Well I will, well I will
I wanna push you down
Well I will, well I will
I wanna take you for granted ...
--Matchbox Twenty, Push
I'm sure that Kentucky is thinking of pushing around the Florida Atlantic University Owls as they come in to the Bluegrass to take on the Wildcats this afternoon at 3:00. Why did I choose Matchbox Twenty for our intro lyric? Because they originated in Orlando, and that's about as close as I can get to finding a group or singer I know from Boca Raton.
Quick facts about FAU:
- Location: Boca Raton, FL
- Enrollment: 26,000
- Conference: Sun Belt
- Nickname: Owls
- Colors: Blue and Red
- Head coach: Mike Jarvis, first year at FAU
Kentucky is going to want to push the Owls around, and now we will look at the numbers courtesy of Statsheet.com:
Player statistics and evaluations:
|Florida Atlantic University Owls|
|P. Graham III||6'5”/190#||G||Sr||12||11||31.8||15.9||39.2||77.5||33.8||3.3||0.5||2.8||1.4||1.8||0.6||0.1||1.7|
Back court match ups
FAU is likely to start a three-guard lineup against the 'Cats, including senior guards Paul Graham III and Carderro Nwoji. Xavier Perkins was starting at the beginning of the year but has missed the last four games, and may or may not be in the lineup today. If not, Alex Tucker will likely replace him in the starting lineup. Nwoji is a strong rebounder, averaging 5.4/game over the last five games, and Perkins was leading the Olws in rebounding from the guard spot.
The owls are only an average 3-point shooting team, and even though Perkins 50% shooting looks gaudy, he has only taken 10 3-point shots, making five. The leading 3-point shooter on the team is Paul Graham III at 34%
The Owls would seem to match up well against the Wildcats in the back court, as they have a good combination of small and quick as well as big and strong. Paul Graham III is a senior with size who is capable of guarding Jodie Meeks, unlike the smaller guards of the last few games. Alex Tucker is another big guard who can help with Meeks.
The 'Cats, however, are much deeper at the guard spot than the owls, and can initiate the offense with bigger players such as Liggins and Galloway. Overall, it's the 'Cats by a substantial margin in the backcourt, but this is the best backcourt we have seen in a while.
Front court match ups
The Owls welcome back arguably the best player in FAU history, Carlos Monroe. Monroe had to sit out the first nine games of the season becasue of academic issues. Monroe is a first team All-Sun Belt and pre-season mid-major All-American selection. He is a strong inside player and will give Patterson and Stevenson plenty to think about.
But beyond Monroe, the Owls have little in the way of size or experience in the front court. Sammy Hernandez is a senior, but he is a role player and well undersized for a two-forward three-guard lineup. Kentucky has a huge overall advantage in the front court in terms of depth and talent.
At this point, I will begin using the Pomeroy game plan analysis of the two teams. I think it gives us more useful information that merely comparing the team statistics:
|Adjusted efficiency||108.3||70||84.2||15||94.9||248||105.6||253||-183||Large UK|
|Effective FG%||55.8||15||41.4||10||46.2||253||49.9||207||-192||Large UK|
|Turnover %||25.6||320||21.4||155||19.9||115||17.4||318||2||Marginal FAU|
|Offensive rebound %||35.7||97||30.1||74||32.8||192||32||124||-27||Slight UK|
|Free throw rate||33.2||22||35.3||154||26.7||111||37.4||188||-166||Large UK|
|3-point FG%||34.3||160||31.9||107||31.7||242||32.5||119||41||Slight FAU|
|2-point FG%||57.6||8||38.4||10||45.6||241||50.4||248||-240||Large UK|
|Free throw %||78.3||10||68.6||184||72||78||70.1||234||-224||Large UK|
|Block %||6.3||57||19.2||6||6.4||61||6.6||243||-186||Large UK|
The analysis, in this particular case, is a bit misleading. UK doesn't figure to have nearly as big an advantage in 2-point FG% with Carlos Monroe available, and most of these statistics were compiled with him on the bench. It's also worthy of note that FAU is not a particularly good ball-handling team, so that will likely make the turnover advantage some teams have enjoyed more difficult to come by.
But one area where UK has dominated nearly every opponent they have played is in free throw rate. Free throw rate is a big component of offensive efficiency, and is one reason why this team has been so impressive in that category lately. Getting to the line and making them count is a huge reason why Kentucky's offense has improved.
But the real reason the 'Cats have enjoyed such recent success is their incredible defensive efficiency, currently ranked #15 by Pomeroy. The defensive pressure, particularly against inferior opponents recently, has been incredible. If that continues, I would expect to see another early lopsided score, but keep in mind that UK will h ave to work hard to keep the ball out of the hands of Carlos Monroe. He is a very efficient low-block scorer and is more than skilled enough to score on our front line. He is a talented, dangerous player on an otherwise modest Owl team.
This game looks more like a mismatch than it is, primarily because the Owls have been without their stud forward for most of the season. Gillispie has said this Florida Atlantic team has "underachieved," and he is correct, primarily due to personnel issues. Those issues appear to have been resolved, and that will make FAU a much more dangerous opponent than their success to date would appear to indicate.
The Wildcats take this team for granted at their peril. They have solid back-court players and one very good front-court player. With Monroe, it is my opinion that they are significantly more dangerous than the Hoosiers are this year, and Kentucky must pay attention to their knitting or they will find themselves in a battle.