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Kentucky at Indiana -- Adversary Analysis

Kentucky at Indiana.  The Hoosiers vs. the Wildcats.  Border war.  Rivalry of many years.

This is yet another big game the week after a loss to another bitter rival, the North Carolina Tarheels.  I explained my thoughts about the state of the Kentucky team after the UNC game last week.  Since then, things have apparently changed for the worse -- Alex Legion is currently off the team, and may remain so and transfer.  We don't know what his ultimate disposition will be, but we do know he won't be available against IU, making an already depleted Kentucky roster thinner yet.

But after reading remarks by Coach Gillispie about how the team is practicing, I am encouraged.  Gillispie is not known for handing out praise lightly, in fact, he is known for the reverse.  Which tells me that this Kentucky team is getting better.  Depth aside, the ceiling for this team would seem to be pretty high, and maybe we will see the signs of progress today that I thought were largely absent last week.

Once again, we will be looking at the game in depth -- this is another big one.


Starters

NAME Rot GMS  MIN PTS REB  AST TO A/T STL BLK PF FG% FT% 3P% PPS
Eric Gordon S 8 32.4 24.3 3.5 2.6 3.6 1/1.4 1.6 0.9 2.6 0.53 0.84 0.5 1.88
D.J. White S 8 30.4 14.8 8.6 0.6 2.1 1/3.4 0.8 1.8 2.9 0.63 0.68 0 1.66
Armon Bassett S 8 30.5 11.3 2.1 3.5 2.1 1.6/1 0.5 0 1.1 0.43 0.81 0.46 1.38
Jamarcus Ellis S 8 32.8 8.4 8.3 4.3 3.1 1.4/1 0.9 1 2.4 0.42 0.73 0.24 1.29
Lance Stemler S 8 22.8 5.9 2.8 1 0.5 2/1 1.5 0.3 3 0.46 0.83 0.36 1.27

Eric Gordon is, of course, a dynamic freshman scoring guard, but he injured an ankle in Indiana's last game, and is said to be less than 100% for this game.  Of course, we also heard that Ty Lawson would not play for UNC last week, and we all know how that turned out.

So I expect Gordon not only to play, but be near full strength.  The question for Kentucky is, who will guard him?  Crawford is simply not a good enough defender to guard Gordon, Bradley would seem to be too small, Porter too slow (although of the three, he is the most committed defender).  Ramon Harris would seem to be the best matchup we have against him, although Harris is likely to be at a significant quickness disadvantage.  This is a situation where an Alex Legion who was committed to defense would be the ideal matchup, but that player is "vaporware" as they call it in the software industry.

D.J. White is another matchup problem for Kentucky, although not nearly as difficult.  Patrick Patterson will have his hands full, but I am confident that he can defend White.  Whether or not he can keep from fouling out of the game is another matter, and without him, Kentucky will have little chance of winning the game.  But Patterson has been outstanding at avoiding fouls as a freshman, unlike former Wildcat big man Randolph Morris.

As if those weren't enough difficulties, high-flying guard A.J. Ratliff will be available to Kelvin Samson for the first time this year after serving an academic suspension.  Ratliff is a deadly 3-point shooter and averaged over 9 points last year.


Main contributors off the bench
 
Jordan Crawford 1r 5 25 12.6 2.6 2.6 1.6 1.6/1 1 0 2.2 0.51 0.67 0.27 1.24
DeAndre Thomas 1r 8 12.6 5.8 2.5 0.8 0.9 1/1.2 0.6 0 2.9 0.53 0.75 0 1.21
Brandon McGee 2r 6 8 1.5 1.3 0 0.7 - 0.5 0.2 0.8 0.3 1 0.17 0.9
Eli Holman 2r 5 8.6 1.2 1.8 0.2 0.6 1/3.4 0.2 0.6 1.4 0.29 0.5 0 0.86
A.J. Ratliff 1r














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

As we saw with North Carolina, Indiana is much deeper off the bench with quality players, especially since the departure of Alex Legion.  With Meeks, Jasper and Legion all unavailable, Kentucky is down to 3 scholarship guards -- Crawford, Bradley and Porter.  That is an unacceptable depth situation, and will likely force Gillispie to go to some walk-ons for minutes, probably Dwight Perry.  Our 3 rotation is also going to be problematic, since we have so many swing players out.  A.J. Stewart is likely to get lots and lots of time today, no matter how he is performing in practice, because there is simply nowhere else to turn.  Even Mike Williams or Jarred Carter may be forced into some minutes today.

