The Wildcats come a-callin' on the Razorbacks of Arkansas in Bud Walton Arena, Saturday at 1:00 PM for an inter-divisional matinée that may well find the 'Cats Patterson-less for the first time this year. Unfortunately for the Hawgs, it also looks like their star point guard, Courtney Fortson, will also be on the sidelines for some kind of undisclosed transgression.
Let's begin by looking at the basic stats of both teams:
Player Stats: Arkansas
|John Paul Noland||2||2.5||0.0||0.5||0.0||0.0||0.5||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.5||0.5||0.0||0.5||0.0||0.0||0.5||0.0|
Player Stats: Kentucky
Team Stats Comparison (Courtesy of Kenpom.com)
|Adj. Efficiency:||103.3 ||98.7 ||106.6 ||88.0 ||100.8|
|Adj. Tempo:||70.4 ||69.7 ||66.8|
|Effective FG%:||50.2 ||49.7 ||54.2 ||43.1 ||49|
|Turnover %:||19.0 ||19.8 ||24.6 ||20.1 ||20.7|
|Off. Reb. %:||33.9 ||28.7 ||34.9 ||29.7 ||33.1|
|FTA/FGA:||42.4 ||29.2 ||42.4 ||32.3 ||36.4|
|3P%:||33.8 ||35.4 ||34.8 ||34.2 ||34.2|
|2P%:||49.9 ||47.6 ||55.1 ||39.0 ||47.8|
|FT%:||65.0 ||65.6 ||78.5 ||67.5 ||68.6|
|Block%:||11.5 ||8.1 ||8.2 ||17.8 ||8.9|
|Steal%:||8.0 ||10.2 ||11.0 ||9.0 ||9.9|
|3PA/FGA:||32.3 ||38.2 ||30.3 ||33.1 ||33|
|A/FGM:||50.7 ||61.4 ||62.0 ||43.2 ||54.2|
|Point Distribution (% of total points)|
|3-Pointers:||25.6 ||34.2 ||22.4 ||31.5 ||27.5|
|2-Pointers:||52.9 ||49.7 ||54.1 ||48.4 ||52.1|
|Free Throws:||21.6 ||16.1 ||23.5 ||20.2 ||20.3|
|Strength of Schedule|
|Components:||101.5 ||101.5 ||102.8 ||100.7 ||100.8|
|Overall:||0.5003 ||0.5603 ||0.5|
|Non-conference:||0.2693 ||0.4331 ||0.5|
|Bench Minutes:||25.3% ||29.2% ||31.10%|
|Experience:||0.74 yrs ||1.34 yrs ||1.66|
|Effective Height:||+1.6 ||+1.6 ||0|
|Average Height:||76.0" ||78.7" ||76.5"|
The first thing you notice about Arkansas is how young they are. Arkansas generally starts at least two freshmen and often three, along with a couple of juniors. They have one of the youngest starting lineups in all of college basketball, and one of the least experienced overall. If you will notice above in the "Experience" stat, you will see that Arkansas, as a team, has less than one year of experience, 339th in all of Division I.
In the front court, Arkansas generally starts the talented junior Michael Washington and red shirt freshman Michael Sanchez. Washington is a multi-dimensional, athletic forward who has range as well as the ability to post up and score down low, and is almost averaging a double-double at 17 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Michael Sanchez is more one-dimensional, having mostly a post-up game and being a banger around the basket with his 6'8" 236# frame. Backups include freshmen Brandon Moore and Andre Clark, with Jason Henry seeing most of his time at the three. Front line backup and Hawg football player Marcus Monk has been removed from the team due to some kind of potential rules violation and will no longer be available.
In the back court, the Razorbacks normally have super-frosh Courtney Fortson, the 5'11" fireball of a point guard with dreadlocks to die for. Unfortunately, Fortson has been suspended by coach John Pelphrey for unspecified reasons apparently related to discipline. That will likely force Stefan Welsh or Rotnei Clarke to handle the point-guard duties, along with little used reserve Marcus Britt. Clark and Welsh are both theoretically wing players who's primary job is 3-point shooting, something both players do extremely well, both shooting 35+ percent from behind the arc. But Fortson was the ice that chills the Arkansas drink, and it will be hard for the Razorbacks to replace his aggressiveness and ability to break down defenses.
Arkansas' main strengths, statistically, are ballhandling, offensive rebounding and getting to the free throw line. With Fortson out, two of those three are likely to be greatly diminished. Arkansas is also a relatively poor free throw shooting team, so the fact that they get to the line a lot is not terribly helpful to their cause.
Four factors analysis:
- eFG%: Advantage Kentucky on offense and defense.
- Turnover%: Advantage Arkansas on offense and Kentucky on defense
- Offensive Rebound %: Advantage Kentucky on offense Arkansas on defense.
- FT Attempts/FG Attempt: Offensively, it is a push. Advantage Arkansas on defense.
With Patrick Patterson potentially out with an ankle sprain and Courtney Fortson suspended, this game takes a slight turn toward Kentucky. The reason is that UK really does not have a player who can effectively guard Courtney Fortson, as he is the major focus of Arkansas' offense. While the potential loss of Patrick Patterson will seriously hurt Kentucky in the front court, Kentucky is deep enough to make up for it against the much younger and thinner Razorbacks.
With Patterson out, it will take a concerted effort by Stevenson and whoever else mans the front court with him to keep the Razorbacks from dominating the offensive glass. The only redeeming factor is that the Razorbacks take a lot of three point shots, and those rebounds tend to be out and away from the big people, giving Kentucky's longer and somewhat quicker back court a better shot at collecting those rebounds.
Last game, Kentucky did a lot of switching off of ball screens, much more than they have all season. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues. Kentucky does have a lot of players in the 6'5"-6'7" size range, which minimizes the mismatch on the screener. However, UK often ends up with Perry Stevenson or Josh Harrellson on a guard when they switch, and although that worked out OK against Florida, it may be less successful against the Hawgs. We'll have to wait and see how Gillsipie plays that angle.
The pace of this game is likely to be frenetic, particularly if Kevin Galloway sees a lot of minutes. Galloway was a one-man wrecking crew against Florida, and if his intensity continues, it will bode well for Kentucky. Arkansas will probably not slow down too much without Fortson, so I still expect the game pace to be relatively high. Kentucky's much greater overall length will definitely bother the Razorbacks, and if Patterson is unable to go, the guards will be a critical factor in rebounding. Kentucky's guards are much bigger and longer than Arkansas, particularly with Liggins and Galloway in the game.
Arkansas has been very down lately, losing some close games where they looked great for most of the game, and also looking very bad in some others. This is a bit of a trap game for Kentucky coming off the defeat of Florida, and with Patterson questionable, this game can easily go the wrong way for the Wildcats. I am very concerned about UK's defensive intensity, because the Razorbacks will likely be very intense due to their recent run of adversity. The suspension of Fortson will only serve to motivate them to redouble their efforts, and Kentucky has been caught once already taking a team lightly down in Oxford, and that team hung a big, fat L on the 'Cats.
In the final analysis, the 'Cats have an advantage in talent and depth, even with Patterson out. Fortson's absence will likely force Arkansas to slow down just a bit and run some offense, something they are not used to doing. Kentucky's low post presence will be diminished, so it will be up to Jodie Meeks to handle much of Kentucky's scoring. UK will have to get contributions from the same people it did last game if Patterson is not available in order to win this game. In the end, UK should have just enough firepower to outlast the depleted Hawgs.