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The Arkansas Flat-Top Box

Here is the problem with giving UK fans a week off…we start to create things to worry about. From the talk of Eric Bledsoe to the NBA to the worry that Calipari is distracted by charity (which if he, good for him), UK fans have been a bit on edge this week. One result of that worry is the morphing of Rotnei Clarke into Ray Allen in the eyes of UK fans. If you havent seen Arkansas play this year, you have missed a couple of things. First, John Pelphrey is aging by the day and it was my look at his haircut that convinced me it was time to make a move on mine. Second, the team is a lot better when Courtney Fortson is playing, but still is way too small inside to really contend against good teams. And third, Rotnei Clarke can shoot as well as anyone in America.

You remember Rotnei Clarke dont you? A Billy Clyde recruit that UK fans wanted in the heady early Gillispie days (yes we had those), Clarke was part of an interesting recruiting saga, the specifics of which have never really been told, but fascinating nonetheless. He ended up at Arkansas and he has become as quick of a shooter as any three-point specialist in America. The guy can let it fly in a blink of an eye, and if you arent careful, he will drop 50 on you, as he did earlier this year. But he is also inconsistent and his relatively bad games (such as against Louisville) have caused his team to get blown out of the gym. I like watching Clarke play, in part because while he looks the part of an extra in Hoosiers, he actually is a bit quicker than you would think and his release is truly impressive to watch.

Having seen a couple of those early Arkansas games, some UK fans are ready to crown Clarke the Pistol Pete/”I’m Sorry” Chris Jackson “Oooh I am for real” and are worried about how UK will stop him on Saturday. One message board poster on another site wrote, “this is the game we lose…Clarke is unguardable.” Please. While Rotnei is good, he presents a number of opportunities for coaches to exploit him. His defense is as bad as the spelling of his first name, and the thoughts of him trying to check Eric Bledsoe make me almost giddy. Plus, Arkansas is so weak inside that if Calipari makes the correct adjustments, he can be face guarded on the perimeter with no worry of repercussions. As Travis Ford taught us after Mashburn went to the NBA, a three point shooter without an inside presence has a much tougher time getting hot and going off and can look much more ordinary.

It is true that three-point defense has not been great for UK this year. And there are games where I am concerned that it could spell defeat for the Cats (Mississippi State for instance). But Arkansas has very few weapons. At times this year they have had to play a guy on the golf team. Their offense basically amounts to having Courtney Fortson take players off the dribble (which he will struggle to do against Wall), have Michael Washington take advantage of other teams who are weak in the post (which Kentucky is not) and Clarke shooting threes. While Clarke can be dangerous, and most certainly will make a few in Rupp’s “visiting players become heroes from deep” tradition, to act like we are about to be visited by Michael J Fox in Teen Wolf, simply isnt the case. UK should take care of Arkansas easily. But when Clarke comes with the Razorbacks, dont worry. Enjoy the gelled flat-top and have a smile. He is good…but he isnt THAT good.

Article written by Matt Jones