We’ve still got plenty of time until tip-off (last 9 p.m. game of the season!), so let’s spend it getting to know about Kentucky’s foe tonight, the Arkansas Razorbacks.
1. They’re part of a massive tie for third in the SEC
Arkansas is one of four teams with an 8-6 record in the SEC right now, but due to tiebreakers, they’d draw the fifth seed if the SEC Tournament started today. Kentucky’s currently slated to be a seven seed, but a win tonight would keep them in the race for the all-important double-bye (for more on that, check out BTI’s post from earlier.)
2. They’ve won four of their last five by double-digits
After losing to LSU for the second time this season, Arkansas rallied to win four straight, beating South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and No. 21 Texas A&M at home by an average margin of 15.8 points.
3. They beat Texas A&M by 19
One week after beating Kentucky by 11 in College Station, No. 21 Texas A&M lost to Arkansas by 19 in Fayetteville. The Aggie frontcourt that pushed Kentucky around in the post couldn’t stop Daniel Gafford, Arkansas’ three-time SEC Freshman of the Week winner. Gafford avenged a terrible performance vs. A&M earlier this year with an impressive 18-point outing off 7-8 shooting. He’s shooting 62.3% from the floor, which is fourth among all freshmen in the country.
This is Daniel Gafford, goes to @BPortistime‘s alum Arkansas. Currently projected in the range of our NOP pick. Definitely an intriguing Center option outside of the top 10. #BullsNation pic.twitter.com/VfBFI1pB7C
— Bulls Scripted (@BullScripted) February 11, 2018
4. Gafford has 54 dunks this season
I wrote a whole post about that earlier today, but it’s worth repeating that Gafford has more dunks that four teams in the league. Containing him will be a major test for Nick Richards tonight.
5. The guy with the streak in his hair is still there
Jaylen Barford, aka the guy with the white streak in his hair, leads the Razorbacks in scoring with 18.6 points per game. Not only does he rank first in the SEC in three-point field goal percentage (44.6%), he’s second in points per game and fifth in overall field goal percentage (48.9%).
6. They start four seniors
Gafford’s the only player in Arkansas’ starting lineup that’s not a senior. Barford, Daryl Macon, Anton Beard, and Dustin Thomas round out the Razorback’s starting five, and the backcourt duo of Barford and Macon is especially deadly. The two combined for 61 points in Arkansas’ upset over No. 19 Tennessee back on December 30, and the Razorbacks are 6-0 when the two both score 20 or more points in the same game.
7. Barford and Macon are the most accurate three-point shooters in the league
Barford and Macon are first and second in the SEC in three-point field goal percentage, with 44.6% and 43.4%, respectively. As a result, the Razorbacks are the most efficient three-point shooting team in the SEC, averaging 40% from behind the arc.
8. None of their seniors have beaten Kentucky
Kentucky hasn’t lost to Arkansas since February 27, 2014, meaning all the players from that team are gone. Since then, all we’ve done is win, win, win (win, win).
|3/12/2017||(#8) Kentucky vs. Arkansas||W||82 – 65||SEC Tournament Championship (at Nashville, TN)|
|1/7/2017||Arkansas at (#6) Kentucky||W||97 – 71||–|
|1/21/2016||(#23) Kentucky at Arkansas||W||80 – 66||–|
|3/15/2015||(#1) Kentucky vs. (#21) Arkansas||W||78 – 63||SEC Tournament Championship (at Nashville, TN)|
|2/28/2015||(#18) Arkansas at (#1) Kentucky||W||84 – 67||–|
Interestingly, because only one of those games took place in Bud Walton Arena, the Razorbacks can still claim a 3-1 record vs. the Cats in the last four games in Fayetteville.
9. They’re 14-1 at home this season
Their only home loss is a fluky 21-point drubbing by LSU back on January 10.
