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PREVIEW: LSU @ #20 Arkansas

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: LSU Tigers
Date: Saturday, February 27
Time: 1:00PM
Place: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Arkansas
TV/Streaming: ESPN2
All-Time Series: Arkansas Leads 37-33
All-Time Series At Arkansas: Arkansas Leads 20-

LSU Tigers 14-7 (9-5)

LSU has had a bit of an up and down year. They started off the season with a loss at St Louis, but then reeled over several wins in a row leading up to SEC play.

The Tigers won 5 of their first 6 SEC games, but then lost 4 out of 5. Like I said, it has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Will Wade’s team. Which is really hard to understand.

LSU returned a significant amount of talent and brought in Top 10 recruiting class. Why haven’t they competed in their games against Alabama? Why did they allow Georgia and Kentucky beat them handily?

The answer is easy. It is the LSU defense. This team just isn’t bought in defensively. It is becoming a common thread under Will Wade. They have tons of athletic ability and top talent, but they won’t defend. In SEC play, LSU is giving up 78.1 points per game. They allow teams to shoot 53.2% from 2. That is 11th in the conference. Teams are making 9.1 threes per game which is last in the SEC.

Obviously, the Tigers can score the ball in a multiple ways. Cam Thomas is a superstar and leading the SEC in scoring at 22.7 points per game. Trendon Watford and Javonte Smart both average 16.2 points per game, but the key to the LSU offense may not be any of those guys.

LSU has lost 7 games this year. Big man Darius Days played in 6 of those losses. In all 6 of those games, Days scored 11 points or less. He failed to reach double figures in 5 of the 6.

In LSU’s losses, Days struggles to score the ball.

That creates an issue for Arkansas. Days can be a matchup nightmare for the Hogs. We’ll how they can contain him on Saturday.

Here are the keys to a LSU win:

-Take care of the ball.

-Out-rebound the Razorbacks.

-Make Smith and Moody uncomfortable.

Arkansas Razorbacks 18-5 (10-4)

These Hogs just keep on rolling! They just won’t stop.

The revenge tour now turns to LSU. Arkansas has already evened up the season series with Missouri and Alabama. The Hogs have the chance to get back at LSU for the blowout loss they received back in January.

This program is in the best shape we have seen since the turn of the century. With a win on Saturday, Arkansas could ascend into the top 12 or 13. Several teams ahead in the rankings have already lost this week.

Bracketologists from all over the country have also taken notice of this team. Jerry Palm of CBS currently has the Razorbacks as a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While other Bracketologists seed the Hogs in the 4 or 5 line. Either way, things are looking up for the Razorbacks.

As for today’s matchup, it will be interesting to see how Arkansas adjusts from the previous matchup. LSU pressed for much of the game. Arkansas would beat the press and then have a 3 on 2 advantage. The Razorbacks panicked in these moments taking rushed shots. It was tough to watch.

If LSU attempts this defense, Arkansas needs to slow down and run some real sets. Eric Musselman was masterful on Wednesday night against Alabama with different offensive sets. Alabama has been above average defensive team for most of this season. It will be interesting to see how the Hogs handle what LSU throws at them.

Here are the keys to an Arkansas win:

-Don’t let Days dominate. Days is a key piece for LSU as I mentioned above and he is a matchup problem for the Hogs. I don’t know how they do it, but they have to keep him from controlling the paint.

-Take advantage of forced turnovers. With LSU’s fast pace, they can get turnover happy. The Hogs must take advantage of these opportunities.

-Dominate the glass. The rebounding battle may be the most important aspect of this game. The team that wins the glass will win the game.

Prediction

How do you pick against Arkansas as this point? They are on fire and playing at home on a Saturday. That’s a great recipe. Improved play from Tate, Williams, Davis, and Smith will mean this game looks a lot different than the one played in Baton Rouge. Give me the Hogs!

Arkansas 84 LSU 77