The typical cycle for Razorback basketball fans is that the team loses on the road, then comes home to a great crowd at Bud Walton Arena and "gets back on track" until the next road game. Then the fans get frustrated but mostly still show up and the next home game and watch the team get another win before they head back out to the treacherous road.
But not today.
What makes this game special is that for the first time in forever, fans can actually return to Bud Walton in an excited frenzy because of the big win on Thursday night. There's no "getting back on track". It's "let's keep this going! Sooie!"
So, in short, it should be a fun afternoon in Fayetteville today.
Of course, this only matters if Arkansas plays well and wins, which isn't guaranteed. Georgia is 10-5 in the SEC and, just like Arkansas, has won six of their last seven games. This has led SEC fans to mostly ask the same question:
How Is Georgia Doing It?
While I won't try to explain how the Bulldogs lost non-conference games to the tune of an 18 point loss to George Washington, Georgia has simply been highly efficient in SEC play.
They get to the free throw line - 1st in the SEC by far in free throw rate and percentage of points coming from the free throw line. They nearly doubled Arkansas at the stripe in Athens. The Bulldogs took 39 free throws and Arkansas only 20.
They play tough defense - 1st in the league in conference play in opponent effective field goal percentage, holding opponents to just 42.3% in two-point field goal percentage. They don't force many turnovers, they just make shooting difficult. Arkansas shot a paltry 14-43 on two-point shots in the first game, 7-23 from three.
They're a solid rebounding team, among the SEC leaders in gathering offensive and defensive rebounds. You may recall in the first game, Georgia embarrassed Arkansas on the glass, pulling down 56 rebounds to Arkansas' 34. They had more offensive rebounds - 24 - than the Razorbacks had defensive rebounds - 18.
What Are Arkansas' Advantages?
Georgia is not a good shooting team and they are turnover-prone. If the Hogs can play with a lot of energy - and the crowd will certainly help that - they should be able to create turnovers and hopefully have success in transition before the Bulldogs can set their defense.
It's also important to note that the Razorbacks are shooting much better than they were in January. In the first nine SEC games, they only did better than 40% shooting twice. Since the Vanderbilt game, they've been above 40% in every game but South Carolina. If that keeps up, Arkansas will have a huge advantage.
Keys To The Game
Arkansas must keep Charles Mann off the free throw line. Mann draws 7.7 fouls per 40 minutes (11th best in the country) and has taken a whopping 223 free throws this year. By comparison, the player with the most free throws for Arkansas? Rashad Madden with 119.
The Hogs must also make things difficult for Kenny Gaines. The 6'3" guard is shooting over 50% on two-point shots.
Georgia's best three point shooter by percentage is Nemanja Djurisic. He's made 30 of 63 attempts this season. Arkansas can't allow him to have a career game like they did with Mississippi State's Colin Borchert.
And, obviously, Arkansas must both rebound and shoot much better than they did in Athens.
Bobby Portis only took one shot in the entire second half/overtime against Kentucky. He needs more. Arkansas won't win too many games like that.
It would also be huge if the team plays well early and keeps the crowd into it. The fans will be hot early, so the Hogs can't allow the Bulldogs to keep them quiet. If the Razorbacks and the fans can feed off each other, it should be a memorable afternoon.
KenPom.com give the Razorbacks a 76% chance of winning.
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