Always choose the lesser of two weevils.
With no more regular season games to be played, and with so many bubble implications on the line, the SEC Tournament hasn’t been more important to Kentucky in a long time. Coach Cal has never been a fan, always wanting to move on to the next (“real”) tournament, but this year, it’s possible that we need the SEC Tourney to even get to that other one. As the situation stands, the Wildcats will probably have to win at least one more game this weekend to feel comfortable with their chances at a bid. And even though we get a bye through the first round, the two teams slated aren’t exactly teams we wanted to see. The question now is, which would we prefer: Vanderbilt or Arkansas?
On paper, there’s no doubt that Vanderbilt is the worse team. Kevin Stallings hasn’t been this disappointed since he dropped all that chili on his way to his desk. The Commodores are sub-.500 at 14-16, and have an 8-10 SEC record. But for some reason, they’ve given Kentucky heart attacks both times they’ve played them, losing two games by a combined total of six points. They don’t do one thing particularly well, but Stallings is more comfortable playing against Calipari than Mike Anderson is, and has more tricks up his sleeve (like keeping M&Ms in a desk drawer). Even though they wouldn’t be in their wonky, M.C. Escher-styled gymnasium/opera house, Stallings and Co. always find a way to get under our skin.
Arkansas, meanwhile, is both the better seed and, seemingly, the better team. But nine of their ten SEC wins came at home, including the one against Kentucky earlier this month. In fact, the Razorbacks have only won a single game away from Fayetteville all season, and that came against Auburn. In road-and neutral site-games, they are a staggering 1-11. So while their pressure and athleticism is something to look out for, and even though they did stomp Kentucky earlier in the season, is it really fair to be afraid of them in Nashville? Vanderbilt wasn’t last month (even though they suffered a thumping the first time they played the Hogs), and walked away with a pretty solid win.
Arkansas is by and large the better team, but if we’re able to play them where they’re vulnerable, which is anywhere but home, they’ve shown all season that they’re likely not able to step up to the task. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, has played us close both at home and in Rupp, and a Nashville game is essentially a second home game for them. Should they beat Arkansas, we could expect to see them buy up a bunch of tickets to make sure their game against is plenty loud, and for all the wrong reasons.
That said, they suck. Gimme Vandy.