Arkansas Razorbacks Preview Capsule
SBNation Community: Arkansas Expats
Record: 13-12 (6-4)
Season Thus Far: The Hogs' wild ride this year has been well documented. John Pelphrey's team struggled in the OOC, losing a series of games to very average mid-majors and getting blown off the court by most of the better teams they played. Then, they got star guard Courtney Fortson back from suspension. Since then, outside of a humiliating loss to the Kentucky Wildcats, Arkansas has been a pretty good team, even going on a five-game SEC winning streak at one point. While the NCAAs are probably a stretch for a team with such an abysmal OOC resume, the NIT and even a Western Division title are still on the table for the Hogs. They still have plenty to play for and fan morale seems to be positive for next year.
What to Expect: The Arkansas offense goes through Fortson, who is Arkansas's version of Devan Downey. A small, quick PG that can score and create in a variety of ways, Fortson will challenge whoever we put on him; I assume that will be Downey, but Coach Horn may want to rotate defenders or use zones in order to keep Downey from wearing down, especially with his hust ankle. Fortson isn't the only offensive weapon Arkansas has, though. Rotnei Clarke is a sharpshooter that we'll have to keep our eyes on, and the Hogs have a very solid front line in Marshawn Powell and Michael Washington. Arkansas is also a team that may go relatively deep on its bench, so don't expect them to be afraid to run with us. Arkansas and Coach Pelphrey like to play a pretty uptempo style, and they--for the most part--have the horses to do it with.
Defensively, Arkansas likes to press, and you can expect to see them do it tonight. They have a decent turnover margin and will challenge our ability to move in transition. Their press should, though, give us chances to get easy baskets if we can navigate their press, and, indeed, Arkansas's defense has overall been something of a liability this year, with team frequently finding ways to break the press. In the halfcourt, Arkansas can be a little undisciplined at times, and they give up a lot of threes, so if our shooters are on, we should have chances from downtown. Let's just hope we shoot it better than we did against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Prediction: I would call Arkansas a good-but-not-great team right now; they can score lots of points at times, especially when Fortson is hot, but they have their problems, too. I think the keys for us will be whether we can muster some defense, whether Downey and company can figure out the press, and whether we can capitalize on Arkansas's poor 3FG defense. I think we can do those things against the Hogs, and I'm going to go out on a limb and predict an upset here, with a 2-4 point Gamecocks victory.
What It Means: This is must-win game for the NCAAs. We probably need to win out at this point. Unfortunately, that's pretty unlikely, but at least we can keep it on the table if we win tonight.