COLUMN: Crunching the numbers — Why UK’s road woes won’t follow it to the postseason

UK fans can breathe easy. The road games, which have caused the team endless headaches this season, have come to an end. All that stands between this squad and an eighth title is the postseason.

Go ahead. Laugh. Write this squad off as a team that will fizzle out in the early rounds. But the numbers suggest otherwise, as does the traveling fanbase. Between now and the team’s final loss (or a banner) history suggests that UK fans should outnumber those of just about any other team the Cats would meet until the Final Four.

“Everybody knows it’s not played on the road, its on neutral site,” said UK head coach John Calipari. “Everybody knows how we play in those.”

Let’s break it down into three categories — home, away and neutral sites. The Cats haven’t lost a single game at home, thus their winning percentage at home is 100 percent. Their 3-7 road record finds them at a measly winning percentage of 30 percent in true road games. But on neutral sites, which will be the case for the duration of postseason play, UK is 4-1, a winning percentage of 80 percent.

This suggests that it isn’t being away from Rupp that causes headaches for the squad and heartache for its fans, but that the apparent curse lies when the squad plays IN opponent’s home arenas.

While its difficult to pinpoint a specific flaw in the team when it hits the road, calculating the efficiency margin between UK and its opposition begins to paint a clearer picture. A team’s efficiency is calculated by determining the number of points they score in one hundred possessions. You then find the margin by subtracting the opponent’s efficiency from that of UK.

In Rupp Arena, the Cats’ efficiency margin against opponents is 31.26, meaning that they score 31.26 more points than opponents per 100 possessions. When the Cats hit the road and play teams in their home arenas, that margin drops to 1.76. On neutral courts, that margin rises all the way up to 15.12.

It’s important to note that UK isn’t dismal on the road, as the efficiency margin shows. In fact, they are in the positive, meaning they score more than their opponents per 100 possessions. Their road losses were mostly of the slimmest of margins, and the Tennessee game may have been the Cats finally getting over that hump.

Also important to note is that two of those neutral wins include top 25 teams, namely a 14-point win over a Big East powerhouse in No. 4 Notre Dame.

Whatever it is that dictates the Cat’s ability to score, the road disease doesn’t seem to follow them to neutral sites. The likely reason — the incessant traveling of its fans.

“The good news is the NCAA Tournament is not played on the road. As a matter of fact, we’ll have so many people there, it will probably feel like we are at home. So that’s a good thing for this team. “

At this point, the SEC Tournament will serve as a warm-up for the Cats. If they can get the ball rolling before it really matters, they can acclimate themselves to a string of neutral games, while improving their seeding for the Big Dance.

Securing a two-seed with a road win at Tennessee may have been the best possible outcome for the Cats in kick-starting a positive domino effect. It landed them in the easier of the two SEC brackets with a bye, setting them up for an opportunity to potentially improve their NCAA standing to a three-seed.

On that note, UK has to focus on one game at a time, and ride the wave. But it couldn’t hurt to rally the Big Blue Nation to head to Atlanta.

“I don’t know exactly how many (fans) will be there, but it will be a lot,” Calipari said. “But I guess now (after the win at Tennessee) I don’t care if it’s on the road, neutral or at home.”