Five things to know about Kentucky basketball’s next opponent, the Arkansas Razorbacks:
1. Arkansas is currently the hottest team in the SEC
At 19-8 overall and 8-6 in the SEC, the Razorbacks have won four straight games with victories over South Carolina (81-65), Vanderbilt (72-54), Ole Miss (75-64) and Texas A&M (94-75). That’s the longest current winning streak in the SEC. Georgia and Vanderbilt are next with back-to-back wins.
This continues a recent trend for the Razorbacks under Mike Anderson. Arkansas went 8-2 in its last 10 regular-season games in both 2014 and 2015. The Razorbacks won four of their last five heading into the 2016 SEC Tournament. They won six of their last seven last year before the conference tournament, where they ended up losing to Kentucky 82-65 in the finals.
Ken Pomeroy currently ranks the Razorbacks 38th in overall efficiency. Arkansas is 21st in adjusted offensive efficiency and 83rd in adjusted defensive efficiency. Jeff Sagarin has Arkansas rated 27th in his computer numbers. The Razorbacks are currently 25th in the RPI. Kentucky is 16th in the RPI.
2. Arkansas is very tough to beat at home
The Razorbacks are 14-1 at Bud Walton Arena this season with an average margin of plus-17.1. Arkansas has beaten three ranked teams at home -- No. 14 Minnesota 95-79, No. 19 Tennessee 95-93 in overtime and the 19-point win over No. 21 Texas A&M.
In fact, Pomeroy’s analytics rank Arkansas’ homecourt advantage as third-best among the 351 Division I teams at an average of 4.4 points per game. Kentucky ranks 16th in home court advantage at 4.1 per game.
Arkansas’ only home loss this season was to LSU 75-54 on Jan. 10. (In fact, Arkansas is 0-2 against LSU, losing 94-86 in Baton Rouge.) The Razorbacks shot just 33. 3 percent from the floor in the home loss to the Tigers. LSU shot 52.7 percent.
Another stat: John Calipari is just 1-3 against Arkansas at Bud Walton as the UK coach. He lost 77-76 in overtime in 2011, 73-60 in 2013 and 87-85 in overtime in 2014. UK won 80-66 at Arkansas on Jan. 21, 2016.
3. Arkansas is led by a pair of senior guards
Jaylen Barford, a 6-foot-3 senior from Jackson, Tenn., and Daryl Macon, a 6-3 senior from Little Rock, Ark., lead the Razorbacks. Barford is averaging 18.6 points per game. Macon is averaging 17 points per game.
The duo combined for 41 points in Arkansas’ win last Saturday over Texas A&M. Barford scored 21 points. Macon added 20. A combined total of 29 points came in the second half. It was the ninth time this season Barford and Macon have combined for at least 40 points.
Macon has been on particular roll. Saturday was the eighth time in his last nine games that he has scored at least 20 points. He scored 25 in the win over South Carolina. His season-high was 33 points in the overtime win over Tennessee on Dec. 30.
With the veterans powering the offense, Arkansas is 29th nationally in field goal percentage at 48.4 percent. The Razorbacks are 20th nationally in three-point percentage at 40.0. Arkansas hit 49.3 percent from the floor, including 10-of-23 from three-point range, in the win over the Aggies.
And despite playing at a fast pace, Arkansas is 18th in the nation in turnover percentage at 15.2. Senior guards may have something to do with that.
4. Freshman center Daniel Gafford is starting to come on
The 6-foot-11 rookie out of El Dorado, Ark. is averaging 11.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Gafford was ranked as the 31st best prospect nationally in the Class of 2017 by Rivals
Gafford scored 18 points in the win over Texas A&M, hitting seven of eight shots from the floor. It was the fifth straight game in which Gafford has scored in double figures. During that stretch, he has made 29 of 41 shots from the floor for 70.7 percent.
He also helped Arkansas turn the tables on A&M on the glass. In College Station, the Aggies outrebounded Arkansas 45-30. The Razorbacks returned the favor in Fayetteville, outrebounding A&M 45-33.
5. Mike Anderson has carried on the Nolan Richardson tradition
The 58-year-old Anderson played for Richardson at Tulsa before becoming an assistant for Richardson at his alma mater and then Arkansas. Anderson was an assistant coach on Arkansas’ 1994 national title team and the 1995 national runner-up team. When Richardson was fired during the 2001-02 season, Anderson took over as interim coach.
As a head coach, Anderson was 89-41 in four seasons at UAB. As a No. 9 seed, his 2004 team upset overall No. 1 seed Kentucky 76-75 in Columbus, Ohio in the second round. His 2005 team also won and NCAA Tournament game while his 2006 team lost to UK 69-64 in the first round.
Anderson then left Birmingham for Missouri, where he went 111-57 in five years. His 2008-09 team reached the Elite Eight by beating John Calipari and Memphis 102-91 in the Sweet 16. It was Calipari’s last game at Memphis before he became the coach at Kentucky.
Anderson has gone 147-82 overall and 68-52 during his eight years at Arkansas. As a No. 5 seed, his 2015 team reached the NCAA Tournament but lost to No. 4 seed North Carolina 87-78 in the second round. As a No. 8 seed, his 2017 team led No. 1 seed North Carolina 65-60 with three minutes to go in the second round before losing 72-65. North Carolina went on to edge Kentucky in the Elite Eight before capturing the national title.
Arkansas appears all but a lock for its third Big Dance bid in the last four years. Anderson needs just one more win for his fourth consecutive 20-win season.
Another note: Arkansas has won 36 straight games in which it has led at halftime.
Arkansas men’s basketball 2017-18