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PREVIEW: Arkansas @ Kentucky

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: Kentucky Wildcats
Date: Tuesday, February 9
Time: 6:00PM
Place: Rupp Arena, Lexington, Kentucky
TV/Streaming: ESPN
All-Time Series: Kentucky Leads 33-11

All-Time Series At Kentucky: Kentucky Leads 15-3

The Wildcats 5-12 (4-6)

What a weird preview to write. I almost can’t believe I am doing it. Kentucky is 5-12 on the season. By far their worst season in decades. Despite that miserable record, Kentucky has been competitive in most games. They just cannot finish.

John Calipari brought in a top class like he always does. Where Cal did differently was bringing in transfers. Sarr was expected to be the piece that put this team over the top. He’s been good, but was overhyped. Mintz wasn’t expected to be a big contributor, but he has been.

Because Kentucky has struggled mightily, Calipari has played a lot of different players in big minutes. He has tried to find a 5 that will work. His rotations have changed over and over, but to no success.

Offense has been the biggest problem for UK. They rank 287th in FG% and 313th in 3P%.

The point guard play has been the Wildcats issues. Cal has relied on Devin Askew and Terrence Clarke in those spots, but the team just isn’t clicking offensively.

Because of inconsistent play across the board, UK has 4 players averaging double figures. Keion Brooks at 11.8 ppg, Brandon Boston at 11.6 ppg, Terrence Clarke at 10.7 ppg, and Olivier Sarr at 10.5ppg.

Where Kentucky causes problems for teams is their size and athleticism. Nearly every player Cal employs on the court will be 6-6 or taller. That will give Arkansas problems on offense.

The keys for Kentucky to win against Arkansas is to limit turnovers, crash the boards, and hit 8 threes. If they do that, they win.

The Razorbacks 14-5 (6-4)

Arkansas comes into Tuesday’s game on 5 days of rest. Saturday’s game against Texas A&M was postponed due to COVID-19 issues at A&M.

While you want to play every game possible, the game postponement really came at a great time for Arkansas. Justin Smith still isn’t 100%, Moses Moody has a nagging ankle injury, Desi Sills is dealing with extreme shoulder soreness, and Jaylin Williams is recovering from a bruised knee. The 5 days off has given them time to nurse those injuries. We’ll see if all have returned to form or if any of the players will be limited.

The cold, hard truth is that the schedule is getting shorter. There aren’t very many games left. Arkansas has to win this one, but it won’t be easy.

Arkansas has had problems against teams with a lot of length and athleticism. That is exactly what Kentucky has.

The keys to the game for Arkansas:

1. Don’t give Kentucky extra possessions. Do not allow offensive rebounds and take care of the basketball. UK struggles too much on offense to give them more opportunities.

2. Get to the basket, take it up strong, and draw fouls. The Razorbacks were weak with the ball around the basket against Oklahoma State.

3. Score 75. Kentucky is winless this year when their opponent scores 75.

Prediction

I think the athleticism of the Kentucky bigs are going to be too much. We don’t know how ready Jaylin Williams is to play. He could be very limited like he was the past 2 games. That is a lot on the shoulders of Connor Vanover and Justin Smith. I think Arkansas will have to roll with a 4 guard lineup at times. I don’t have a good feeling about this one.

Arkansas 66 Kentucky 70