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Who had the better game? Kentucky against UCLA or Virginia against Harvard?

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Both No.1 Kentucky and No.5 Virginia routed their opponents this weekend. Which was the 'better' performance?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Virginia fans find themselves in a whole new world (good luck getting that song out of your head now...you're welcome) when it comes to basketball this year.

Eleven games in.

Eleven wins.

Not only has Tony Bennett's squad put together a 32-3 record in 2014, but they have jumped to No.5 in the AP and Coaches rankings and are defeating this season's foes by an average of 23 points.  Not too shabby.

You may have heard that Saturday the Kentucky Wildcats, the unanimous (and rightly so) No.1 team in the nation demolished UCLA 83-44 on a neutral court. Kentucky ran out to a 24-0 lead, and never looked back. The halftime score was 41-7.

We've certainly heard about it. Everywhere. 

Well, yesterday, Virginia decimated visiting Harvard to the tune of 76-27, holding the Crimson to just one (1) basket in the first half on 1-20 (5%) shooting. The halftime score was 39-8.  Some have talked about the Hoos' record-setting performance (one basket in a half ties an NCAA record, and 16% shooting against is a new ACC record), but that got us thinking...which performance was bigger?

To break down which team had the more impressive game, we'd want to look at who outscored their opponent more (on a per-possession basis), adjusting for strength of opponent and other factors, such as if one team "called off the dogs" more.  Obviously, this is just for fun...both performances were out of this world.

Margin, adjusted for pace:

UVA won 76-27 in 59 possessions
Offense: 1.29 PPP
Defense: 0.46 PPP
Margin: +.83 PPP

Kentucky won 83-44 in 68 possessions
Offense: 1.22 PPP
Defense: .65 PPP
Margin: +.57 PPP

If you want to look at which team was "better," efficiency margin is the first place to look, and UVA outscored its opponent by ~30% more than Kentucky did each time up and down the floor.

We don't have the breakdown for UVA, but assuming half of possessions occurred in first half (they did in the Kentucky game), here's how the team's efficiencies looked after 20 crazy minutes of basketball:

UVA (winning 39-8 in 30 possessions)
O: 1.30
D: .27
Margin: +1.03

Kentucky (winning 41-7 in 34 possessions)
O: 1.20
D: .21
Margin: +.99

So, the first halves are close to a push basically, as we could have guessed from the scores, but UVA played the better "full game" by maintaining its defensive intensity in the second half.

Strength of opponent:

Both opponents dropped substantially in Ken Pomeroy's rankings after the games obviously...but UCLA entered at 43 and Harvard at 29, and the Crimson remain 5 spots ahead of UCLA. However, UVA's game was at home and Kentucky's at a neutral site in Chicago (though it felt more like "semi-home" considering the crowd)

Overall, this is probably pretty close to a push, but we should credit Kentucky a bit for crushing a pretty similar opponent away from their home court.

Amount of bench play:

UVA's starters played a total of 108 minutes. Players outside the first 10 in the rotation were in for 15 minutes.

Kentucky's starters played 107 minutes. 11 minutes came outside their first 10 in the rotation.

Obviously this is tricky considering Kentucky's bench isn't really a traditional "bench." But can we really penalize UK for having so many good players? Their "bench" is better than ours, and that's part of having a really good team and playing an outstanding game.

Overall, I'd categorize this as a push / slight advantage to UVA for playing the walk-ons for a tad more. I think it's fair to say that Virginia's performance was probably the more impressive one, but comparing the two seems like a futile exercise - both were off the charts.

A few more stats, courtesy of Tim -

Made baskets?

UCLA averages 27, were held to 19 (-9).

Harvard averages 22.6, were held to 8 (-14.6).

(These aren't pace-adjusted)

Field Goal %?

UCLA Season
2P% 47.1
3P% 36.8;

UCLA vs. Kentucky
2P% 25.5 (-21.6)
3P% 31.2 (-5.6).

Harvard Season:
2P% 47.9
3P% 34.4

Harvard vs. UVA:
2P% 15.4 (-32.5)
3P% 18.2 (-16.2).

Offensive efficiency (compared to average)?

UCLA allows an average of .96 points per possession (PPP). Kentucky managed 1.20 (+.24 over UCLA average).
Harvard allows an average of .91 PPP. Virginia managed 1.30 (+.39 over Harvard average).

Virginia's defense was more efficient, their offense was more efficient AND it was against a (marginally) better opponent, albeit at home.

No one here at Streaking the Lawn will make the claim that Virginia is a better team than Kentucky (yet), but the win over Harvard shows the Wildcat win maybe wasn't a "rare level of dominance" after all.