Kentucky continued to look like one of the hottest teams in the country entering the NCAA tournament as the Wildcats rolled past Arkansas, 82-65, on Sunday afternoon to claim the SEC Tournament title.
Claiming the autobid from the SEC, the Wildcats (29-5) looked every bit like a national championship contender on Sunday as they extended their winning streak to 11 games by thoroughly outplaying Arkansas.
Continuing his strong recent play, freshman De’Aaron Fox paced Kentucky with 18 points while freshmen Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk had 17 points each. Senior Dominique Hawkins added 14 points as well in some solid bench minutes for Kentucky. A likely No. 2 seed in the 2017 NCAA tournament, Kentucky is going to be the type of team that no No. 1 seed wants to see on the other side of the bracket.
Playing as well as they have all season, Kentucky is getting great recent play from Fox and we know what Monk is capable of if he gets rolling. If Fox and Monk are playing this well then they have a chance to help carry Kentucky to a title as long as players like Adebayo and Derek Willis keep contributing in the front court.
Arkansas (25-9) was led by guard Daryl Macon with 18 points while Dusty Hannahs (14 points) and Jaylen Barford (13 points) also finished in double-figures. The Razorbacks tried to stay in this one but it was tough to mount any kind of momentum thanks to shooting only 22 percent (4-for-18) from three-point range.
Things got dicey in the final minutes for the Razorbacks in this one as senior Moses Kingsley was ejected with a flagrant 2 foul after aggressively fouling Fox with multiple hands to the face as he drove to the basket.
We’ll likely see the committee put Arkansas as an 8-through-11 seed as the Razorbacks have been playing pretty solid down the stretch but this was not a great effort against an elite team. While Arkansas could win their first game, it is difficult seeing them beating a top-tier team in the second round since they don’t have a top-25 win all season.