10. Mike Anderson still doesn’t like John Calipari
He might not ever come out and say it, but Anderson’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-them postgame handshakes with Calipari over the years indicate some deep-seated resentment. From 2016:
— Jay Hargrove (@WKyPT) January 22, 2016
If Anderson can’t knock off Calipari and Kentucky this season, he might just strangle him with his pocket square.
By KSR on ©February 20th, 2018 @ 4:30pm
The Funkhouser Situation with Chris Tomlin and Lee Cruse returns to talk about all of the exciting things happening in the world of pop culture, but first, Lee has to file a grievance. The beautiful weather has put him on a golf course, face-to-face with his newest enemy, Canadian Geese. Highlights from the rest of the show include…
— Cruse’s controversial figure skating remarks.
— Why is Coldplay the only music you can figure skate to?
— A Breakdown of America’s No. 1 movie, Black Panther.
— What’s the deal with Chris Rock’s new Netflix stand-up?
— Tomlin celebrates Kurt Cobain’s birthday by sharing his beef with Nirvana.
— Why aren’t Letterman’s Netflix specials funny?
— Maysville’s star power and the time Young Lee met Nick Clooney.
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to The Funkhouser Situation podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
Ding-dong the wicked streak is dead! Saturday’s win over Alabama in Rupp Arena ended the four game losing streak, much to the relief of the entire Big Blue Nation. However, the Cats are not out of the woods yet, as they travel to Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in Bud Walton Arena. Kentucky has beaten Arkansas five straight times, meaning no one on the Razorbacks’ current roster has played in a win over Kentucky. On the flip side, Arkansas has been really solid at home this season, sporting a 14-1 record at home, with the only loss being a 21-point loss to LSU at the beginning of January.
If you haven’t noticed, in recent years, some hostility has been brewing between the Razorbacks and the Wildcats. Arkansas plays with a rough and physical style of play that can often lead to games getting chippy for no reason.
Looking back on it, this budding rivalry started with the 2014-15 season, when the Arkansas players apparently met the Kentucky players back in the tunnels of the SEC Tournament to start talking trash. Moving forward a few years, Kentucky goes and takes prized in-state recruit Malik Monk which just fired up the Razorback fanbase even more, and was enough that a poll of each state’s most hated individual listed John Calipari as enemy number one in Arkansas. Finally, in last season’s SEC Championship, when the Cats had the game in hand, Arkansas started taking cheap shots, one on De’Aaron Fox resulting in an ejection and one on Dominique Hawkins resulting in a flagrant foul. Not to mention, before this game started, an Arkansas assistant coach was screaming at Malik Monk throughout warm-ups, taunting every move he made. Talk about bitter. In essence, the Arkansas players and many believe the coaching staff as well, are sore losers who don’t like losing to Kentucky as often as they do.
Let’s take a look at the experienced starting lineup the Razorbacks will throw at Kentucky tonight.
#0 Jaylen Barford, Senior Guard, 6’3″
Jaylen Barford is in his second season as a full-time starter for Head Coach Mike Anderson. Before these two seasons at Arkansas, Barford was listed as a First Team All-American by the National Junior College Athletic Association for his efforts at Motlow State Community College. Barford was one of the main guys talking trash during last year’s SEC Championship, but he did not take one of the cheap shots.
The senior is one of the best players in the Southeastern Conference this season. His team-leading 18.6 points per game is good for second in the conference, and his 44.6% three-point shooting is first in the conference. Beside those stats, Barford is giving 3.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and a team-leading 30 steals on the season. He combined for 27 points over two games against the Cats last season.
Defending Barford will be a tough task for Kentucky’s guards who did a fantastic job defending Collin Sexton on Saturday. However, Barford is a more physical guard than Sexton, and he brings loads of experience that the Wildcat guards just flat out do not have. With the crowd rocking at Bud Walton Arena, keeping composure on both ends against Barford will be big for Kentucky’s chances of getting out of Arkansas with a W.
