Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.
I have to say, it sure is nice being a Kentucky fan after the ups and downs and ups of this Wildcats men’s basketball team this season. It has been a fun ride, and expectations have been all over the place. But right now, this is a team that looks like a potential Final Four squad. It does not yet look like the best team in the country, however.
But ongoing improvement has been the rule this season, and it’s been a nice, almost smooth curve of improvement rather than the fits and starts we have seen in the past.
Tonight, it’s UK vs LSU. The Tigers this season are currently one of the best in the SEC, having lost only one game in conference just like the Wildcats. LSU has played a comparatively easier SEC and out of conference schedule, however, having faced only two teams inside KenPom’s top 20 – Houston and Auburn – while Kentucky has faced five and defeated four of them.
LSU plays at the highest pace of any SEC team and is 49th in the nation for pace of play. Kentucky will once again be able to control the tempo to their liking, as speeding up a team is much harder than the reverse. Let’s look at the two team’s Four Factors courtesy of KenPom.com, beginning with the offenses:
As you can see, Kentucky lags in most areas in SEC play. LSU has been the better offensive team by a small but significant margin. Kentucky does take slightly better care of the ball, but that’s about it.
Now, for the defense:
What we see here is that UK is a significantly better defensive team. Not only is Kentucky’s DeFG% over 10 points per 100 possessions better, but it is better or equal in virtually every other aspect of defense.
In sum, LSU is slightly better offensively, while UK is significantly better defensively. That’s why KenPom favors Kentucky by 4 points, with a 79% statistical chance of victory.
But that’s all just stats and probability, and the game is played in the real world. Kentucky struggled defensively in Starkville against Mississippi St., mostly in the second half where MSU got hot from the perimeter. Kentucky can’t allow LSU to do that. Even though LSU is not a particularly good 3-point shooting team, they’ve made ten or more three pointers in four games this year, and nine or more ten times, with only one (an overtime loss to Florida St.) in the loss column.
So this is a classic case of where Kentucky must defend the three-point line and force LSU to put the ball on the floor. LSU takes about 5% more 3-point shots than Kentucky, which is not surprising since UK prefers to get more of their points in the paint.
Eleven in a row sure sounds nice. Let’s see if we can get that done.
Tweets of the Morning
Happy birthday, Bill. What a player.
209 Years Ago Today, Lincoln and Darwin Were Both Born. pic.twitter.com/qwKNO3Z5Ie— History In Pictures (@HistoryInPics) February 12, 2019
John Calipari says he also got some Air Pods for his birthday but no famous brownies from Mrs. Cal.— TheCatsPause247 (@TheCatsPause247) February 11, 2019
- After missing out on Anthony Edwards, Kentucky has only 3 players for the 2019 class. What’s next?
- Mark Story looks at the LSU-Kentucky game position by position.
- Matt Jones hot take:
The 3 best teams in the country right now are Tennessee, Duke and Kentucky— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) February 12, 2019
The next 4 are Michigan, Gonzaga, Virginia and North Carolina
Beyond that are nice people
I want to believe, but I’m still not totally convinced. Virginia is awfully good. Gonzaga without Killian Tillie is probably a bit below where they were, so I might cop to them being in the second tier, although I think I’d rather wait and see how they deal with his loss first.
But I’d say that Jones’ argument is defensible.
- Kentucky is focusing on LSU, and it’s a good thing, too.
- What Coach Cal said about LSU-Kentucky. Tremont Waters is the quickest point guard I have seen in a while, and it will be all Ashton Hagans can do to stay in front of him.
- LSU is going for a rare victory versus Kentucky, even more rare in Rupp Arena.
- Will Wade breaks down LSU-Kentucky.
Other Kentucky sports
- Maci Morris makes her case for the National Player of the Year award in women’s basketball.
- Hoops bashes Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
- How the 2019 recruiting cycle made the SEC East a lot more interesting.
- Ole Miss forced to vacate 33 wins over six seasons due to NCAA violations.
- One of the women alleging sexual assault by Virginia Lt. Governor Fairfax has said that former Duke basketball player also raped her. Michael McCann of SI looks at what Duke is likely to do.
- Oh, dear. Two of Bob Huggins’ best players are no longer welcome on the team. The WVa 2018-19 dumpster fire is now burning brightly.
West Virginia has dismissed both Esa Ahmad and Wesley Harris for a violation of athletic department policies, per release.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 11, 2019
Other sports news
- Did the NBA threaten the Pelicans with a fine for benching Anthony Davis? The NBA says it didn’t.
- When it snows in Hawai’i, can the end of the world be far behind?
- Almost 2000 unknown bacteria discovered in the human gut. Most of us could happily go through life without the knowledge that we are little more than animated bags of skin filled with obscene glop.
- Quantum “strangeness” gives rise to new electronics. Great?