Evin Demirel – Staring Down the Big Blue Kentucky Monster


5 Reasons Bobby Portis & Michael Qualls Believe

Arkansas Can Beat Kentucky

Let’s get this out of the way from the get go: No. 1 Kentucky is not overrated. At 28-0 the Wildcats are a very good and occasionally great team. But overall they are not as good as the 2012 squad led by Anthony Davis. They do not have as much firepower as that team, which was beaten twice, and they are too prone to bouts of offensive sluggishness to run through this season unscathed. 2014-2015 Kentucky will at some point fall. Here are five reasons that can happen against Arkansas this Saturday:

5. Last year’s booster shot of a win at Rupp Arena

Going into Lexington, Arkansas is more immune than many other teams to the intimidation factor the Wildcats’ 23,500-seat arena often holds for opponents. Thank last year’s 71-67 OT win for that.  Most of these Hogs have already accomplished what now the rest of world is telling them they can’t do.

Ark at kentucky

ESPN has computed Arkansas’ ‘snowball’s chance in Hell’ to be at 3 percent.


They know they can disrupt Kentucky’s Harrison twin guards’ flow and generate fast-break points off their turnovers. Speedy, diminutive Tyler Ullis can be an antidote, but Arkansas has three counters in Anton Beard, Jabril Durham and steal specialist Manny Watkins.


4. Swagger

The Razorbacks aren’t stupid. They know how good Kentucky has been and they respect that. But they don’t care much about the Wildcats’ talent, size and undefeated record. They mainly care about how good they can be in response. Take it from Michael Qualls, who told SLAM against Kentucky “we come with that edge every year. Since I have been here, we haven’t lost to them. So, to us, we’re the better team. We’re the top dogs.”

Dogs shred cats in an alley fight – which this game will be – every time. 


3. “Burger King All-Americans”

Earning McDonald’s All American honors is the ne plus ultra of high school basketball achievements. Eight active Kentucky players have done it. The Hogs, meanwhile, have one McDonald’s All American in Bobby Portis. And he’s ready to forget all about it.

”That doesn’t mean anything anymore,” Portis said. ”That’s high school stuff, that’s old stuff, that’s out the window. The McDonald’s All-American stuff has nothing to do with playing basketball.”

Kentucky will likely place at least four players on the All-SEC teams, but Qualls believes a group of Razorbacks are every bit as deserving. “I feel like we have five or six players on our team that could be in the top 15 in the SEC, on the first team, second team, third team,” he said. “They’re probably not gonna be, but skill-wise, potential-wise – what they could do if they played more minutes, if they took more shots.”


2. A Kingsleyquake Cometh

In the last two games, we’ve seen tremors.

Moses Kingsley, the Razorbacks’ highly promising, athletic sophomore big man, has been on a defensive tear lately, racking up five blocks against Mississippi State and three against Texas A&M. The 6’10” Kingsley is the Razorback who down the road most likely projects as a first-round NBA Draft pick besides Portis, and a strong performance against Kentucky bigs Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns and Dakari Johnson here would be a strong early step to making that potential a reality.

Actually, strong performances from Kingsley and burly forward Alandise Harris aren’t options. They are musts for an Arkansas win.


1. Who’s Your Alpha?

Say everything goes as realistically well as possible for Arkansas on Saturday afternoon. Towns gets in early foul trouble. Portis stays out of it. Madden, Qualls, Beard and Bell are hitting more than 40% of their threes. Kentucky’s Devin Booker and the Harrison twins are struggling from deep. Late in the second half, with a minute to go, it’s tied.

To whom does Arkansas go?

There’s no doubt. BP all day. If Portis is single teamed, he turns whatever McDonald All-American is on him into a sixth-team All-Hardee’s. Double teamed, and the ball gets rotated, creating an opportunity for someone else.

Kentucky, meanwhile, has no clear top cat. Three years ago, Anthony Davis was that player. But this year the Wildcats have five or six players, all a tier below Davis, who are nearly equal candidates to take a high-pressure, last-second shot.

Not one of them yet has had to actually create such a shot this year, though. Who that person will be, who it should be, and how he will respond in the moment, are all questions Arkansas has the luxury of not having to think about in the heat of the moment – when even the slightest bit of indecision can be lethal.

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Evin Demirel recently interviewed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar about how his UCLA team would do vs. Kentucky. Follow Evin on Twitter and his SportsSeer blog.

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