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Musselman Looking for First Signature Win at Arkansas as 1.5-Point Favorites to Kentucky

Arkansas Razorbacks basketball
Arkansas hosts No. 10 Kentucky as 1.5-point favorites on Saturday. Photo from Brandon Rush (Wikimedia Commons).
  • Despite a dazzling 14-2 record, Arkansas remains unranked
  • There are 15 teams in the top-25 rankings with three or more losses
  • No. 10 Kentucky’s four losses have all come by five points of fewer

Arkansas’ new coach in town, Eric Musselman, is not shy of the spotlight. He has played in the NCAA Tournament, coached in the NCAA Tournament (several times) and coached in the NBA.

In order to bring his new squad into the spotlight, and boost their 2020 NCAA Tournament odds, he’ll need to earn some signature wins — and Saturday’s game against No. 10 Kentucky presents a prime opportunity to do that.

The Razorbacks (14-2, 10-0 home) remain unranked, while Kentucky (12-4, 1-1 away) is one of 15 teams in the top-25 with three-plus losses. Saturday provides a chance to earn respect and an important conference win.

No. 10 Kentucky vs. Arkansas odds

Team Spread Total
Kentucky +1.5 (-110) Over 137.5 (-110)
Arkansas -1.5 (-110) Under 137.5 (-110)

Odds taken Jan. 17.

Musselman’s team is a 1.5-point favorite in the Kentucky vs. Arkansas odds, and will be looking to improve to 8-3 ATS on home court.

Bad Bounces

Between them, Kentucky and Arkansas have six losses. But those losses have come by a total of 24 points, which is an average margin of defeat of four points.

For the Wildcats, their latest defeat came in buzzer-beating fashion on Wednesday against unranked South Carolina. Is it March yet?

The Razorbacks’ most recent loss was a couple weeks ago, a 79-77 defeat against LSU, in which Arkansas had the ball in the closing seconds but failed to get off a shot.

The point of this is to say that neither Kentucky nor Arkansas has been blown away this year. When they lose, they lose close.

ATS Analysis

Kentucky’s 12-4 record doesn’t look quite as nice within the context of point spreads. The Wildcats are just 7-9 against the spread this season, with a pair of ATS losses in their past two games.

They’ve also only played two true road games, which means their 1-1 ATS road record doesn’t tell us much.

Arkansas, on the other hand, is 10-6 ATS, with wins in three consecutive games. More notably, the Razorbacks are 10-0 straight up at home.

Points Could Be At A Premium

This game shapes up to be more of a defensive, grind-it-out battle than an offensive outburst.

Neither Kentucky nor Arkansas has allowed an opponent to reach the 80-point mark this season — and they have combined to hold opponents under 60 points in 13 games.

Also, neither team is adept at 3-point shooting, with the Wildcats (32.1 percent) and the Razorbacks (31.2 percent) ranking 213th and 254th in the NCAA, respectively.

Arkansas also ranks in the top-20 on defense in effective field goal percentage allowed, turnover percentage and adjusted efficiency. Baskets will have to be earned.

Decision Time

Arkansas, carrying a pristine home record into a big matchup against a team that’s largely unproven on the road, is my pick in this one. The Razorbacks have proven their defense is legit (so bet the under, too). And they’ve shown an ability to hang tight even in their defeats.

Now they just need to prove to the voters that they’re worthy of a spot in the top-25 rankings. Saturday is their chance to do that.

Pick: Arkansas -1.5 (-110),  Under 137.5 (-110)

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