It's Hoops Time in Tennessee: Arkansas Preview 2/28/23
Last Time Out: Tennessee (21-8, 10-6) got a feel-good beatdown of South Carolina 85-45 on Saturday. Arkansas (19-10, 8-8) came thisclose to beating Alabama, but fell 83-86. (Nate Oats would like you to know that Brandon Miller had zero assists in that game, because he's never helped anyone to shoot.)
Previously on Vols vs Razorbacks: Tennessee and Arkansas split last year's series, with the home team winning each contest. UT holds a slim 24-22 all-time lead against the Hogs, but a commanding 16-4 advantage in Knoxville. This is the schools' only meeting this season.
Who to Watch: Arkansas has a talented and deep roster, with five former top-100 players--including the #68 player in the 2019 class, Makhi Mitchell, and his twin brother Makhel. The Razorbacks also have four top-100 players from the 2022 class and three top-20 players from that class who are all starters or regular contributors. Visual:
My initial takeaway is dang, that's a lot of freshmen to rely on. It shows in the box score too, in the near-upset of Alabama Saturday, Smith led the team with 24 points (including 4-5 from 3) and Smith and Walsh trailed only Makhel Mitchell in rebounding. Between the flashes of brilliance, though, is a clear lack of experience: Anthony Black leads the SEC in turnovers, for example.
Prediction: Arkansas is spooky because of the talent level, despite the youth and inexperience. The Razorbacks were a top-10 team for the first half of the season, before SEC play started. Wins against Texas A&M and Kentucky help the resume, but they are just 3-7 in quadrant 1 games, and are actually in danger of finishing in the bottom 10 of the SEC if they don't beat Tennessee or their senior-night opponent Kentucky. They'll need to get that win against the Cats on Saturday, because they aren't getting it tonight. Tennessee wins and covers the 6.5 on Senior Night.