Arkansas vs Texas A&M: Predicted Outcome Was Out of Line with ESPN’s Relatively Rosy Forecast

Eric Musselman, Buzz Williams, Arkansas vs Texas A&M, Arkansas basketball, Texas A&M basketball
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / Texas A&M Athletics

LIVE UPDATES – Arkansas vs Texas A&M

7:59, 1H – Arkansas 11, Texas A&M 9

Makhel Mitchell and Julius Marble were assessed a double technical early in the first half after Marble shoved Anthony Black following a play and Mitchell shoved him in response. It was a very weak call after a review.

Nick Smith Jr. checked in at the 12:19 mark and had his first shot – a fast break layup attempt – blocked. He also had a turnover when he stepped out of bounds

The Razorbacks are making almost everything tough on the defensive end, with the Mitchells combining for three blocks. However, they’ve each picked up a pair of fouls in the first 12 minutes, forcing Kamani Johnson into action.

Texas A&M started the game just 2 of 16 from the floor and managed only four points in the first 10 minutes, but heads to the free throw line with a chance to tie it up at the 7:59 mark. The Razorbacks never led by more than seven.

HALF – Arkansas 33, Texas A&M 24

Kamani Johnson and Jordan Walsh also picked up their second fouls before the under-4 media timeout. That forced Jalen Graham into action. Walsh stayed in and picked up his third foul with 43.1 seconds left in the half.

Davonte Davis appears to be having a really nice bounce-back game. He already has 11 points and is 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, plus has 2 rebounds and 2 assists with no turnovers.

Texas A&M had to inbound the ball with 1.4 seconds left and Hayden Hefner got wide open for a buzzer-beater 3 to pull the Aggies within nine.

HALFTIME STATS – Arkansas vs Texas A&M

11:37, 2H – Arkansas 42, Texas A&M 42

The momentum from that last-second 3 carries into the second half, as Texas A&M needed less than four minutes in the first half to take the lead. The Razorbacks had led by 12 with less than 30 seconds left in the first half. The Aggies made their first five shots, including three contested 3s, leading to Musselman calling a rare timeout at the 16:10 mark.

They eventually cooled off and missed five of their next six shots. It turned into a back-and-forth game at that point.

FINAL – Texas A&M 62, Arkansas 56

Arkansas took a two-point lead with 5:54 remaining, but then didn’t score again until an old-fashioned three-point play by Anthony Black with 12 seconds remaining. By then, it was well too late.

FINAL STATS – Arkansas vs Texas A&M

Starting Lineups

Texas A&MArkansas
#0 – G Dexter Dennis#0 – G Anthony Black
#4 – G Wade Taylor IV#4 – G Davonte Davis
#23 – G Tyrece Radford#1 – G Ricky Council IV
#15 – F Henry Coleman III#15 – F/C Makhi Mitchell
#34 – F Julius Marble#22 – F/C Makhel Mitchell

Arkansas vs Texas A&M Preview

Any momentum Arkansas had built during its five-game SEC winning streak came to an abrupt halt Saturday with a disappointing loss to Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs showed that their top-five defensive rating wasn’t a fluke, using a fantastic defensive game plan that included doubling the Razorbacks’ post players as soon as they touched the ball. It clearly bothered Arkansas, which managed just 25 points in the first half of the 70-64 loss.

The scoring trio of Davonte Davis, Ricky Council IV and Nick Smith Jr. combined for only 5 points and missed all 12 of their first-half shot attempts. They finished just 5 of 24 for the game.

The silver lining, of course, was the long-anticipated return of Smith – the future NBA lottery pick – to the Razorbacks’ lineup. Naturally, implementing a new player into the rotation should warrant an adjustment period, but not many expected that period to come in the form of a loss to a below-average SEC opponent at home. There’s no doubt that this loss knocked some of the wind out of Arkansas’ sails.

“We knew that any time a player comes back, there’s an adjustment for not just the player that’s been sitting out but for the other guys, as well,” head coach Eric Musselman said. “Not a lot of teams are making that adjustment this late in the year, and obviously we are. So hopefully we’ll play better than we did against Mississippi State.”

Fortunately, the Hogs still have six games left on their schedule – three of which are Quadrant 1 opportunities – starting with a rematch against Texas A&M, this time in College Station. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT and the game will be televised on ESPN2.

According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, this is by far the Razorbacks’ most winnable remaining Quad 1 game. The metric currently gives Arkansas a 39.6% chance to beat the Aggies, compared to a 15.4% chance against Alabama in Tuscaloosa and 11.2% chance against Tennessee in Knoxville.

When the two teams met in Bud Walton Arena two weeks ago, the Razorbacks defended their home court with an 81-70 victory, but the win exposed a point of emphasis because they allowed a season-high 24 offensive rebounds. It was also when Makhi and Makhel Mitchell began their current streak of four consecutive starts together.

