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UCLA Basketball: Kentucky Part 1 – The Stats

The Bruins play No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday. Is there much to say about the match-up that don't already know? Steve Alford didn't even have his normal presser on Tuesday. We'll try to break it down over the next couple of days anyway.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Bruins travel to Chicago to play the Number 1 Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of a doubleheader in which four of college basketball's historical heavy hitters (North Carolina plays Ohio State in the first game) square off against each other.

What is there to say about this match-up that you haven't already heard?

  • Kentucky beat North Carolina, a team that destroyed us in the B4A, 84-70.
  • Kentucky has nine former McDonald's All-Americans on the roster.
  • Pundits and fans wonder if the Wildcats will go undefeated.
  • Calipari plays two separate platoons (first team - Blue-Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Willie Cauley-Stein, Devin Booker and Alex Poythress; second team -- White -- Tyler Ulis, Trey Lyles, Dakari Johnson, Karl-Anthony Towns and Marcus Lee). Why? He's got so much raw talent, and one platoon (before the injury to Alex Poythress) came back from last year -- something he doesn't plan for in his business model. He needs to give the nine MickyD's playing time or else the pipeline will dry up. You have to give the guy credit: it was pretty creative and it's working.
  • Alex Poythress is out for the season due to an ACL injury. Perfect excuse to abandon the platoon system, right? Calipari didn't do that. Freshman Trey Lyle starts for Poythress, and then then stays on the floor to play with the second platoon. The Calipari-haters can shoot me for this, but -- genius! Poythress played an important role, but Kentucky's offense just got a lot better.

Ironically, the stat matchup doesn't look bad at all according to my homemade analysis. It's interesting that we have a better Free Throw Rate -- we go to the line more per possession.  Too bad our season FT% is only 66%, and the guy who goes to the line the most for the Bruins, Kevon Looney, is only 65%. We've said it many times - a key to our season is that is for Looney to finish around the basket when he gets all those offensive rebounds and hit the resulting free throws when he gets fouled. So much depends on Looney. Versus Gonzaga, his outside shot was going in. The defense has to cover him all over the court.

Pts FG% FT% 3P% Rebs OR DR Assists TO Stls Blk eFG% FTR OR% TO%
Kentucky 76.2 47.3 66.3 29.3 41.1 15.2 25.9 16.6 11.2 8.5 8.3 51.4 41.5 46.3 17.1
UCLA 80.8 45.9 66.1 37.3 41.9 13.5 28.4 16.1 12.8 7.5 4.7 51.6 46.2 36.3 17.7
Kentucky Def 48 30.4 67.9 26.7 30.5 12.8 17.6 6.8 17.2 4.7 2 35.1 28.5 33.1 26.2
UCLA Def 71 40.2 71.8 31.5 35 11.2 23.8 14 13.4 6.6 2.8 46.8 33 28.3 18.4

On the other hand, Kentucky is better than us at our supposed strength - offensive rebounding.

The other surprise is that the eFG% is even (takes into account the value of three's). Kentucky is miserable at the three - 29%.

It seems like we can't outrun these guys and we can't outrebound them either.  I don't expect Steve Alford to change is offensive plan much, but if you actually wanted to win this game, look at the Kentucky-Columbia game (56-46). Though Ulis and Booker sat out the game and Kentucky's shooting was awful, Columbia's strategy to control the pace worked. They even let their shot clock expire three times in the first half seemingly content to not let the Wildcats go on a fast break.

In the Q&A post, I set the over-under margin of victory for Kentucky at 30 (I believe it will be under). We're not going to win this game, but what will we look like? I know Salford put on a positive face after the Gonzaga game - he was happy with it. I wasn't, but the team is fragile. Alabama and Colorado, the next two games, are winnable, maybe even Utah (they beat Wichita State which just squeaked by Alabama at home). It isn't a good time to have that meltdown we've talked about so many times. And you don't want to look like a bunch of clowns in front of our top 2015 recruiting targets who we share in common with Kentucky: Jaylen Brown, Stephen Zimmerman and Carlton Bragg.

The Bruins protect the rim and rebound. So does Kentucky. On offense, the Bruins have an identity crisis. I've asked before: is it the Looney/Parker show or the BAlford/Hamilton/Powell show. Ideally you need both, but the former is the strength.

How did the vaunted offensive scheme get his way? Is it nepotism (setting the team up for Bryce), running an AAU-style strategy to attract recruits or is it plain-old roster mismanagement? Probably all three, but mainly stupid roster mismanagement: not prepared for and surprised by Jordan Adams leaving, not enrolling Octeus, not getting Jordan McLaughlin, Josh Perkins, Daniel Hamilton or Justise Winslow and having Jonah Bolden declared ineligible.

Result: The first five don't seem to play hard and with a coherent, consistent team-oriented offensive strategy (forget defense) for a whole game and it goes downhill from there once the substitutions start.

The Bruins just need to survive this game without curling into the fetal position, and then focus on Alabama.