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  • VAUGHT: KenPom rankings predicting losses next two games and a losing record

    By LARRY VAUGHT

    Did you wonder what the mood might have been like in the Kentucky locker room Saturday when the Cats were down by 22 points — the biggest halftime deficit in UK basketball history — to Notre Dame on Saturday?

    Let sophomore Jacob Toppin explain what it was like — and it might surprise you.

    
“We were trying not to be negative. We were staying positive because we knew what we were able to do and we wanted to do something special,” Toppin said after UK had outscored the Irish by 21 points in the second half.

    “We just told each other we had to keep fighting and keep pushing and good things will come. We took it one possession at a time, we just didn’t get the outcome we wanted.”

    That’s happened four out of five times this season and it might be going to happen a lot more.

    The KenPom computer rankings, which is supposed to take emotion out of the equation, doesn’t forecast a bright outlook for the Wildcats.

    Kentucky has already lost four straight games but if the KenPom rankings are right, that streak is not going to end any time soon. Instead, KenPom has UK not only losing to UCLA this Saturday but then also losing to rival Louisville.

    If that’s not bad enough for Kentucky fans, the overall season outlook has UK finishing 12-14. That’s right. A preseason top 10 team is now projected to not even be a .500 team less than a month into the season.

    KenPom has UK going 10-8 in Southeastern Conference play but losing at home to Tennessee. He also has the Cats going down at home to Texas.

    Kentucky coach John Calipari insinuated after Saturday’s loss that UK treated losing streaks like a “natural disaster” but he was not buying that. He has said several times he won’t panic. But he also said sometimes a team had to hit rock bottom to listen and start understanding how to win.

    If being down 22 at halftime at home is not rock bottom, losing the next two games to UCLA and Louisville would seem to me to put the Cats below rock bottom at 1-6 — and that’s where the KenPom ratings seeing Kentucky go.
    Comments 10 Comments
    1. bigsky's Avatar
      bigsky -
      It’s not like I’m gonna switch teams.
    1. Darrell KSR's Avatar
      Darrell KSR -
      Quote Originally Posted by bigsky View Post
      It’s not like I’m gonna switch teams.
      Hey, if we didn't switch teams in Eddie Sutton's last year, we're never switching teams.
    1. MickintheHam's Avatar
      MickintheHam -
      Quote Originally Posted by bigsky View Post
      It’s not like I’m gonna switch teams.
      CM would have preferred you change.
    1. Darrell KSR's Avatar
      Darrell KSR -
      Quote Originally Posted by bigsky View Post
      It’s not like I’m gonna switch teams.
      Quote Originally Posted by Darrell KSR View Post
      Hey, if we didn't switch teams in Eddie Sutton's last year, we're never switching teams.
      Quote Originally Posted by MickintheHam View Post
      CM would have preferred you change.
      Or Joker Phillips' last year.
    1. ukpumacat's Avatar
      ukpumacat -
      Quote Originally Posted by kingcat View Post
      Puma, I love ya' brother but I'm sorry, it is ridiculous to claim he cannot win another title. Will he?..maybe not. Not one coach is more likely to than not. Yet it may be he wins multiple titles.
      But regardless, yours is a very flawed hypothesis. And it includes believing he could not have won one in 2015, or with any of the other strong teams the last five years. Last season, the year before, and with Fox, Bam, and Monk's team...who were dang near cheated out of a Final Four by the rule of law.

      Surely you see the fallacy using such flawed logic in being adamant you are correct? I accept that you feel that way and respect your opinion. I do think it's a whacky one considering it's you however. Haha..
      Nah..I am only adamant that the facts do not support your opinion.

      Heck, Mark Few may even win a title one day. He now has one FF to his credit, and I believe that proves he is completely capable of it. Cal has six and has already won a title.
      I understand you believe he is a terrible coach, and even I have been as critical as anyone here the last few seasons about the faults I see in his coaching, but no way I would ever suggest a coach with six final fours and a title, could not win a title.

      If you can get to a FF, you can win a title. If you can get to six, you can win several if things go your way. And if you have been to six you are an excellent coach who has proven very capable.

      All coaches have certain flaws, just like fans.

      I'll let you have the final word on it if you want. Let's just say we differ a lot on this subject.
      What?? I didn’t claim he can’t win a National title.
      I was quoting YOU. You said he would go elsewhere and win many recruiting titles. I agree with you. I was simply pointing out the fact that you didn’t say he would go elsewhere and win a National title.
      And I absolutely do not believe “he couldn’t have won in 2015 (or 2017 for that matter)”. Where in the world are you getting that?
      He SHOULD have won in 2015. He had one of the best college teams ever assembled. Ever.
      Finally, I don’t think he’s a bad coach. Flawed? Yes (like you stated). I think he’s a top flight recruiter and is a terrific motivator. And I think he’s the best in the business at getting his teams at their peak at the right time.
      I can believe all of that AND believe his philosophy is majorly flawed and unlikely to lead to another title. I think it used to work. I think the days of One and Dones is over.

