ESPN’s Basketball Power Index Anticipates Hogs Will Go on 7-Game Tear, Starting with Vanderbilt

Liam Robbins, Jalen Graham, Arkansas basketball, Vanderbilt basketball, Arkansas vs Vanderbilt
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / Vanderbilt Athletics

LIVE UPDATES – Arkansas vs Vanderbilt

Pregame Tidbits

For the second straight game, Eric Musselman is starting both of the Mitchell twins. This time, though, Makhel Mitchell is replacing Jordan Walsh in the starting lineup. Ricky Council IV is back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench against Alabama.

With the Davidson-George Mason game running long, Arkansas and Vanderbilt will tip at 1:05 p.m. CT.

10:48, 1H – Vanderbilt 15, Arkansas 13

The Commodores have led much of the half so far, but the Razorbacks did take a brief 9-8 lead on a layup by Anthony Black. Vanderbilt immediately responded with a corner 3 over Jalen Graham, who also fouled the shooter, but Colin Smith couldn’t convert the four-point play.

It’s been pretty close throughout, with neither team leading by more than five. Tyrin Lawrence had 7 of Vanderbilt’s first 8 points, but hasn’t scored since.

A key stat: Liam Robbins – the Commodores’ leading scorer and elite shot blocker – picked up his second foul at the 13:51 mark – nine seconds after his first.

HALF – Arkansas 42, Vanderbilt 34

Things started getting chippy midway through the first half, with Kamani Johnson in the middle of it all. He and Jordan Wright each received technicals for a scuffle, with Johnson’s eventually elevated to a Flagrant 1.

With about 50 seconds left, Anthony Black finished a layup through contact and then was pushed in the back, causing another small scuffle. Ezra Manjon, who pushed him, received two technicals and was ejected. When Jerry Stackhouse was told of the decision, he didn’t react well and received a technical himself.

The result was seven straight free throws by the Razorbacks. The first was by Black to complete the three-point play and then Council took the rest, making 4 of 6, for the technicals. It ended up being a 7-point possession that extended Arkansas’ lead from three to 10.

HALFTIME STATS – Arkansas vs Vanderbilt

8:28, 2H – Vanderbilt 69, Arkansas 59

Arkansas started out hot in the second half, but has cooled off significantly. The bad news? Vanderbilt has not. It is shooting 77.8% (14 of 18) in the second half. Between the 17:37 mark and 8:34 mark, the Commodores turned a 10-point deficit into a 10-point lead.

FINAL – Vanderbilt 97, Arkansas 84

Vanderbilt cooled off slightly, shooting XXX percent in the second half, but mostly controlled the game down the stretch. The closest Arkansas got was 7 points a few times in the final four minutes.

FINAL STATS – Arkansas vs Vanderbilt

Starting Lineups

#0 – G Tyrin Lawrence#0 – G Anthony Black
#12 – G Trey Thomas#4 – G Davonte Davis
#1 – F Colin Smith#1 – G Ricky Council IV
#10 – F Myles Stute#15 – F/C Makhi Mitchell
#42 – F Quentin Millora-Brown#22 – F/C Makhel Mitchell

Arkansas vs Vanderbilt Preview

Down two of its focal points because of injuries and off to a slow start to SEC play, Arkansas basketball finds itself in need of yet another turnaround.

Head coach Eric Musselman has made it clear that this year is different than the last two, so a return to the Elite Eight certainly isn’t guaranteed, but the good news is that things are about to get a little easier for the No. 15 Razorbacks.

After opening the conference slate in two tough road environments and hosting a pair of ranked teams, including No. 4 Alabama, Arkansas (12-4, 1-3 SEC) is favored in six of its next seven games, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index.

That stretch begins on the road Saturday against Vanderbilt (8-8, 1-2). Tipoff at Memorial Gymnasium is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT and the game will be televised on ESPNU.

The Commodores are no push over, especially on their unique home court where they’re 6-3 (1-0), but they do provide the Hogs a prime opportunity to right the ship and get back in the win column.

