When this much hype builds up before an SEC showdown it is usually in football, but today the 18th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks fly into Lexington to take on the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats at the Rupp Arena. The game is set to tip at 4 PM ET with the home team Wildcats as 14.5-point favorites.
Is there anyone left in the nation that can slow Calipari’s Wildcats?
A Deeper Dive Into the Arkansas at Kentucky Men’s Basketball Betting Odds, My Final Prediction & How To Watch
Matchup: (18) Arkansas Razorbacks at (1) Kentucky Wildcats
Date: Feb. 28, 2015
Start Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Stadium: Rupp Arena
TV Info: CBS
Radio: Arkansas Vs Kentucky
Point Spread: Kentucky Wildcats -14.5
Arkansas Will Cover the Spread If
The Razorbacks can get shots off before Kentucky sets its defense.
Arkansas can win a slow tempo game. The Razorbacks were very impressive in a 56 to 57 loss to Florida as a +6.5 point dog on the road on Jan. 31. The Hogs also managed to beat Mississippi State 61 to 41 on Feb. 14.
RPI UPDATE | Hogs are No. 19 in today's ESPN RPI. Saturday will be Arkansas' 4th road game against a top 40 team. pic.twitter.com/flA5hpIlIh
— Razorback Basketball (@RazorbackMBB) February 27, 2015
But playing a slow tempo against Florida and Mississippi State is much different than playing a slow tempo against Kentucky. The issue with Kentucky is that their defense is the best in all of college basketball based on field goal percentage allowed. If the Wildcats have time to get into their set defense, Arkansas is going to have trouble scoring simply because nobody can prevent open looks better than the Kentucky Wildcats. Arkansas needs to push the tempo and work towards scoring their average of 79.5 if they hope to cover the spread against the Wildcats.
Arkansas’ Projected Starting Lineup: Alandise Harris (F), Bobby Portis (F), Anton Beard (G), Rashad Madden (G), Michael Qualls (G).
Kentucky Will Cover the Spread If
Kentucky wins the rebounding battle by a wide margin.
The Wildcats average 38.7 boards per game while their opponents average a less than stellar 27. These two teams haven’t faced each other since Feb. 27, 2014. In that matchup, Arkansas beat Kentucky straight up in overtime, 71 to 67. In that game, the Wildcats did a good job of out rebounding the Razorbacks. Kentucky grabbed 40 boards to Arkansas’ 33.
Kentucky is very different this season than last season, though, but so is Arkansas. When Arkansas is at its best, the Hogs are grabbing defensive rebounds and getting open and uncontested looks on the other end of the court or they’re grabbing offensive boards and putting up close to the basket shots. Arkansas will most likely be looking to push the tempo on offense and defense.
In order to counter Arkansas’ plans, Kentucky has to be able to get defensive rebounds on missed shots and, more importantly, box out to prevent the Razorbacks from grabbing offensive boards. Kentucky is going to be a big favorite in this game. They no doubt will win it, but covering might be difficult unless the Wildcats win the rebounding battle by a wide margin.
Kentucky’s Projected Starting Lineup: Willie Cauley-Stein (F), Karl-Anthony Towns (F), Trey Lyles (F) Aaron Harrison (G), Andrew Harrison (G).