With the season a quarter of a way through (it’s hard to believe the season is already of a quarter of the way through!)
Kentucky has had its share of ups and downs. What else would you expect from one of the youngest teams in college basketball history? The eye-test can lie to you, depending on your bias.
So what do the stats say?
Here’s what we know through the first eight games of the season:
AP Poll as of Dec. 4, 2017: Kentucky is ranked #8 in the country
Win percentage: 87.5 (20th out of 351 Division 1 Teams
PS: 78.4 (126th of 351)
PA/G: 66.2 (68th of 351)
SRS: 13.67 (53rd of 351)
SOS: 1.55 (132nd of 351)
ORtg: 108.9 (116th of 351)
DRtg: 92.0 (56th of 351)
So, these are just some overall stats that I won’t get into too much. The first two statistics are just points scored by Kentucky on average versus how much they give up on average. Kentucky has been beating opponents by an average of 12.2 points a game.
That’s not bad, and the differential has been hampered by a couple of close games early in the year, as well as the late game comeback from Fort Wayne. SOS is Strength of Schedule, and SRS incorporates point differential with Strength of Schedule. This is just to explain what these mean, but they won’t be necessary.
For now. ORtg is offensive rating, which is how many points the school has produced per 100 possessions, and DRtg is defensive rating, which is how many points the team has given up per 100 possessions. So far the ‘Cats have been solid on defense, and okay on offense, but nothing to be alarmed about.
These stats will become more important as the season progresses.
Kentucky Offensive/Team Statistics (ranking out of 351 Division 1 Teams):
Field Goals: 235 (84th)
Field Goal Attempts: 468 (157th)
FG%: 50.2 (30th)
2-Point Shots Made: 201 (18th)
2-Point Shots Attempted: 369 (28th)
2P%: 54.5 (86th)
3-Point Shots Made: 34 (340th)
3-Point Shots Attempted: 99 (348th)
3P%: 34.3 (194th)
Free Throws Made: 123 (119th)
Free Throws Attempted: 184 (88th)
FT%: 66.8 (265th)
Offensive Rebounds: 94 (98th)
Defensive Rebounds: 223 (64th)
Total Rebounds: 327 (67th)
Assists: 127 (96th)
Steals: 51 (161st)
Blocks: 51 (10th)
Turnovers: 121 (261st)
Personal Fouls: 143 (195th)
Points: 627 (122nd)
Points Per Game: 78.4 (126th)
Let’s look at the positives first. John Calipari has always recruited some of the biggest teams in the entire nation. From guards to centers, Kentucky has the side advantage over almost every team. It shows up in the stats. Kentucky ranks 18th in the entire nation in two-point field goals made. Kentucky, especially in recent games, has shown the ability to get to the rim and finish. Hamidou Diallo has been on highlight reels for his amazing finishes at the rim. Funny thing is, he’s by far the least efficient non-big man on the team (48.7%). That’s how good these guys are from two-point range.
Nick Richards has been feasting on teams that can’t defend his height to a tune of 26-40 from two, or 65%. P.J. Washington sits at 58.1%, Kevin Knox at 57.6%, and Quade Green at 55.6%. In fact, only three players shoot under 50% from two: Diallo, Wenyen Gabriel (43.5%), and Tai Wynyard (2-5 from two this year).
This leads to a very impressive overall field-goal percentage. The team ranks 30th in the nation at 50.2% on the season. When level competition rises, this will dip slightly. We’ll get to how it can stay level a little later.
Kentucky is also a dynamite shot-blocking team. They rank tenth in the nation with 51 blocks in only eight games. Three players average over a block-per-game (Richards with 12, Gabriel with 12, and Sacha Killeya-Jones with 10). P.J. Washington falls just short with seven blocks on the year. Calipari’s UK teams are usually some of the best in the NCAA in shot-blocking, and this year will be no different.
The two concerning stats are ones that are to be expected at this point in the year.
Kentucky’s free throw percentage is abysmal with ranking 265th out of 361 Division 1 teams. This is typical for Calipari teams. Like I said, Calipari recruits the biggest teams in college basketball. Bigger kids, from guards to centers, at a youthful age struggle with free throws. This may not improve, but I have to assume it could.
The other stat is three-point shots attempted. Kentucky is in the fourth to last in the entire nation in three-pointers attempted. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, Kentucky has been feasting on teams much smaller than themselves. UK has been able to get to the rim at will, and the big men, especially Richards, has been able to take advantage of undersized centers. There hasn’t been much of a need to take threes.
Secondly, Jemarl Baker has been sidelined with an injury. He was supposed to be the three-point sniper of the team. Without him, the team loses a very potent element from the arc.
Lastly, I don’t think the guys feel particularly confident from that range. Yet. Knox, Diallo, and Quade all shoot pretty willingly from three. The rest of the guys… not so much. This will change as the season goes on.
Kentucky’s Defensive/Opponents’ Team Statistics (Ranking out of 351 Division 1 Teams):
Field Goals: 191 (135th)
Field Goal Attempts: 468 (262nd)
FG%: 38.2 (34th)
2-Point Shots Made: 127 (111th)
2-Point Shots Attempted: 284 (175th)
2P%: 44.7 (69th)
3-Point Shots Made: 64 (231st)
3-Point Shots Attempted: 216 (316th)
3P%: 29.6 (54th)
Free Throws: 84 (60th)
Free Throws Attempted: 132 (96th)
FT%: 63.6 (24th)
Offensive Rebounds: 99 (305th)
Defensive Rebounds: 163 (51st)
Total Rebounds: 262 (144th)
Assists: 99 (150th)
Steals: 53 (226th)
Blocks: 27 (211th)
Turnovers: 106 (210th)
Personal Fouls: 155 (202nd)
Points: 530 (123rd)
Points Per Game: 66.3 (68th)
The defensive side of the ball is the main focus of these statistics. These stats show how teams that Kentucky has faced have faired in their matchups. Most of the stats are positive.
Kentucky has been very good at not giving up a high percentage of baskets, ranking 34th in the country at only 38.2%. If the opposing team shoots the ball it is not likely to go in.
The ‘Cats have given up a tremendous amount of three-point shot attempts, but that’s to be expected. These smaller teams can’t go inside versus Kentucky, so they have to settle for shots at the three-point range. Kentucky gives up only 29.5% from three, good for 54th in the nation.
UK has also been pretty lucky that the teams that they have faced do not fare well from the free-throw line. Teams are only hitting 63.6% of their free throws.
I have a few concerns, though.
Maybe the most surprising is how many offensive rebounds Kentucky has given up. Granted, 18 of the 99 they gave up were against Kansas. Still, ranking 305th in the country in offensive rebounds given up with a team of Kentucky’s size is not a good sign.
The team also turns the ball over a little too much at this point in the season. They rank in the bottom third, or close enough to it, in blocks (211th) and steals (226th) given up so far this season. They are also 210th in turnovers. They are young and learning how to play collegiate basketball, so I would expect this to smooth out over time.
Overall, Kentucky is pretty much who we’ve seen them be over the first quarter of the season. They take, and make, high percentage shots at a very good rate. They impose their will on opponents using their size. They turn the ball over a little too much, and they need to hit their free throws more consistently.
The one stat to look back on later to see if it improves that I have not talked about: fouls. The ‘Cats have committed 143 personal fouls so far this year. That’s almost 18 a game. This could be a huge problem for the team going forward, or it’ll be a blip on the radar come SEC play.
We’ll get a feel for that on the next edition of A Statistical Breakdown.
All stats courtesy of www.sports-reference.com