Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 14, 2015 at 7:00 PM
It all comes down to this. Can the Arkansas Razorbacks be the one in 33-1? Or, will the Kentucky Wildcats head into the 2015 NCAA Tournament with a perfect 34-0 record…staring very intently at a perfect 40-0 season and a National Championship?
The Wildcats have been head and shoulders above the SEC all season…and will be prohibitive favorites again Sunday afternoon in Nashville. The pointspread won’t be way up in the 20’s like it was in the semifinals against badly outmatched Auburn. There’s only so many breaks you can catch in the brackets. The Wildcats are facing a team that could conceivably beat them if:
*Kentucky comes in overconfident
*Kentucky has an off-day shooting
*Kentucky struggles enough to get those not wearing blue to root for an upset
*Arkansas pushes the pace AND plays its best game of the season!
Stranger things have happened in conference championship games…particularly when #1 seeds start thinking ahead to the Dance. Will this one at least get interesting? Or, is Kentucky a steamroller that can’t be stopped? Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the matchup.
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Kentucky: 119.0 per 100 possessions (#6 in the nation)
Arkansas: 113.0 per 100 possessions (#19 in the nation)
Kentucky’s offense is helped some by getting cheap points off of turnovers. So, they’re not quite as elite as that national ranking would make it seem. And, as we see every year with the numbers of college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy, strength of schedule can be hard to evaluate in a down conference. If the SEC has a bunch of mediocre offenses and defenses, then Kentucky may not be as overpowering as it seems later in the month. For now, they have the clear edge on BOTH sides of the ball in the numbers, and will be hoping to cash in a lot of cheap points again Sunday. Arkansas pushes tempo to create easier looks…which at least gives them a shot to hang around and make Kentucky sweat.
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Kentucky: 85.3 per 100 possessions (#1 in the nation)
Arkansas: 98.4 per 100 possessions (#93 in the nation)
Amazing defense from Kentucky this year…as they get something meaningful from all over the floor. If an opposing offense manages to avoid turnovers on the way to the basket, they just run into a brick wall of shot blockers anyway! Coach John Calipari deserves a lot of credit for recruiting great defenders, and them teaching them even more. It’s always been one of the hidden factors in his coaching dynasty. Defense wins championships! Too many coaches recruit scorers, or emphasize offense in their schematics. Clear advantage to the Wildcats here as well, as Arkansas doesn’t have a Dance caliber defense. The Hogs will have to hope Kentucky misses some open looks or otherwise gets sloppy.
Kentucky plays at a slower than average pace because they like to work the ball inside. That takes time to do. They’re not afraid to run when opportunities are there. But, playing at this kind of pace is much smarter if you’re trying to win a championship. Nobody gets exhausted. Foul trouble is less likely. Injuries are less likely. If things slow down in playoff style basketball, that plays right into Kentucky’s hands. They’re not just well-positioned to run the table because of recruiting. They really do offer the complete package. Arkansas will try to speed things up to take Kentucky out of its comfort zone. That’s tougher to do on a neutral court than a home court. But, if the Nashville crowd provides some energy, it’s possible that Kentucky can get lured into a track meet.
Against the Spread
A credit to Kentucky that they’re over .500 against market prices…because they’re always priced at perfection. The market assumes up front that they’re championship caliber. They have to play that way just to get near the number! You’ve seen that already in this tournament. Arkansas scooted past break-even against the vigorish with Saturday’s cover against Georgia.
The SEC Championship is just one of FIVE title tilts on the Sunday schedule. NETWORK is also looking very intently at the Big 10, Atlantic 10, American Athletic, and Sun Belt showdowns. And, we can’t forget about the NBA! Chicago visits Oklahoma City and Houston is in Los Angeles to face the Clippers in an ABC doubleheader.
You can purchase the best college and pro options on the board right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 before the first games tip off. When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!
Back with you Monday to run key stats from Sunday’s championship matchups. Then, it’s back to big-game previews beginning Tuesday and Wednesday with the best from the “First Four” play-in games. When the schedule explodes beginning Thursday, we’ll pick the best prime-time matchup each day for showcase coverage. Be sure you’re with us EVERY DAY!
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