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Examining Calipari’s Teams Through Eight Games

Much has been made about Kentucky’s slower than usual start under fourth year head coach, John Calipari.  While Big Blue fans are world famous for overreaction and hyperbole, even other coaches have noticed the lack of performance by the Cats.  A notable example would be the head coach of last night’s opponent, Ben Seltzer, apparently saying on the sidelines that “This is the worst Kentucky team I’ve ever seen.”  While it’s unclear if he watched collegiate basketball in 2008-09, it’s crystal clear that this isn’t the worst Wildcat team of all-time.  Not even close.  But, how does this team compare to John Calipari’s previous five teams through eight games?  To find out, I used the Statistician’s heaven that is KenPom.com and compared his most recent Memphis and Kentucky teams to see how they performed in their initial eight contests using strength of schedule, points scored/allowed, and tempo-free data to reach a conclusion.

First a bit of explanation to a few concepts in the above chart that may be foreign to some.  Offensive/Defensive Points per Possession and Pythagorean Rating may seem complex, but they’re actually pretty simple to understand.  Offensive/Defensive Points per Possession are simply points scored/allowed divided by total possessions.  Pythagorean Rating is simply a mathematical formula that combines the two to predict a team’s record/strength.  Note that the data is not adjusted for strength of schedule, but it should be easy to comprehend that a low rating paired with a low SOS indicates a weaker team and vice-versa.

As you can see from the above table, this year’s edition of the Wildcats are the lowest rated among Calipari’s previous five teams in terms of points scored/allowed per possession.  But, there’s no reason to panic just yet, the rating Kentucky currently possesses is nothing to be ashamed of (mainly because of the Juggernauts that have come before them).  While it’s been well established by everyone with access to a keyboard and microphone that this year’s Kentucky squad is nowhere near as talented as last year’s, there’s no reason to light your hair on fire and run in the streets.  Above you’ll notice that this year’s team is near statistically identical to Brandon Knight’s 2010-11 squad through eight games.  While it’s also glaringly obvious that 2010-11’s version of the Cats played a tougher schedule, it’s further proof that great things can be accomplished even with a shaky start.  Even Cal’s 2008-09 Memphis squad, who stumbled out of the gate, finished 2nd in the KenPom.com ratings and appeared in the Sweet 16.

While the start has been less than ideal, I say again, there’s no reason to be concerned with the performance.  History has given us many instances were Calipari teams improve throughout the season.  More practice and game experience will certainly see this team improve.  It should also be noted that Kentucky’s SEC schedule is “down” this season, so wins and losses should look about normal come March 9th’s bout with Florida in Rupp Arena.  As it currently stands, this team is behind it predecessors, but that may not be saying much as we’re not competing with any of them.  No, we’re competing against 2012-13’s version of college basketball, which is down significantly too.

Article written by Jonathan Schuette

10 Comments for Examining Calipari’s Teams Through Eight Games



  1. Wowsers.
    7:40 pm December 5, 2012 Permalink

    Supposedly, Strong turned down a ton of money to go to UT. Here are the numbers:

    According to the source, Tennessee has offered Strong, who led Louisville to the All-State Sugar Bowl, a lucrative deal worth $23.5 million over five years — $4.7 million per year.



  2. Experience
    7:44 pm December 5, 2012 Permalink

    Breaking news -Strong to remain Coach at Louisville, Vols now targeting Ashley Judd!



  3. B L U E
    7:44 pm December 5, 2012 Permalink

    I was just watching the UF/FSU game. I cant see why any athlete would want to play there. It’s actually more quiet than high school gym’s.



  4. B/s
    7:51 pm December 5, 2012 Permalink

    Anyone see what matt just tweeted about the media? Talk about being a hypocrite. Matt has put out so much false info and been wrong so many times. Pot meet kettle.



  5. nassau65
    8:13 pm December 5, 2012 Permalink

    good stuff jS.



  6. Big Whoop
    10:28 pm December 5, 2012 Permalink

    Interesting info Jonathon. You can get the same info for free at statsheet.com. I am tracking Pomeroy’s top 16 teams (I don’t like Statsheet’s ranking method) and these Cats run middle of the pack for three of the four factors. OR is the biggest “weakness.” I think Offensive Rebounding is a little over-rated as a factor of winning because OR is based on missed shots. A bad shooting team would naturally be getting more rebounds than a good shooting team. Check out Louisville’s and Duke’s OR/gm and OR% and you can clearly see a difference.

    For a team as disorganized as this team is, they can beat the hell out of the sisters of the poor, but can’t figure out how to play,much less beat, a big 6 power conference team. Maybe it’ll get turned around by January. I am hopeful.



  7. UK Freshmen
    11:13 pm December 5, 2012 Permalink

    Too funny. You can’t compare year to year. This seasons schedule sucks harder than all the others. Dumb.



  8. Freethrow
    2:57 am December 6, 2012 Permalink

    Considering the inexperience of these young men they really haven’t done bad at all. Sure, a lot of fans actually believed we were #3 at the start of the season but any reasonable adult knew that was hogwash. No way can a team that inexperienced should be ranked so high at the start of the season.

    #7, go back and look at the schedules for the previous seasons at ukathletics.com. They were not that much tougher, at all.



  9. SKat
    3:45 am December 6, 2012 Permalink

    Thanks Jonathan. Just what I was looking for. Very close to 2010-11 numbers, so let’s hope for a late season run again this year.



  10. What?
    10:47 am December 6, 2012 Permalink

    What I don’t see in the chart is where this seasons Brandon Knight is at the point. I Anyone? 🙂