Kentucky got out of the weeds with a win over Alabama on Saturday, but it can’t let up just yet. The Wildcats travel to Arkansas on Tuesday, a team that has reeled off Four-straight wins. In fact, the Razorbacks have only lost once at home this season and that seemed to be a fluke in which they fell by 21 points to LSU.
Kentucky is still just 7-7 in Conference play and hasn’t won a road SEC Game since going to Vanderbilt back on Jan. 13. In the Four road trips since that win, they haven’t looked great, getting handled by teams like Texas A&M and Auburn and barely keeping things close at Missouri and South Carolina. As for the Hogs, they’ve been dominating teams at home, dropping A&M by 19 points last Saturday and South Carolina and Vandy by double digits before that.
The best thing for Kentucky in this Game is that Arkansas doesn’t thrive defensively and ranks just as bad in terms of efficiency as UK’s offense (both are 12th in the conference). The Wildcats usually struggle against better defensive teams because they lack any kind of consistency on offense, but that could change in this one. The winner of this Game may be decided on the other end where Arkansas leads the SEC in three-point shooting (39%), while UK leads in defense (26.3%).
While the Razorbacks lead the Conference in three-point shooting, only two guys (Jaylen Barford, Daryl MACon) shoot it better than 36.5%. In fact, they only have Four guys that actually shoot with range with Anton Beard and CJ Jones the other two. This is one of the better backcOurts in the conference, but the length of UK could be a real problem with guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and PJ Washington on the perimeter. To win, Arkansas will need to get more from its bigs down low and that could mean freshman Daniel Gafford, who has at least 16 points in each of the last three Games. Gafford has been extremely efficient for the Hogs and that’s where their biggest advantage could come, whether it’s against Jarred Vanderbilt or Nick Richards. Gafford and others like Dustin Thomas and Trey Thompson also need to step up on the glass because that’s where Kentucky has another advantage.
Still, the Cats have to score, which hasn’t been an easy thing for them on the road. Kevin Knox has the most talent, but he’s either hitting shots or not. Gilgeous-Alexander could end up being the guy that keeps the Scoreclose, but he’s only scored 15 points in the last two Games. against the Tide over the weekend, it was Quade Green, PJ Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt off the bench that did most of the offensive damage. But again, Kentucky has been a much different team on the road.
The question is which Arkansas defense shows up because according to the numbers, it doesn’t rank above average in any category. The Razorbacks have allowed 65 points or less in three of their last Four, but none of those teams are headed to the NCAA Tournament. The Hogs will be the easier team to back at home, but the length of Kentucky on the perimeter could be problematic and should at least keep this Game close until the end.
Our Pick – Kentucky +4.5