#4 Daryl Macon, Senior Guard, 6’3″
Daryl Macon is the second of three starting senior guards for Mike Anderson this season. Similar to his backcourt-mate Barford, Macon is in his second year as a starter since joining the team after two years of junior college at Holmes Community College. He was tabbed with Third Team All-America honors by the National Junior College Athletic Association in his second year at Holmes CC.
The senior guard is just behind Barford as the second best player on this team. He’s the fourth leading scorer in the conference at 17 points per game, and the second-best shooter from deep, hitting 43.4% of his threes on the season. He leads the team with 4 assists per game, and is also pulling down 2.8 rebounds and swiping 1.1 steals per game. He shoots 87.8% from the free throw line on the season.
As the numbers indicate, defending Macon is just as important as guarding Barford for the Wildcats tonight. As one of three guards in this starting lineup, it is difficult to know how Coach Calipari will choose to defend them. Macon is more of the point guard, so I’d say Gilgeous-Alexander will likely match up with him, and Knox will match up with Barford, which would leave Diallo on the smallest guard, Anton Beard.
#10 Daniel Gafford, Freshman Forward, 6’11”
Daniel Gafford is the only starter for this Arkansas team that is not a senior. In fact, he is the polar opposite as a true freshman. Gafford was a top-50 player and four star prospect coming out of El Dorado High School in Arkansas. He is setting up to be a really good player for Mike Anderson down the line.
Starting in 19 games so far this season, Gafford has become a surprise freshman standout for the Razorbacks. He’s averaging 11.7 points, as well as leading the team in rebounds at 6.1 and blocks at 2 per game. Gafford hasn’t developed a perimeter game at this point in his career, attempting zero threes on the season and hitting just 53.1% of his free throws.
It will be the match up of two freshmen big men in the paint, as Gafford matches up with Kentucky’s Nick Richards as the biggest players on the floor. I’ve mentioned before how much Richards is improving on a game-by-game basis, and it showed again in his hot start in the Alabama game. If Richards is defending without fouling at the rim and pulling down strong two-handed rebounds, it makes Kentucky much more threatening to get out on the break.
#31 Anton Beard, Senior Guard, 6’0″
Anton Beard is the third and final senior guard in the starting lineup for the Razorbacks and is the third starter from the state of Arkansas. He’s been a part time starter for most of his career at Arkansas, but has started all 27 games for the Razorbacks this season. He combined for just 5 points in a total of 37 minutes of action against the Cats last season.
As the least ball-dominant guard of the three starters, Beard’s stats don’t match up with the other two guards. He’s still giving Mike Anderson 9.5 points, 3 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 0.9 steals per game. He’s shooting a respectable 30.9% from three on the year, to go along with 76.2% from the charity stripe.
Beard is the smallest of the three guards, standing at only 6’0″ and 185 pounds. Seeing how he isn’t as big of a threat offensively, coupled with his size, I think Kentucky uses the combination of Hamidou Diallo and Quade Green to defend Beard. Green did a really good job in the second half of defending Alabama’s Collin Sexton, so Coach Cal has to be hoping that continues down the stretch of the season.
#13 Dustin Thomas, Senior Forward, 6’8″
Dustin Thomas is another two year starter for Arkansas that is only in his second year in Fayetteville despite being a senior. He spent the first two years of his college career at Colorado starting a combined 17 games, but has found much more success at Arkansas after sitting out his transfer year.
The senior doesn’t have numbers that jump off the page at you, but as with any blue collar type player, that doesn’t mean his contributions aren’t there. He’s averaging 5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and an assist per game. He has hit 1 of 2 of his attempted threes on the year and is shooting 66.7% of his free throws. Thomas totaled 4 points and 3 rebounds over two games against Kentucky last year.
Starting at the power forward position, Thomas measures in at 6’8″ and 225 pounds. He’ll match up with the multiple players that Kentucky plays at the position, including Wenyen Gabriel, PJ Washington, and Jarred Vanderbilt. I think this is a position that Kentucky has a big advantage and should be able to use to their advantage on offense.
