Chick-fil-a has a slogan; “we didn’t invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich!” You could say the same about John Calipari and the one-and-done system.
‘Kentucky and John Calipari did not invent the one-and-done, just the perfection of it.’
We all know how successful of a run UK has had with those phenomenal freshman that grace the blue and white for a season and then go on to dominate the NBA. What I am about to discuss is a different type of one-and-done that Kentucky is using to win games.
As the 2017 season began and Kentucky was regularly dropping 100 points on teams and looked more like a video game than a real life team, nobody suspecting to see a steep decline into a team that struggles on offense.
Teams began to understand that if you just keep Kentucky from running, you had a chance... and they were right. We saw Tennessee do this to perfection in Knoxville, resulting in a highly frustrating loss for Big Blue Nation.
Then BBN witnessed losses to Kansas at home, a game that they should have lost at home vs. Georgia if not for Malik Monk, and then an annihilation in Gainesville.
The die was cast and doubt of a team able to reach a final four, much less a run at #9, had officially settled in.
Coach Calipari went to work on the defense, trying to find a way to stop teams from carving up a squad that he expected to be one of his best defensive teams. The focus shifted from run and gun to fight and grind.
As we have all witnessed, Kentucky is rounding into a team with the looks of a contender. Winning their last seven games since the embarrassment in Gainesville, and after last night their defensive efficiency has surpassed their offensive efficiency per Kenpom.com
Against all odds, it has finally happened: UK's dEff (11) has surpassed its oEff (13) for the season on KenPom. Cats #8 overall.— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) March 1, 2017
While we all still see the struggles of the individuals on defense, the ‘Cats are collectively playing very good defense and sometimes it makes you wonder how anyone could actually consider UK’s defense to be anywhere near a top 11 unit.
As I have watched UK over these last seven games, I have noticed a trend; teams are not getting second chances on offense.
It turns out that Calipari has been able to get through to the players on at least one thing on the defensive end, REBOUND, and it is paying huge dividends. Teams are coming down against Kentucky and going ‘one and done’ on offense.
As you can see above, since the game in Knoxville, Kentucky has had three losses. In all three losses, their collective rebounding margin is MINUS 23, with an average of nearly 12 offensive rebounds given up to the opposition. I also decided to look at the other two losses (UCLA and UL), and it is clearly a trend.
The average game in those five losses is an average of 11.4 offensive rebounds given up and a minus 6 in total rebounding.
Conversely, look at the last seven games. The average is 6.7 offensive rebounds given up and a PLUS 12.9 in total rebounding.
In those seven wins, the only team to get double-digit offensive rebounds is Florida, and UK had an overall +18 rebounding edge, so it did not hurt them.
The push for rebounding and keeping teams off the offensive glass has also helped senior Derek Willis stay in the game and be in there at the end for big shots like he hit against on SR night. Granted, he did miss two HUGE free throws, but the reason he has not been in that position before was he was not in the game, because he was a defensive liability.
Now, has Willis improved his defense, no he has not. He is still a liability and teams do exploit him. What he has done, however, is hit the glass hard and added to the above numbers.
There is no magic wand, as Cal loves to say, but there does seem to be a consistent winning formula for the 2016-17 Wildcats. Keep at least a 7+ total rebound advantage and keep the other team off the glass to the tune of 7 offensive rebounds or less.
In all five losses Kentucky only had a +1 rebounding advantage at best and at between 7-17 offensive rebounds given up.
Calipari has made it clear that he is not a proponent of the one-and-done eligibility rule, but he clearly LOVES the one-and-done defensive rebounding method. Only time will tell if the ‘Cats continue to buy-in to it.