San Fransisco, Cali.— #4 ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS VS #2 DUKE BLUE DEVILS
Date: Saturday, March 26, 2022
Time: 7:49 PM CST
Place: San Fransisco, Cali.
TV/Streaming: TBS/CBS Sports
Spread: Duke by 4
All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 2-1
All-time NCAA Tournament Record: 48-33
All-Time Record in Elite Eight: 6-4
There have been plenty of upsets throughout this year’s NCAA Tournament but the West Region remains as the only one with two of its top seeded teams in the final. Arkansas and Duke, a rematch of the 1994 National Championship that Arkansas won, is the game of the night.
The Blue Devils
Duke is full of a bunch of freshmen and sophomores in their starting lineup. They are relatively young but have gained plenty of experience throughout the season playing in huge games.
Similar to Arkansas, Duke has faced very tough competition through the tournament in very close games. The Blue Devils have defeated Texas Tech and Michigan State to get to this point and will not be underestimating an older, experienced Razorback team.
With their backs against a wall against the Red Raiders, the Duke players told coach if they could switch from zone to man defense it would help lead them to a win. They would go on a 12-2 run in the final minutes of their Sweet 16 game to advance to the Elite Eight.
Duke’s roster doesn’t necessarily go very deep but their top five scorers are averaging in the double digits. They are led by Paolo Banchero in the post. The 6’10 250 pound freshman post man averages over 17 points and seven rebounds a game but has upped his performances during the postseason with 19 points a night.
Banchero is capable of stretching the floor by hitting the three ball. He has connected on 41 threes this season, good enough for 33-percent from downtown.
Junior Blue Devil, Wendell Moore, Jr. has come into his own this season. Moore is their second leading scorer at 13.5 points this season. His 6’5 frame also gives him the ability to grab a few boards averaging 5.3 rebounds on the season.
One thing to watch is how well will the Blue Devils shoot. Similar to Gonzaga, Duke is very good shooting from two (58-percent, 8th in NCAA) and one of best in the country at hitting the deep ball (37-percent, 35th in NCAA).
The Razorbacks – 27-8
Arkansas is coming off a historic victory in the Sweet 16 where they beat number one overall seed, Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Hogs were the first college basketball team ever to defeat the number one team in the regular season and the overall one seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Razorbacks are making their second straight Elite Eight appearance and 11th in school history.
How can Arkansas win this game? Just like they’ve done the past two-and-a-half months of the season: in your face defense, forcing turnovers free throw shooting and JD Notae making the offense go.
Like I said above, Duke is a pretty tall team with the ability to score the ball inside and out. It would make sense for Coach Musselman to use the same type of gameplan as he did against Gonzaga where they bit the head off the point guard and defended the pick and roll action.
Duke guard, Jeremy Roach was hot from the field late against Texas Tech when he went 7-of-11 from the field and five assists. His ability to take over a game late gives Arkansas another thing to strategize against. Keeping him away from the basket and forcing him into turning the ball over will be key. Although Roach was clutch down the stretch of Duke’s Sweet Sixteen victory he still turned the ball over four times. If Arkansas can turn him over they can win this game.
Arkansas will need a third and fourth scorers to emerge in this one if they want to pull off an upset. Devo Davis, Stanley Umude, Trey Wade and Au’Diese Toney have all shown they can make huge shots during the tournament and contribute in the scoring department. If one of them step up with Notae and Jaylin Williams it will be huge for Arkansas and their quest for their first Final Four since 1995.
Prediction: Arkansas 73, Duke 66
Jacob is the managing editor of Arkansas Fight. You can follow him on Twitter @jacobscottdavis and listen to his podcast, The Hawg Talk, on all platforms.