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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Examining The Road Losses

I'm sure we have all been wondering what, in particular, the Kentucky Wildcats are doing so wrong on the road that leaves them with only three road victories all year in nine tries.  So what we will do is visualize some of the critical factors, mainly the Four Factors to Winning, to see if anything stands out.  For those who still don't know what the Four Factors to Winning are, go here.

Why did I go and do this?  Well, I'm always keen to try to explain the what, rather than necessarily the why, seems different between the games we have on and the games we have lost.  Statistics, of course, don't necessarily point out the real problems that you can fix.  For the most part, I use them to try to isolate areas that could have contributed to the losses.  The real causes may be much simpler, such as the team simply failing to hustle or try hard enough.  You won't find that in the statistics anywhere, except as a possible implication from stats that are dependent on that particular characteristic.

Also, there are a ton of variables we can't account for, like a player having a good or bad day, or the wiles of the officials at critical times, or the concept of momentum, inspiration, etc.  Fear of losing also doesn't show up in the stats, but as I have said, I believe it to be present in this year's team.

What all this will do, hopefully, is to give us things to look for.  This isn't supposed to be exhaustive or detailed, but a fairly simple examination of some metrics to serve as a starting point for discussion.  We'll begin after the jump.

The very first thing I tried was just to look at the conference games, and compare the average of the offensive Four Factors as well as efficiency for the wins versus the losses.  Here's how it looks, keeping in mind this is for conference games only at this point, and higher is better for everything but turnovers:



There are really not that many surprises here.  Kentucky has been more efficient in conference wins, shot better in wins, turned the ball over about the same.  Interestingly, the Wildcats have actually rebounded better in losses (although not by very much). 

The one stat where we have a marked difference, though, is FTR%, which is how often a team gets to the line per field goal attempt.  But is that really unexpected?  Who really expects a team to get more favorable (and hence rewarded with more free throws), on the road than at home?  I don't.  So it isn't really surprising, or anomalous, for Kentucky to get to the line less on the road, which is a 100% subset of their losses.

Looking at this, I don't think I can point to anything that looks suspicious.  50% eFG% on the road is pretty darn decent shooting.  17% turnovers isn't great, but it's good.  31.94 OR% isn't great either, but it's good for this team.  You know FTR is going to suffer, so you have to say that's not horrible either, and FTR counts for only 15%.

If you could conclude anything from this, it's hardly earth-shattering.  All the losses have been very close, and UK's offense isn't producing quite enough points to overcome the home court advantage in foul shooting that teams so often enjoy.

To me, the next logical question becomes, "What about the defense?"  Indeed, what about that?  Here it is, keeping in mind that lower is better for everything but turnovers:


Aha!  Now, perhaps, we see the culprit.  Defensive efficiency is markedly better at home than away, as are the rest of the statistics.  Across the board, the defensive stats are worse but eFG% and FTR markedly so.

A lot of this is undoubtedly due to teams playing some of their very best games against Kentucky, but I would surmise it is equal parts due to poor defensive execution on the road.  In particular, allowing 50+% eFG is not going to win many games, especially when the other team is going to get to the line more on average.  Turnovers and offensive rebounds are not a huge disparity, so UK seems to be doing a fairly good job there.  But teams are burning the nets against us on the road in the SEC, and UK is not responding with far superior offense.

As to the why, well, it's anyone's guess and speculation.  Perhaps it's the youth.  Perhaps the teams are just really playing Kentucky well this year.  Perhaps it's fear of losing, or lack of confidence.  Perhaps it's all of the above.

It seems to me, though, that UK will not win games on the road until they start defending better.  That's what the stats appear to say, at least.