Go Cats. Beat Razorbacks.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 20th, 2018 @ 3:12pm
That didn’t take long. Three hours after the NCAA announced they are upholding their ruling in the Louisville stripper scandal, the 2013 National Championship banner has been taken down from the rafters at the Yum Center.
From WHAS11’s Holden Kurwicki:
— Holden Kurwicki (@WHAS11Holden) February 20, 2018
For comparison, here’s what the rafters looked like prior to today:
The 2013 National Championship trophy has also been removed:
— Holden Kurwicki (@WHAS11Holden) February 20, 2018
I wonder what happens to the banner now?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 20th, 2018 @ 2:00pm
Arkansas starts four seniors but it’s their freshman that’s stealing all the headlines. Yesterday, Daniel Gafford picked up his third SEC Freshman of the Week honor — the same amount as UK’s freshmen combined — for his performances last week. The 6’11” big man averaged 18.5 points and 6 rebounds in the Razorbacks’ wins over Ole Miss and No. 21 Texas A&M, which was enough to earn him major kudos from John Calipari on the SEC Coaches Teleconference.
“The young, big kid (Daniel Gafford) has really gotten better. The last five games he’s playing his best basketball, which makes them a different kind of team, even though they still have four seniors.”
When asked later, Calipari praised not only Gafford’s talent, but his toughness, something he’s searching for in his own freshmen.
“Well, his length and his skillset,” Cal said. “He plays – he’s so long and blocking and doing the things that he does, but the biggest thing is he’s not afraid. That’s why, you know, right now he’s averaging 16 or 17 and six the last whatever it is. His numbers are outstanding. He’s one of those guys. When you have someone with that kind of length and that kind of skillset, it’s pretty good stuff.”
How powerful is Gafford? He’s dunked the ball 54 times this year, which is more than four teams in the SEC. He’s shooting (or dunking) 62.3% from the floor, which is fourth among all freshmen in the country and on pace for the second best by a freshmen in Arkansas basketball history. Joel Justus told reporters yesterday afternoon that Gafford reminds him of some of the great freshmen who have come through Kentucky in recent years.
“I think he’s extremely active. The guys that are really, really talented, similar to some of the ones that we’ve had here – he can fly up and down the court on both sides. Can impact the game when he doesn’t have the ball, but then when he does have it I think he’s got a tremendous package of offensive moves. But I think before we go into any of that, he just plays really, really hard. That’s something that young guys across the landscape of college basketball struggle to do consistently. He’s been a guy that from, what we’ve seen and from what I’ve seen personally, seems to play hard every single play.”
Nick Richards better be ready.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 20th, 2018 @ 1:30pm
In honor of the NCAA’s decision to uphold their penalties against the Louisville basketball program for paying prostitutes to lure in recruits, we only felt it was only appropriate to look back at our dramatic reading of Katina Powell’s “Breaking Cardinal Rules,” the book that started it all:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 20th, 2018 @ 12:42pm
The University of Louisville is now the only program in college basketball history to vacate a national championship.
Following the NCAA’s decision to uphold their ruling, the program must vacate all games in which ineligible players participated, so 123 regular season wins and 15 NCAA tournament wins, as well as individual records and stats from those seasons (even for the players not involved, which seems unfair). As a result, they must remove all mentions of their 2012 Final Four appearance and 2013 National Championship.
“From here, we will officially remove the formal recognitions from our facilities, but not from our minds,” Interim Athletic Director Vince Tyra said.
“We believe the NCAA is simply wrong to have made this decision,” Interim President Greg Postel said, citing the lack of precedent.
UofL must also pay the NCAA a $600,000 fine, which is well under Dan Dakich’s original report of $15 million from last month. Here is Postel’s statement on the ruling:
If the banner must come down, does that mean Pitino’s tattoo must come off as well?
“How’s it feelin’ coach?”
