By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
On Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats played arguably their best game of the season despite missing Reid Travis’ usual contributions on the boards, and his consistent double digit scoring. In defeating #13 Auburn by 27 points, 80-53, the Cats put their 80 points on the board in only 63 possessions, and outrebounded Auburn 43-24. This performance in no way means this team does not need Reid Travis on the floor, but this game does show the world that this team is deeper than most people have given credit.
The other major SEC development on Saturday was LSU’s overtime win over Tennessee in Baton Rouge. While LSU, Tennessee and Kentucky each woke on Sunday with identical 12-2 records with four games remaining, the LSU win over Tennessee lifted the Bayou Bengals into the driver’s seat for the regular season championship. Either Kentucky or Tennessee will lose at least one more game when they confront each other in Knoxville the coming Saturday, and LSU will hold the tie breaker against that winner.
Therefore, unless LSU finds the L column at either Alabama (which is possible) or Florida (which is possible), LSU will be the #1 seed in the SEC Tournament, leaving Kentucky and Tennessee to claim the #2 and #3 seeds, in an order dependent upon the winner on Saturday.
There is an aggressive battle going on between Mississippi, South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Florida for the precious #4 Tournament seed, and Florida plays LSU and Kentucky over the last 2 weeks of the season. In addition, Mississippi plays Tennessee and Kentucky over the last 2 weeks.
At the other end of the SEC spectrum, the bottom three seeds, requiring teams to play on Wednesday night, have essentially been secured by Vanderbilt, Georgia, and Missouri. There is an aggressive battle also going on between Texas A&M and Arkansas to avoid the fourth Wednesday night slot. While Texas A&M must face LSU on Saturday in Baton Rouge, Arkansas must face Kentucky on Saturday at Rupp.
#71 ARKANSAS brings a 14-13, 5-9 SEC record into this game against the Cats. During the Hogs’ non-conference schedule, with a 9-4 record, Arkansas’ most impressive win was over #41 Indiana by 1 point. However, the Hogs’ most disappointing loss was to #134 Western Kentucky by 1. In the SEC, Arkansas has lost their last 5 games including a 7 point home loss to #89 Texas A&M last Saturday.
The Razorbacks schedule has a SOS value of 0.0747 ppp (#47). The ARKANSAS ANE for the season stands at 0.108 ppp and their ANE over the last 5 games is -0.001 ppp.
The Cats’ schedule has a SOS value of 0.0941 ppp (#26). The Cats’ ANE for the season stands at 0.309 ppp, their season ANE since game 7 has been 0.367 ppp, and their ANE over the last 5 games is 0.364 ppp.
The ANE analysis based on Kentucky’s ANE since game 7 indicates a Kentucky margin of 23 points, 79-56, in a game played at a pace of 72 possessions. As a matter of record, the traditional ANE analysis indicates a 18 1/2 point Kentucky advantage and a “last 5” analysis indicates a UK advantage of 30 1/2 points. Pomeroy has this game as a 17 point Kentucky win, 80-63, at a pace of 69 possessions. Vegas has opened with the Cats favored by 17 ½ points.
Use the following link to see how other UK fans handicap this game at 247Sports, The Cats Pause message board:
You can participate in the score prediction contest at 247Sports at the following link: