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Arkansas Set to Host Florida Amidst Freezing Conditions

Vanderbilt v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

If you are stuck in your home, whether due to COVID or because of the sub-zero temperatures this Tuesday night, entertainment will be finding its way to your television or streaming device as the newly ranked #24 Arkansas Razorbacks are set to host the Florida Gators in Fayetteville tonight.

While the SEC has pushed some games back to Thursday of this week due to the frozen tundra making its way through the United States, this is one of the few games this week that is still expected to be played as regularly scheduled. The Gators basketball team took off last night and landed safely at XNA in Fayetteville despite the weather.

Transfers Playing Key Roles for the Hogs Down the Stretch

For the Razorbacks, Coach Musselman’s squad is riding high after a tough week on the road that saw two gritty wins over Kentucky and Mizzou. They are on a 6-game win streak in conference play and have played some of their best basketball after a rocky start to the season.

Transfer Guard Jalen Tate has been a huge catalyst for the team and is averaging 11 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. Most notably, he knocked down the two game-winning free throws that put the Razorbacks on top against Kentucky a week ago at Rupp Arena,

Another significant component of this run has been the play of Connor Vanover. While some have criticized his play to start the season, he has made most critics eat crow over the last few weeks. Standing at 7’3”, Vanover’s length has made him a nightmare for shorter players driving to the basket, amassing 18 blocks since the Hogs beat Auburn on January 20th. He has gotten his shot working for him and has been influential in the pick and roll/pop game on the offensive end.

Gators Coming Into Town

In the visitor's locker room tonight sit the Florida Gators. The Gators are coming off of a long period of rest and have not played a game since February 3rd. They currently sit at 10-5 on the year, 6-4 in the SEC. In their last game, the Gators dropped a home contest to the South Carolina Gamecocks and will be looking to right the ship in Fayetteville tonight against the Hogs.

For the Gators, a big part of their game will hinge on guard Tre Mann, who led the Gators in their last contest with 17 points, and they will need him to live up to that stat line again if they hope to topple the red hot Razorbacks.

A big question for the Gators tonight will be the availability of Colin Castleton. The 6’11” junior has been a big part of their inside game this season, and against a team like Arkansas who has struggled against larger teams, his success will be paramount for Florida to make a game out of this.

Keys To The Win

For the Hogs, this will be a difficult matchup. We’ve seen in a lot of games this season where they start slow, and it takes 10-12 minutes for them to really get into a groove. That can’t happen tonight. Florida has been down this year, but it can be difficult to slow them down when they get going. Just as Myles McBride and #11 West Virginia, who the Gators beat fairly comfortably in the Big 12/SEC Challenge a few weeks back.

Another primary key to the game is down low. Florida has a lot of size and strength, and it will take some grown-man play to keep the Gators off the glass and limit second-chance points. Outside of that, running their shooters off the three-point line will also be a serious chore, as we have seen with Kentucky and Mizzou having record-setting performances against the Hogs from beyond the arc.

Pregame Predictions

One thing that Coach Musselman has been able to do effectively this season is keep the team's eyes forward and not looking back at the streak they have been on the last few weeks. If the Hoop Hogs think this will be an easy win, it very likely could end with a devastating loss in Bud Walton Arena tonight.

Personally, I don’t see that happening. The team knows that the only way they make a run at the tournament is by giving 110% at all times, and I think they do that again tonight. I see the Gators staying close for 25 minutes or so, but watch the Hogs run away with the game midway through the second half and win comfortably.