Kentucky Wildcats (5-12) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (14-5)
- Game Time: 7 pm ET on Tuesday, February 9th
- Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY
- TV Channel: ESPN
- Online Stream: WatchESPN and fuboTV (free trial).
- Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM, 98.1 FM in Lexington and on the UK Sports Network.
- Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).
- Rosters: UK | ARK
- Last Game Box Scores: UK | ARK
- Stats to Know: UK | ARK
- Odds: Arkansas opened as a 1.5-point favorite, but Kentucky is now favored by 1. The Cats have failed to cover in six of their last seven games. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Arkansas a 61.8% chance at winning. KenPom gives Kentucky a 46% chance of winning.
- Predictions: KenPom projects the Hogs to win 70-69. TeamRankings has Kentucky winning 73-71, while numberFire has the Wildcats scoring a 73-72 victory.
Arkansas comes into the game with a record of 14-5 and they are looking for a high seed in the SEC Tournament, assuming there is one. They’re coming into this game having not played since Feb. 2nd after their Saturday clash with Texas A&M was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Aggies program. So the Razorbacks will come into Tuesday’s game with some potential rust, but also more rested than the Cats.
The Wildcats have fallen to 5-12, and really seem to be in a tailspin after three consecutive losses, the last two of which Kentucky has been in control during the second half. Keion Brooks Jr. has stepped up and is now Kentucky’s leading scorer at 11.8 points per game. But down the stretch against Tennessee, when the defense focused on him there were no other good options for getting buckets.
The Razorbacks have a balanced attack with four players averaging double figures. Their leading scorer is freshman guard Moses Moody, who averages 16.4 points per game, including five 21+ point outings. He’s also being projected as a first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
The Hogs don’t play with a lot of size, as five of their top seven players are guards, but they actually have one of the biggest centers in America in Connor Vanover. The 7-3 sophomore is averaging 7.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in just 18.8 minutes per game. Kentucky already struggles missing point-blank layups, and driving to the rim with Vanover roaming the paint will only make life harder.
Junior guard JD Notae (13.7 ppg), senior forward Justin Smith (11.3 ppg and 6.7 rpg), senior guard Jalen Tate (10.6 ppg and 4.5 apg), and junior guard Desi Sills (10.6 ppg) round out Arkansas’ double-digit scorers.
One other name to watch for is freshman guard Davonte Davis, who is starting to emerge as a legitimate option for the Hogs. He’s reached double figures in three-straight games and five of his last eight, including a 20-point outing in a home win vs. Georgia.
Arkansas is not a particularly strong shooting team, but as we have seen this season Rupp Arena often magically turns opponents into snipers from behind the three-point line. The Hogs’ top three-point shooters are Moody (35.2%) and Tate (38.3%).
Arkansas has won four of their last five with their only loss coming to Oklahoma State in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. While they have no huge wins on their schedule, they also do not have any bad losses. The worst loss on their record was probably at LSU, which is a tough place to play.
At this point, Kentucky is playing for pride. Yes, in theory an SEC Tournament win would get them into the NCAA Tournament. But this team is going to have an uphill battle to get into any post season tournament. Their current resume is one that the NIT committee would laugh at.
Big questions come into play when team success is no longer an option. Will players start being more selfish to bolster numbers for a better draft position? Will guys start looking to opt out or transfer? Or will they continue to push each other for playing time and battle in practice?
This seas has obviously been a catastrophe, but any win you can get at this point eases the pain. Kentucky can certainly beat this Arkansas team, but they will have to play a different brand of basketball than we have seen for most of this season.