Early SEC Trends: Kentucky’s Rebounding & Auburn’s Three-Point ShootingPosted by Greg Mitchell on November 19th, 2013
The 2013-14 season has two weekends under its belt and we have a small sample size of SEC basketball to consider. Still, we’ve identified a couple of trends that have emerged in the young season, and what they could mean going forward.
Kentucky’s rebounding, Alex Poythress included. The Wildcats have flashed elite rebounding potential thus far. Kentucky has three rotation players with total rebounding percentages greater than 20 percent: Julius Randle (24.3%), Alex Poythress (22.6%), and Willie Cauley-Stein (20.7%). As a team they have outrebounded their four opponents by a combined total of 80 boards (199 to 119). This includes beating Michigan State on the boards by 12, and it’s not easy to do that to Tom Izzo’s Spartans. Poythress’ rebounding is especially worth keeping an eye on because he’s made marked improvement over last season’s rate (13.2%). It was a safe assumption that Randle and Cauley-Stein would be elite rebounders, and it’s only been four games, but adding Poythress to this category creates an even bigger advantage for the Wildcats since all three can feasibly play in the same lineup. Kentucky will likely have times where it struggles to execute its offense given the team’s relative inexperience, as in the first half against the Spartans. But their ability to limit second chances for their opponent and create some for themselves will help Kentucky weather these rough patches and avoid big deficits.
Auburn’s rocky relationship with the three-point line. You knew that first soul-crushing, “everyone point and laugh at the SEC” loss was just around the corner. Auburn was the first to take such a loss, losing to Northwestern State, 111-92, on Friday night. It’s not that Northwestern State is that bad of a team (#135 in Kenpom’s ratings). This loss is bad instead because the Tigers gave up 72 points (72!) in the second half. A big reason Northwestern State was able to pile on points at this rate was because of their three-point shooting. Auburn allowed the Demons to shoot 14-of-27 from three, while they were only able to connect on 8-of-29 themselves. On the season Auburn is 12-of-44 from three for a paltry 27 percent.
These struggles are somewhat surprising given that Auburn’s offensive strength is its guard play. K.T. Harrell shot 42 percent from three as a freshman at Virginia, but regressed to 19 percent in far less playing time as a sophomore. He’s continued his sophomore form thus far, shooting only 4-of-15. Chris Denson has struggled from the arc throughout his career, but he is off to a good start in shooting 42 percent. Tahj Shamsid-Deen, on the other hand, is off to a terrible start in his career from three (16 percent). But that is only on seven attempts, and like the rest of this team’s numbers, the small sample size is exaggerated by a 2-of-11 performance from Harrell against Northwestern State. It’s important that the Tigers take advantage of their skilled offensive guards — to pull an upset or two they will need to rely on the three given their obvious talent disadvantage on most nights in SEC play.