Arkansas Basketball has a chance to silence all doubters with a win against Kentucky on Saturday. Here are the three biggest keys to the game.
Arkansas Basketball is off to a terrific start to the 2019-20 season. The Razorbacks are 14-2 (3-1 SEC), and they are rolling under the direction of first-year coach Eric Musselman. One of the most surprising teams so far this season, Arkansas is an exciting team to watch. They are stout defensively, well-coached, and boast two of the top scorers in the SEC in Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe.
Musselman has relied on a small, tenacious, seven-man rotation this season. Jones and Joe are flanked in the back-court by rising sophomore Desi Sills, senior leader Jimmy Whitt, and sixth man Jalen Harris. The front-court has largely been a two-man show. Defensive specialist Adrio Bailey brings the athleticism and rim protection, while Reggie Chaney comes off the bench and provides some size and physicality.
After a heart-breaking 79-77 loss at LSU last week, Arkansas rebounded nicely winning at Ole Miss and then trouncing Vanderbilt at home Wednesday night 75-55. The 3-1 start in league play has the Hogs sitting in a four-way tie for second place in the SEC.
Despite the red-hot start, the Hogs still find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the polls. Arkansas joins Stanford as the only “Power 6” programs with two or fewer losses that are not ranked in the AP Top-25. There are some questions about Arkansas’ resume. While they have notched solid out of conference road wins over the likes of Georgia Tech and Indiana the Razorbacks are still searching for a “signature win” to hang their hat on. Insert the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday.
Kentucky is 12-4 (3-1 SEC) and will come into Bud Walton Arena ranked 10th in the country. The Wildcats are an extremely talented and impressively balanced team. They have four players in Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley, Nick Richards, and Ashton Hagans who all average just over 13 points per game. Stretch forward Nick Sestina and big man EJ Montgomery also provide key contributions.
John Calipari‘s Wildcats got off to a bit of an uneven start. Despite an opening night win over Michigan State, Kentucky had a couple of head-scratching losses to Evansville and Utah. They seemed to be righting the ship recently. Kentucky had rattled off five straight wins, including an overtime victory over rival Louisville. However, that streak came to an end on Wednesday night as the Wildcats fell on a buzzer-beating three-pointer on the road at South Carolina.
It is not often that a John Calipari team lose back to back games, and time has proven again and again that Kentucky always gets better as the season progresses. Arkansas will have their hands full on Saturday, but they are more than capable of getting the job done. Here are the three keys to success for the Hogs in this pivotal SEC match-up.