Rick: No comment. pic.twitter.com/LOnBsVOaJP
— Busted Coverage (@bustedcoverage) February 20, 2018
UPDATE: KSR was able to obtain this live look at Rick Pitino’s computer screen.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 20th, 2018 @ 12:04pm
The day has finally come: the NCAA has denied UofL’s appeal, meaning the program will have to vacate all wins in which ineligible players participated from 2011-2015, including their 2013 NCAA Championship.
Louisville must vacate men’s basketball records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible during the 2011-12 through 2014-15 academic years according to a decision issued by the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee. The appeals committee also upheld the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions penalty that requires the university to return to the NCAA money received through conference revenue sharing for its appearances in the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championships.
In the Committee on Infractions’ decision, the panel found that a former Louisville director of basketball operations acted unethically when he committed serious violations by arranging striptease dances and sex acts for prospects, student-athletes and others, and did not cooperate with the investigation. The violations in the case resulted in some men’s basketball student-athletes competing while ineligible.
In its appeal, the university argued the vacation of records and financial penalty should be set aside because they are excessive. The university contended that the penalties were based on participation of student-athletes who were not culpable in the violations, received negligible benefits as a result, and for whom reinstatement would likely have been granted.
The Committee on Infractions responded to the appeal by stating the penalties were appropriate due to the serious, intentional and numerous violations orchestrated by a university staff member for nearly four years. It further argued that student-athletes do not have to be culpable for the vacation penalty to be appropriate, and because the serious nature of the violations resulted in the participation of ineligible student-athletes, the vacation of records penalty was appropriate.
In its review of the case, the appeals committee found that because of the serious and intentional violations with direct involvement of a university staff member, the Committee on Infractions panel was within its legislated authority to prescribe the vacation of records and financial penalty. The appeals committee stated when student-athletes participate while ineligible, these types of penalties are appropriate. It also did not find the university’s argument about what could have happened during the reinstatement process compelling, stating there is no guarantee regarding the reinstatement process.
The members of the Infractions Appeals Committee who heard this case were Jack Friedenthal, professor emeritus at George Washington; W. Anthony Jenkins, attorney in private practice; Patti Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs at Texas; and David Williams, committee chair and vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director at Vanderbilt.
More coming from the UofL press conference, which starts now.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 20th, 2018 @ 11:30am
It’s been a dramatic morning down in Starkville. Mississippi State baseball coach Andy Cannizaro is out after one season and former UK head coach Gary Henderson is in as interim head coach. Henderson was Kentucky’s coach for eight seasons before resigning in 2016 and taking the job as Mississippi State’s pitching coach.
That’s great for Henderson, but way more interesting is what happened with Cannizaro. Last night, reports came out that Mississippi State had fired him, and this morning, the school released a statement saying he had resigned with this cryptic quote:
“I had a wonderful opportunity at Mississippi State, but unfortunately I made some poor decisions,” Cannizaro said. “I hope Mississippi State University and all of the fans and people affected will one day forgive me.”
Hmm. Kentucky will host Mississippi State May 11-13, meaning that unless the “Diamond Dogs” find a new head coach, it will be Henderson vs. Nick Mingione, who was an assistant at Mississippi State for seven years.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 20th, 2018 @ 11:09am
Buckle up, friends. According to various reports, University of Louisville Interim President Greg Postel has called a press conference for 12:05 p.m. today for a “major announcement.” According to Jeff Greer, Interim Athletic Director Vince Tyra will join him.
The press conference is "newsworthy material," one source tells me. Interim Louisville president Greg Postel and interim AD Vince Tyra holding it together on campus.
— Jeff Greer (@jeffgreer_cj) February 20, 2018
Oh boy! Get your popcorn ready…
While in Fayetteville during the All-Star break, Malik Monk crashed his car early Sunday morning near the Arkansas baseball stadium. Thankfully, he’s fine, but was cited on charges of careless driving and no proof of insurance. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the crash happened around 5:45 a.m.:
A witness told authorities that he heard a loud noise and then “saw that a vehicle had hit the gates” to the park, which sits just southeast of Baum Stadium.
