This one is going to hurt.
No. 17 Kentucky lost to Arkansas in overtime for the second time this season, falling 71-67 to the Razorbacks. This time, it didn’t come on a fluky tip-dunk, but it did come at Rupp Arena to a team coach by Mike Anderson. As of the start of February, Anderson had won just two SEC road games in his two-and-a-half seasons as the head coach of Arkansas.
So yeah, that’s a bad sign for the Wildcats, because this was more than just a loss.
It would be one thing if Arkansas came out and played their best basketball. We might be able to look past this if they hit 15 threes or if Bobby Portis had another one of those 35 points games in him. But the Razorbacks didn’t play well. They turned the ball over 20 times. They shot 41.7% from the floor. They gave up 26 offensive rebounds to the Wildcats … and won.
In Rupp Arena.
This was a setback for Kentucky. Plain and simple. Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison and James Young combined to go 11-for-39 from the floor with 11 turnovers, and despite playing poorly throughout the night, those three insisted on wild drives to the rim instead of pounding the ball into the paint down the stretch. Guard play was a major question mark for this group earlier in the season. Decision-making, shot selection, leadership. Few thought the Harrison twins were up for the challenge, and while they played much better in recent weeks, this looked like a performance from back in December.
Here’s the other issue: all of a sudden, Kentucky looks destined for a middling seed. They have one win — one! — over a surefire NCAA tournament team at this point, and that came against Louisville at home when Luke Hancock was still banged up.
Tomorrow, when our new bracket is posted, they are likely going to be sitting somewhere around a six or a seven seed. Their ceiling, if they can beat Florida in the season finale and win the SEC tournament, is probably a No. 3 or No. 4 seed. Lose to Florida and flameout early in the SEC tournament, however, and Kentucky might end up playing a top two seed in the Round of 32. If they get that far.
As far as Arkansas is concerned, the enormity of this win cannot be overstated. This is a team that had won two of their last three on the road entering the night that now has a pair of wins over the Wildcats to go along with two other top 50 wins. With this win, the Razorbacks just played their way onto the right side of the bubble.