The 24th ranked Kentucky Wildcats (16-5, 5-2 SEC) get back in action today with an important SEC road test at Arkansas (14-7, 3-4) at 1 p.m. ET. Both teams have had the bye week to prepare, so any rough edges are not the fault of underpreparation. The Cats come in off a big home win over Tennessee last Sunday, the Razorbacks a victory over West rival Alabama on Saturday.
Truz looks at the mostly even matchup in his in-depth analysis.
For my part, I'm not so much worried about the 'Backs as I am about seeing Kentucky start to show some consistency. That doesn't mean that Arkansas isn't a talented team; they are. Earlier in the season, many fans thought this game would be a strong 'L' possibility, and it may still be. But Stan Heath can't seem to turn the corner in Fayetteville, taking a step back for every two steps forward. His guys have played better of late, after a disappointing string of early SEC losses put them in a hole.
For UK, much of the rest of the season depends on waking center Randolph Morris out of his slumber. After playing his way into Wooden Award consideration, the Big Cat has fallen back into some bad habits, most notably ticky-tack foul tendencies and a moping sort of half-court disappearing act. Some of the former is referee-linked, the latter an inability to get strong post passes. But both are things Morris can overcome. If he does, the future could be bright for the Blue and White. If he does not ...
We've yet to truly see all three talented juniors (Morris, Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley) perform up to their capacity in the same game. That scenario is an exciting one. I have no clue if we will see that today. We're left to hope and wish, frustrating as it is.
Kentucky is 3-2 in true road games this year, but 3-0 against the SEC West, albeit not the expected power teams of the division. Arkansas is a big test for a Wildcats team trying to keep within striking distance of the Florida Gators.
What to look for:
* Bradley or "tank"?: UK's flighty combo guard Ramel Bradley is as frustrating as he is lethal. Capable of equal parts magnificence and boneheadedness, Bradley pushed past some continued shooting woes to tally a game-high 21 points in the win over Tennessee. For UK, Smooth's outside shooting is a must, not an option. And at 3 for his last 20 frm deep, Ramel is not getting it done. A return to 40%+ from three-point range would be a godsend to a team desperate for long-range protection.
* Jodie and the Pussycats: Freshman guard Jodie Meeks has quietly become one of the Wildcats' best scorers. His touch is excellent and he posesses that no-conscience attitude that the great scorers must have. With forward Bobby Perry still struggling to find his game (at what point does the struggle become the norm? Yeesh ... ), Meeks is finding himself in the game so fast he's practically the starter. While UK is smaller with Meeks in and Perry out, it's also better. With Meeks pulling down 4+ rebounds a game over his past six games, one wonders how long before TUbby has no choice but to reward his young stud.
* Forty Minutes of Who?: Arkansas and Kentucky were the class of the conference in the rockin' 1990s. The Hogs nearly pulled off back-to-back titles, then were followed by three straight title game appearances by the Cats. While Heath & Co. have not been able to produce a similar winning standard, the Bud Walton Arena is not a fun place for opposing teams to play. Still, this is not the Arkansas of old. Nor the Kentucky of old, for that matter ... can the two begin a new tradition of hard-fought SEC Classics?
Probable starting lineupsKentucky
PG: Derrick Jasper (6'6"/213 Fr.) 5.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.3 apg
SG: Ramel Bradley (6'3"/175 Jr.) 13.1 ppg, *3.7 apg, 4.3 rpg
3G: Joe Crawford (6'5"/211 Jr.) 14.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg
C: Randolph Morris (6'11"/259 Jr.) 15.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg
SF: Bobby Perry (6'9"/215 Sr.) 6.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg
F Perry Stevenson, F Sheray Thomas, F Ramon Harris, C Lukasz Obrzut, G Jodie Meeks, G Michael Porter
PG: Gary Ervin (6'1"/205 Jr.) 9.3 ppg, *5.5 apg
SG: Patrick Beverley (6'1"/205 Jr.) 13.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg
F: Sonny Weems (6'4"/185 So.) 12.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg
F: Michael Washington** (6'8"/250 Jr.) 11.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg
C: Steven Hill (6'1"/255 Jr.) 4.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, *3.0 bpg
Darian Townes (F), Vincent Hunter (F), Stefan Welsh (G), Sean McCurdy (G), Preston Cranford (G), Charles Thomas**(injured starter)
Follow the game: LIVE STATS | LISTEN LIVE | WATCH LIVE