What to Expect from Texas A&M

Wade Taylor IV leads the Aggies offensively, averaging 15.2 points and 4.1 assists per game. Against Arkansas earlier this season, Taylor had a relatively inefficient night – shooting 32% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc – though he still tallied 18 points in the loss.

In Round 1 between these teams, Arkansas started the game with Ricky Council IV checking Taylor defensively, but don’t be surprised to see Nick Smith Jr. or Devo Davis get turns at slowing down the point guard on Wednesday.

Henry Coleman III (6-foot-7 forward) and Tyrece Radford (6-foot-2 guard) joined Taylor as the leading scorers in that previous matchup with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Both hurt the Hogs tremendously on the offensive glass (more on this later), but Radford also shot 2 of 4 from long range.

He’s a unique player given his length and strength despite his deceivingly small listed height. Davis started out guarding A&M’s walking mismatch last time, but perhaps the strength of Ricky Council or length of Anthony Black will be relied on to slow him down in this rematch should Davis’ services be required elsewhere.

“He’s got great toughness,” Musselman said of Radford. “He’s a really good defender, he’s an excellent rebounder for his position, he’s a high-volume free throw attempt player. He’s a dynamic scorer… There’s not a lot of guys in college basketball who can play 1 through 4 and be equally effective in all four positions.”

Coleman, on the other hand, is a big body who gave both Mitchell twins fits. He contributed 18 points and 15 rebounds in the Aggies’ loss, including a team-high 7 offensive rebounds. It seems as though both Mitchell twins will be the starting frontcourt moving forward for Arkansas, as well as splitting virtually all of the minutes at center save for a few spot minutes for Jalen Graham.

This matchup between bigs could prove to be the difference in the game this time around. If Arkansas is able to limit the offensive rebounds even marginally better in this rematch, they stand a good chance at walking out of College Station with a win.

What to Expect from Arkansas

Arkansas hit a brick wall offensively against Mississippi State. The loss was likely due to a combination of factors, including Mississippi State playing a fantastic first half on both sides of the ball, the nerves of Arkansas playing in front of their home crowd at full force for the first time in three weeks, and the reinsertion of Nick Smith Jr. into the lineup. Regardless of the reason, it was an untimely loss for an Arkansas team that doesn’t have much margin for error.

In his return, Smith played about as well as can be expected for someone coming back from missing 13 consecutive games. He came off the bench midway through the first half to a standing ovation from the Bud Walton Arena crowd and scored 5 points in 17 minutes.

The star freshman was only 2 of 7 from the field – including missing a transition 3 that would’ve cut the deficit to two late in the game – but he also showed tremendous heart and hustle throughout his limited minutes, especially when hounding ball handlers full court on the defensive side of the ball.

Anthony Black continued to show why he’s considered one of the premier freshmen – and NBA draft prospects in general – in the country. Against the Bulldogs, he racked up an impressive 23 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 1 block while shooting 62% from the field, 40% from long range and 83% from the charity stripe. His continued production will be vital in the Hogs’ homestretch.

For the first time since playing Auburn on Jan. 7, Devo Davis failed to hit double-digit scoring. In 37 minutes of action, Davis logged 7 points on 2-of-11 shooting from the field and 1-of-5 from beyond the arc. He did contribute in other ways, as he usually does, tallying 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in the loss.

“Certainly, it’s important for me to talk with guys individually,” Musselman said. “But Devo, he’s been around long enough and he’s had such an impact on us, both sides of the basketball this year, so I’m not really overly concerned with him bouncing back.”

Maybe Davis’ down performance was a side effect of trying to help Smith fit smoothly back into the offense, or maybe this was just an off night for the junior guard – who has come across as streaky most of his collegiate career. Most likely, it was a combination of both.

For this team to end the season on the right note, though, Davis needs to get back at least a bit closer to the level he’s been playing over the last month. There is some potential good news for Hog fans, though: Davis scored a season-high 19 points to go along with 4 assists and 4 threes in his last game against the Aggies.

Ricky Council IV also had an off night against Mississippi State, likely for the same reasons as Davis. Despite a forgettable 1-of-6 shooting performance, the transfer guard still managed to score 13 points thanks to going 11 of 13 at the charity stripe. His only field goal of the game was yet another rim-rocking, highlight-reel reverse dunk late in the game that cut the Bulldogs’ lead to five with roughly two minutes to play.

The last time these teams met is known as the “Mitchell” game due to the breakout performances of the twins – and on their birthday, no less. Makhel tallied season highs in minutes played (32), rebounds (13), and blocked shots (7). Makhi took on somewhat of a backup role behind his brother in this game, playing only 11 minutes, but he still tallied an efficient six points on a perfect 3 of 3 from the field to go along with 4 rebounds and 1 block.

