Super Tuesday tips tonight with a small, high-quality slate of college basketball set to play. One SEC matchup stands out particularly with the young Kentucky Wildcats waltzing into Bud Walton Arena to take on the vicious Razorbacks of Arkansas. Despite their #13 ranking against an unranked opponent, UK is just a two-point favorite on the road against the Hogs.
After another start that just didn’t meet the sky-high expectations for a Kentucky team built almost primarily of freshman and the occasional sophomore, the ‘Cats have written the ship a bit over the holidays and into 2014. After losing two of three very difficult games, Kentucky has reeled off four straight including wins over Louisville, Belmont and two SEC Conference opponents (Mississippi State and Vandy). Now, Kentucky gets its first real tough conference test on the road against a really capable Arkansas side. While Randle has grabbed the thrown as the alpha-dog freshman, James Young continues to be the key for Kentucky to space the floor and create lanes for the Harrison twins to penetrate. If Young is knocking down the triple on the road it will certainly aid Kentucky and silence the Arkansas crowd. Keep an eye on the left-handed sharpshooter.
Arkansas, meanwhile, is a loser of its last two games after winning the previous seven. The Hogs come into this game desperate to not only snap their mini skid but to protect their home floor and get their first conference win. Arkansas fell flat on the road to Texas A&M in its first SEC game and then lost an overtime heartbreaker to the best team in the conference, Florida, over the weekend. Michael Qualls has emerged as this team’s primary scorer with a physicality that lets him get to the rim pretty much at will. Willie Calley-Stein will be key protecting the rim for Kentucky. The sophomore is about as good as any shot-blocker in the country with 3.7 a game. For Arkansas, a team that impressed me playing in the Maui Invitational earlier this season, the key will be playing under control early. Mike Anderson teams tend to flirt with the line that separates hard play with chaos. The Razborbacks must identify that line and make sure not to cross it.
This is a really tough spot for Kentucky and I’ll be interested to see whether Coach Cal’s side is up the the challenge playing down in Arkansas. Calley-Stein could truly be the difference here but for now I’m going to recommend a small play on the Hogs with the points on their home floor.
Free Pick: Arkansas +2