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Adversary Analysis -- the UAB Blazers

Once again, it's time for coach Mike Davis, former Hoosier and known sufferer of KDS (Kentucky Derangement Syndrome) to face the team that repeatedly thwarted him during his years as Indiana's head coach.

The University of Alabama-Birmingham, or UAB as they are known, has been a Kentucky foe as recently as last year, when we eked by the #25 Blazers in the NCAA tournament 69-64 en route to a sound defeat at the hands of the Kansas Jayhawks.  But in 2004 it was a different story, when the Blazers dispatched the #2 ranked Wildcats by 1 point in an upset we all remember less than fondly.

This year, the blazers have the services of a former Hoosier, and one we should fear -- Robert Vaden.  Vaden saw serious minutes under Coach Davis at Indiana, and can score from anywhere on the floor.  UAB is by no means a pushover.  They aren't Indiana or North Carolina, but these guys are more than capable of blacking Kentucky's eye and ruining my only visit to see the Cats live so far this year.  That's right, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation -- yours truly will be in the stands at Freedom Hall tomorrow, cheering my lungs out for the team.

So let's get to the analysis:


Starters

NAME Rot GM  MIN PTS REB  AST TO A/T STL BLK PF FG% FT% 3P% PPS
Robert Vaden st 11 34 18.5 3.4 2.5 2.4 1.1/1 1 0.2 1.5 0.41 0.81 0.42 1.25
Walter Sharpe st 11 24.6 14 7.4 1.5 3 1/1.9 1.2 1.9 2.9 0.51 0.56 0 1.28
Reggie Huffman st 11 22.8 10.4 7 0.3 1.1 1 / 4 1 0.7 1.9 0.69 0.44 0 1.52
Lawrence Kinnard st 11 27.7 9.5 5.4 1.5 1.7 1/1.2 0.6 0.9 1.8 0.47 0.63 0.48 1.33
Aaron Johnson st 11 21.9 4.3 2 3.8 2.8 1.4/1 1.2 0 2.1 0.47 0.74 0.43 1.47

Kentucky is not catching UAB at it's best.  All-conference point guard Paul Delaney suffered a season-ending knee injury on November 21st, and so his backup Aaron Johnson has moved into the starting rotation.

As I mentioned before, Robert Vaden plays for UAB, and he is a handful, averaging 18.5 points per game and shooting 42% from the arc.  Vaden is a dangerous player who can score from anywhere, and it will take UK's best defensive effort to keep him in check.

UAB is not a big team, but junior foward Walter Sharpe, at 6'9" and 245# is big enough for anyone on Kentucky's team.  He is a solid low-post threat, averaging 14 points per contest.  Sharpe was thrown off the team last year by Davis, but Davis is giving him another chance.

Reggie Huffman is a JUCO transfer who is also adding a physical presence.

Main contributors off the bench
 

NAME Rot GM  MIN PTS REB  AST TO A/T STL BLK PF FG% FT% 3P% PPS
Ed Berrios 1r 11 18.3 3.8 1.7 2.4 1.8 1.3/1 0.5 0 1 0.42 0.67 0.53 1.27
Frank Holmes 2r 11 9.4 3.7 2.4 0.1 0.1 1/1 0.4 0.2 1.7 0.77 0.47 0 1.86
Howard Crawford 2r 9 9.3 3.1 0.7 0 0.4 - 0.1 0 0.8 0.57 0.71 0 2
Mike Davis Jr. 1r 11 16.1 1.8 1.5 1 0.9 1.1/1 0.4 0.2 1.8 0.26 0.57 0.13 0.74

1r = likely one of the first reserves off the bench
2r = likely a second-tier reserve

The main contributors off the bench is guard Ed Berrios (53% 3-pt shooting) and Mike Davis Jr., the coach's son.  Davis isn't a scoring threat but he is a hustler and a decent defender.

Offense

Here is how this looks.

