Kentucky Survives Its Last “Breather” of 2006 Season
59-57 Against Central Florida In Rupp.

Prior to Kentucky 's match up with Ohio , many Kentucky fans discounted the credibility of the Ohio University basketball team. They believed that UK would waltz past Ohio and leave Cincinnati with a perfunctory, double digit victory. However, the game was anything but the cakewalk these myopic fans anticipated or wanted. Ohio led by 9 points with about 12 minutes to play, and 3 points at the under 4 minutes to play time out.

Yes, Kentucky did prevail, by 8 points at the end, but for 28 minutes, the undermanned Ohio players and coaches took mighty Kentucky to the mat, and pinned them down, ready to deliver the knock out blow.

On Tuesday night, UK will entertain Central Florida in what most UK faithful again believe will be a cakewalk. Some even believe it will be a suitable tune up for UK 's encounter with the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kansas next Saturday.

The University of Central Florida is now a member of the reformed C-USA, holding onto a RPI ranking of #290 with 4-5 record against D1 opposition having a weak composite strength of schedule of 0.428. Prior to this season, UCF was a member of Atlantic Sun Conference. Last year, UCF ended the season ranked #108 in the RPI with a 21-8 record covering a below average schedule [SOS= 0.463]. The only opponent of consequence on UCF's 2006 schedule to date has been the University of Florida [RPI 6, SOS .538], and UCF took it on the chin by 33 points, 80-47. The four UCF victories this season have been at the hands of Stetson [by 8, RPI 324], Bethune-Cookman [by 5, RPI 175], Norfolk State [by 16, RPI 197[, and North Florida [by 12, RPI 333, Dead Last].

Based on this historical perspective, the optimistic outlook on behalf of UK fans appears justified. .However, the analysis of any game can't be a single sided appraisal.

Central Florida plays a slower game than UK , averaging about 75 possessions per game to UK 's 81. UK is more efficient on offense than UCF [0.874 ppp v. 0.836 ppp] and on defense [0.704 ppp v. 0.813 ppp]. UK has played a stronger early season schedule [0.600 v 0.432 SOS].

On balance, UK has a decidedly better team than UCF and UK should add its 10 th win of the season to the ledger when UCF visits Rupp Arena on Tuesday night. However, I doubt that UCF will take the spanking they received from the University of Florida last month in Gainesville . I predict a UK victory, 72-57. However, no one should be surprised if UCF is able to keep the final margin of defeat in single digits.

UCF raced out to a huge 18-7 lead with about 8 minutes to play in the first half. Kentucky finally decided to play the game, and over the next 5 to 6 minutes which saw UK outscore UCF 20-6 in the 4 th TV segment of the half, UK erased the early 11-point lead, catching UCF at 24-24 with about 4 minutes left, and continued their sprint to a 33-26 halftime score. While the 7 point halftime lead is only slightly below a reasonable expectation, the manner in which this team achieved this first half result is anything but expected. UK scored its 33 points on 33 possessions [1.000 ppp] and UCF scoring its 26 points on only 35 possessions, 0.743 points per possession for the half.

Of UK 's 33 first half possessions, 4 came by virtue of its offensive rebounding that produced 0 second chance points. UCF earned 5 bonus possessions created by its offensive rebounding that produced 0 second chance points. I can not recall a game in which neither team posted any second chance points, and the total number of offensive rebounds is low, particularly given the overall poor shooting by both teams. UK had a good offensive efficiency of 1.138 ppp on its 29 first chance possessions and an outstanding 0.0000 ppp for its 4 second chance possessions. UCF had a 0.867 ppp on its 30 first chance possessions and 0.000 ppp on its 5 second chance possessions.

The free throw shooting in the first half was pitiful for UK and excellent for UCF. UK 6-11 [54.5%] while UCF made both of their attempts. The halftime lead is due to the brilliant shooting by Bradley over the last 6 minutes. UCF out rebounded UK 18-15 for the half. The field goal shooting, was also weak for Kentucky tonight from inside the arc, 50.0% [6-12] than for UCF, 6-15 [40.0%]. Outside the arc, Kentucky shot a fair 5-13 [38.5%] while UCF was 4-11 [36.4%] from beyond the arc. The pace of this game was equivalent to about 70 possessions for the game.

MAGIC NUMBER Today: the first team to score its 63 rd point will win this game. UK needs 33 more points in the second half to reach this level before Ohio can score 37 points. Neither team reached the Magic Number, for the second game in a row. However, rather than a torrid first half pace and efficiency, preventing a second half of similar numbers, the second half tonight was marked by dismal performance at the offensive end by UK.

The second half started with a mini-run by UK as they moved out to a brief 11 point lead, at 45-34 near the mid-point of the half, but UCF surged back into the game with improved shooting to take a 1 point lead, 50-49 with 6:47 to play, upon which time Tubby Smith called a badly needed time out. The teams exchanged baskets for the next 6 and ½ minutes, and UK has the last possession of regulation, with the score tied at 57, with about 20 second to play. It is Rajon Rondo time folks, and he converts on a turn around jumper in the lane with only 1 ½ seconds to go, for the UK victory, 59-57.

UK lost the battle of the boards during the game, losing on total rebounds by 36-27. UK also lost the battle of the offensive boards, 14-11. UK scored 59 points on its 71 possessions [0.831 ppp] while UCF scored its 57 points using a total of 73 possessions [0.781 ppp]. Kentucky committed 10 turnovers to UCF's 19 for the game.

The second chance possessions were more productive for Kentucky tonight, but they did not enjoy a sufficient number of them to permit them to make much of a difference. Kentucky had 60 first chance possessions in which they scored 53 points, 0.883 ppp while they scored 6 points on their 11 second chance possessions, a pitiful 0.546 ppp. UCF had 59 first chance possessions on which they scored 49 points, 0.848 ppp while they scored 7 second chance points on their 14 second chance possessions, 0.500 ppp.

Tonight UK shot the ball poorly from the field inside the arc, and from the three point range, and free throw shooting was at the season average. From the field, UK shot 45.9% [17-37] inside the arc, and a weak 5-17 from beyond the arc [29.4%] for a combined shooting percentage of 40.7%. The Free throw shooting was only 10-15 [66.7%]. UCF shot better than most UK opponents, and strongly down the stretch run of the last 12 minutes of the game. From the inside the arc, Ohio was 14-30 [46.7%] and from long range, UCF was 8-20 [40.0%] for the game. From the line; however, Ohio was only 5-8 from the line [62.5%]. Kentucky committed one turnover for every 7.1 possessions while forcing a turnover in every 3.8 possessions. Last year, in comparison, these turnover rates were 6.2 and 4.6 respectively for the season.

I predicted a Kentucky win over Central Florida tonight, 72-57. The predicted v. actual offensive efficiencies were 0.926 and 0.831 ppp respectively, and the predicted v. actual defensive efficiencies were 0.724 and 0.781 ppp respectively.

On Saturday afternoon, the Wildcats travel to Lawrence, Kansas to take on an unusually weak Kansas Jayhawk team.  The way UK has been playing does not bode well for their chances in Allen Field House, but Kansas has not been breaking any records with its play this season either.  I envision a very close game, with Kansas getting a rare back-to-back win against any Kentucky team, 68-67.

NGE Method Prediction including SOS Factoring
Predicted Power Ratings for Game



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