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Vanderbilt at Kentucky -- Pace of play a critical factor

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Below, you will find a chart in which I have analyzed pace of play against various statistics from Basketball State:



Result
Pace Data L W
Fast Count - Pace 2 1

Average - eFG% 49.55 58.7

Average - OPPP 0.95 1.2

Average - DPPP 1.11 0.71

Average - PPWS 1.11 1.3
Mod Count - Pace 5 6

Average - eFG% 52.72 55.83

Average - OPPP 0.97 1.06

Average - DPPP 1.13 0.71

Average - PPWS 1.13 1.17

First a few definitions:

Pace Possession Range
Excruciating 53 or fewer
Slow 54-60
Moderate 61-73
Fast 74-82
NASCAR 83 or more
Statistic Definition
eFG% Effective FG%
OPPP Offensive points/possession
DPPP Defensive points/possession
PPWS Points/Weighted shot (a measure of how efficiently a team converts shots into points)

So now that you know what all this means, what does the analysis say?  Well, to me it suggests that Kentucky is more effective at a moderate pace than at a faster pace.  The Cats haven't played many games at a fast pace so far, but of the ones we have, we have lost two out of the three.  But I think the most important stat is that we have difficulty holding teams who play at a high pace down offensively.  Also, it seems that we have difficulty shooting the ball well when the pace gets high.

Now look at the moderate paced games (we haven't played any slow ones yet this year).  The thing I find most interesting is our effective field goal percentage in moderate games.  Now, granted, we haven't had enough fast paced games to draw a really good comparison, but it seems that we are more likely to have difficulty shooting the ball in faster-paced games.  The one exception was Florida International, and FIU was a very weak opponent.

So let's take a look at those stats for the Vanderbilt game yesterday and see how it all worked out:

Team Result Pace eFG% OPPP DPPP PPWS
Vandy W Mod 48.2 0.96 0.87 1.07

As you can see, Kentucky is below its average for wins in every category at a moderate pace.  So how did we manage to win?  By forcing Vanderbilt to play at a pace at which it's odds of winning are lower.  The pace for this game was 65, and Vanderbilt has averaged 72.7 all year long.  Why the disparity?  The biggest reason is because Kentucky forced Vandy to slow down by denying them open shots in transition.  Kentucky allowed very little early offense to Vanderbilt, and forced a very high number of turnovers by utilizing aggressive man-to-man.  This reduced the number of Vandy possessions and slowed the pace to a level that gave UK the greatest chance to win.

Vandy fans are moaning about the officiating, and claiming that Vandy played a bad game.  I agree that the officiating was questionable, but in my opinion, it didn't favor Kentucky.  But even if those Vandy fans are right, officiating is like injuries -- just part of the game.  But the real cause of Vandy's problem was the defense that UK played.  Commodore fans may not want to admit it, but they have had difficulty with more athletic teams all year -- DePaul and South Alabama are very good examples.  They won both, but only by very narrow margins, and they could have just as easily lost both.

I think Vandy played a good game, comparatively.  They refused to give up despite a first half mauling by Kentucky, and even though they exceeded their average number of turnovers, they forced UK into even more turnovers than the 'Dores had.  But the turnover margin between the two teams is virtually identical to their season average, so that wasn't why they lost.  Some may suggest that rebounding was the problem, but pace affects rebounding.  Teams that play at a high pace get a lot of transition rebounds or early-possession offensive rebounds before the defense is set.  Kentucky simply outhustled Vanderbilt in this game, and took advantage of their superior quickness and athleticism on the defensive glass.  Vanderbilt allowed Kentucky to dictate the pace, and in the end, it was a critical part of the recipe for an upset.

Bottom line -- both teams played less than their best offensively, but Kentucky forced the tempo to where they were comfortable with it.  This was the slowest pace Vandy has played all year, and given the type of team they are, it works against them.  Other teams are bound to take note, and Vandy must find ways to score in more moderately-paced games if they expect to find themselves near the top of the SEC this year.  For Kentucky, the Cats have to continue to force opponents to play at a pace that they aren't used to.  I expected UK to try to slow down Vanderbilt, they did, and it worked to perfection.