Kentucky (18-0, 3-0 SEC) is the last remaining undefeated team in the country entering its contest with Arkansas. With a win the Wildcats will take over the top spot in the national polls for the first time since 2003.
"The Wildcats are off to a great start," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "They were playing very, very well going into their bye week so I'm sure they've been able to rest up and get even more focused on what's going to happen the rest of the conference season. It's going to be a tremendous challenge. They've got size, athleticism, speed and are a very, very confident basketball team."
It's the second time this month Arkansas has faced the second-ranked team in the nation. The Razorbacks fell 96-85 to then-No. 2 Texas at Bud Walton Arena on Jan. 5. The Longhorns are currently ranked No. 1 but are expected to fall after a loss to Kansas State earlier in the week.
"Both teams have depth, speed and athleticism," Pelphrey said. "Both teams are young in terms of some talented guys that are young and can impact the team. Texas probably has a little more experience."
First-year Kentucky coach John Calipari said he watched the Razorbacks' game with Texas.
"I watched some of that and I thought they were outstanding and I thought John had them playing the way they needed to play," Calipari said. "I've seen them and I know how hard they play."
The Wildcats start three freshmen most games, including the backcourt tandem of John Wall (17.1 points and 6.9 assists per game) and Eric Bledsoe (11.4 ppg).
"You think of two really physically gifted, fast, athletic guards," Pelphrey said. "They are two guys that have been able to come into college basketball and have more than an immediate impact. That's impressive.
"Usually you have a guy come in and he's got a running-mate and these guys are each others' running mate. They've been terrific. Obviously, Wall had a tremendous resume coming through the door but I think Bledsoe has played just as well. They are a great 1-2 punch back there."
Despite their success, Calipari said the two are still adjusting to the college game.
"They take steps up and then they take steps back," Calipari said. "In the last game we played, we had chances to put them away and we just turned it over, took bad shots, guys are open up the floor and we don't pass them the ball. There are lots of things going on that they are still trying to learn.
"I am trying to everything I can to get these guys to just stay humble in the success we are having and understand that we are not as good as everybody thinks we are. Stay humble, but also stay hungry. ‘Are you also trying to get better? Are you trying to learn every day you step on that floor.'
"Sometimes it is hard for a 19-year old – and we have a bunch of guys on our team – that are told that basically they poop ice cream."
Wall told the Lexington-Herald the team won't overlook the Razorbacks (8-10, 1-2), who are coming off a stinging 71-66 loss at home to Florida on Thursday.
"We're every team's Super Bowl," Wall said. "Coach keeps telling us that the other team is going to play at a different level against us."
Pelphrey said defending the speedy Wildcats in transition will be the key to Arkansas pulling a Super Bowl III-like upset.
"You've got to get back and try to eliminate that," Pelphrey said. "We've played some fast teams but this is just a different animal with these guys' size and speed.
"Like any basketball team, if we can get them to miss we have got to rebound the ball. Third, we have to take care of the ball. On the road you can't turn it over."
Pelphrey, a 1992 graduate of Kentucky, will be making his second trip to his home state as coach of the Razorbacks. Arkansas fell 63-58 at Rupp Arena two years ago and hasn't beaten the Wildcats since 2001.
"The first time was very unique going in there as the head coach of Arkansas was something I was very, very proud of," Pelphrey said. "We had a pretty veteran basketball team. This time is unique as well. They've got a new coach and circumstances are different around the team."
The tip-off for the Hogs and Wildcats is 3 p.m. on the SEC Network.