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PREVIEW: #8 Arkansas vs. Missouri

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: Missouri Tigers
Date: Friday, March 12
Time: 6:00PM
Place: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
TV/Streaming: SEC Network
All-Time Series: Arkansas Leads 29-26
All-Time Series at Neutral Site: Arkansas Leads 1-0

Missouri Tigers 16-8

Missouri snuck past Georgia on Thursday to earn themselves a chance at Arkansas. This is an anticipated rubber match between the 2 teams. In the first matchup, Missouri dominated the paint as Arkansas was without its’ most important player in Justin Smith.

In the rematch, Jeremiah Tilmon was out for Missouri and Arkansas won.

While Missouri has not looked near as good lately, they have found a way to win enough games to solidify their spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Where things haven’t been as good for Missouri is defensively. We already know of their offensive struggles, but the defense has gotten worse as the season has gone on.

On the other side, Arkansas’ offense has gotten better and better. So Missouri will have to play a great game. The Tigers give the Hogs matchup problems.

Xavier Pinson is a great PG who navigates their Pick and Roll offense very well. Tilmon can expose Conner Vanover and is bigger than Justin Smith. The key will be having a successful day in the Pick and Roll offense.

Georgia has no inside presence, but Tilmon struggled to really get anything going on Thursday.

Dru Smith is also key. He’s a lockdown defender and the team’s leading scorer. He needs to have a big game for Missouri to pull off the upset.

Arkansas Razorbacks 21-5

Arkansas has had a 6 day break. They needed some late game heroics to beat A&M this past Saturday.

Now Head Coach Eric Musselman has had a lot of time to prepare for their next opponent. Not knowing who you play can be problematic though. There’s no question that Musselman spent a lot of time preparing for their previous matchup with Missouri on defending Tilmon. But the big man didn’t play. So that game plan was thrown out just minutes before the game.

I truly believe that Musselman will have the team prepared and the Pick and Roll will not be as successful.

Jaylin Williams’ status for this weekend is up in the air. We haven’t been given an official update and rumors have swirled on his availability. I doubt he plays today.

Some Hog fans have dreaded this matchup without him.

Let’s remember that first matchup with Missouri. Smith was out and Williams was not really contributing yet. Yet, Arkansas was in that game. Missed layups and free throws did the Hogs in as much as anything. Having Justin Smith back may be enough for the Hogs to win this game.

The Arkansas keys to victory:

-Start hot. Arkansas has been plagued by slow starts all season. Missouri played yesterday. Tilmon struggled. Get out to a hot start and put the pressure on them early.

-Defend the PnR. Missouri had their way in January. The addition of Justin Smith should help tremendously.

-Attack the basket. Missouri fouls at a very high rate. Free Throws are called free for a reason.

-Win the battle of the boards. Missouri had a negative rebounding margin in SEC play. The Hogs need to limit 2ndchance opportunities around the rim.

Postseason basketball is here and Arkansas is in a position to make a run deep in the NCAA Tournament. Get excited because the future is here to stay!

Prediction

I’ve been really torn on this game all week. I can make arguments for both teams to get a win. I’ll pick Arkansas because they have played great basketball for 6 weeks and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue.

Arkansas 77 Missouri 70