SEC Championship Preview: Three Keys For an Arkansas Upset

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2015

Top-ranked Kentucky is the prohibitive favorite to cut down the nets and improve to 34-0 in today’s SEC Tournament championship game in Nashville. Everyone knows that Arkansas faces a very tall order as it tries to pull what would be the biggest upset of the season in becoming the first team this season to beat the Wildcats. If the Razorbacks are to have a chance, most everything must go their way, but here we take a look at precisely what Arkansas must do to win.

Michael Qualls and Arkansas have the tallest of tasks ahead of them Sunday (

Michael Qualls and Arkansas have the tallest of tasks ahead of them Sunday (

  1. Win the Turnover Battle. In Arkansas’ 26 wins, it turned over the ball more than its opponents only four times; conversely, in the team’s seven losses, it won the turnover battle only twice. Against Kentucky, the Razorbacks cannot afford to waste any possessions. They customarily force tempo and were not afraid to do so when the teams met in Lexington just two weeks ago, but the Wildcats only lost the ball nine times and got way too many easy baskets en route to 48 percent shooting from the field. Kentucky ranks 32nd nationally in turnover rate at 16.3 percent so turning them over is much easier said than done, making it imperative that the Razorbacks take care of the ball on the offensive end.
  2. Keep Kentucky in Check on the Offensive Glass. Anyone who knows anything about Kentucky knows that the Wildcats and their incredible size dominate the glass, especially on the offensive end. Arkansas, while a good offensive rebounding team in its own right, does a poor job of keeping opponents off the offensive boards, allowing them to grab nearly a third of their misses. In the first matchup, the Wildcats grabbed 42 percent of their own missed attempts while Arkansas grabbed only 29 percent of theirs. The Razorbacks better improve on those numbers significantly if they expect to have a chance today in Nashville.
  3. Shoot the Lights Out. Sometimes complex analysis is unnecessary. Let’s face facts — If Arkansas is to have any chance of beating big, bad Kentucky, it is going to have to make an extraordinary percentage of its shots this afternoon. Kentucky’s size is nearly impossible to deal with at this level, making it especially difficult to score on the interior. It stands to reason that Arkansas’ best player, Bobby Portis, will have trouble scoring on anything other than putbacks and from dribble-penetration. The Razorbacks are not a particularly effective outside shooting team, making only 35.1 percent of their three-point attempts on the season. But if they are going to pull off the major upset, they will need to have one of those days in which they shoot the lights out from the perimeter (50% or higher). Is that realistic? Maybe not, but then again, upsets like these usually don’t make any sense beforehand.
David Changas (166 Posts)

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