Kentucky will be extending its national record for most NCAA Tournament appearances to 55 when they play Stony Brook tomorrow night in Des Moines, Iowa.
Game time has been set for around 9:40 ET on CBS. Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson will serve as the broadcast team The Cats and the Seawolves will tip off 30 minutes after the conclusion of 5 seed Indiana and 12 seed Chattanooga, which starts at 7:10 PM ET.
So, what are some of the particulars of tournament history where UK is involved. Being UK's national leading 55th appearance, where do the 'Cats stand in other categories coming into this tournament?
While the road ahead is littered with Blue Bloods and ghosts of tournament pasts, the 'Cats have to get by a pretty big hurdle in the Stony Brook Seawolves. The underseeded 'Cats *should* take care of business and win a game where they are favored by 14 points.
Having said that, Stony Brook is a chic pick for a tournament sleeper and with parity in College Basketball rising, the 4-seed/13-seed matchup is becoming the 12/5 matchup where you can virtually guarantee at least 1 of the 12-seeds advancing.
Using some advanced metrics, I plan to look at every opponent we face from a numbers standpoint, then apply logic to it and hope to get a good idea of what we can expect. One of the great things about March Madness though... it does not work out as planned or thought most of the time. It is called March MADNESS for a reason. However, let us check out the tale of the tape between the two teams.
Kentucky has the clear team advantage offensively against Stony Brook, the only category Stony Brook has advantage in is Assists per game. Even this statistic is a bit skewed as the VAST majority of production comes from one player, and the rest of the team becomes the beneficiary of assists to him.
Kentucky's offense has been clicking for the past several weeks, so much so that they have ascended to the #1 team in America offensively, according to KenPom.com.
Kentucky and Stony Brook share a lot of similarities on the defensive end, and the SeaWolves are even rated higher defensively than the 'Cats per KenPom. The difference being Kentucky has put up their defensive numbers against better teams than Stony Brook. There really is not much that should scare UK about Stony Brook defensively, combine that with UK having the #1 offense in America and points should not be scarce.
This brings us to the one thing Kentucky and all of Big Blue Nation should be worried about... Jameel Warney. Warney is a Senior 6'8" Power Forward and will easily be the third best player on the floor behind Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray.
Warney averages 19.8 points, and 10.7 rebounds per game.
Warney is far and away the best player for Stony Brook and he can absolutely kill Kentucky. He is in a position tha may or may not show up for UK (frontcourt), and he is explosive in the stat column. In his last game he scored 43 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, and dished out 4 assists against Vermont to emphatically punch The Seawolves ticket to the dance. Two games before that, he scored 27 points and pulled down 23 rebounds.
Warney is so mathematically important to Stony Brook, it would literally be like taking Briscoe, and Murray out of the UK lineup, or taking Briscoe, Lee, and Willis out.
I will explain below...
Advanced metrics likes to track a stat called Win Shares. If you are not familiar with the win shares value, it essentially factors all metrics, then determines how many of a team's wins are responsible for that particular player.
A very rudimentary way of explaining this is that Jamal Murray has a win share value of 5.9. UK's record is 26-8; without Jamal Murray on this team, the numbers say they would be 20-14 (19-15 without Ulis), because they would not have won 6 of their games without him (7 for Ulis).
It is a rudimentary explanation because obviously without Jamal Murray, someone else steps up and gets more minutes, opportunities, etc. and the 'Cats likely win several of those games anyway. The best way to look at Win Shares is to judge the value of a person on that particular team, that particular year.
You can see from Stony Brook's analysis, he is THE team... he has so much of their value, that on a team that is not at all deep (Basically 5 starters contribute most of the production), he is still more valuable than any of the other 2 starters COMBINED.
However, do not get the wrong impression of his teammates, he is the most important player on his team because he is damn good and producing at an historically efficient level. Another popular advanced statistic is PER (Player Efficiency Rating). This takes the individuals positive, minus the negative, and assigns a per minute rating.
You can see above, Warney's PER is 36.8... to put that into perspective, Anthony Davis' PER in 2012 was 35.13. He is actually pacing to have the highest PER rating in the history of the statistic in the NCAA.
The fact of the matter is that this should be a game where Kentucky should handle Stony Brook, even if Warney gets his. Remember the Alabama game at Rupp... Retin Obasohan dropped 30 on us, but they lost by 25
Where it COULD get scary is if Warney goes off, and his teammates follow. Kentucky is certainly not above losing to this team. We have all seen the 'beer muscles' that teams get against Kentucky. It is going to take a guy like Alex Poythress showing up and playing solid defense on Warney. Along with that, it will take a total team effort to keep those beer muscles at bay.
Mathematically, Vegas and Team Rankings.com project Kentucky to win by 14 points. Enjoy it Big Blue Nation, hopefully this is game 1 in yet ANOTHER magical Calipari run that ends with a lot of confetti on our guys.