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 IU Rank Diff
Tempo 68 179 71 93 N/A
OE 102.7 138 113.7 32 11
EFG% 53.1 77 56.3 26 3.2
Turnover % 23.5 227 20.8 116 -2.7
OR% 36.3 87 35.9 103 -0.4
FTR 24.6 158 35.1 5 10.5
3Pt FG% 37.4 170 39.9 52 2.5
2Pt FG% 53.6 54 54.7 33 1.1
FT% 76.6 17 76.2 22 -0.4
Blk% 6.7 69 7.4 98 0.7
Stl% 9.9 167 10.6 206 0.7
3PA/FGA 28.4 289 30.9 236 2.5
A/FGM 49.7 261 52.2 213 2.5


Clearly, Indiana is more efficient and the overall better offensive team, which has been the case all year against the better teams we have played.  Believe it or not, our offensive efficiency is down from last years 119.3, and for Kentucky to be successful against Indiana, we must improve this figure substantially.

Another area where Kentucky is severely deficient is in free throw rate.  We absolutely have to do a better job at getting to the line, and Indiana's much greater FTR will be a serious problem if we are unable to draw some fouls.

In most other areas, the two teams aren't too far apart, especially in shooting percentages.  If Kentucky can improve these somewhat in this game, they have a chance to win.

Defense

Adjusted rating Kentucky Rank IU Rank Diff
Tempo



N/A
DE 82.1 9 88.6 50 6.5
EFG% 38.9 2 46.5 93 7.6
Turnover % 25.2 57 21.4 206 -3.8
OR% 34.8 221 31.3 109 -3.5
FTR 44.4 281 32.1 109 -12.3
3Pt FG% 26.9 13 32 98 5.1
2Pt FG% 38.2 8 45.9 116 7.7
FT% 71.8 261 62.1 40 -9.7
Blk% 13.2 48 10.6 100 -2.6
Stl% 12.8 42 10.2 140 -2.6
3PA/FGA 33.8 168 30.9 102 -2.9
A/FGM 52.7 122 55.6 178 2.9


As unfortunate as UK has been on offense, it has been strong on defense.  In fact, Kentucky is a much better defensive team this year than last year.

Kentucky so far this year has been a much, much better defensive team than Indiana.  We lead in almost every statistic except free throws and offensive rebounding.  3PA/FGA is not an important comparison, so even though I have that highlighted for Indiana, you should ignore it.

The problem is, basketball is about putting the ball in the basket, and no matter how good Kentucky's defense is, the Cats must get better at scoring the basketball to have a chance in this one

Intangibles

The intangibles favor Indiana.  IU is getting back a critical piece of their team from suspension, they are playing at home, and they are a confident team.  Kentucky has had many distractions this week, has a severely depleted roster, and is on the road for the first time this year in one of the most hostile environments in college basketball

5 Reasons Why Kentucky Will Win

  1. Patrick Patterson is able to guard DJ White effectively.
  2. Somebody steps up at point guard and delivers the ball to offensive players in scoring position.
  3. Bradley and Crawford score the basketball.
  4. Perry Stevenson continues his strong effort from last week.
  5. Kentucky keeps its best players out of foul trouble.

5 Reasons Why Kentucky Will Lose

  1. Patrick Patterson in foul trouble.
  2. Kentucky continues to turn the ball over.
  3. Cold shooting.
  4. Eric Gordon runs wild.
  5. DJ White owns the paint.

Conclusion

This is a tough spot for Kentucky given the week they have had.  Depth issues, player issues, several questions surrounding team members and a nascent defection all put a lot of pressure on Kentucky's psyche.  Indiana has a few issues of their own with the Gordon injury and some recent criticism of Samson, but they are having far less issues than UK right now.

The game being in Bloomington is a big boost for IU, and they will be focused on getting the ball inside to DJ White, which will put a lot of pressure on Kentucky's defense.  Patterson has got to find a way to stay out of foul trouble, and Indiana won't make that easy.  If Indiana is able to get into our bench, especially on the front line for major minutes, Kentucky is going to have a very tough time competing with the Hoosiers.

Another problem for UK is Eric Gordon, Indiana's dynamic guard.  UK has no natural matchup for Gordon, and that will also make it difficult for the defense to keep him under control, even if he really isn't 100%.  The addition of AJ Ratliff puts UK in an even more difficult position.

But Indiana must avoid fouling Patterson, because what is true for Kentucky is also true for IU -- they have nobody coming off the bench who can deliver points in the paint like White.  Also, if Eric Gordon really is less than 100%, it will give UK a chance to match him up with weaker defenders, and that would greatly increase UK's chances to win this game.  If UK manages to get good production out of AJ Stewart and Perry Stevenson, especially on the glass, the Cats have a chance to pull the big upset.

This is a tough one, but it is a rivalry game, and that works in Kentucky's favor.  The Hoosiers owe us for years of domination, and that works in their favor.  I don't make too much of the "Gillispie is 0-4 against Samson" thing, except as a possible motivator for Gillisipie.  All in all, this will be a good test for both teams, and we will find out if Gillsipie's recent claim that the Cats are improving in practice is actually true, or at least, can be translated to games.

Update [2007-12-8 14:32:35 by Truzenzuzex]:  An alert reader noticed that I hadn't changed the heading from "UNC" to "IU" on the defensive analysis.  Fixed now.