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Pelton: Kentucky Doesn't Compare To Worst NBA Teams

The annual Kentucky (or insert most talented NCAA team here) could beat a bad NBA team comments are rolling again which brings up comments I constantly have to shoot down from friends and family in Indiana about how the college game is better than the NBA and a fundamentally sound college team would give an NBA team fits.


That's usually my first response. Then it doesn't take long to expose that the NBA detractor(s) haven't actually paid attention to an NBA game in some time. Yep, the pros actually run half-court sets and play defense...with tons of talent. Of course, Kentucky has a few players with NBA talent, so if they kept playing together and developed their games, they might actually be a NBA-caliber team in five or six years. Not this year, though.

Fortunately, this year Kevin Pelton, who helps support the Pacers front office with analytic reports, decided to throw some actual analysis at the silly argument and found that if things went right, Kentucky could win one game in a 66-game season, but that's no guarantee.

Would this team win a game? Using Pythagorean expectations, yes. Over the 66-game season, we'd expect them to win 1.6 games-though surely there would be times NBA Kentucky would go 0-66. Most likely, a win would come at the hands of the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. Based on the Wildcats' projected .024 Pythagorean winning percentage and the Bobcats' actual .124 Pythagorean mark, the log5 method says Kentucky would win about one out of seven games head-to-head. Against Toronto, that same expectation is one in 23 games. And against Chicago, it's one in 143, which makes it more lopsided than a 1-16 matchup.

So, no, if Cody Zeller stays at Indiana to play with the incoming class of freshman next year, the Hoosiers won't be better than any NBA team next year and neither is Kentucky this year.