Who: #11 Arkansas Razorbacks (19-12) vs #14 Vanderbilt Commodores (11-20)
What: Round 1 of the 2020 SEC Championship
When: Wednesday – March 11 – approx. 8:30 pm (CT)
Where: Nashville, Tenn. – Bridgestone Arena (20,000)
– TV: SEC Network (Tom Hart, Andy Kennedy, Jon Sunvold, Alyssa Lange)^ CLICK HERE to Watch ESPN/SEC Network Online–
Radio: Learfield IMG College Razorback Sports Network (Chuck Barrett and Matt Zimmerman)^ Listen to Razorback Sports Network Online: CLICK HERE– Sirius/XM: Sirius: 138 – XM Channel 190 – Streaming Online on channel 961
The Razorbacks begin SEC Tournament play as the 11th seed facing off against 14th seeded Vanderbilt. In their January matchup, Arkansas’ Jimmy Whitt was outstanding in his 39 minutes scoring 30 points on 14 of 24 shooting (58% field goal percentage). Another staggering stat was the Commodore defense held the SEC scoring leader, Mason Jones, to his lowest scoring output of the season of one point.
In the previous game, Arkansas did pick up a great effort from their bench with Reggie Chaney scoring 14 points on six of six shooting. Also, Desi Sills and Isaiah Joe scored 13 and 12, respectively, to help Arkansas to a 75-55 victory over .500 Vanderbilt at the time.
Who does Arkansas need to lockdown on defense in order to advance to Thursday? Saben Lee. The 6’2 guard has been coming off the bench as of late but provides Vanderbilt with 18.2 points per game with a season high 38 point outing in a victory over Alabama on the road. Lee is shooting a very good 48 percent from the field with a 31 percent stroke from three. He also knows how to create free throw attempts for himself averaging 6.3 trips to the line every game.
The X-Factor will be Scotty Pippen, Jr. a 6’1 guard from Los Angeles who’s averaging 16.2 points over his last five games, shooting 47 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep. Pippen, Jr. has a career high of 21 twice this season. If he has another good game, Vanderbilt could sneak up and end Arkansas’ drowning NCAA Tournament hopes days early.
What does Arkansas need to do? Play terrific three point defense. On the season, Vanderbilt has shot 33 percent from three but we all know Arkansas has the best perimeter defense in all the NCAA at 27 percent. Arkansas does not foul as much as fans think. With limited depth and size inside, Arkansas has only committed 617 fouls this season which is 310th lowest in the country but on the other hand they force teams to foul them with 663 fouls called on their opponents which is the seventh highest in the country. That bodes well for the Hogs as they shoot 73 percent at the charity stripe. Another cool statistic is the Razorbacks are in the top 10 in free throw attempts made (seventh) and free throw attempts (ten). The majority of that has to do with Mason Jones leading the country in free throw attempts taken and made.
Lastly, if Arkansas wants to extend their stay in Nashville it will be due to their defensive intensity and efficiency. The Hogs rank in the top six of the SEC in steals (first), assists given up (third) blocks (sixth) and turnovers forced (third).
The numbers seem to all favor Arkansas but the thing Vanderbilt has on their side right now is winning. The Commodores record may say 11-20 (3-15) but they are winners of their last two ball games to close out the regular season versus Alabama and South Carolina. Confidence is everything and Jerry Stackhouse’s young club has it right now.