Arkansas coach Eric Musselman reacts to a call against Mississippi during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
- The Kentucky Wildcats (5-12, 4-6 SEC) host the Arkansas Razorbacks (14-5, 6-4 SEC) Tuesday, Feb. 9
- UK is in complete free-fall mode, dropping six of its last seven, while Arkansas has won four of its last five
- Read below for odds, analysis, and our best bet for this matchup
The Kentucky Wildcats (5-12, 4-6 SEC), in the midst of their second string of losing six of seven games this season, host the Arkansas Razorbacks (14-5, 6-4 SEC) Tuesday, Feb. 9 in Lexington. Tip is set for 7pm ET at Rupp Arena.
The Hogs haven’t beaten the Wildcats since 2014 — an eight-game losing streak. Despite UK’s record, a win Tuesday would be a signature SEC victory in Eric Musselman’s tenure so far.
KenPom is predicting Arkansas wins 70-69, and the odds reflect a potential razor-thin margin.
Arkansas vs Kentucky Odds
|Arkansas||-1 (-110)||N/A||Ov 141 (-110)|
|Kentucky||+1 (-110)||N/A||Un 141 (-110)|
Odds taken Feb. 8
UK head coach John Calipari said he was at a loss for words following the Wildcats’ latest defeat, an 82-71 to decision to Tennessee at Rupp Arena. Coach Cal noted his team had a chance to beat all three ranked teams it just played (Alabama, Missouri and UT), but then his squad broke down at critical times.
Tempo Is Key
Arkansas enjoyed a couple extra days of preparation for UK due to Saturday’s scheduled game against Texas A&M being postponed due to COVID issues within the Aggie program. The Hogs took advantage of a woeful shooting night by Mississippi State last Tuesday en route to a 61-45 victory in their last game. Four players scored in double-digits for Musselman, with Connor Vanover and Moses Moody pacing the way at 13 points apiece.
With UK possessing a pair athletic big men, Olivier Sarr and Isaiah Jackson, Arkansas will be far better served if it tries to push tempo. Kentucky, still rated No. 19 by KenPom in defensive adjusted efficiency despite its poor record, wants to slow the game down and play in the half-court — so look for the Hogs to score in transition and force turnovers against a Kentucky team that has struggled to hold on to the basketball. Musselman’s crew took advantage of 26 Bulldog turnovers in that 16-point victory last week.
With a few Razorback players nursing injuries, including leading scorer Moody (who’s battling an ankle issue), it will be interesting to see how the team navigates that strategy. Arkansas will likely try to attack UK from the perimeter, while staying away from the Boys in Blue on the blocks. Don’t forget, Jackson leads the SEC in blocks per game.
Kentucky had a 58-48 lead on Tennessee with 12 minutes remaining Saturday. But the latest Wildcat meltdown led to another defeat. Sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr. put up career highs of 23 points and 11 rebounds, but his efforts weren’t enough to pull out a victory. The ‘Cats have now lost at least three in a row on three different occasions this season.
Following Saturday’s loss to the Vols, Coach Cal was asked when he begins to think about next season.
“I’m not thinking about next year. I owe it to these kids and this program to do everything I can to get it flipped around.” https://t.co/z4zCAWN17D
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) February 7, 2021
Evidently, that’s not the case for several of his players. According to Kyle Tucker of The Athletic, Brandon Boston Jr., Terrence Clarke and Jackson already have their bags packed.
While one-and-dones have become the norm during Calipari’s tenture in Lexington, this news stings a little more because Kentucky has a 5-12 record and is likely to miss the NCAA Tournament for only the second time since Cal became head coach in 2009.
With three key players reportedly having their foot out the door with seven regular season games remaining (plus a potential SEC Tournament), questioning the Wildcats’ focus is certainly fair.
Even though Kentucky has struggled this season, Musselman has plenty of concerns heading into Rupp Tuesday.
The Razorbacks are very much in the thick of the conference standings, in a four-way tie for third in the SEC, but it’s a program devoid of sustained tourney success since the Nolan Richardson Era ended two decades ago.
Musselman is a good coach. But providing his team with the mental toughness to go into Lexington and come away with a win — something the Hogs program has only done once (2014) in 27 years — is a tall order.
That said, with the additional rest time and some UK players reportedly lacking focus, I’ll take Arkansas.
The pick: Arkansas -1 (-110)
Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and seasoned sports content creator. He has been writing and producing content as long as he can remember, with such familiar names as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo. Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.