Everything you need to know about Kentucky vs Arkansas
Who: #4 Kentucky 23-4 (12-2) vs Arkansas 14-13 (5-9)
When: 9pm tonight
Where: Rupp Arena
Television: SEC Network
The spread in Vegas: Kentucky opened as an 18 point favorite but the line has moved all the way down to 16.5 at the moment of this article.
About Arkansas: The Razorbacks had hopes of making the NCAA tournament for a third straight season but things have not gone so well. They enter this game on a five game losing streak and are no longer on the NCAA tournament bubble. They lost the majority of their key contributors from last seasons team but did return star freshman Daniel Gafford. As a sophomore Gafford has averaged 17 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. He is a long athletic big man which is something that this team has struggled with. On paper, Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery match-up with him better than Reid Travis does. It will be interesting to see how the duo does against one of the best big men in the SEC. Isaiah Joe is a 6’5 freshman shooting guard that has already broken the record for 3’s made by an Arkansas freshman. He shoots 42% from deep and averages an eye popping eight attempts per game. Limiting his open looks will be a key for Kentucky. Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson both have the size and length to contest his shots. Mason Jones is another big guard for the Hogs that shoots a lot of 3’s. He has not made nearly as high of a percentage as Joe has but he is capable of getting hot. Against Mississippi State he made 5 3’s and scored 30 points in a loss. Their point guard is 6’2 sophomore Jalen Harris who averages 8 points and 5 assists per game. He has been a terrible shooter all season long and is more of a facilitator for the team. As a team the Hogs play their usual uptempo style with a pressing defense. An up and down full court game with Kentucky could be a recipe for a disaster for the Razorbacks.
What’s at stake for Kentucky: A win against Arkansas will be relatively meaningless in the long run but a loss would be devastating. With that said it is extremely unlikely that Kentucky would lose this game. It is two teams that are heading in opposite directions and Cal always enjoys beating Mike Anderson. This should be more of a confidence building game for Kentucky, especially for Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery. With a huge road game coming up at Tennessee on Saturday it is a chance for the Cats to continue to figure out how they have to play without Reid Travis in the lineup. There could be a very small chance that Reid would play a little on Saturday but that seems like a long shot. Assuming he is going to be out it is crucial that the team gets comfortable with him off the court tonight if they hope to have a shot to win in Knoxville.
What will happen: As I mentioned earlier there is no love lost between Cal and Anderson. Both coaches enjoy beating each other but this is a chance for Cal’s team to put a beat down on the Hogs. I expect Arkansas to come in and try to rough the Cats up in hopes of creating turnovers. That method is not going to go over very well against this Kentucky team. The Hogs have no one that can guard PJ Washington and that will be clear for the entire game. The Razorbacks may keep it close for the first half but eventually the Cats will stretch out the lead and get a fairly easy win. The final score will be 83-68 with another 20 point game from PJ.