December 27, 2010

Kentucky Basketball: What UK Can Do To Win Every Game From Here On Out

Did the lede get you interested? Well, I was only kidding. If I could really produce something that would get us victories every time, I'm sure Coach Cal would be on the line posthaste. But there is something that all our losses and difficult games have in common.

What is it? Consider the table below:

There's nothing magic about this. What I have done is highlighted 2 point FG% games where Kentucky has shot below 45% from 2 in yellow, games where Kentucky shot below 33% from 3 in red, and games where the effective FG% (which accounts for 3-point shots) below 50% in yellow.

As you can see, UK has won 3 out of five games where it's eFG was less than 50%. That actually speaks very highly of the defense, as you will see a bit later, but before we move on to a comparison of last year's team, I want you to remember that UK has only once shot worse than 33% (which is the 2-point equivalent of 50%) from the arc.

Now, let's look at last year's team at the same point in the season:
This is a little different, isn't it? Unsurprising, of course, but different. Last year's team couldn't shoot straight from 3, but boy, they could make the shots from 2. Only one time did UK shoot below 45% from 2 last year in the same time frame, and only once in 11 games did they have an eFG below 50%, which they won. Smokin'!
But despite that, Kentucky 2009 had several too-close-for-comfort games in which they shot an eFG% of 50% or better, and that against a notably less difficult schedule than the Wildcats have faced this year. That speaks volumes about where Kentucky's defense is compared to last year.

But the main takeaway I get from this is that all the 'Cats have to do is improve their 2-point percentage to be a very scary team. A lot of that has to come from Terrence Jones and Darius Miller, both of whom have struggled of late from inside the arc. Another way to look at it would be for UK to take even more shots from three than they currently do. The distribution figures to the far right indicate the number of shots from each distance UK is currently taking, and as you might expect, they are taking a lot more this year than last.

What I think most UK fans would like to see is Kentucky more productive inside the arc than taking more threes. I really do think that the 'Cats are taking about the right number of threes per game, and what would make us nearly impossible to beat is for the 2-point shooting to be consistently above 45%.

As a final parting note, Enes Kanter would undoubtedly increase UK's 2-point FG% above 45% singlehandedly. He is that good inside. So the ultimate answer to the problem is, as with most things this year -- FREE ENES!

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