Vermont vs Arkansas: Betting Odds, Picks, and Predictions (3/17/22)

Vermont vs Arkansas Betting Odds

The Hogs got hot down the stretch, as they do every year underneath Eric Musselman. Arkansas won 14 of its final 16 games to end the regular season, although it lost in the SEC tournament against Texas A&M.

But the Hogs better not overlook Vermont in this first-round game. Vermont is a buzzsaw offensively. The Cats covered 60% of their games in conference play even while laying up to 20 points most nights, and they’re are coming off a 40-point victory in the America East championship game.

This spread is hovering around Arkansas -5/-5.5, but that might be undervaluing one of the best mid-majors in the nation.

Vermont Catamounts Odds

For the sake of transparency, I am the biggest Vermont basketball fan in the college hoops’ gambling universe.

However, I can unbiasedly say this is the best Vermont team since 2004 – when the Tom Brennan-led Cats upset Syracuse in the first round.

After the America East championship game, Vermont cracked the top-60 in KenPom. That’s the highest finish underneath John Becker and the highest finish since that 2004 Vermont team.

Obviously, the Cats led the conference in offensive and defensive efficiency. But the offense was particularly dominant. The Catamounts shot 61% from 2 and 41% from 3 in conference play, which is basically impossible. Vermont went 17-1 in conference play, with 16 of its wins coming by double digits and the one loss coming with two starters being hurt.

Vermont spaces the floor in a five-out offensive look, but the big man generally hovers closer to the rim or under the basket. Ryan Davis is that big, and he is perfect for this set. He averages a whopping 1.25 points per possession when posting-up while scoring 10 points per game in the paint, but he also shoots 43.6% from 3. He can take anyone one-on-one in the paint and also stretch the floor better than anyone.

Because of his efforts, Ryan Davis earned the America East Conference Player of the Year award for the second-straight year. He becomes the third Catamount to earn the award multiple times, behind Taylor Coppenrath and Anthony Lamb.

He was clearly the most efficient player in the America East, but he was also one of the most efficient players in all of Division-I basketball.

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Image credit: CBB Analytics

Ben Shungu is the point guard that completes Vermont’s deadly inside-outside duo. He’s a graduate of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, about a five-minute drive from the UVM campus. He walked on to the Vermont squad without a scholarship, and he scrapped his way to the top of the roster.

He runs everything. He’s dominant as a pick-and-roll guard, in off-screen and hand-off sets, and shoots lights out from 3 (42%). He’s also silky smooth finishing with both hands, and he has every move in his bag.

Look at this step-back baseline jumper. It’s butter.

The roster fills out perfectly. But for the sake of brevity, let’s get to the point.

Vermont was second nationally in half-court points per possession. Vermont was second nationally in post-up points per possession. Vermont was third nationally in 2-point percentage. And Vermont was first nationally in defensive rebounding rate.

There is nothing this Catamount team can’t do.

Arkansas Razorbacks Odds

The Hogs snuck up to first in the SEC in defensive efficiency by year’s end, overtaking LSU. The Hogs can be a little over-aggressive, but Jaylin Williams protects that – Williams is one of the best rebounding and rim-protectors in the SEC.

Offensively, the Hogs push the pace and run everything through JD Notae. Notae was an All-American, averaging 18.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. He was slightly inefficient, but he was so high usage because he was the Hogs’ only offensive weapon. He did his job well.

It also helps that Notae has limitless range.

The problem is that opposing defenses that excel in transition and protecting the rim can give the Razorbacks fits. Vermont is high-quality at both, ranking top-10 nationally in transition points per possession allowed and top-90 in defensive efficiency at the rim.

Vermont vs Arkansas Prediction and Pick

This is a great matchup for Vermont.

I mentioned the reasons defensively, specifically concerning at the rim and in transition. However, Vermont has advantages offensively, too. Arkansas struggles in post-up defense and against cutters, and Vermont excels at both. And with Vermont’s defensive rebounding abilities, don’t expect Arkansas to get any easy buckets.

Vermont also excels at everything offensively. The whole roster is a bucket. Meanwhile, Notae is the only Arkansas weapon, and Becker can throw anybody at him. I’d likely look towards Finn Sullivan to play a big 3-and-D role, using his length on Shungu while spotting up on the other end.

Vermont opened at +6.5 but was immediately bet down by sharps to +5. However, KenPom makes this spread +4, so I think Vermont is still getting somewhat disrespected.

If you think Vermont is overvalued just because the Cats play in a weak conference, think about this: the America East has covered four straight games in the tournament and eight of the last 10. Becker himself has covered in both first-round tournament games, almost beating Florida State in 2018.

Vermont is a blitzing offense, a smart defensive team, and the fourth-most experienced team in the country. This is the perfect storm for the Cats and my favorite bet of the first round.

I’d bet Vermont down to +4 and the ML down to +150.

March Madness Bracket

Tanner joined Lineups to cover everything, but he has vast experience in, and unlimited passion for, Major League Baseball and NCAA Basketball. He’s a McGill University grad and former (Canadian) Division-I alpine ski racer who now spends his time drinking beer and betting home underdogs. Patrick Mahomes is a poor man’s Tom Brady.

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