What to Expect from Vanderbilt

Arkansas has had its fair share of offensive struggles since entering SEC play, dropping from 79.4 points per game on 50% shooting from the field, 32% from 3-point range and 72% at the free throw line against non-conference opponents to 64.8 points per game on 40%, 19% and 63% shooting splits against SEC teams.

Vanderbilt, on the other hand, has seen its offensive output improve after starting conference play. In non-conference play, the Commodores averaged 69.8 points on 43%, 33% and 68% shooting splits. Against SEC teams, those numbers have adjusted to 78.0 points per game on 44%, 29% and 73% shooting splits.

Getting to the charity stripe seven more times per game during conference play has certainly helped the Commodores, but they’ve also done a better job in general of taking care of the ball and getting good looks inside the 3-point arc. Their turnovers have dropped from 11.9 to 10.3 per game, and they make 54% of their 37.7 2-point attempts per game against SEC opponents compared to 51% of their 33.5 2-point attempts against non-conference opponents.

The Commodores’ offense is unique in that their two leading scorers have come off the bench in their last five games. Liam Robbins – a 7-foot senior – is averaging 13.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks on the season, including 15.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks since being removed from the starting lineup.

Jordan Wright – a fourth-year Vanderbilt guard – has improved his averages from 10.3 points and 4.5 rebounds to 11.8 points and 5.2 rebounds since being moved to the bench five games ago. Senior guard Ezra Manjon also comes off the bench after starting 10 games for the Commodores earlier in the season and leads the team in assists at 3.2 per game to go along with 8.8 points and 3.3 rebounds.

Vanderbilt’s starting five in each of the last five games consists of these players:

  • G Trey Thomas | 5-11 | Jr. | 6.5 PPG, 33% 3P
  • G Tyrin Lawrence | 6-4 | Jr. | 9.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 48% FG
  • F Myles Stute | 6-7 | Jr. | 10.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 43% 3P
  • F Colin Smith | 6-8 | Fr. | 4.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG
  • F Quentin Millora-Brown | 6-10 | Sr. | 3.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG

With an unusual mixture of production from their starting five and bench unit, the matchups in this game could become interesting. The Hogs found some success in a two-bigs look for the first time against Alabama, though it was used out of necessity against the Tide’s massive frontcourt.

Don’t be surprised if Musselman again deploys a combination of the Mitchell twins and Jalen Graham despite the Vanderbilt frontcourt not being as physically imposing as Alabama’s.

What to Expect from Arkansas

The shooting woes continued for the Razorbacks in their loss against Alabama, but the team as a whole showed significant fight and improvement for a majority of the game. Foul trouble forced Anthony Black to take a seat less than five minutes into the second half when the Hogs trailed by only two points. By the time he re-entered the contest with 9:14 to play, the Hogs were down 12.

With Black back in the fold, Arkansas pulled to within two points of No. 4 Alabama with under five minutes to play. Then Noah Gurley and Brandon Miller hit back-to-back-to-back 3s in just 49 seconds to extend the lead to 11 and the Tide never looked back.

Moral victories don’t go in the record books, but Arkansas stayed in the game and held multiple leads in the first 35 minutes of the contest before giving up a big run with not enough time to retaliate. Perhaps Musselman and his team will be able to salvage some momentum from this hard-fought game as they move into a relatively lighter portion of their schedule.

For the first time all season, both Mitchell twins started side by side to combat Alabama’s massive frontcourt. Makhel played a season-high 22 minutes and recorded 5 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal while his brother, Makhi, snapped a nine-game streak of recording at least one blocked shot. He still tallied 10 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in his 27 minutes.

Jalen Graham made a splash soon after entering the game in both halves. He scored 16 points in a season-high 19 minutes of action to go along with 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block.

The Hogs have been struggling offensively since starting SEC play – including 63.3 PPG prior to the Alabama game. Graham’s skillset doesn’t always extend to the defensive side of the ball, but there’s no doubting his elite footwork offensively. His ability to attack the paint and create scoring opportunities for himself and others was a welcome change from the stagnant offense the Hogs have often settled into during conference play.

