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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Before the season started, many were convinced that Kentucky was going to be a very serious national championship threat. Last year’s collapse, lowlighted by an NIT loss to Robert Morris, was an anomaly. Coach John Calipari had reloaded with superstar talent…and a return to superpower status was imminent.

While things are better in February of 2014 than they were in February of 2013, Kentucky is still largely a disappointment. They’re having serious trouble stringing together good games. They were outclassed to a surprising degree in a home loss to Florida. Right now, the most respected computer assessments don’t even have them as a Sweet 16 caliber team. Let’s run our indicator stats for Thursday Night’s nationally televised Arkansas/Kentucky game so we can get caught up on the Wildcats.

 

Computer Rankings

Arkansas: #53 in Pomeroy, #44 in Sagarin

Kentucky: #17 in Pomeroy, #18 in Sagarin

Both college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin have Kentucky right on the doorstep of the Sweet 16. But, that’s well below what was supposed to happen with this squad. Avenging an overtime loss to Arkansas might help lift the Wildcats a bit higher. They didn’t avenge a loss to LSU with much authority though, having to go overtime a few days ago to barely survive a Lexington rematch with the Tigers in overtime. Frankly, you could make a case that Kentucky hasn’t even been a top 30 caliber team lately. We haven’t talked much about Arkansas yet. The computers would see them as a bubble team at best right now…entering this round as one of several SEC teams sitting at 7-7 in league play. It’s a disappointing conference again. Playing .500 ball within a disappointing conference isn’t going to turn any heads.

 

Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

Arkansas: #84

Kentucky: #9

Arkansas has really struggled on the offensive end. Sure, ranking top 100 out of more than 300 measured teams (adjusted for pace and schedule strength) is adequate in the big picture. But, when you’re talking tournaments, it’s way below what’s needed to get anything done vs. real competition. Talented Kentucky is scoring well. Their troubles are on the other side of the ball.

 

Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)

Arkansas: #53

Kentucky: #38

You longtime readers know that we’ve spent a lot of time in recent seasons talking about the consistently good defense that’s been played by Kentucky and Louisville. Their head coaches are considered “offensive” guys…but the two bluegrass powers are dominant on defense when things are going well. Kentucky just isn’t elite this season when it comes to getting stops. Too many divas, not enough effort! There’s just no way you can take Kentucky seriously as a championship threat until you see a lot more passion in the paint.

 

Pace Ranking

Arkansas: #7

Kentucky: #169

The tendency for Arkansas to run-and-gun could make this a very fun game to watch. But, that’s not really a winning recipe for beating the athletes of Kentucky in Lexington. That just unleashes the beasts. Remember that it’s easier for home favorites to cover tall spreads in up-tempo games. Here, we’ll have a revenge-minded host that might be in “statement making” mode as well.

 

Against the Spread

Arkansas: 12-12

Kentucky: 12-11-2

You can either call that a pair of good reads from oddsmakers…or a pair of inconsistent teams that can’t be trusted to perform on command. Either way, nobody’s been making money backing these teams in the 2013-14 season unless they’re picking the right spots.

JIM HURLEY has his eye on this game, but it’s one of many possibilities on a loaded Thursday schedule. Other possibilities for the final ticket include Georgetown/Marquette, Oregon/UCLA, off-the-radar sleepers from the Horizon and Sun Belt, and the TV doubleheader in the NBA featuring New York at Miami and Brooklyn at Denver.

You can purchase the final word during the day Thursday right here at the website with your credit card. If you’d like to talk to a live person about full season options, call our handicapping office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. We have great rates that take you all the way through the NCAA Tournament and/or the NBA Playoffs.

Here’s the big game preview schedule for the NOTEBOOK over the next few days…

 

Friday: an early look at the huge Saturday ACC game matching #4 Syracuse and #12 Virginia

Saturday: #7 Louisville at #21 Memphis

Sunday: Marquette at #8 Villanova

 

This is shaping up as one of the most exciting MARCH MADNESS spectacles EVER! Several teams are talented enough to go the distance. But, nobody’s even a sure thing to reach the Elite Eight because quality is running so deep this season. We can tell you that there’s a sure thing to GET THE MONEY from now through the tourneys…and THAT SURE THING IS JIM HURLEY!

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