Posted: 3:20 p.m. Saturday, April 20, 2013
First, we must look at where we were before BBM and Coach Mitchell’s infamous MC Hammer dance. The 2012 season was one of the best ever for UK: 28-7, with a perfect 18-0 record at home. We finished SEC Conference Play 13-3, and won the regular season SEC Championship. UK Hoops had the SEC Player of the Year (A’Dia Mathies), Freshman of the Year (Bria Gross), and Coach of the Year, Matthew Mitchell. Conversely, we lost Keyla Snowden, Amber Smith and Crystal Riley to graduation, and Bra’Shey Ali transferred to Seton Hall. Collectively these players represented roughly a 20% of our rebounds and overall scoring.
All was not lost, however. As we began the 2013 season, we returned 4 of our top 5 scorers, and a healthy Jennifer O’Neil at the point. (Jen sat out the 2012 season with stress fracture injury in her right foot.) We added freshman point guard and McDonald’s All-American, Janee Thompson, transfers DeNesha Stallworth at center and Jalleah Sidney at forward. We entered the season with experience at every starting position, a critical element in the hyper-competitive SEC.
With this embarrassment of riches, how did we compare – both within the SEC and against the top 4 teams in the land (Baylor, Notre Dame, UConn, Stanford)? Also, how did we compare to the Dirty Birds?
|School||2013 Avg Pts Per Game||2012 Avg Pts Per Game||2013 3 Pt %||2012 3 PT %||2013 FT %||2012 FT %|
|SEC Mean Average||67||64.5||30.80%||31.90%||68.00%||66.10%|
|Key Non-SEC Rivals||77.4||75.7||34.40%||33.30%||73.00%||74.40%|
Key take-aways from this ungodly amount of offensive stats:
While we beat the SEC Mean average in all 3 listed categories (Average Points Per Game, 3 Point Shooting and Free Throw Shooting), we’ve got quite a bit of work to do in catching up to our non-conference rivals across the board.
While UK’s average points per game had a solid increase vs. last year (+1.9%), we lost ground to both of the last 2 years SEC’s Tourney Champs (2013 Champion TAMU +3%, 2012 Champion UT +4.9%) as well as the overall league average (+3.9%).
The average points per game jump gets more pronounced outside our conference. This is no doubt impacted by the overall league’s emphasis on strong defense and high levels of athleticism. That said, we need to put on our Big Girl panties and score more if we’re going to compete at the highest levels.
At the start of the season, Matthew Mitchell made it very clear he thought this team was a championship caliber team. Our final results:
SEC Regular Season: 13-3, 2nd to Tennessee (13-3 two years in a row? Weird)
SEC Championship: Lost Championship Game to TAMU
NCAA Tournament: 2nd seed, Lost in the Elite 8 to Eventual National Champion UConn
Post-Season Awards: A’Dia Mathies was Co-Player of the Year with Meighan Simmons (UT)
So, What DID we gain during the 2013 Season?
Increase in key stat performances to include overall scoring (+1.9%), 3 pt. shooting (80 basis point improvement) and Free Throw Shooting (280 basis point improvement).
Key playing time and experience for our starters. See below for details and team ranking:
Jen O’Neill: Scored 381 pts., averaging 10.9 per game (3rd). Shot 35.6% from the 3 (2nd) and 71.4% from the charity stripe (t-6th). Led the team in assists (99) as well as turnovers (103).
DeNesha Stallworth: Scored 438 pts (2nd), averaging 12.5 pts. per game. Shot 29.4% from 3 pt. range (5th). 2nd best performance on the team in free throws (80.5%), rebounds (avg. 6 per game) and blocks (52 for the year), as well as turnovers (79).
Bria Gross: Scored 318 pts. (4th), averaging 8.8 pts. per game. Shot 28.0% from 3 pt. range (6th) and lead the team in FT performance (84.3%). Bria averaged 2.9 rebounds a game (5th) and was our 3rd best thief at 57 steals on the year.
Samarie Walker: Scored 313 pts. (5th), averaging 8.7 pts. per game. While Samarie led the team in overall shooting (52.4%), rebounds (average 8.1 per game) and steals (72 on the year), she has the unique honor of being a perfect goose-egg at the 3. (No, really – I double checked. She didn’t get off a single 3 pt. attempt for the 2nd straight year.)
The incredibly cool sight of hockey-style substitutions. 40 minutes of Dread indeed.
What did we lose? 2 words, 5 syllables: A’DIA MATHIES.
A’Dia was the player on which Matthew Mitchell built the program. In her senior year, she led the team in both overall points (579), and 3pt shooting (42.2%). She was our 2nd best thief, and shared the wealth with her teammates, coming in with 80 assists on the year. Remember how last year’s seniors represented 20% of our scoring? A’Dia single handedly represents 21% of our overall scoring this year. She was the player everyone knew and everyone wanted to beat. In short, she was our heartbeat and will be very, very, VERY hard to replace.
Where do we go from here?
We’re returning 5 of our 6 key players. They represent 59% of our overall points, 54% of our rebounds. (YAY!) They also represent 71% of our turnovers. (Less yay!)
Azia Bishop, Janee Thompson, Bernisha Pinkett and Jelleah Sidney will definitely be keys to our mix.
We have not one, but TWO McDonald’s All American’s joining the squad next year. Linnae Harper (5 star guard, ranked 2nd in the country) and Makayla Epps (4 star point guard, ranked 10th in the country). We also have a +6’ four star in Kyvin Goodwin-Rogers, which will give us some additional needed height at center.
What of The Big Three? The stars that held onto the top of the polls (and every headline) so tightly all season long? Brittney Griner - gone. Skylar Diggins - gone. Elena Della Donne - gone.
Stefanie Dolson, Odyssey Sims, Meighan Simmons and the Schimmel sisters? All returning and ready to make our lives miserable.
Pre-Season way too early rankings? UK is 6th, behind UConn, Duke, UT, Stanford, and Maryland.
How does this all sum up for Mitchell and his team of Blue Bloods? 2013 was a great year. We lose, however, the lynchpin of our team for the last three years. This may turn out to be a case gaining more than we lose, though. We have great returning and incoming players. 2014 will not be a cake walk but I for one, firmly believe Mitchell has the players to make this the year we cut down the nets, both in Duluth and in Nashville.
Thanks for reading, and until Big Blue Madness: GO CATS! GO BIG BLUE!