Gordon Gekko's Billy Donovan's Florida squad invades Bud Walton Arena this evening, and the contest marks the beginning of what looks to be a very tough stretch for the Razorbacks. After Florida leaves town, the Hogs' next four games include road contests against Kentucky, tougher-than-you-may-think Georgia and Ole Miss, and a home game against Mississippi State. Kentucky, Mississippi State and Ole Miss are all currently ranked, and Florida has been in the Top 25 at times this season.
It's easy to see Arkansas losing all five of those games, leaving the team with a 1-6 conference record and our oh-so-stirring dream of an 8-8 SEC mark nearly in tatters. But, for the most part, the Hogs have looked pretty good in their last three contests, and snagging a couple of victories during this five-game stretch isn't all that far-fetched, IMHO.
Just for giggles, let's say the Razorbacks do indeed win two of their next five games. That would give them a conference record of 3-4. They then have extremely winnable home contests against Auburn and LSU, meaning they could very well be 5-4 afterwards. That record may not excite the masses, but it would be cause for a celebratory beer here at Expats headquarters (note from our sponsor: if you drink, please drink responsibly).
Even if Arkansas just wins one of its next five, the Hogs could be 4-5 after nine SEC games. Considering last year, we'd take that.
But we're getting way ahead of ourselves. Back to tonight's game.
How do the Hogs stack up against Florida? Well, for starters the Gators are ranked No. 74 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). Arkansas comes in at No. 181.
Arkansas averages 76.2 points per game to the Gators' 73.6. The Hogs shoot it a little better from the field (46.2 percent to 44.4 percent) while the Gators have the edge from the line (70.1 percent to 66.6 percent). Florida is downright ghastly from long range, with a 31.3 percent mark from behind the three-point line. As we all know, however, teams frequently shoot very well from downtown against Arkansas, so that stat ought to be taken with a frisbee-sized grain of salt.
Florida is better on the boards, but not markedly so. The Gators' haul in 42.4 rebounds a game to Arkansas' 38.5.
The two teams have one opponent in common: Like the Razorbacks, the Gators lost at home to South Alabama. For what it's worth, Florida only lost by one point, whereas the Hogs got whipped by 13.
Add it all up, and I think the Hogs have a very solid shot at winning, in large part because the game's in Fayetteville. Hopefully the crowd will be large enough and energetic enough to give the guys some extra pep in their step. In fact, tonight might be Arkansas' best shot at a victory during the next five games.
Send the Gators back to Gainesville with a loss, and lo and behold, Hog hoop fans may have an interesting season on their hands.