Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Kentucky is not a terrible road team, Harrison Barnes is getting better

After watching Kentucky fall on the road for the 3rd time in SEC play, I’m sure a lot of people are going to say that Kentucky is a terrible road team this year. And certainly, the splits bear that out to some degree. Here is Kentucky’s Adjusted Offense and Defense, replicating the Pomeroy formula, but NOT adjusting for venue:

Adj Off: 120.3
Adj Def: 84.3

Adj Off: 116.1
Adj Def: 85.6

Adj Off: 114.0
Adj Def: 94.1

Kentucky’s defense has been a little bit worse on the road, but Kentucky’s splits are very similar to the average D1 team. In fact, when I adjust for venue, using Pomeroy's traditional home/road weights, the road/home difference is not that big, especially regarding the offense:

Adj Off: 118.6
Adj Def: 85.5

Adj Off: 116.1
Adj Def: 85.6

Adj Off: 115.6
Adj Def: 92.8

The real problem for Kentucky is that the teams they have played on the road in the SEC are not as bad as people think. Georgia has at least three or four of the top players in the SEC, depending on your metric. Alabama, much like Florida St., is an incredible defensive team that can beat anyone any time. And Ole Miss was a pre-season favorite to contend for the SEC West title. Ole Miss has not played well, but that does not mean the Rebels do not have some good players on the team.

Mississippi's Chris Warren is destined to go down as one of the most under-rated players in SEC history. Despite playing in virtual obscurity thanks to the SEC West having a limited number of TV games over the last 4 years, Warren has done nothing but produce. This year he once again has a nice assist rate, and a high number of threes made. But most importantly he is great at avoiding turnovers despite being a primary ball handler. Here are his career ORtgs according to StatSheet:

Freshman: 108.4
Sophomore: 110.7
Junior: 116.3
Senior: 122.4

Tuesday is a night we should be applauding Chris Warren for winning a big game in his senior season, not knocking the Wildcats.

The other big story Tuesday was Harrison Barnes emerging with his second 20 point game of the season. I’m not quite ready to anoint Barnes as a star, because the debacle at Georgia Tech was not that long ago, but he has definitely improved his shooting. Here are his eFG% splits. (Remember eFG% gives 3/2 weight to made threes.)

Harrison Barnes eFG%
First 9 games: 38.1%
Next 10 games: 47.2%
Last 2 games: 72.6%

72.6% is not sustainable over the course of the season, but it is a sign that Barnes is now at least sometimes, a dominant player.