By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
Midway through the second half, the Cats and the Crimson Tide were knotted up at 52-52 and at the under 8 and under 4 media timeouts, the Cats had managed to secure fragile leads of 1 and 3 points respectively. Over the final 3 minutes and 35 seconds of the game, the Cats managed to put away the Crimson Tide by outscoring them 12-5 primarily due to five Alabama turnovers over their final 9 possessions of the game.
All of the preoccupation and talk of losing streaks has come to an end. May the Big Blue Nation never have to revisit those discussions again!!
At no time during the Calipari Era have out Cats needed a win any more than against Alabama on Saturday afternoon. This game was hard fought for over 36 minutes, and the game had no clear winner as late as the under 4 media timeout. Then, the Cats made huge plays on defense and offense to secure a huge 10 point win. Just as the chatter following the huge win at West Virginia a few weeks ago speculated that the team had finally turned a corner, this win has generated similar chatter throughout the Big Blue Nation.
But, not so fast. The Cats have four games left on their regular season schedule, at Arkansas, at Rupp to close the home season against Missouri and then Mississippi, and the season ending game at Florida on March 3. The Cats can win all four of these remaining games, but for the same reason, the Cats can lose two or more of these final four games as well. To close the season on a strong winning note, the Cats will have to demonstrate that the optimism their win over Alabama has generated is justified with four strong games down the stretch.
How important would that be for this team? Huge! Very huge!!! If the Cats could win out from here to finish 11-7 in the SEC, the Cats will probably pull themselves out of obscurity into one of the top four double byes for the SEC Tournament. That would be HUGE!!!
It is entirely within the realm of possibilities for this team, and it is entirely up to this team.
The Cats hold a 30-11 overall record over Arkansas in a series that goes back to 1946. In games played in Fayetteville, the series is tied 7-7. During the Calipari Era, the Cats hold a 7-4 advantage, but Calipari’s Cats are only 1-3 in Fayetteville, and two of the three losses occurred in overtime games.
Arkansas currently tied with Missouri, Florida and Alabama for 3rd in the SEC with a 8-6 conference record, and overall Arkansas sports a 19-8 record. Arkansas’s most impressive win of the season was over #19 Tennessee by 2 in overtime in Fayetteville, and the Razorbacks’s most difficult loss was to #57 LSU twice, by 8 points at LSU and by 21 points in Fayetteville. Arkansas’s 19-8, 8-6 record has produced an ANE of 0.183 ppp (#36) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.083 ppp (#38). The Cats’ 18-9, 7-7 record has produced an ANE of 0.174 ppp (#40) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.105 ppp (#9). The ANE analysis gives the edge to Arkansas by 5 points, 78-73, in a game played at a pace of 76 possessions. Pomeroy has the Arkansas favored by 3, 79-76 with a pace of 71 possessions. Vegas opened today with Arkansas a 5 point favorite.
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