BUFFALO, NY.— Arkansas fans, put your dancing shoes on. It’s the time of year again for the most wonderful time of the year, The NCAA Tournament.
#4 ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS VS #13 VERMONT CATAMOUNTS
Opponent: Vermont Catamounts
Date: Thursday, March 17, 2022
Time: 8:20 PM CDT
Place: KeyBank Center-Buffalo, NY
TV/Streaming: TNT/CBS Sports
All-Time Series: First Time Matchup
Arkansas Tournament History:
All-time Record: 45-33
*First round record: 17-8
The Catamounts – 28-5
Vermont Men’s Basketball team is having one of their best seasons in school history. The Catamounts finished the regular season with a 17-1 conference record and only dropping one game in their past 23, a heartbreaker on Valentine’s Day to Hartford 75-74 in overtime.
The Catamounts haven’t struggled much through the season offensively. They average 74.9 points per game while their average win margin is by 14.6 points.
Vermont has two outstanding players in Ryan Davis (17.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game) and Ben Shungu (14.4 points and 4.3 rebounds). Through the past ten games, Shungu has been blistering hot from the field shooting at a 54% clip.
Defensively, the Catamounts have forced their opponents way below their average in scoring, shooting and turnovers the past 10 games. They also haven’t given up more than 70 points in a game except their overtime loss against Hartford since January 22, 2022.
The Razorbacks – 25-8
Arkansas, winners of 15 of their last 18 games and EIGHT Quad-1 wins, enters the Big Dance with plenty of confidence. JD Notae, fresh off being named to the third team AP All-American list, leads the charge this offseason. Vermont head coach, John Becker, labeled Notae ‘relentless’ earlier this week.
“Just relentless offensively,” Becker said. “It’s hard to keep him in front, and he can finish around the rim. He’s a good passer and will make the right play.”
Notae has earned the right to be labeled one of the nation’s best players. He has averaged 18.4, 4.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game in the 2021-22 season and will be key to a run in the NCAA Tournament for the Razorbacks.
The Catamounts will have trouble stopping the athletic Razorbacks. The key to their offense is their ability to play downhill. Arkansas’ ability to get to the free throw line has been heavily noted throughout the season but Vermont also doesn’t foul a lot. It’ll be something to watch since Arkansas leads the country in free throws made and fourth in free throws attempted.
Both teams are playing extremely good basketball right now. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this is one of the more exciting first round games of the tournament.
It is very hard to pick against Arkansas and Eric Musselman. Last season, Todd Fuhrman infamously proclaimed that Musselman was mismatched as a head coach against Chris Beard. Arkansas won the game to advance to the Sweet 16. Now, no one is overlooking a Musselman coached team and if they are they shouldn’t. In his short college basketball coaching tenure, Musselman has made five NCAA Tournaments in seven seasons, advanced to two Sweet Sixteen’s at two different schools, an Elite Eight and 5-4 overall in tournament games.
Arkansas has struggled at times guarding the three ball and Vermont shoots it well from deep. The Catamounts average nine threes a game and that could very well keep them in the game. However, Arkansas plays a stifling defense and could lockdown the perimeter with their length and make it a more physical half court game.
X-FACTOR: Au’Diese Toney
Toney is the cleanup man for this Razorback team. He cleans the glass, rolls off ball screens and is your best defender.
At the end of the day, Arkansas pulls away in the final ten minutes of the game.