Playing Arkansas is probably the last time Kentucky face a ranked team before the NCAA tournament, and they passed a slightly tricky test in flying colors with an 84-67 win over the second best team in the SEC.
But this is the difference between Kentucky and the rest of the conference. They’re bigger, deeper, better. They are now at 29-0 and 16-0 in the SEC, with two games to go. If nothing went wrong until now and Kentucky have already been through their rougher patch in terms of their own ability, it’s hard seeing something happening in their two remaining games to close out a perfect regular season. The SEC tournament? Anything can happen in one game.
Unlike a lot of other Kentucky games, there wasn’t any doubt about the winner in this one – the Wildcats broke away very quickly and never looked back. Andrew Harrison scored 18 points and Trey Lyles, the “X Factor” as John Calipari has referred to him over the last few games, added 18 as well. Calipari used only three of his bench players for more than one or two minutes, and got a combined 24 points from Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker.
It’s not like anyone had any doubt, but the win gave Arkansas their fourth conference loss, and clinched the regular season title for Kentucky. They now have 46 conference championships, 36 more than the next in line in the SEC (LSU with 10). Kentucky finish the regular season with a 5-0 record against ranked teams, outscoring their opponents in those games by 16.6 points. That’s the highest scoring margin against ranked opponents by any team during the last 15 regular seasons.
And that tells us something about the mentality of Calipari’s players. He finds it difficult in some situations to motivate his guys against the less threatening names, but his players are more than prepared for the big games, from their first appearance this season in a big game against Kansas who were absolutely shell shocked to the rather comfortable win against the Razorbacks. How will they treat tournament games?