Pythagoras probably never thought his thinking would translate to sports.
But when devision a measurement for how often a baseball team should win games based on its runs scored and allowed, Bill James came up with what he called Pythagorean expectation, a number that is essentially used to determine the percentage of the time a given team would beat an average team.
Ken Pomeroy calculates what he calls Pythagorean winning percentage for college basketball, using offensive and defensive efficiency as stand-ins for runs scored and allowed, and has done so since the 2001-02 season. Only 10 to 15 teams finish above .9000 in the statistic in a given year, and maybe two or three sit above .9500 by year's end, usually; last year, in a down year for elite teams, only Louisville, Arizona, and Florida finished above that cutoff.
But teams that finish above .9600 are even rarer: That threshold requires near-flawless play for almost an entire season, or dominance so thorough that it washes out the losses a team sustains, and only 11 teams have been above that line at season's end in the 13-year KenPom era. .9700 and above is still more rarefied, with only 2007-08 Kansas and 2012-13 Louisville managing that feat.
No team has ever finished a season above .9800 in Pythagorean winning percentage.
2014-15 Kentucky's is currently .9822.
That's how good the team coming to the O'Dome tonight (9 p.m., ESPN / WatchESPN) to take on the struggling Gators is: Historically so.
Kentucky does virtually everything a team can do on a basketball court brilliantly; its holes are few, its flaws infinitesimal. Sure, the Wildcats bizarrely don't do a good job of preventing offensive rebounds, and they shoot under 70 percent from the foul line, but they also hold teams to 27.6 percent from three and an astounding 35.6 percent from two, blocking one in five shots taken by opponents.
This is the tallest and deepest team in the nation, capable of sending what is arguably a better "platoon" into the game from its bench than it starts. When one 6'10" forward with Pogo sticks for legs leaves the court, a seven-footer steps on to replace him; when the dynamic Harrison twins need a breather, freshman snipers Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker — each shooting better than 47 percent from three — step into their roles.
It is a juggernaut, one of the best college basketball teams ever assembled, and it is likely to roll the Gators on their home floor tonight. Florida has made a bad habit of driving into the lane and getting shots swatted, and Kentucky is more than happy to oblige; Florida can hemorrhage live-ball turnovers for spurts, and Kentucky will feast on them; these Gators, on the whole, can't shoot, and won't be able to take advantage of the spacing that Mississippi was able to find while hanging with the 'Cats; Florida certainly can't shoot free throws, and won't be able to replicate the Rebels' success from the charity stripe.
Tonight's game could have been the renewal of a rivalry that reached new heights in 2013-14, as Florida became the first team in decades to vanquish Kentucky thrice. Instead, is a middling SEC team praying for a shot at the NCAA Tournament taking on the Goliath that should win it all.
Of course, this post is also all a reverse jinx.