On Saturday, the Cats began the final stretch of five games to close out the SEC regular season, and three of those five games provide an opportunity to avenge an earlier loss. The first rematch ended with the Cats getting their revenge. However, much to the chagrin of most Big Blue Fans, the Cats not only required overtime to get the job done, the Cats could not finish the job until Julius Randle transformed a lame attack of the basket by James Young into a game winning basket with only 2.5 second left in the extra period.
Just as Qualls picked off an offensive rebound of the Madden miss and slammed it into the basket at the end of overtime in Fayetteville on January 14 to hand the Cats a 2 point loss in overtime, this “fortunate” bounce of the ball gave the Cats the 1 point win in overtime over LSU.
Ironically, those same Arkansas Razorbacks, who “stole” the 2-point OT win from the Cats in January, are the next opponent in this revenge minded final stretch. The Hogs will come to Rupp Thursday night to face a Kentucky team that still has revenge on its mind.
After the Hogs beat the Cats, they stood proud with a 12-4 overall record, but only 1-2 in the SEC after dropping their SEC opener to Texas A&M and dropping a 2 pointer in overtime to Florida prior to Kentucky’s visit to Fayetteville. Immediately following the Hogs’ win over the Cats, they proceeded to lose four of their next 5 games, as their record dropped to an unimpressive 13-8, and 2-6 in the SEC. It seemed that Arkansas was headed for a dismal SEC finish on February 1 on their trip back to Fayetteville from Baton Rouge following their 14 point loss to the Hogs. However, the Hogs have won five of the six games since that February 1 loss to elevate their record to 18-9, and are one of seven SEC teams standing at 7-7 with 4 games remaining. Arkansas is probably playing their best basketball of the season over the last 3 weeks as they prepare for their rematch with the Cats.
Those who look for positives to take from a 1 point OT win over LSU at Rupp point to the ability to finish with a game winning play that was so elusive to this team from November through January as a sign that the Cats are “getting it”. Perhaps they are. However, the chatter in the Bluegrass since Sunday about the Hogs has been they win in Fayetteville, and loss on the road. However, two of their five wins over the last 3 weeks have come on the road in the SEC. I am confident that the Hog fans are pointing to this recent road success by their Hogs as a sign that the Hogs are “getting it” too. Perhaps they are.
ARKANSAS will bring their 19-9, 7-7 SEC record into Rupp on Thursday night. ARKANSAS’s schedule strength has been 0.5699 (105th). ARKANSAS has averaged 74 possessions per game, scoring 80.5 ppg (1.089 ppp) and allowing 70.5 ppg (0.954 ppp). ARKANSAS has turned the ball over on 15.8% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 23.6% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, ARKANSAS has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 32.7% about 4% above the 29% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 65.8%, about 3% below the NCAA average.
In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 69 possessions per game, producing 78.2 ppg (1.135 ppp) and allowing 66.9 ppg (0.971 ppp). The Cats have committed turnovers on 17.7% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 16.0% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats’ rebounding rates have been 42.8% and 68.9% on the offensive and defensive ends against a schedule strength of 0.6600 (#36).
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of Kentucky by 12 points, 80-68 in a game played at a pace of 71 possessions for the Cats and 71 possessions for ARKANSAS. Pomeroy figures the game in Kentucky’s favor by 11 points, 82-71 at a pace of 72 possessions.
See how other Big Blue Fans see this game’s likely outcome here: http://www.bigbluefans4uk.com/2013-14DataandWritings/247_PREDICTIONS/28_ARK.htm
You can enter your prediction at any time prior to tip off by visiting the 247 Sports prediction thread for this game at: http://kentucky.247sports.com/Board/296/Arkansas-Prediction-Thread-26086564/1