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Kentucky vs. Arkansas viewing info, odds, what to watch for, and predictions

The Wildcats look to redeem themselves after a bad loss at South Carolina. Here’s what you need to know.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

There is no sugarcoating it, Kentucky Basketball got whipped by South Carolina. As fellow coaches told John Calipari after the loss, “It didn’t even look like your team.”

After a few “roughhouse” practices — as Coach Cal put it on his call-in show — the Cats will look to make a statement as they travel to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas, one of the most disappointing teams in college basketball thus far this season.

The Razorbacks were picked to finish third in the SEC, yet are just one game above .500 on the season and 1-5 in SEC games, with all five losses coming by double digits. The advanced metrics have them currently rated the second-worst team in the SEC. They are 127th in the NET, signaling they are a borderline Quad III team. KenPom ranks them 105th, while Bart Torvik has them ranked 127th.

Last year, Kentucky went 1-1 against the Hogs, losing at home in blowout fashion, then scored a massive win in Fayetteville thanks to 37 points (12/17 shooting) from Antonio Reeves.

Here’s what to watch for when the Kentucky Wildcats face Arkansas.

Get Back To Moving the Ball

Against South Carolina, Kentucky had just seven assists. For reference, the Wildcats rank top 10 nationally in assists per game and assist/turnover ratio, and were coming off a win against Georgia where they tied a season-high in assists with 27.

So what happened? The physicality and perimeter pressure certainly played a part, but they also weren’t following the game plan at times. After the game, Calipari said he told his team to “move the ball” at least 30 times, which one fan who sat behind the Kentucky bench confirmed to me.

There will be some 1-on-1 possessions with Arkansas, but they like to play fast as well, and it should open up the court more to push the ball ahead.

Physicality

Kentucky got punked by South Carolina, who plays a very physical brand of basketball. The Wildcats cannot allow themselves to get manhandled like that again, or it will result in another bad L.

Arkansas is another team that won’t take it easy on Kentucky and will look to play with physicality and take away easy shots at the rim. Case in point, they foul their opponents at one of the highest rates in the country, committing nearly 20 per game.

Kentucky’s guards have to look to take it to the basket with aggression and finish through contact, not around. If they can’t finish, the worst case is they get fouled or push back the defense enough for a kickout.

Lineup Consistency

Kentucky has yet to play with a full team this season, but with Zvonimir Ivisic now eligible and Adou Thiero set to return within the next week, that is expected to change.

However, Kentucky cannot play 23 different lineups as they did against South Carolina. With February just days away, it means that Kentucky needs to start hitting its stride in the coming weeks and continue to build chemistry within a stricter rotation.

With players being added and coming off injury, it’s understandable to experiment with lineups. However, you can’t do it at the cost of games, and you still have to find some consistency.

Opposing Players to Watch

G Tramon Mark, 6-6, 185 lbs

  • 17.8 PPG (5th in SEC)
  • 52.6% FG (4th in SEC)
  • 40.4% 3P (14in SEC)

G Khalif Battle, 6-5, 185 lbs

  • 11.5 PPG
  • 38.6% 3P (19th in SEC)

F Trevon Brazile, 6-10, 220 lbs

  • 8.9 PPG
  • 6.5 RPG (12th in SEC)

Kentucky Basketball vs. Arkansas Razorbacks

Date: Saturday, January 27th, 2024

Time: 6:00 PM ET

Location: Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, AR

TV Channel: ESPN

Online Stream: Stream the game online using WatchESPN and the ESPN app.

Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio call on the UK Sports Radio Network.

Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).

Rosters: UK | ARK

Stats to Know: UK | ARK

KenPom: UK | ARK

Team Sheets: UK | ARK

Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook has Kentucky favored by six points. ESPN gives Kentucky a 70.7% chance of winning this road contest. EvanMiya gives the Cats a 70.5% chance of victory. Bart Torvik has it at 73%, and KenPom is at 73%.

Predictions: Bart Torvik picks Kentucky to win on the road, 89-81, with Haslametrics providing a similar score projection, 89-79. However, EvanMiya has the Cats winning just 85-79. KenPom is going with an 87-80 victory, Kentucky!

How do you see this one playing out? Sound off in the comments section!