Sean Kilpatrick Season In Review

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Strap in folks, this is going to be a read

The Numbers

  • 20.6 points; 24 per 40 minutes
  • 4.3 rebounds; 5 per 40 minutes
  • 2.5 assists; 3 per 40 minutes
  • 33.8 minutes
  • 42.3 / 34.8 / 84.5 shooting split

The most interesting thing about doing these retrospectives has been seeing how the initial reactions that I myself have had about the years of some players contrasted with the statistical realities produced on the floor. Some have fared much better under the higher scrutiny of statistical analysis, like Jermaine Sanders. With Ge`Lawn Guyn the offensive numbers were even worse than I thought they would be. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that the numbers say Titus Rubles was a plus offensive player.

The statistical scrutiny that I myself have been able to use on these guys is by its nature limited. I would love to have an NBA style statistical database for the college game, but that does not exist. Too many games, too many teams, and apparently not enough interest*. So what we have are rough sketches of the impact of players, sketches that shed more light and reveal more of the shape of a players game. What's revealed is not the 8 bit mario of traditional stats, nor the high def Mario you find on your kids Wii. This is more like a Nintendo 64 version of Mario.

*I am sure Ken Pomeroy would disagree

No matter what processing speed your video game console has, there is simply no way to get around the fact that Sean Kilpatrick had a truly remarkable final season in a Bearcats uniform. But where do we begin with it? How about with this, we now have confirmation that the best way for a Bearcat to have an All America season is to go and play in the World University Games. Kenyon Martin was the first to go from good player to all american (and player of the year) after summering abroad between his Junior and Senior year. 12 years later, Sean Kilpatrick followed the same path.


However much credit you want to give that experience in the transformation of Sean Kilpatrick is ultimately up to you. What is beyond debate is that there was a transformation with SK. He was simply a different player as a Senior than he was a year ago. Kilpatrick carried a very heavy burden for the Bearcats offense as a Junior. Coming into that promise filled year it was supposed to be the three amigos with Jaquon Parker, Cashmere Wright and Kila all set to carry the offensive load in equal measure en route to yet another Sweet 16. It didn't turn out that way. Parker was sapped from two years battling up several weight classes defending power forwards; Cash was by that point completely robbed of his athleticism from his endless knee ailments. Increasingly it fell on SK to carry the offensive load and late game shot making. It was a burden that at times seemed like far more weight than his shoulders could bear.

As a senior Sean Kilpatrick handled that same burden, plus a little bit extra with a younger team, and he made that shit look comfortable, even light. Kila consumed more possessions than at any other point previously, and yet he had a massive jump in the number of positive outcomes that he effected. His efficiency jumped from 108.4* as a Junior to 119.8 as a Senior while increasing his share of the offense by nearly 4 percentage points. The question is how?

*In the context of his career that Junior year is a major outlier, the one downward dip in a career that for the most part trended resolutely positive from beginning to end in almost every statistical category. That just gives context to how great a leap SK made from Junior to Senior year.

If you are playing the Down The Drive drinking game at home, (and I am sure that there is at least one person doing just that, intentionally or not) here is where you drink because I wrote "its not just one thing." In defense of my trope it never is just one thing. To simply hold up to the physical demands of the role SK played this year he had to be in the best shape of his life, and he was. Kila was down 11 pounds from his Junior season and he was far more explosive athletically because of it. The physical changes helped, but coupling that with a much smarter approach to the game proved to be a devastating combination for opponents.

There is no singular smoking gun for the admittedly nebulous theory that Sean Kilpatrick played a smarter brand of basketball, but that doesn't mean I am without circumstantial smoking guns. For instance, his shot selection. Compare his shot selection for the last three years.

...

The three point shot has always been a huge part of Kila's offensive game, even though he has been more of a volume shooter than a sniper from deep. The key difference is just how much more active Kila was around the rim as a senior. In college as in the NBA the best shot in the game is a shot at the rim and SK got there early and often in 2013-14.This year he averaged 4.2 shots at the rim per 40 minutes, a full shot more than he did in his sophomore and junior seasons. Combine that with a general uptick in his shooting, particularly from long range and at the rim (71% !!!!) and you have a large chunk of his leap on the offensive end.

...

The other thing that is interesting about this year of SK's is that he made all these clear and measurable improvements in his game on the offensive side of the ball while enduring one of the worst shooting slumps of his career. It started in the New Mexico game and ran until either the first UCF game or the second Temple game, depending on your accounting. To be kind lets put the end date on the 23rd of January, which makes it a 5 week shooting slump, but what a slump. 36 percent from the field and a ghastly 25 percent from deep, all the while SK continues to put up his 20 points night after night by getting to the line and hitting a shit ton (scientific term) of free throws. However you want to measure it, be it free throws per 40 minutes (7) or free throw rate (42.0), the uptick from his career average was noticeable.

The personification of that commitment to get to the line is the Nebraska game, a contest where he had one of his worst shooting nights as a Bearcat going just 2 of 13 from the field and 0 of 5 from three point land...and still scored 21 points by getting to the line 18 times and making 17 of them. All of which came from his renewed commitment to staying in attack mode and getting to the rim where good things happen.

A case is easy to make that the last step a player makes in making the transition from being good to being great is the ability to make your teammates better. Putting guys in positive positions and giving them a chance to make a play was not a strong suit of SK's as a junior, but he thrived in that role as a senior. For the two or three week period where Troy Caupain hit the proverbial freshman wall SK was the best point guard on the roster.

One of the best and most effective actions the Bearcats had this year was to get SK and Justin Jackson involved in a screen and roll. It was a thing of beauty to watch, not to mention highly effective. Kila became a master of the pocket pass to the right and left, and there was nothing the opposing team could really do to stop it. It was beautiful basketball.

I could blather on for another 1,000 words on the offensive season that SK just had with no problem. But we have to at least touch on his defense. I didn't think it would happen for him on that side of the ball, but SK became a plus defensive player this year. Really he became a plus defensive player last year, but he was better this year.

As a red shirt freshman SK often looked lost. As most freshman are he wasn't up to snuff with Mick's system, not quick enough with his rotations, losing track of his man constantly, I thought he was hopeless at that end of the floor. I never expected him to have a Rashad Bishop or Titus Rubles type defensive impact, truth be told I never expected him to be merely good on defense.

But damn was he good this year. He was good in the way that the 40 year old who runs with the 25 year olds at the local court and always gets picked up is good on defense because he knows who he is, and most importantly what he can and can't do.

Even down 11 pounds from last year SK is not an explosive athlete. He doesn't have elite quickness like Shaquille Thomas does, or a wing span that can blot out the sun like Troy Caupain or Titus. What he did have was a body fit for the pro game with the strength to match and a knack for working hard at all times to keep his body between his man and the basket. The only way for him to be effective guarding the little guys who thrived in the first year of the AAC was to keep guys close so that he could overwhelm them with his strength. It was amazing to see him become that good defensively in his final year in the red and black.

Best of the Best

February 6th. vs. UConn

It was very, very hard to pick just one, even from just one season, but that would be the game. 26 points on 8 of 15 shooting, with 12 rebounds and 6 assists. Oh and he played every second of that game. One of many amazing performances from SK over the years.

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