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NCAA Tournament: Arkansas vs. Baylor; Preview and Prediction

Oral Roberts v Arkansas Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Opponent: Baylor Bears
Date: Monday, March 29
Time: 8:57PM CDT
Place: Lucas Oil Stadium – South Court
TV: CBS
All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 96-47
All-Time Series at Neutral Site: Arkansas leads 6-4

Baylor Bears 25-2

The #1 seeded Baylor Bears come into the Elite 8 off of a convincing final 10 minutes against Villanova. Nova had controlled most of the game, but Baylor really turned up the defense and shut the Cats down.

Baylor forced 6 turnovers in roughly 2 minutes to get themselves back in the game and never looked back. Villanova was missing solid point guard play and Baylor exposed it.

Baylor is so athletic. They have grown men on their roster. They aren’t the type of team to be overpowered. They won’t overwhelm you with height, but so many of their players look like they should be suiting up for Dave Aranda on the football field.

The Bears can really defend. They force 17.4 turnovers per game and give up just 65.3 points per game. In conference play, they slipped when defending the 3. Big 12 teams shot 35% from 3 which was 7th out of 10 teams in the conference.

Projected Starting Lineup:

G – Davion Mitchell – 6-2
G – Jared Butler – 6-3
G – MaCio Teague – 6-4
F – Mark Vital – 6-5
F – Flo Thamba – 6-10

Baylor is led by trio of guards, but almost every man in their rotation can get a buck. Junior Jared Butler averages 16.6 points per game with 4.7 assists and 2.1 steals.

Macio Teague averages 15.6 points. Former Auburn Tiger Davion Mitchell averages 14.2 points, 5.3 assists, and 2.0 steals. This team just has playmakers everywhere.

What separates Baylor from everyone in the nation is their 3-point shooting. Their team has great athleticism, but they couple it by being snipers. As a team, Baylor leads the nation in 3-point percentage at 40.8%. Their top 5 scorers all shoot 39.4% or better from beyond the arc.

With that said, Baylor has struggled from 3 in Indy so far. Just 22-69. That is 31.9%.

Baylor will beat Arkansas if they shoot better, take care of the ball, and lockdown. It’s really that simple.

Arkansas Razorbacks 25-6

The slow starts continued for the Hogs against Oral Roberts. The game was very much in doubt for 40 minutes.

While this has been the identity of this team, it must stop on Monday night. You don’t come back against teams like Baylor. They defend too well. You can’t depend on your own athleticism against the Bears.

The offense ran in the first half against Oral Roberts was abysmal. It forced a ton of one on one situations late in the shot call. The shot selection was terrible.

Arkansas cannot do that again. The offensive game plan must be much better tonight. Especially against a strong defensive team like Baylor.

Moses Moody has to hit shots when he is open. JD Notae has to be smarter with the basketball. He doesn’t have to do it all and he played just like that against ORU. I want to see more aggressiveness from Jaylin Williams. He will likely have someone smaller than him guarding him at times tonight. Look to score in those scenarios.

Keys to an Arkansas victory:

-Take care of the ball. I stated above how Baylor makes teams pay forcing 17 turnovers per game. If you want a chance, you can’t do that. Musselman in the past has said his goal for each game is 9 turnovers or less. Hit that number or less and you have a chance.

-Crash the glass for extra opportunities. Baylor doesn’t have overwhelming size. They usually win the rebounding battle, but not by much. Flip that script tonight. Smith has been unbelievable on the offensive glass. Keep that going!

-Defend the 3. Make them drive and earn it at the line. Baylor is a very bad free throw shooting team. It’s hard to believe considering how good they are beyond the arc, but the Bears shoot 69.9% from the line.

-Leave it all on the court. Arkansas hasn’t played a great game in a while. Considering the stakes and the opponent, tonight is the night to leave it all on the floor. If you are going to go down, go down swinging.

Prediction

Baylor’s ability to play great individual and team defense will give Arkansas too many problems. I think the Hogs keep is respectful, but Baylor will be too much in the end.

Arkansas 71 Baylor 79