As it currently stands, Kentucky is 5-3 and un-ranked in the AP top-25 poll, both firsts for the John Calipari era. So far the ‘Cats have under performed the lofty expectations laid out for them in the preseason, but that’s certainly nothing to be worried about right now because of the team’s overall youth and inexperience. The three losses were certainly eye openers for everyone involved, but they did teach us something about where the team currently stands in its development. While wins and losses tell a pretty decent tale, they don’t tell the entire story. So in order to give a bit more clarity on where Kentucky currently stands in the pecking order of college basketball, I researched exactly where the Wildcats rank nationally in key offensive/defensive statistics. The table below contains the advanced data from Kenpom.com
For further elaboration on terms that may be confusing to you, click on this link to read a very short explanation of these stats.
Offensively, Kentucky is doing very well this season, despite what happened in the Baylor and Notre Dame games. Kentucky’s offensive rating is high due in large part to efficient shooting from both inside and outside the perimeter (ranking top-43 in both). The ‘Cats are also doing an excellent job of not turning the ball over and are keeping their shots from being blocked as well. However, the offensive rebounding leaves something to be desired as we rank 147th nationally. Overall, the offense isn’t were the problem lies with this team at the current time.
The defense is performing well, but not at an elite level. Currently, Kentucky ranks 27th nationally in Adjusted Defense, allowing 89.9 points per 100 possessions. This is largely due to the lack of turnovers being forced and the high amount of offensive rebounds being allowed. Effective Field Goal defense is decent at this point, but opponents are shooting 33.3% from beyond the arc which places Kentucky 169th nationally for the time being. Also, as would be expected with players like Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein, the ‘Cats are 9th in block percentage. One category that hopefully will improve as the season progresses is “free throw defense”; Kentucky’s opponents are shooting a spectacular 73.6% from the charity stripe, ranking the ‘Cats 299th nationally. This is absolutely infuriating as there’s virtually nothing that can be done about it.
Given the circumstances, Kentucky is playing moderately well for a team that is incredibly young and inexperienced. It’s been said to the point of nauseousness, but it’s worth repeating. Given the history of John Calipari coached teams, one would expect a jump in certain categories as the season progresses. It’s impossible to say at what point in the season this improvement will occur, but provided this team is composed mainly of Freshmen, the increase in performance is inevitably coming.