- Offense after 8 games
- Offense after 12 games
- Defense after 8 games
- Defense after 12 games
- Offense after 21 games
If you've read any of the previous entries in this series you know what's what. Let's get right to it. The information here does not include the Tennessee game.
The Wildcats are bucking history a bit with their shot blocking, holding steady around the 14.0% mark. They are still on track to finish as John Calipari's worst shot blocking team at Kentucky, but that's relative - they have the 22nd best block rate in the country. Derek Willis has been a big part of that, with a personal block rate of 4.5 in SEC play (13th best in the conference) helping to make up for Skal Labissiere's reduced minutes.
Opponent 2pt Shooting
Two-point field goal defense has improved a bit, so that Cats are still doing okay inside the arc without blocking shots. Overall their 2pt defense isn't as good as previous seasons, but most of that is due to the lower block rate: their ability to force misses on unblocked shots is about the same as previous seasons.
Opponent 3pt Attempt Rate
Opposing teams are getting a few more threes up recently, but most of that increase has come from facing a few more 3-happy teams, notably Auburn, Alabama, and Vanderbilt. Although Kentucky has been burned by hot perimeter shooting in their losses, they've done a good job overall at limiting those shots.
Opponent Assist Rate
Kentucky still leads the country in preventing other teams from getting assists, although they are no longer on pace for a record-setting mark in the category. I'm not sure how much this is indicative of quality versus style in defense, but as I mentioned previously we should expect UK to do better than expected against teams that lack players who can get their own shots. Unfortunately, we aren't likely to see many of those kinds of teams the rest of the year.
What the Future Holds
As with the offense, here's what I think we'll see over the next month in these areas.
- Block Rate holds steady: With Willis contributing inside, Kentucky's bigs continue to do a good job protecting the basket. Further improvement can be made if Skal plays well enough in the other facets of his game to earn more minutes. Ditto for Lee. The Cats have guys who are capable, it's just a question of them staying on the floor to show it.
- 2pt Defense remains constant: There's only so good this can be without more blocks, so it's not going to get better unless that area improves (see above). I don't think it will get worse - the underlying performance on unblocked shots isn't out of the ordinary, so they should be okay.
- 3pt Attempt Rate goes up: Most of the remaining teams attempt threes at an average or above rate, so even with the Cats holding them down this is bound to go up some more.
- Assist Rate goes up: Kentucky's upcoming opponents like to share the ball. Even if the Cats hold them below their average, it will still likely be high enough to increase the season average. It won't mean Kentucky's gotten worse, just that their opponents have gotten better.