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Kentucky Basketball: UConn in the Rear-View Mirror

Looking back on last night, I think it will be most remembered as the night John Wall stormed the country and became the new Kevin Durant.  I honestly wish that had not happened, but it was all too predictable.  Now, we will have to listen to endless stories about Wall, when what I want to hear about is the team -- you know, that name that starts with a "K" and ends with a "Y" that is writ large across the front of every jersey on the team, including John Wall.  I notice Wall's name is no bigger, his jersey no finer, and his shorts do not seem to be put on by servant girls.  Let's keep that in mind.

Here at A Sea of Blue, we are going to fight through all this Wall hype and keep the team in mind.  Yes, we should and will praise John when he plays great, critique him when he plays poorly, and pretty much treat him just like every other member of the team.  I'm confident he would expect nothing less, and unless I woke up on some other planet, basketball is still a team sport.

As usual when I have time after a game, we are going to look at the results of yesterday's contest and see what enlightenment, if any, the cold, hard mathematical facts can show us.  Stats, of course, are not the be-all and end-all of basketball, it is a complex sport that has a lot of variables that statistics cannot account for -- kind of like the weather.  It isn't quite a chaos system like weather, but sometimes, you would think it was.

So let's see what the numbers tell us.  Follow me across the jump.

First of all, we will examine the Four Factors to Winning in basketball:



What do we see here?  Well, UConn won all but one of the four factors to winning, and lost.  "How can that happen!", you say?  "What do the Four Factors mean if you can lose three and still win?"  Well, the explanation is simple.

Let's take a look at the basic team stats, and see if something doesn't suggest itself:

Basic Team Stats 

Stat Game Season Avg Opp Season Avg
Kentucky Connecticut Kentucky Connecticut Kentucky Connecticut
Points 64 61 79 75 64 65
FG Att 64 51 57 57 59 64
FG Made 25 23 28 26 22 23
FG Pct 39.1 45.1 49.2 46.3 37.7 36.9
FT Att 17 24 25 27 17 15
FT Made 11 14 16 18 11 10
FT Pct 64.7 58.3 66.7 68.3 66.5 70.0
3pt FG Att 12 6 16 10 21 20
3pt FG Made 3 1 5 3 7 6
3pt FG Pct 25.0 16.7 36.8 33.8 35.0 33.1
Rebounds 34 42 44 47 36 41
Off Rebs 15 15 14 14 13 14
Def Rebs 19 27 26 28 19 21
Team Rebs 3 4 2 5 3 4
Assists 9 11 15 15 11 11
Steals 13 3 7 7 7 7
Blocks 6 8 8 9 3 4
Turnovers 14 20 17 14 15 13
Fouls 23 18 16 15 21 22


Anything jump out at you?  Several things jump out at me, but the first and most important (and you have heard me harp on this before) is shot attempts.  UK got 13 more shots on goal than UConn did, and the eFG% difference is just under 5% (4.7, to be exact).  How did UK get all those extra shots?  Turnovers, mostly.  UK only had 14, and even though Wall had 7 himself, 14 turnovers is not that bad.  Also, notice that most of UConn's turnovers came off Kentucky steals, i.e. "live" turnovers that tend to lead to baskets.  I don't have a points off turnovers stat for this game, but I have no doubt UK won that statistic by a wide margin.  As an aside, Wall managed six of those steals, which makes up for his seven turnovers.

But the other difference was free throw percentage.  Despite getting seven more attempts, the Huskies shot almost 6.5% worse.  Making three more free throws would have got them to overtime.  Making four would have won the game.

I always like to look at some trends, and here is the first one that ought to warm the cockles of your heart:


Several of our members, including me, have been complaining about excess turnovers. Well, we are seeing progress in that area, and that is one problem that appears to be on it's way to normalization. UK is now turning the ball over less than its opponents, which of course is a very good thing.  Right now, the trend is nicely downward, but it will likely flatten out a bit due to the youth of the team.

Let's look at another encouraging trend:


UK's steals% is on a nice upward trend as well.  The combination of reduced turnovers and increased steals is a very potent offensive force, since steals represent "live" turnovers, and Kentucky is really good at converting open-court "live" turnovers into points.  That's a really underrated skill of this team, and it deserves more attention.

That should be enough for now.  Every time I do one of these, we'll examine some different trends of different stats, and hopefully, we can weave it all into a coherent picture of... well, okay, of victory!