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Kentucky Basketball: Offensive Trends at Start of SEC Play

A few weeks ago I looked at a few trends on offense and defense and with conference play starting this Saturday it's a good time to check in and see what has changed since early December.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Due to how the schedule sets up this update only includes an additional four games, but I think it's a good idea to see where the team stands before SEC games begin. As before, today we'll look at the offense and Friday I'll write about the defense.

Offensive Rebound Rate


As mentioned previously, the overall trend is for offensive rebounding is to decline as the season progresses and Kentucky faces more and more teams that can put a solid front line on the court.  The Cats have certainly faced some good opponents over their last four games, so that competition level is starting to pick up.

Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee continue to be very good on the offensive glass, but to maintain this level of rebounding someone else is going to have to step up.  The obvious case would be for Skal to suddenly get a lot better, but it's unrealistic to expect that to happen anytime soon.  A better choice would be to give Isaac Humphries more minutes.  Isaac has a solid 10.2 OR% with the size and bulk to maintain position in the paint and not get blocked out.

Maintaining a strong presence on the glass will be particularly important for this UK team because it's the one thing they do offensively at an elite level (8th best in the country).  They are average at taking care of the ball (166th in TO%), okay at getting to the free throw line (59th, more on that next) and at scoring inside the arc (51st in 2pt %), and of course have considerable trouble shooting 3's (250th in 3pt%).

Free Throw Attempt Rate


Free throw rate has declined, but is still at a higher rate than all but the 2014 team after 12 games.  We might be witnessing the start of officials reverting back to old habits of calling fouls.  As I mentioned above, Kentucky's rate nationally is just 59th which is okay, but will need to be higher unless the shooting can improve or the Cats can reduce their turnovers.

Individually, Isaiah Briscoe (40.4) and Tyler Ulis (43.8) lead the way on the team with Ulis also taking the second most attempts on the team behind Jamal Murray (49 to 51).  Murray's rate of taking free throws is much lower due to how many more field goals he attempts.

3 Point Shooting


Hey - Progress!  Never mind that most of the bump you see is due to hitting 11-23 against Louisville and Murray hitting 7-9 against Ohio State.  Still, they are now shooting better than the 2015 team (31.4%) and with the same accuracy as the 2014 team.  Both of those teams improved as the season went on so maybe we'll see a 3-peat.

Free Throw Shooting


Free throw shooting remains pretty much constant: from 67.6% after eight games to 67.1% after twelve.  Many of Cal's previous teams were already showing signs of improvement at this stage in the season, so the fact that this year's team is just maintaining the status quo is tad worrisome.  Fortunately, Tyler Ulis is an elite shooter, so the Cats have a go-to guy at the end of closely led games, something many of the previous teams did not have even if their overall shooting was better.


Four games don't provide a whole lot of additional information, but as I mentioned in the first article in this series, I'm more interested in the progression of the team over the season than anything else. As I look over the charts above, I feel it's safe to say that at a macro level this team is progressing offensively in a manner similar to many of Cal's previous teams.