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Kentucky Advances By Defeating UAB 69-64
Will Play #1 Connecticut on Sunday
By
TheProfessor

Game Preview:

Not many teams can claim an all-time winning record against the University of Kentucky in basketball. After all, UK is the most prolific winning program in the history of college basketball. However, when UK and UAB meet on Friday in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament, UAB, not UK will hold the all-time winning record for this particular match up. These two teams met for the first time in 1980 in Lexington in the UKIT, and the Cats defeated UAB 61-53. However, UAB has not tasted defeat at the hands of the University of Kentucky ever since.

That “ever since” consists of two NCAA meetings, 1981 and 2004. In 1981, UK entered the tournament as a #2 seed and fell to #7 seed UAB in their first tournament game 69-62. In 2004, UK entered the tournament as a #1 seed and fell to #9 seed UAB 76-75 in a second round game.

So, the stage is set for 2006. This year, UK and UAB face off in a first round game as #8 and #9 seeds respectively. Can UK correct this embarrassing trend of NCAA losses to UAB, or will UAB continue to dominate this tournament laden series?

On the season, UAB has been slightly more effective offensively this season than Kentucky [0.911 ppp v. 0.890 ppp]. UAB has also posted stronger defensive numbers for the season [0.780 v. 0.840 ppp]. UK has averaged 79.2 possessions per game, while holding its opponents to only 78.1 possessions per game due to a +1 average offensive rebounding margin per game. UAB averages 82.0 possessions per game this season, and allows their opponents 84.0 possessions per game. These teams should play this game in the low 80s pace.

UAB currently has a Net Game Efficiency for the year of 0.131 ppp while UK 's current NGE stands at 0.050 ppp. Kentucky has played a stronger schedule than UAB this season [0.5819 v 0. 5178]. 

The Pros in Vegas say Kentucky will defeat UAB Friday to advance to the NCAA Second Round game on Sunday by 2 ½ points, 71-68. This season, UK is 13-15 against the spread. The Net Game Efficiency analysis, adjusted for schedule strength and venue predicts that UAB will defeat the Wildcats by 2 points, 70-68. The pre-game Magic Number is 70 points.

The First Half:

Over the years, NCAA tournament play, particularly the first 2 rounds, have been marked by upsets, about 1 game in 4 ends with the higher seeded team beating the lower seeded opponent. UK will play in the last of 32 first round games tonight, and after the first 28 games of the first round, there have been 8 upsets. If the 1 in 4 ratio holds again this season, there should be no upsets provided from the last 4 game set. That would be good news to UK fans, as the #8 v #9 match ups provided the largest number of these upsets over the years, and UK is in that vulnerable #8 spot.

UK opened the game by winning the opening tip, and following a turnover, matching three point baskets with UAB. However, the remainder of the opening game segment belonged to the Blazers, as they established an early 7-3 lead at the first TV timeout. In that initial mini-game, UK committed 3 turnovers on their 7 possessions. One interesting observation, UAB owned the boards, grabbing 4 offensive rebounds in this first segment, converting them into 2 second chance points. In the second segment, UK took the battle to the offensive boards in their own right, grabbing 5 in the segment for 2 second chance points. The also kept UAB off the offensive boards, but perhaps that was due more to UAB hitting 3 of its 4 shots in the segment, to maintain their early lead at 13-10 after about 8 minutes in the first half. UAB had a surge out of the timeout, extending their lead to 19-15, but UK responded with a 10-2 run of its own to take its first lead of the game, and forcing UAB into a timeout at the 6 minute mark. Morris received his second foul of the game at the 5-minute mark, and returned to the bench with UK holding a 2 point lead, 25-23. However, in the final 4 minutes of the half, UAB outscores UK 10-5 to take a 33-30 halftime lead to the locker room.

UK scored its 30 points on 45 possessions [0.667 ppp] and UAB scored its 33 points on 40 possessions, 0.825 points per possession for the half.

