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Kentucky Wildcats: Odds And Ends

Catching up on a few stories and topics of interest to the Big Blue Nation.

Andy Lyons

When you get caught in that Neverland in between the advent of basketball and a struggling football program, there comes a point that you don't know what to analyze.

So instead of trying to puzzle that all out, I'll offer some analysis on a few things that have arisen in the comments, and that show up on my Twitter and RSS feed.

The first thing I'll deal with is a question JLeverenz raised in the morning quickies post. He was wondering, and justifiably so, how we can be so high in Ken Pomeroy's preseason rankings, and also in the rankings of Basketball Prospectus' Dan Hanner. JLev was wondering how the Wildcats could replace nearly their entire team, and certainly their entire starting lineup, and still wind up at #1 in the KenPom rankings and #2 in Hanner's analysis.

I can't really explain Pomeroy's rank, but I assume he is doing something very similar to Hanner. He alludes to this in a post back in 2011 referring to a BP post I can't find (and which may not be publicly available), so what we'll do is give him the benefit of the doubt and assume (until I can find the correct explanation) that he's doing something similar to Hanner.

So what did Hanner do? This:

To project the ORtg for an RSCI top-10 recruit, I average the performance of all RSCI top-10 freshmen in the last 10 years. To project the ORtg for a top-20 recruit, I average the performance of all top-20 freshmen over the same time period. Not surprisingly, top-10 freshmen are the most efficient on average, followed by top-20, top-50, and top-100 recruits. But what about the vast majority of freshmen who enter D-I as unranked recruits?

In the future I hope to incorporate a more comprehensive recruiting ranking system that ranks all D-I players. But that will require merging historical recruiting data with's data, a long and painful project. And given the relative plateau in freshmen performance outside the elite level, I'm not convinced there will be a huge pay-off for all that work.

Instead, I try to take advantage of the fact that different programs tend to get a different level of recruit. I estimate each program's average unranked recruit using the historical data. Without sharing all the program rankings, let me just say that they make a lot of intuitive sense. Gonzaga and Notre Dame, for example, excel at turning unranked recruits into efficient players. At the other end of that spectrum is a program like Grambling.

Editor's note: ORtg is Offensive Rating. RSCI is the Recruiting Services Consensus Index, which combines the ratings of the top 100 players from the various recruiting services and obtains a consensus ranking.

So instead of considering an individual player or his high-school stats, what this model does is essentially assume that the average historical performance of, say, the #1 RSCI player will be more or less the performance of this year's #1 RSCI player. By averaging it over 10 years, Hanner hopes to produce a generic #1 player, and this is probably the only approach that would work. He does this for the entire RCSI top 100.

Obviously, Hanner's model isn't perfect, but the similar (but not exactly the same) results suggest that there are differences in Hanner and Kenpom's models, although it may be in some other calculation. What differences, I haven't been able to definitively say. but this suggests he is doing something similar:

The weakest part of the system is clearly accounting for new players. It ignores transfers and recruits outside the top 100. (Functionally, recruits outside the top 50-75 don’t have much impact in the formula.) Obviously, the majority of teams do not have a top 100 recruit coming on board.

So he is apparently considering the top 100, and that he's probably using some similar approximation to what Hanner is using.

So, now, is this as clear as mud? Thought so.

In other news, the coaches have ranked the Kentucky Wildcats ladies hoops team #7, to go along with the #6 ranking from the AP. As you might have guessed, that's the highest preseason ranking in school history for the UK Hoops squad, and it's simply amazing the way that Matthew Mitchell has turned this ladies team around. As far as I'm concerned, whatever Mitchell is making, he's worth more.

Rick Pitino signed a deal with Louisville today to coach the Louisville Cardinals until 2022, when Pitino will reach the ripe young age of 70. Hey, if 50 is the new 40, 70 has got to be the new 60. Congratulations to the former Kentucky Wildcats coach on his new deal. We're looking forward to adding lots of losses to his record over the next five years.

Ken has an article up at entitled, Cats tracker: Former UK, Coach Cal players in the NBA. In it, he gives us some numbers about the Wildcats in the NBA:

Fifteen players have been drafted out of Kentucky over the last three seasons, the most of any school over a three-year period. Eleven of those players were drafted in the first round.

Amazing, that, but there is plenty more where that came from.

Finally, we look at football. Is there anything the Wildcats are doing well at 1-8? It turns out,t he answer is yes:

  • Kentucky is 14th in the nation in fewest penalties;
  • Kentucky is 36th in the country in sacks, averaging 2 per game;

That's about it, though. As you might expect. Courtesy of