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A Tempo-Free Look at UK-Texas

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In many ways, Kentucky and Texas are mirror images of one another, with UK a little better in most areas.

Although John Calipari discussed Texas' team speed earlier in the week, neither UK nor Texas have played fast so far. UK is averaging 65.2 possessions/game, good for 232nd nationally in adjusted tempo. Texas is playing even slower, averaging 64.4 possessions/game (263rd nationally in adjusted tempo).

With both teams, the slow pace is largely due to their opponents having a difficult time scoring the ball. UK fans are familiar with UK's defensive performance to date; the Cats are 2nd nationally in adjusted Defensive Efficiency, permitting only 0.84 points/possession. Texas is also very strong defensively. The Longhorns are 5th nationally in adjusted DE, permitting only 0.87 PPP. Not surprisingly, the tough team D has caused opponents to take longer to run their offense. The average possession for Texas opponents is 19.6 seconds, 322nd nationally. UK's opponents take even longer: 19.8 seconds, 329th in the nation. Expect possessions to be in the low 60s or even high 50s, resulting in a low-scoring game between 2 teams which take defense personally.

Both teams focus on stopping the 2 as the cornerstone of their D. Tonight you will see the top 2 teams in the country in 2-point FG% D: UK is 1st (allowing .288 from inside the arc), and Texas is 2nd (.318). Perhaps not surprisingly, you will be seeing 2 of the top 3 teams in Block%, as well. UK leads the nation, blocking 26.7% of opponents' 2-pt attempts, while Texas is 3rd, blocking 20.3% of their opponents'. The team that breaks through and has success inside will have a big advantage tonight.

Offensively, both teams rely on the offensive glass as a major component of producing points. With all the focus on UK's defensive prowess to date, it's easy to overlook their offensive efficiency. During the Wisconsin-Duke game, Jay Bilas noted somewhat surprisingly that UK is 3rd nationally in Offensive Efficiency. This may be surprising to some because UK hasn't shot the ball especially well: UK is 33rd nationally in 2-point FG%, and only 207th nationally in 3-point FG%. Where UK excels is in 2nd-chance attempts. UK leads the nation in Offensive Rebound%, grabbing 48.1% of its misses. Likewise, Texas doesn't shoot the ball well (92nd nationally in 2-point FG%, 150th in 3-point FG%), but hits the offensive glass, grabbing 41.2% of its misses (14th nationally). Winning the defensive glass will obviously be a big priority for both teams.

UK may have another advantage that would be considered unlikely before the season, and that's turning Texas over. In the Calipari Era at UK, the Cats have not been known as a defense that creates a lot of turnovers. UK's national ranking in Turnover% under Coach Cal has been between 218 and 303. But this year UK ranks 7th in defensive Turnover%, turning opponents over on 27.1% of possessions. Texas' offense has not valued the ball well to date: the Longhorns rank 149th in offensive Turnover%, giving up the ball on 19.7% of possessions. Texas posted a season-worst 22.2 Turnover% on Tuesday against Texas-Arlington. Cue Tyler Ulis, stealing the ball on 5.1% of opponents' possessions when he's in the game (38th nationally) and already drawing praise nationally for his on-ball defense.

UK's platoons give the Cats a big depth advantage. UK has no player playing more than 55% of possible minutes (Willie Cauley-Stein), and has 10 players playing between 37-55% of minutes. Texas has 7 players playing between 37-55% of minutes, so it will be interesting to see if Texas' relative depth disadvantage comes into play in the final 10 minutes.

So while UK and the Longhorns may be very similar to one another, UK has 1 distinct advantage: it gets to face a Texas-like team every day in practice (the other platoon). Texas has yet to face a team with UK's multitude of weapons. It should be the difference tonight.

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Updated 12-05-2014 at 12:56 PM by KSRBEvans

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