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GAME #17: Arkansas @ LSU

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NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas @ LSU Preview

Opponent: LSU Tigers
Date: Saturday, January 15, 2022
Time: 1:00PM CDT
Place: Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
TV/Streaming: ESPN2
All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 38-34
All-Time Series in Baton Rouge: LSU leads 19-12

Most of the Arkansas fanbase has changed their tune a bit after the Razorbacks’ 44-point win over Missouri on Wednesday night. They realize that the win over Missouri doesn’t do anything for the NCAA Tournament resumé, but it was the first game Arkansas has played all year with extreme intensity and execution. All other games to that point had been a major struggle in a lot of areas.

The question remains: was this a fluke? Or has this team figured some things out?

Personally, I think the answer isn’t simple. I think the answer is both yes and no.

It’s take 16 games, but it seems Eric Musselman has found what his rotation should be. With that said, the team isn’t good enough at shooting the ball or stopping the dribble drive to think they can go on some huge run. I’ve been wrong plenty. Too much to count, but I still don’t see this team having the turnaround that last year’ squad did.

The Hogs will be without Eric Musselman on Saturday after his shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. Assistant Coach Keith Smart will be in charge on the sideline. He brings NBA head coaching experience. Given how the season has gone, I find this development extremely interesting. This team has look uninspired plenty. We all know it isn’t easy playing for Coach Muss so how will they respond to a different voice coming off a dominating win?

Even if this team plays inspired basketball, the task won’t be easy. LSU is the real deal. It’s a team with a different identity than we are used to seeing in the purple and gold. Arkansas will have to be sharp offensively. The ball must not stick.

They’ll need to team rebound too. Every possession matters against a defensive minded team like LSU. You cannot give the Tigers extra possessions.

Another question mark for Arkansas is if Kamani Johnson will be able to play. He rolled his ankle in the first half on Wednesday. Johnson has turned into the spark plug for this team. What he lacks in raw ability, he makes up for in effort and energy. That is exactly what the Hogs have needed at times this year.

Arkansas will also need a huge game from Trey Wade. The Wichita State transfer had his best game as a Razorback on Wednesday. Wade is the type of player that can guard any position and plays with great intensity. I expect Wade to be back in the starting lineup on Saturday and be charged with defending Darius Days or Tari Eason depending on who is in the game.

Tari Eason has put up a great argument for SEC Player of the Year. He transferred from Cincinnati and is putting up incredible numbers off the bench. Darius Days is also playing at an extremely high level. Missouri transfer Xavier Pinson is in Baton Rouge now and his status is up in the air following a knee injury last Saturday.

LSU was able to win in Gainesville over Florida without Pinson this last week. Arkansas’ inability to stay in front of the ballhandler and Pinson has played well against the Hogs in his career. Whether or not he plays will have a huge impact on this game.

I expect a great game like we always seem to see with these two programs. LSU is just too good this year compared to the Razorbacks. If this game was in Fayetteville, I would like pick the Hogs, but I’ve got the Tigers in this one.

Prediction: Arkansas 66, LSU 74