What to Watch in Arkansas vs Texas A&M – Round 2

Despite this fantastic performance from the Razorback frontcourt, Arkansas was still outrebounded by the Aggies, specifically on the offensive glass where it gave up 24 offensive rebounds. This wasn’t that much of an anomaly for the Aggies, either. They average 12.4 offensive rebounds per game – good for top 30 in the country – and have seven games with 15 or more offensive boards, including two with 20-plus.

It’s also not just one player doing all the damage. Starting forward Henry Coleman III tallied seven offensive rebounds, Radford grabbed six offensive boards despite being only 6-foot-2, and the Aggies’ other starting forward, Julius Marble, was credited with 4 offensive boards. As a team, Texas A&M rebounded 47.1% of its total misses.

Throw in the Razorbacks’ 17 turnovers and they took 20 fewer shots than Texas A&M.

“You never want someone to win the possession game, let alone…by 20,” Musselman said. “We made some conscious efforts in the last game that made us susceptible to offensive rebounds, and on the flip side it might have gotten the ball out of certain players’ hands for them. It might have sped the game up slightly. We’ll obviously need to do a better job – a significantly better job – defensively in blocking out.”

While this game was an anomaly for the Hogs based on the sheer number of offensive rebounds allowed, it has not been uncommon for Arkansas to lose the rebounding battle against SEC teams. In fact, they’ve been outrebounded in nine of their last 10 games – including their last seven in a row. They’re 5-2 in this seven-game stretch, but have been outrebounded by an average of 3.0 over that span.

Second-chance opportunities must be limited in the Arkansas vs Texas A&M rematch. Even if they ultimately lose the rebound battle, the Hogs can’t afford to allow 20-plus offensive rebounds on the road. It’s typically harder for teams to rely on their offensive efficiency in road games, so winning the other battles like rebounding, turnovers, getting to lose balls, etc. can be the difference in winning the game.

Game Prediction – Arkansas vs Texas A&M

Arkansas leads the all-time series against Texas A&M 106-59, but it hasn’t fared nearly as well since the Aggies joined the SEC. The Hogs still lead 11-8 since they entered the league in 2012, but they’re only 2-6 in eight road games during this stretch, including 0-2 under Eric Musselman.

However, this Arkansas basketball team now truly has its backs against the wall. the Razorbacks are hovering far too close to the double-digit seeds in the NCAA Tournament and they still have arguably the toughest three-game stretch in the country left on their schedule when they travel to Tennessee and Alabama back-to-back before hosting Kentucky to end the regular season.

Musselman will make sure his young team is well aware that every game holds an enormous amount of weight from here on out, especially after the disappointing loss to Mississippi State. Arkansas will play with a growing sense of desperation, helping it limit the Aggies’ offensive rebounds much better than it did the first time around.

The adjustment period of getting Nick Smith Jr. more involved will not be felt as heavily by Council and Davis as all three guards settle a bit further into their new responsibilities, significantly improving off of Saturday’s combined 5-of-24 shooting performance.

When the dust settles, Arkansas will have bounced back from their inexcusable home loss with a statement victory over the Aggies on Wednesday night.

Arkansas, 75-68

How to Watch Arkansas vs Texas A&M

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 15

Location: Reed Arena (College Station, Texas)

Tipoff Time/TV Schedule: 8 p.m. CT (ESPN2)

ESPN BPI: Texas A&M has a 60.4% chance to win

Arkansas Basketball National Title Odds

Despite the Razorbacks being in the middle of the pack in the SEC record-wise, Vegas still thinks highly of its potential. That can be seen in some of the latest national title odds below (released Tuesday by SportsBetting.Ag).

As you will see, Arkansas comes in third in the SEC in terms of best odds of winning a title, behind only Alabama and Tennessee. (Texas A&M basketball is given 125-1 odds, for reference.)

It’s safe to assume these high odds are in large part due to Musselman’s track record of getting his teams humming by late February, as well as Nick Smith Jr.’s return.

2022-23 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion

Houston                       7-1

Alabama                       8-1

Purdue                         8-1

UCLA                            12-1

Kansas                          14-1

Arizona                         16-1

Baylor                           16-1

Indiana                         20-1

Connecticut                  22-1

Creighton                     22-1

Tennessee                    22-1

Texas                            25-1

Virginia                         28-1

Gonzaga                       35-1

TCU                              35-1

Marquette                    40-1

St Marys CA                  40-1

Xavier                           40-1

Iowa State                    45-1

Kansas State                 45-1

Arkansas                       55-1

Miami FL                      55-1

Duke                            66-1

Illinois                          75-1

North Carolina              75-1

Kentucky                      80-1

Auburn                         100-1

Providence                   100-1

Rutgers                         100-1

San Diego State             100-1

Watch Eric Musselman preview the Arkansas vs Texas A&M matchup here:


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