Taking a look at Pomeroy's offensive numbers, let's see how the two teams stack up:


Adjusted rating Kentucky Rank UAB Rank Diff
Tempo 67.2 211 68.9 160 N/A
OE 100.8 167 106.8 92 6
EFG% 51.8 114 55.3 36 3.5
Turnover % 24.2 261 22.8 210 -1.4
OR% 35.1 125 33.2 185 -1.9
FTR 23.8 172 23.5 179 -0.3
3Pt FG% 33.3 205 39.7 48 6.4
2Pt FG% 52.6 68 53.4 51 0.8
FT% 74 51 63.6 273 -10.4
Blk% 6.6 59 8.7 149 2.1
Stl% 10.2 186 10.2 182 0
3PA/FGA 29 277 31.9 212 2.9
A/FGM 49.4 270 56 149 6.6

Well, what can I say?  The Blazers have been way better on offense than we have, just like over half of Division 1.  If Kentucky hopes to beat this team, they will either have to lock them down defensively or learn to put the ball in the basket.

Getting the ball to Patterson in the post would be a good first step.


Defense

Adjusted rating Kentucky Rank UAB Rank Diff
Tempo



N/A
DE 84.3 16 90.4 58 6.1
EFG% 40.5 5 42.3 17 1.8
Turnover % 24.8 65 22.7 135 -2.1
OR% 34.9 222 33.1 164 -1.8
FTR 47.4 308 38 208 -9.4
3Pt FG% 28.2 27 25.6 6 -2.6
2Pt FG% 39.6 8 43.8 66 4.2
FT% 71.3 259 65.5 85 -5.8
Blk% 12 71 11.1 84 -0.9
Stl% 11.9 68 10.1 162 -1.8
3PA/FGA 31.9 129 26.8 15 -5.1
A/FGM 51.5 94 47.1 39 -4.4

It would help to say that our numbers on defense are overwhelmingly better, but they really aren't.  Kentucky is somewhat better in the key areas of defensive efficiency and 2 point FG%, but UAB is very competitive with us defensively.

Notice the 3-point FG% discrepancy.  We had trouble with that under our last coach, if I remember correctly.


Intangibles

The intangibles favor Kentucky.  Kentucky is playing in front of a very friendly crowd in Louisville, and Mike Davis is a distraction for his team when playing the Wildcats -- he simply hates UK too much for his own good.  Pretending otherwise won't change reality.

Kentucky is smarting after two losses in a row to bitter rivals.  If the Cats are not hungry now, there is no hope for this team.

5 Reasons Why Kentucky Will Win

  1. Nobody is able to stop Patterson, offensively or defensively.
  2. Sharp ball movement and good spacing.
  3. Hungry like a wolf.
  4. Perry Stevenson continues to improve.
  5. Crawford and Bradley get out of their current shooting funk.

5 Reasons Why Kentucky Will Lose

  1. Patterson is held in check.
  2. 18 or more turnovers.
  3. Bad shots.
  4. Ball sticks in player's hands for too long.
  5. Vaden dominates our back court.

Conclusion

Some people may think this is a relatively easy game, and I suppose compared to ranked IU and North Carolina, it is.  But if the Cats play like they did at IU, we will surely lose this game as well.  UAB isn't a great team, but they are a team capable of having a good night, and the Cats are reeling from two straight setbacks, the loss of yet another player, and the inability of any of our injured guards to make it back from injury so far.

I want to be optimistic about this game, but in reality, the Cats have given me little reason to be.  Still, Crawford and Bradley have proven themselves over the years to be capable of playing very good basketball, and Patterson brings it night in and night out.  Stevenson is improving, and he isn't out-bulked by this team, so he may be able to be a factor both defensively and offensively.

The Cats need this one bad, and this might be my only chance to see them this year live.  I hope I bring some good vibes with me that will break the team out of its current funk and get them back on a winning track.