Graham’s lack of interior defense makes it hard for him to guard opposing centers, especially against big centers like the ones for Alabama and even those on Vanderbilt’s roster. His lack of perimeter shooting, though, has been another big reason for him not seeing minutes at the power forward spot, as floor spacing is more important than ever in college basketball.

However, Arkansas has had no floor spacing regardless of who’s played at the 4 since Brazile’s injury. Walsh has provided vital defense and hustle plays for the Hogs, but he’s 4 of 24 (16.7%) from long range in his last 11 games. The alternative has been playing Kamani Johnson alongside Makhi Mitchell, both of whom have combined for zero 3-point attempts all season.

Graham hasn’t been much better, missing both of the 3s he’s taken this season, but he at least provides a true scoring threat that none of the other (healthy) Razorback big men provide. Watch for the 6-foot-9 transfer to potentially get a bigger opportunity in the coming games – likely playing alongside one of the Mitchell twins at the power forward position to inject some much-needed offense into the struggling Razorbacks.

What to Watch in Arkansas vs Vanderbilt

Despite giving up the second-most points it has all season to Alabama, the Razorbacks are still allowing opponents to score only 64.2 points per game, ranking them 55th nationally in scoring defense. During SEC play, that number has jumped to 71.0 PPG (66.7 PPG prior to Alabama).

The Hogs are still No. 11 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating, which is fourth in the SEC behind Tennessee, Mississippi State and Alabama. They force 16.6 turnovers per game, including 13 against Alabama. Only one of Arkansas’ last six opponents has shot better than 45% from the field, and that was Alabama at 46% on Wednesday. Arkansas is still an elite defensive team.

Vanderbilt has faced five teams with a KenPom top-50 defense and is 0-5 in those games, averaging just 66 points on 41% shooting while turning the ball over about 12 times.

The best defensive team they’ve faced this season came in their last game against Tennessee (No. 1 per KenPom). The Commodores managed 68 points on 38% from the field and 22% from long range. The bulk of their points came thanks to their impressive 18-of-20 free throw shooting against the Volunteers.

It’s well documented that offense doesn’t travel as well as defense, especially for this Arkansas basketball team that’s averaging only 58.0 points on the road. However, the Hogs’ elite defensive size and versatility should give them an upper hand in this road contest against the Commodores – that is, if they can defend without fouling (20.7 fouls per game in SEC play).

Game Prediction

Arkansas will bring their stellar defense with them, and – perhaps more importantly – they’ll continue to find rhythm on the offensive side of the ball. Jalen Graham will see another opportunity to show off his offensive skill set, giving the Hogs just enough of a scoring boost as their defense does most of the work.

Ricky Council IV will break his bad scoring streak on the road (13.5 PPG) as he leads the Hogs in scoring. The Razorbacks will make a concerted effort to stay out of foul trouble, especially for guard Anthony Black who has picked up nine fouls in his last two games. Arkansas does just enough offensively to outlast the Commodores on their home court.

Arkansas, 70-63

How to Watch Arkansas vs Vanderbilt

Date: Saturday, Jan. 14

Location: Memorial Gymnasium (Nashville, Tenn.)

Tipoff Time/TV Schedule: 1 p.m. CT (ESPNU)

ESPN BPI: Arkansas has a 69.3% chance to win, favored by 5.3 points.

Arkansas’ BPI Win Probability – Next 7 Games

DateGameBPI Win Probability
Jan. 14at Vanderbilt69.3%
Jan. 18at Missouri60.6%
Jan. 21vs. Ole Miss88.2%
Jan. 24vs. LSU87.2%
Jan. 28at Baylor32.1%
Jan. 31vs. Texas A&M76.4%
Feb. 4vs. South Carolina89.5%

Not including the Baylor game, which is part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, Arkansas has a 61.8% chance of going 6-0 or 5-1 over its next five games, using the projections listed above.


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