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PREVIEW: Auburn @ Arkansas

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: Auburn Tigers
Date: Wednesday, January 20
Time: 8:000pm
Place: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Arkansas
TV/Streaming: SEC Network
All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 35-20
All-Time Series at Arkansas: Arkansas leads 21-5

The Tigers 8-6 (2-4)

Remember that Auburn team that Arkansas scored 97 against? The one that couldn’t guard a chair. The one that let Desi Sills hit big 3 after big 3. The team that had unforced turnover after turnover. Remember that team? Yeah...that team no longer exists.

5-Star Freshman Sharife Cooper has officially been cleared and since his return this Auburn team has been totally different. Cooper in just 3 games has averaged 21.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 9.7 assists, and 2 steals. His overall efficiency hasn’t been great, but that has been due to a rough start from 3. He’s just 1-16 from beyond the arc so far. That won’t last though. This isn’t a situation where you just back off and let him shoot. Just a rough start.

Cooper is going to give Arkansas fits. Remember the Missouri game? Xavier Pinson did whatever he wanted in that game. I expect to see the same result with Cooper.

Devin Cambridge and Jamal Johnson shot a combined 10-13 from 3 in the first game against Arkansas. The Hogs cannot allow that again.

Auburn will like be without Justin Powell, who played PG for the Tigers until Cooper became eligible. Powell is in concussion protocol and is not expected to play.

This Auburn team is really solid with Cooper. They will win a lot of games down the final stretch. They won’t make it easy on Arkansas and Cooper is a matchup nightmare for the Hogs.

The Razorbacks 10-4 (2-4)

What is going on? I don’t want to overreact, but this thing has turned a bit rotten. Yes, it is just 2 losses against 2 of the best teams in the conference. Something feels off.

The players suddenly have no confidence. No swagger. No effort. With that, Eric Musselman look dejected in his coaching as well. David Patrick led the huddles in both games during the 2nd half. It just isn’t a great look from the outside looking in.

It’s time Connor Vanover to produce again. He had 17 against Auburn last time so maybe he can get back on track tonight.

How healthy will Justin Smith be? He could play a huge part in tonight’s game. Desi Sills and JD Notae must be efficient. They both must defend better. Especially away from the ball.

Winning cures all, but this is not the matchup to start that. Tate has done a fine job defending bigger guards. Devo Davis got in the grill of Justin Powell in the previous matchup, but the Hogs simply do not have anyone that can hang with Cooper. He is too quick.

Prediction

I just don’t know how this team will react. They are down. Auburn is feeling good. Being back in Bud Walton Arena will be good for the Razorbacks, but Cooper provides too many issues. Expect a high scoring game, but I am taking Auburn.

Auburn 87 Arkansas 80