According to a copy of field notes signed by Monk and released Sunday night by police, the Lepanto native wrote he “looked down for a second” when he “just hit a bump.”
Monk was the only person in the car and was wearing his seatbelt. The Charlotte Hornets rookie’s numbers have dropped significantly since the start of the season. In the month of February, he’s averaging only 2.7 points in 4.7 minutes per game. In an interview with the Charlotte Observer, Hornets head coach Steve Clifford said he needs Malik to be able to play both point guard and shooting guard, which he’s struggled with in recent games. Hopefully he can find his niche (and get some insurance) moving forward.
By Bryan the Intern on ©February 20th, 2018 @ 10:30am
Even with the win against Alabama, UK still sits in just a tie for 7th in the SEC. If the Cats finish in 7th that will mean they will be playing on Thursday at the SEC Tournament for the first time in the John Calipari era. But the Cats are also just 1-game out of the Top 4 as well, which would earn them a double bye and a Friday game. With every team in the league with 4 games remaining it is going to be a real race to the finish to see who will get those double bye spots. Auburn has a one of the spots nearly locked up with a 2-game lead over everybody.
Current Standings (Auburn at 11-3 is almost certainly a lock)
8-6: Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, Florida
7-7: Mississippi State, Kentucky
6-8: Texas A&M, Georgia, LSU
So what would it take for Kentucky to get that double bye? Here are 2 scenarios and what the standings would look like if these played out
If only home teams won (Hint: Nothing Changes, Every team has 2 road games and 2 home games remaining)
10-8: Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri
9-9: Kentucky, Mississippi State
8-10: LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia
If Teams Currently Ahead in Standings Won (Indicating Who Has Tougher Schedules Remaining)
10-8: Mississippi State
9-9: Florida, Georgia, Arkansas
8-10: Kentucky, LSU
7-11: Texas A&M
In both of those cases, a minimum of 10-8 will be required to earn a double bye. At 7-7 right now, that means Kentucky will need a 3-1 finish to the year to even have a chance. Assuming the 2 games at home are wins (certainly not a guarantee), then UK will HAVE to find a way to beat either Arkansas tonight or Florida on the final day of the regular season to get it done.
I think beating Arkansas tonight would be the better scenario because that win would give UK tiebreakers over the Hogs, Alabama, and Mississippi State, plus a split with Missouri. But no matter what, the road is quite difficult for the Cats as their remaining schedule is as tough as anybody on that list above. Hopefully they can build off this weekend but we should probably be prepared for needing a 4-game streak to win the SEC Tournament this year.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 20th, 2018 @ 9:55am
By now, you should be familiar with James Wiseman, the 2019 big man who plays for Penny Hardaway down in Memphis. On his way to Arkansas for tonight’s game, Kyle Tucker stopped by Memphis East to meet Wiseman, whom many are comparing to Karl Anthony-Towns, not only in terms of talent and smarts, but also because Kentucky is the heavy favorite to land him. There’s been talk that, like Towns, Wiseman could reclassify and move up a class, but Wiseman once again shot down that possibility and left the door slightly open with a sly “you never know.”
Regardless, it sounds like Kentucky remains in the driver’s seat despite growing buzz that Hardaway could land a college coaching job, maybe at Ole Miss or Memphis. A source tells Tucker that while many of Penny’s players would follow him, Wiseman’s got his mind made up.
“Some of these guys might,” said one person close to East High program, which has a half-dozen or more Division I prospects on the roster, “but James is going to Kentucky. That’s what he tells everybody.”
After watching him interact with fans and drink in the sights at Big Blue Madness, I can tell you Wiseman definitely wears his Kentucky blue on his sleeve. Do yourself a favor and go read Kyle’s profile to learn more about him.