UK Hoops: Dominating the SEC

Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

The UK Women's basketball team is dominating the SEC at a level that even the 2012 Men's squad never reached. Here's a look at the SEC through a tempo-free lens.

In their last two games the UK Women's basketball team has beaten opponents by a combined 197-100. They walloped Mississippi St by 53 then took their foot off the gas to beat Auburn by 44. At 6-0 they are tied with Tennessee for the best record in the conference with Texas A&M coming in third at 4-1. We're about 1/3 of the way through the schedule so let's take a look at how the SEC teams are performing in conference play so thus far.

For the last several years John Gasaway has presented tempo-free conference numbers at Basketball Prospectus through his weekly Tuesday Truths column. It's a good way to look at the overall performance of teams in conference and to highlight teams that might be playing better (or worse) than their record indicates and it's the method I will be adopting here.

Key:

School, W-L: Hopefully these are self-explanatory.
Pace: The average number of possessions in a game for each team. Higher = faster (or lots of fouls).
PPP: Points per Possession or the average number of points that a team comes away with each time they get the ball. This is the same as efficiency, just not multiplied by 100.
Opp PPP: Opponent's scoring per possession or what the defense allows on average each time the opponent has the ball.
EM: Effective Margin which is PPP minus Opp PPP. Positive is good.
Avg M: Average Margin or the EM multiplied by the average number of possessions in an SEC game this year. I put this in because I think it will be a little bit easier to interpret than EM is, but they both express the same thing.

You can think of Average Margin as the average margin of victory if every team was given the same number of chances to score in every game (Like both teams in baseball getting 9 innings).

Team W-L Pace PPP Opp PPP EM Avg M
Kentucky 6-0 75.8 1.09 0.76 0.33 23.4
Tennessee 6-0 75.3 1.07 0.82 0.26 18.4
Texas A&M 4-1 70.7 1.01 0.76 0.25 17.7
Vanderbilt 3-2 67.4 1.02 0.81 0.21 15.0
South Carolina 4-2 65.6 0.85 0.79 0.06 4.2
Georgia 4-2 67.8 0.94 0.90 0.04 3.1
LSU 3-3 67.8 0.95 0.93 0.02 1.2
Florida 2-3 72.9 0.89 0.91 -0.02 -1.4
Arkansas 1-4 66.7 0.82 0.91 -0.09 -6.4
Auburn 2-4 72.9 0.86 0.99 -0.12 -8.8
Ole Miss 0-5 73.4 0.91 1.07 -0.16 -11.0
Alabama 1-4 79.2 0.90 1.12 -0.22 -15.6
Missouri 2-3 72.7 0.78 1.04 -0.26 -18.6
Miss St 0-5 67.3 0.69 1.11 -0.43 -30.4

Average Pace: 71.1 possessions per game
Average Scoring: 0.92 points per possession

First off - WOW! The Cats are not just dominating their opponents, they are doing so by incredible margins. If you click the Tuesday Truths link above it will take you to the final results for the 2012 Men's season - a season in which Kentucky produced one of the most dominating in-conference performances of the last 10 years. So far this year the Kentucky Women are almost 27% better than last season's National Champs.

Now there is a rather large grain of salt to take with that result. The highlighted teams are UK's opponents thus far. You'll notice that for the most part they reside at the bottom of the conference. Part of that is because they've had to play Kentucky, but there is no getting around the fact that Kentucky's schedule has been pretty easy thus far. That's about to change as they will be playing South Carolina and Georgia in the next 2 weeks and they finish with 5 of their last 7 games on the road.

Another thing to notice is that the SEC is a defensive league. Teams on average are scoring much less than a point per possession. By contrast, the SEC men are scoring .98 PPP so far this year. This puts Kentucky's offense - which has improved considerably since non-conference play ended - in a whole new light. They've been spectacular so far.

The Cats are playing great but so is Tennessee. The Lady Vols have already faced South Carolina and Georgia so their schedule has been a bit tougher so far. Texas A&M has also been impressive and it would be a serious mistake to overlook them - they are neck and neck with UT and UK. There are some other good teams, but the conference is shaping up to be a three-way race right now. All that said, the Cats are playing their best ball of the year right now and they've got the overall performance to prove it.

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