Time, Channel, Place
6:30 pm, ESPN News, Moody Coliseum, Dallas
Who is SMU?
SMU will be trying to get what was expected to be a breakout season on track after a disappointing start. The Mustangs were ranked in preseason polls but have already lost two games. The first loss, against a ranked Gonzaga team, was understandable, but then SMU lost to unranked Indiana and completely fell out of the polls.
Things have not been going as planned for Larry Brown's club. One of the reasons for high expectations for SMU was the signing of 5* point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, but he decided to skip college and play professionally in China this season. Also, Marcus Kennedy was ruled ineligible at least this semester for SMU. The 6'9" junior scored seven points and led the Mustangs with 7 rebounds against Arkansas last year.
The Mustangs do return most of their top scorers from last season. Forwards Ben Moore and Yanick Moreira combined for 34 points on 12-17 shooting in Bud Walton Arena a year ago. They're both shooting 56% from the field so far this season. Slowing down that pair will be a good challenge for Bobby Portis, Moses Kingsley, Alandise Harris, and Jacorey Williams.
Junior guard Nic Moore also returns. He's a small player at 5'9" but has been very effective. He's shooting over 42% from three so far this year and scored 12 points against the Hogs in 2013. Joining him in the backcourt is sophomore guard Keith Frazier. Frazier is a former McDonald's All-American but did not play against Arkansas last year due to injury. He's been shooting the ball really well this season (53.3% from three, 7-11 inside the arc) and his added presence is one of the more intriguing aspects of this year's game.
What's Arkansas Biggest Challenge?
Obviously, this is Arkansas' first road game of the season, and the road game questions will always be there until proven otherwise. Yes, the Hogs won three road SEC games last year including that amazing win in Lexington, but they also closed the season losing at Alabama, in the SEC Tournament to South Carolina, and at California. With SMU staggering a bit it seems like a great opportunity for Arkansas to go out and grab a quality road win.
Statistically, there's such a small amount of data to go on that it seems sort of silly to harp on those this early in the year. Neither team has been a great rebounding team except for SMU's offensive rebounding. They're getting second chances at just under a 40% clip. That's probably the biggest concern for Arkansas, although the Hogs have been rebounding better the last couple of games.
SMU has not been a great 3-point shooting team so far, which is good as perimeter defense has been shaky for Arkansas at times this season. Most of their shots will come inside the arc, where Arkansas will be able to attempt to block shots.
Arkansas' biggest strength so far has been quality shooting. They're over 50% from both inside and outside the three-point line. Whether they can take that on the road is the big question. If they can, I think Arkansas wins pretty easily. If not, it's obviously going to be a challenge.
The Razorbacks will almost always hope to avoid games in which the referees are whistle-happy and this is no exception. SMU has been a better free throw shooting team than Arkansas (78.3% to 70.3%) so the Hogs probably don't want a free throw contest.
What happened last season?
Arkansas won easily in Bud Walton last year 89-78 but it really wasn't even that close. The Hogs led by 24 midway in the second half. Alandise Harris had a tremendous game with 21 points, including 11-11 from the free throw line (and woe the Hogs if they expect that to happen again). Michael Qualls had 17 and Anthlon Bell had 11.
I've always believed that big road games are when the stars are needed to step up. Bobby Portis had 8 points and 3 rebounds against the Mustangs last year. I'd look for a much bigger game from him.