Of UK's 45 first half possessions, 12 came by virtue of its offensive rebounding that produced 6 second chance points. UAB earned 6 bonus possessions created by its offensive rebounding that produced 2-second chance points. UK had a low offensive efficiency on its first chance possessions, of 0.727 ppp on its 33 first chance possessions and a weak 0.500 ppp for its 12-second chance possessions. UAB had a 0.912 ppp on its 34 first chance possessions and UAB took poor advantage of those second chances by scoring 2 points, 0.333 ppp.

UAB made only 4 of its 7 free throw attempts [57.1%] while UK converted 12 of its 14 attempts from the line [85.7%]. Kentucky out rebounded UAB in the first half, 22-18, and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive rebounds 12-6 during the first half. UAB shot 58.8% [10-17] from inside the arc, and a poor 3-12 from beyond the arc [25.0%]. Kentucky shot poorly from the floor, 6-21 [28.6%] inside the arc and 2-12 [16.7%] from outside the arc. The game pace is equivalent to 90 possessions for UK and 80 possessions for UAB.

MAGIC NUMBER

The pre-game analysis indicated a magic number of 70 points. However, based on the low effectiveness in the first half today, the magic number is modified to 65 points. The first team to score its 65 th point will win this game. UK needs to score 35 more points in the second half to reach this level before UAB can score 32 points in this race to 65 points. UK scored its 65 th point of the game on a three pointer with 1:40 minutes to play to take the lead to 65-59. Kentucky played out the last 1 ½ minutes of the clock to secure the victory, 69-64.

The Second Half:

The second half starts fast for Kentucky as they move from the 3 point halftime definit to a 4 point lead. However, UAB closed that brief gap to tie the game again at 41-41. In the first mini-game of the second half, Morris got his third foul after only 1 minute and returned to the bench. Morris returns to the game with 12:41 to play and UK holding to a 47-45 lead. Morris got his 4 th foul with 12:09 to play and returns to the bench. At the under 12 TV timeout, UK continues to cling to a 3 point lead, 50-47. At the under 4 timeout, UK continues to hold that 3 point lead, 61-58. Kentucky prevailed 69-64.

The Outcome:

Kentucky won the battle of the boards for the game, 42-32 and Kentucky won the battle of the offensive boards 20-10. UAB grabbed a weak 31.3% of its misses as offensive rebounds while UK grabbed a very strong 47.6% of its misses. UK scored 69 points on its 84 possessions [0.821 ppp] while UAB scored its 64 points using 75 possessions [0.853 ppp]. Kentucky committed 7 turnovers to UAB's 10 for the game.

Kentucky had 64 first chance possessions in which they scored 55 points, 0.859 ppp while they scored 14 points on their 20-second chance possessions, 0.700 ppp. UAB had 65 first chance possessions on which they scored 58 points, 0.892 ppp while they scored 6 second chance points on their 10 second chance possessions, 0.600 ppp.

Tonight UK shot the ball well below their season average from the field for the game. From the field, UK shot 37.8% [14-37] inside the arc, and a very weak 5-25 from beyond the arc [20.0%] for a combined shooting percentage of 30.6%. The Free throw shooting was way above average for the Cats today, 26-30 [86.7%]. UAB shot the ball slightly below their season average from the field today. From inside the arc, the Blazers hit 58.8% [20-34] and from long range, UAB hit a dismal 21.7% [5-23] for an overall 43.9% shooting percentage for the game. UAB's free throw shooting was poor, 5-10 [50.0%]. Kentucky committed one turnover for every 12.0 possessions while forcing a turnover in every 7.5 possessions. Last year, in comparison, these turnover rates were 6.2 and 4.6 respectively for the season.

I predicted a UAB win over Kentucky today, 70-68. The predicted v. actual offensive efficiencies were 0.833 and 0.821 ppp respectively for a “C” effort on offense. The predicted v. actual defensive efficiencies were 0.873 and 0.865 ppp respectively for an “C” on defense. Clearly, UK prevailed tonight on the basis of two factors. Free throw shooting, and second chance points from their dominance on the offensive boards, which provided UK 10 more possessions tonight than UAB enjoyed.

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Copyright 2006 Richard Cheeks
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