At full health, Arkansas is one of the best teams in the country. The issue is that they have been ravished by the injury bug throughout the season, failing to build on any sort of consistency. They are now rounding into form at the best time possible, looking to continue their run as a +1.5 underdog against the Texas A&M Aggies. Being able to negate the Aggies strengths when on defense, my prediction is that the Razorbacks win outright in what will be a thrilling SEC matchup.
Arkansas Vs. Texas A&M Prediction
The injury bug came back to bite the Razorbacks once again as Anthony Black went down with a scare. His status is worth monitoring, playing as the third leading scorer in an offense that sputters at times. This has been a common theme for Arkansas, finishing the season ranked 318th in Luck per Kenpom, constantly having to shift rotations as they dealt with injuries. Nick Smith Jr has only played 12 games at this point, as well as Trevon Brazile only playing nine.
While Brazile is out with a torn ACL, the return of Nick Smith Jr has immediately injected life into this offense as they were desperate for a playmaker. He serves as a pure scorer, averaging 13.8 points per game on 39.5% shooting from the floor and 34% from the perimeter. His shooting is especially vital as that has been a weakness for the Razorbacks. Not so much as just a poor shooting unit, but more of an inability to create a high-quality shot with no one commanding the brunt of defensive attention as a playmaker.
Their offense will be tested as the Aggies have served as a consistently good defensive unit throughout the course of the season. They finished the year ranked 37th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, specializing in smothering opposing looks in the interior for low quality scoring opportunities. The Aggies possess a 47.4% Defensive Effective Field Goal Percentage, good for 46th best in the nation.
Even though that number has drastically improved to 44.3% in their last three matchups per TeamRankings, I am hardly deterred as Arkansas now poses as an interior threat with their versatility in scoring. What was once a weakness has now turned into a strength as Arkansas attacks the rim, shifting the defense to the slasher. With Nick Smith Jr’s presence stretching out the defense to respect his scoring, his secondary scorers now have more room to work with for higher quality looks at the rim.
Arkansas Vs. Texas A&M Prediction: Arkansas +1.5
Arkansas Vs. Texas A&M Odds
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Even though Kenpom has Arkansas as the slight favorite on a neutral court, oddsmakers are tempering their expectations as they opened the Razorbacks as a +1.5 underdog. Bettors are siding with projections, taking Arkansas down to +0.5 in some shops as of writing. This would be a statement win for Arkansas as they round back into form, playing at a level that was stripped from them throughout the season.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a moderate pace as oddsmakers opened the total at 137.5. Bettors have yet to take a firm stand on either side of the number, keeping the current total the same as the opener. The game script calls for a heavy dose of defense, giving value towards the under. Both are below average shooting units, giving the potential for scoring lulls to take place.
Arkansas Vs. Texas A&M Key Matchups
Arkansas bigs vs Texas A&M offensive rebounding
To make up for their lack of shooting, the Aggies excel at crashing the offensive glass to generate second chance scoring opportunities. They rank 21st in the nation in offensive rebounds per game per TeamRankings, averaging 10.7 per game.
The issue for the Aggies is that Arkansas is a tall, lengthy, rebounding machine and are more than capable of limiting the second chance opportunities. A metric to watch as their rebounding is directly correlated with Anthony Black’s availability.
Arkansas’s ability to crash the glass is a major reason I am backing them in my Arkansas Vs. Texas A&M prediction. Without second chance opportunities, the Aggies offense will be prone to stalling out and struggle to match the Razorbacks scoring pace.
Back the Razorbacks as an underdog as they are finally playing at an elite level that they were stripped of all season due to injury.