer 41.8 29.1 39.4 42.2
M. Teague 42.1 32.6 38.1 45.0
D. Lamb 44.0 42.1 43.3 50.6

(players listed in order by eFG%)

  • No matter where you are on the floor, you are not safe from Anthony Davis. He's like Jason. Or Michael Myers. Or the IRS. Eloy Vargas wasn't much easier to score against around the basket.
  • Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist weren't far behind. They boast nearly identical lines despite playing different areas of the floor. Both were capable of playing effective defense even when their man tried to drag them inside (MKG) or outside (Jones).
  • Darius Miller was really hard to score against inside which is kind of odd because he did not block nearly as many shots this year as he had in his first three seasons.


FT Rate FT %
NCAA 36.4 69.2
Team 25.8 69.4
A. Davis 16.3 67
T. Jones 29.9 68
D. Miller 33.6 68
MKG 33.9 72.4
M. Teague 37.0 72.6
K. Wiltjer 38.2 50.9
D. Lamb 45.9 85.9
E. Vargas 63.0 68.8

(players listed by FT Rate)

  • I mentioned above that as a team the Cats did not send a lot of opponents to the line. Anthony Davis was a big reason for that. His ability to block shots without fouling was truly unique. I don't think we (or at least I) have truly grasped just how amazing it was for Davis to be so great on defense without fouling.
  • If you look over the rest of the team, it quickly becomes clear that Davis was the main reason for the Team rating. Jones, Miller, and MKG were quite good at avoiding fouls, but they weren't other-worldy about it the way Davis was.
  • Actually I take that back slightly - when you consider that Terrence Jones was playing inside so much his 29.9 rate is pretty damn good.
  • There's not much to learn from the FT%, I put them up mostly for the sake of completeness. They pretty much reflect the types of players being guarded: Lamb, Teague, and MKG mostly defended guards (better FT shooters) while Jones, Davis, and Miller defended bigs (worse FT shooters).
  • No, I do not think Kyle Wiltjer has some kind of anti-FT mojo.

Forcing Turnovers

Forced TO
NCAA 20.2
Team 17.6
M. Teague 22.8
T. Jones 20.2
D. Lamb 20.2
D. Miller 19.9
MKG 16.6
A. Davis 16.2
K. Wiltjer 13.6
E. Vargas 11.9

  • Under Calipari, Kentucky has not been big on forcing turnovers. This is by design as Cal does not want his players getting out of position by going for steals, especially not when Anthony Davis is looming, ready to block anything within his sphere of influence.
  • Not surprisingly, Marquis Teague led the team in this category and was the only Cat with an above-average ability to force turnovers within the scope of the defensive plan.
  • Jones and Lamb were basically average which is actually quite valuable within UK's defensive philosophy. The ability to get turnovers even when you aren't "trying" to force them is impressive.

Defensive Ratings

Usage% Stop% Def. Rating
NCAA 20.0
Team 20.0 57.9 91.6
A. Davis 26.6 65.0 87.6
T. Jones 21.6 61.3 90.2
MKG 17.1 61.8 90.2
E. Vargas 19.4 58.2 90.2
D. Miller 14.0 58.3 91.6
M. Teague 12.7 57.7 91.7
D. Lamb 10.3 54.9 92.3
K. Wiltjer 19.2 52.5 93.9

(players listed by Defensive Rating, I don't know what the NCAA average for Stop% is)

  • If you were designing a defense on paper you would want your best defender to also be the player who was involved in the most plays. That's what Kentucky got from Davis this year. His defensive rating was a full 4 points better than the team average. That might not seem like much, but it's actually quite large for something like this.
  • Jones, MKG, and Vargas all played with essentially the same effectiveness. I think that's about right. They got it done in different ways, but in the end were all very good.
  • I will once again - and for the last time - express my regret that we did not get to see Eloy play more minutes this year. I would have really liked to see if he could have maintained his play over longer stretches of time.
  • Miller and Teague were essentially "team-average", but when that team is Kentucky and your coach is John Calipari "average" means you are good on defense.
Thank you to everyone for reading and commenting on the DSS this year. I enjoyed doing it and I hope you got something out of them. I have one more post in mind that will utilize these results - it's fun and is something I've wanted to do for a while now.
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