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GAME 29: Kentucky @ Arkansas

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

Kentucky @ Arkansas Preview

Opponent: Kentucky Wildcats
Date: Saturday, February 26, 2022
Time: 1:00PM CDT
Place: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Arkansas
TV/Streaming: CBS
All-Time Series: Kentucky leads 33-12
All-Time Series in Fayetteville: Kentucky leads 8-7

The Wildcats – 23-5 (12-3)

The Razorbacks – 22-6 (11-4)

Just how good is Kentucky? Do we really know? They have looked amazing when their team is healthy, but they are pretty banged up right now. Sahvir Wheeler and TyTy Washington are both questionable for today’s game. They both missed Wednesday nights’ victory over LSU in Lexington. With Wheeler and Washington, you could argue that Kentucky is the best team in the country when they are clicking. They pass the eye test with flying colors every time.

Saturday is an animal all of its’ own for Kentucky though. Arkansas is playing as good as any team in the country. Bud Walton Arena will be at its’ best. Kentucky is used to that though. They get everyone’s best in every road game. Arkansas just happens to be one of the best atmospheres in basketball. All 5 of Kentucky’s losses have come away from Rupp Arena.

In SEC play, Kentucky has been the best 3-point shooting team in the conference. Arkansas has been the best at defending the 3 in conference to along with being #1 in defensive efficiency. Something has to give. Kellen Grady is a superstar shooter. Arkansas must key in on him.

No matter who is playing guards for UK tomorrow, we know Oscar Tshiebwe will be his consistent self. The big man is averaging a video-game-like 16.4 points and 15.0 rebounds per game. Given how well Arkansas did against Colin Castleton, I expect a colossal game for Oscar. I know I write this every game, but rebounding is of extreme importance on Saturday. Kentucky will win the rebounding battle. I truly believe that, but how close Arkansas can keep it might determine the game’s winner.

If Wheeler and/or Washington are out then we will see a lot more Davion Mintz, Jacob Toppin, and Bryce Hopkins. Mintz, Kellen Grady, Tshiebwe, and Toppin all played 38 minutes or more on Wednesday night. They needed a come from behind win to beat LSU. Arkansas had an extra days rest and have been at home. With the dramatic win and a lot of minutes, you have to wonder how fresh will Kentucky’s legs be? John Calipari played just a 6-man rotation Wednesday night.

Arkansas needs a lot of minutes from Jaylin Williams and J.D. Notae. A key will be keeping them on the floor. Oscar is going to attack relentlessly.

The Razorbacks will need excellent execution offensively. UK has defended the 3 very well, but in their losses it has been an area of struggle. There seems to be formula there. In their three SEC losses, opponents have shot at least 37% from 3 each game. Arkansas will need to repeat that. Kentucky’s length and physicality will likely lead to a lot of 3PA.

This is a tough game to pick because we don’t know if Wheeler or Washington will play. Those 2 drive the offense. They get things set up properly.

Kentucky opened has a 2.5 point favorites from the Las Vegas oddsmakers. Since that number released this afternoon, the line has shifted to Arkansas has a 2.5 point favorite. That’s a 4-point slide. That’s significant. You don’t see that very often.

The line shift leads us to believe that Washington and/or Wheeler will be out on Saturday. If they are out, then give me the Hogs. UK won without them on Wednesday, but that was at home. Arkansas has been a much defensive team that LSU lately. Their absence would really matter.

Prediction: Arkansas 68, Kentucky 65