      I want titles. So I want a coach (and would prefer it be Cal) who wants to win a National title as his first priority and can’t sleep at night because he’s obsessive about doing so.
    1. bigsky's Avatar
      bigsky -
      Quote Originally Posted by MickintheHam View Post
      CM would have preferred you change.
      So I popped out of my office and shook his hand as he was walkin by and his wife said, “they are everywhere you just can’t get away”! But he was gracious.
    1. kingcat's Avatar
      kingcat -
      Sorry if I misunderstood. I was thinking back to the exchange we had which I will post below. And I didn’t mean my reply above to be a big deal or to jump on you in any way just to be clear. I enjoy the discussion.
      Fact is, if you believe Cal can win titles here and could have won more than he has here we do not disagree at all.

      Quote Originally Posted by kingcat View Post
      Each of the last two seasons in my mind we were solid contenders for not just a Final Four, but entirely capable of winning the title. I think we may differ a lot due to disagreeing on that.

      But I also sincerely believe most in the game of basketball by a wide margin would agree with that. We were playing championship basketball with the pieces needed for a title run both those seasons.
      In hindsight it is easy enough to claim we weren't because we lost, and then did not get to prove it.

      And if that premise is correct, my opinion holds more than its share of water I believe you would agree. To claim we are fading from contending for titles, is to deny we have had great opportunities to win one or two the last few seasons. Including 2015, I see four such seasons.
      Correct. We don’t agree. Hope is not the same thing as probable. I hoped. But I didn’t think we would win.
      In 2019, we lost to an Auburn team in the Elite Eight without their best player. And one we had beat handily soon before. Virginia was on a mission that year and I think the title was theirs to lose.
      In 2020, we were playing very well late. But we had several problems. Hagans was still a mess. Richards was receding and getting beat up by much smaller bigs. And Kansas and Gonzaga were simply much better teams.
      And frankly, I just don’t trust Cal at all when it matters most. I just don’t. His late game management is plain awful.

      This might be a strange analogy, but I view UK the same way I view the Chargers. They are 4-9. All 9 losses are one score losses. Some of my friends argue that they have been “contenders” all along. That just a miss here or there is the difference between being 4-9 and 13-0. At some point, that just doesn’t hold water anymore.
      You can say you are close all you want but when you consistently fall short there is a reason. The Chargers fall short because Anthony Lynn is one of the worst late game managers in the league. Two weeks in a row they called a running play with 30 seconds left in the half when they were in field goal range. And never got a kick off. It’s hideous.
      Cal’s late game management is just as bad imo. He’s awful.
      Have we been close to being close? Sure. But who cares? What would Cal have done with a Final Four? Imo, he would have blown it. He blew it colossally in 2015. His late game management is that bad. He holds timeouts. He holds the ball. He stubbornly runs the same plays over and over.
      The guy is a fantastic recruiter and motivator. But I don’t trust him when it matters most.
      In 2019, I don’t have to guess. We weren’t good enough. We lost.
      In 2020, we can only guess. But I would bet a lot of money on the fact that we wouldn’t have won. We were 29th in Kenpom rankings. And I trust those a lot when it comes to predicting who wins the tourney.
      And it brings me no joy in saying any of that. It sucks honestly. But that’s the way I feel and what I see.
    1. ukpumacat's Avatar
      ukpumacat -
      Quote Originally Posted by kingcat View Post
      Sorry if I misunderstood. I was thinking back to the exchange we had which I will post below. And I didn’t mean my reply above to be a big deal or to jump on you in any way just to be clear. I enjoy the discussion.
      Fact is, if you believe Cal can win titles here and could have won more than he has here we do not disagree at all.
      Cal has accomplished everything he has wanted at UK: chiefly...the Hall of Fame. He needed a National Title to get there and he got that. I certainly think he's competitive and wants to win but I just don't think that's what drives him anymore. A higher calling drives him now.
      And as we've discussed, that's great. But, its not why we pay him millions.

      I don't know how much time Cal has earned to "make or not make the changes needed". But, he has earned some. I think its far more likely Cal leaves before he is ever fired. He almost took the UCLA job. Like, way closer than anyone knows. He probably regrets not taking it about right now. If they had of offered just a little bit more money (especially money for his staff), he would have taken it.
      He could have had the Knicks job as well. But, I think that doesn't fit his "calling".

      I don't really know where we go from here. I think he deserves the chance to change but I don't think he will. And I also don't think he will (which is different from "can") win it all again doing things the way he is doing them. I can't see Mitch firing him no matter how hot the heat gets. Not in the next couple of years at least.
      Unfortunately, the only way I see the seat getting hot enough is if/when we lose the all time wins record. And that is very possible within the next couple of years.
    1. Darryl's Avatar
      Darryl -
      If Cal was that close to taking the head coaching position at my most hated school...that seals it.

      See ya!!

      Darryl
    1. ukpumacat's Avatar
      ukpumacat -
      Quote Originally Posted by Darryl View Post
      If Cal was that close to taking the head coaching position at my most hated school...that seals it.

      See ya!!

      Darryl
      I don't know Cal's heart obviously. Some believed he was using it. I don't. He had complete control at UK at the time and could have gotten whatever he wanted.
      I know UCLA thought they were getting him. And I know Cal flew out to LA to meet with them. That's more than he has done with anyone else. He was serious about it.

      Unlike you, I don't blame him actually. I think that job was screaming for a guy like him. A legendary program who hasn't been good in a while. West Coast seeding advantage. Pretty bad conference. California recruiting. I was frankly surprised and impressed he passed it up.