Kentucky Basketball: The Most Impressive Stats from Wildcats' Season
The Kentucky Wildcats' season is coming to an end, and over the course of the year, we have seen some impressive performances on both a team and individual level.
Not everything has been perfect with this squad. There have been struggles on the road to go with problems with interior scoring, free-throw shooting and foul trouble. However, there has also been plenty of good with the team sitting on the brink of a share of the SEC regular-season title.
With the impressive numbers on display both in standard and advanced metrics, there should also be reason for excitement heading into the postseason.
Jamal Murray 20-Point Games
Jamal Murray was an elite scorer right out of the gate, scoring 19 points in his collegiate debut. He kept it up for much of the nonconference season with a few elite games here and there, but he has truly stepped up to another level in recent weeks.
After scoring 21 points in the win over Florida, Murray has now scored at least 20 points in nine straight games. According to the program's Twitter account, this puts the freshman in rare air in the program's history. Only Jodie Meeks has had a run like this in the past decade or so.
Murray's 15 20-point games on the season also set a new freshman record, besting Brandon Knight.
With an average of 19.9 points per game this year, it's clear the guard has become one of the top pure scorers in college basketball.
Tyler Ulis Assist Numbers
Tyler Ulis showed glimpses of being a great point guard last season, but he has even exceeded his high expectations during his sophomore year.
While he is a great secondary scorer in this offense, his real contributions are as a passer.
Ulis is currently averaging 7.1 assists per game, including 8.1 per game in conference play with one matchup remaining. He easily leads the SEC in his season average while sitting in the top 10 nationally.
Perhaps more impressive, though, is his ability to pass the ball without turning it over. The guard has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.63 this season, ranking eighth-best in the country, per NCAA.com.
According to Sports-Reference.com, he has earned 4.3 win shares on the offensive end alone, seventh-best in college basketball. Even with inconsistent shooting, Ulis has been one of the most impressive players in the sport.
Conference vs. Nonconference Shooting
Shooting can come and go over the course of a year, but rarely do you see an entire team have such a turnaround from the start of a season to the next.
During the nonconference season (including Jan. 30 vs. Kansas), the Wildcats made just 30.7 percent of their three-point attempts and had no threats outside of Murray from beyond the arc. This quickly changed during SEC play, with the team making 39.2 percent of attempts from the outside, second-best in the conference.
This wasn't just a slight improvement. This was a complete transformation. The one-dimensional attack became much tougher to defend, and Kentucky turned into an elite offense.
Overall, it is truly night and day compared to the start of the year.
Defensive Field-Goal Percentage
It's clear Kentucky doesn't have as good of a defense as it did last year, but this year's version is still pretty solid.
According to KenPom.com, opponents have an effective field-goal percentage of 44.2 to rank eighth in the nation. The team excels at defending two-point baskets, while three-pointers haven't been all that easy either.
The key has been the ability to close down passing lanes. No team in the country allows fewer assists per made field goal than Kentucky at 41.1 percent.
Even Ulis would probably struggle against this perimeter defense.
All year long, the Wildcats have forced individual players to create their own offense, which is usually a recipe for disaster.
Another key to Kentucky's success defensively this season has been the ability to prevent easy attempts in transition.
According to Hoop-Math.com, opponents are only able to get a shot off in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock 16.5 percent of the time. This ranks fourth-best in the nation.
The guard play gets a lot of attention on the offensive end, but the trio of Murray, Ulis and Isaiah Briscoe are also quality defenders who have the speed and quickness to stick with their matchup all over the floor. They can get back in a hurry and prevent any easy baskets that could change momentum in a hurry.
As long as this continues, the Wildcats will have a good chance of making a deep run this postseason.
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