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Odds taken from DraftKings Sportsbook
|Kentucky Wildcats||+2||O 148.5|
|Arkansas Razorbacks||-2||U 148.5|
SEC rivals Kentucky and Arkansas will be going up against each other for the first time this season. Kentucky is having another excellent season, but the real surprise in this game is Arkansas; the Razorbacks are performing well in conference play for the second season in a row and are 3-0 against ranked opponents. The Razorbacks are looking to continue their unbeaten streak against ranked opponents in this matchup.
Unsurprisingly, after a difficult season last year, Kentucky is back as a top-ten team. Much of their success is due to forward Oscar Tshiebwe. Tshiebwe transferred to Kentucky from West Virginia and now leads the Wildcats in points (16.4), rebounds (15.2), steals (1.9), and blocks (1.5). This will be a difficult game for the Wildcats, as they may be playing shorthanded. Guards TyTy Washington Jr. and Sahvir Wheeler are listed as game time decisions.
The Arizona Razorbacks are on a tear lately. They have won nine of their last ten, and one of those wins came in overtime against the then No. 1 Auburn Tigers. Auburn has four players (JD Notae, Stanley Umude, Jaylin Williams, and Au’Diese Toney) scoring ten or more points a game. Those four players account for nearly ⅔ of Auburn’s total points. JD Notae is the most impactful player on this Razorbacks team. The senior guard leads Arkansas in minutes per game (33.1), points (18.7), and assists (3.4). Usually, I would pick the Wildcats to win this battle, but since they may be without TyTy Washington Jr. and Sahvir Wheeler, I have to give the upper hand to Arkansas. In addition, Kentucky is playing on the road against a Razorbacks squad that has not lost against ranked opponents.
Arkansas beats Kentucky 74-71. Arkansas covers, Under 148.5 points.
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|John Calipari||Head Coach||Eric Musselman|
|23-5 (12-3, 2nd in SEC)||Standing||22-6 (11-4, 3rd in SEC)|
|Leader (Per Game)|
|Oscar Tshiebwe (16.4)||PPG||JD Notae (18.7)|
|Oscar Tshiebwe (15.2)||RPG||Jaylin Williams (9.6)|
|Sahvir Wheeler (7.1)||APG||JD Notae (3.4)|
|Oscar Tshiebwe (1.9)||SPG||JD Notae (2.3)|
|Oscar Tshiebwe (1.5)||BPG||Jaylin Williams (1.2)|
|Lance Ware (.727)||FG%||Kamani Johnson (.667)|
|Kellan Grady (.439)||3P%||Trey Wade (.381)|
Kentucky is the underdog in this battle, but this game will be close. The Wildcats have to focus on riding the hot hand and creating turnovers.
Since Kentucky will be without one or two of their starting guards, they may have to look to other players to score. That player could be Jacob Toppin, Davion Mintz, or some other unlikely hero. Whoever it may be, the Wildcats have to trust that they have other players who can make up for the possible absences of Sahvir Wheeler and TyTy Washington Jr.
Kentucky only averages seven steals a game. Over two of those steals come from players who may miss this game. The rest of the team needs to step up and take the ball away from Arkansas.
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The Razorbacks are just barely the favorites in this game, and this battle will be tough for them. Arkansas needs to focus on slowing down Oscar Tshiebwe and forcing Kentucky to take outside shots.
Oscar Tshiebwe has proven himself as a man that can do it all for Kentucky. That is why the Razorbacks need to slow him down and limit his presence. If they slow him down, they will limit Kentucky’s scoring.
Kentucky shoots pretty well from the outside. However, they will be missing some guards that contribute to that strong shooting. Since that is the case, the Razorback needs to protect the rim and force Kentucky to take outside shots.
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Oscar Tshiebwe can do it all. The 6’9” Congolese center is having a dominant junior season for the Wildcats.
Tshiebwe fills up the stat sheet every game but is most notably an efficient scorer and tenacious rebounder. He scores 16.4 points per game on almost 60% shooting and grabs a monstrous 15.2 rebounds per game. Tshiebwe is also an impressive defender. He may be 6’9”, but he has a 7’4.25” wingspan.
Tshiebwe is a game-changer on both sides of the floor and Kentucky’s x-factor. Arkansas will not be able to stop him, but they can try to slow him down.
Jaylin Williams is a very well-rounded forward on this Arkansas roster. The sophomore from Fort Smith, Arkansas, is not a star, but he is an efficient player. Williams is averaging 10.4 points on almost 50% shooting and leads his team in rebounds and blocks with 9.6 and 1.2, respectively.
Williams is a solid player, but that is not why I picked him as the key player. I picked him as the key player because he will likely be going up against Oscar Tshiebwe all night. He needs to be the better player in this matchup, and if he is, he will limit Tshiebwe’s impact and force Kentucky to look to other players to score.
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|No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats vs No. 18 Arkansas Razorbacks Information|
|What||No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats vs No. 18 Arkansas Razorbacks|
|Where||Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Arkansas|
|When||Saturday, February 26, 2:00 PM EST|
|How to Watch||CBS|
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Max Heering graduated from the University of Kansas Sport Management program in May 2020. Max follows and writes about the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, college football, and college basketball. In his free time, you can catch Max draining threes on the basketball court. Email: [email protected]More info on Max Heering
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