It seems like entire nation has been shut in a deep freezer as a massive winter storm rolls over the majority of the United States. If you want a break from the cold, though, watch the red-hot Razorbacks take on the Florida Gators Tuesday night as they ride a six-game winning streak in the SEC.
The Hogs will return home to Fayetteville for the first time in two weeks to face a Florida Gators team that has beaten Arkansas eight of the last nine times under Gators head coach Mike White. With NET rankings in the Top 30, both teams are looking poised to play in March Madness this season. But they need a few more wins to round out their tournament resumes.
What do the metrics say?
|Offensive Efficiency Rank||19||52|
|Defensive Efficiency Rank||48||26|
|Adjusted Tempo Rank||121||26|
Arkansas basketball players to watch
Moses Moody: The freshman phenom is averaging over 16 points per game to lead the Razorbacks in scoring. He attacks teams with a smooth mid-range jumper that can also extend beyond the arc. Moody has received praise for his shot selection and maturity. Do not be surprised if the young star breaks 20 points on Tuesday night.
Justin Smith: The Indiana transfer put up a season-high 19 points this past weekend on the road against Missouri. Coming off an ankle surgery that sidelined him at the start of conference play, Smith is looking like he’s back to his explosive self. With a pair of impressive alley-oop dunks, the senior reminded scouts of his 48-inch vertical. He will have his hands full with Florida’s 6’10” Colin Castleton down low, however.
Devo Davis: Another impressive freshman for the Hogs who has been finding his stride as of late. The true freshman from Jacksonville, Arkansas will match up against a player he grew up with in Tyree Appleby.
Both young men, three years apart, played for Jacksonville High head coach Victor Joyner.
I’m looking forward to seeing Coach Joyner’s boys go at it on Tuesday. Tyree Appleby may be the best playmaker in the SEC, and Devo Davis defends the ball with the best. Both great kids who got to play for a legend in high school.
— Steve Sullivan (@sully7777) February 15, 2021
The Arkansas natives are both offensive threats and can hound the opposition on defense. It will be fun to see these guards share a court on Tuesday night in Fayetteville.
Florida basketball players to watch
Tre Mann: Leading the Gators in scoring and assists is sophomore guard Tre Mann. The Gainesville native can score the ball with ease and is a well rounded. At 6’5″, he will mirror Moses Moody as the young stars face off in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks have struggled against talented guards and will need to keep a close eye on Tre Mann if they want to defend their home court.
Colin Castleton: The Gators have a formidable big man in Colin Castleton. The junior center is averaging 13 points per game on 60.8% shooting, tops in the SEC. Castleton also blocks 2.6 shots a game, which is second behind Kentucky’s Isaiah Jackson (Arkansas’ Connor Vanover is third at 2.0 bpg). The Gators lead the nation in blocked shots with 6.3 per game.
Despite his size, Castleton is only an average rebounder. Still, the Razorbacks will need to contain him when he is looking to score. Castleton uses his size and strength to get to the rim and is liable to drop 20 points if he gets in a groove.
Tyree Appleby: The Arkansas native chose Florida after transferring from Cleveland State. The junior averages 1.8 steals per game (No. 2 in the SEC) and causes havoc with his quick hands on defense. He is also a threat on offense averaging 10 points per game. It will be fun to see him work against a player from his hometown in Devo Davis. It is very possible these guards from Jacksonville, Arkansas will go head-to-head on multiple occasions on Tuesday night.
When Florida Has the Ball
The Gators are a serious threat on offense and can score with multiple weapons. They don’t lead the SEC in field goal percentage (47.4%) and 3-point field goal percentage (37.5%) for nothing.
The Florida basketball team will likely rely heavily on the play of its star guard Tre Mann. While they do not shoot many three-point shots they make a high percentage of those that they do. This could bode well for Mike White’s squad as Arkansas has struggled to defend the perimeter as recent games against Kentucky and Missouri have shown.
If the Hogs continue to pressure with half-court traps, you can expect Florida to knock down quite a few shots from beyond the arc. Eric Musselman is sure to have a plan to slow down this high-powered offense, but they will still likely put up some points with all their different options.
An X factor here is how rusty the Gators will be after a 13-day gap between games. The Florida basketball team hasn’t played since February 3, a 66-72 loss to South Carolina, because of COVID-19 related postponements.
No doubt, Mike White will have his team more than confident and ready to win at Bud Walton Arena. Now that the Hogs have beaten Kentucky (for the first time since 2014), Florida becomes the SEC team that Arkansas has the most trouble knocking off.
The below shows Florida’s eight wins in the last nine Arkansas-Florida matchups. Since this from the Florida perspective, the “A” games were at Bud Walton Arena.
When Arkansas Has the Ball
The Razorbacks are streaky on the offensive end and are prone to long droughts. This has particularly been true at the start of games. Eric Musselman will do everything in his power to get the Hogs started early on. That spark could come from a variety of places but Arkansas has often relied on the play of their freshman, Moses Moody and Devo Davis, to change the momentum of the game.
As the game progresses, expect the Hogs to utilize a balanced attack to wear down the Gators. Don’t be surprised if the Razorbacks lean more on the three-ball against a Florida defense that struggles to protect the perimeter.
Arkansas vs Florida Game Prediction
These Hogs are hot and the Gators are not as they come off a home loss to South Carolina and a long break. Florida hasn’t hit the court in two weeks and will face an Arkansas team that is on a six-game conference winning streak.
The Razorbacks are opening as favorites by three points, but perhaps it should be more.
Basketball statistician Evan Miyakawa has researched on how COVID-19 pauses have affected college basketball teams. His late January assessment concluded that a 14-day pause is worth at least a half point decrease in a team’s expected outcome, which indicates that the Gators may lose by even more.
Regardless, this should still be a very competitive matchup that either team could win. Expect a high scoring shootout as the Hogs try and push the pace. It may very well come down to who can come up with a series of stops late. The Razorbacks are no stranger to close games coming off two close road victories this past week. These teams line up as very even competitors, but I am giving the nod to a hot home team riding a wave of confidence in this one.
Arkansas 77, Florida 74
When: Tuesday – Feb. 16 – 6:00 pm (CT)
Where: Fayetteville, Ark. – Bud Walton Arena / Nolan Ricardson Court
Arkansas vs Florida on TV: ESPN2 (Karl Ravech and Jimmy Dykes)
Watch ESPN Online: CLICK HERE
Radio: Learfield IMG College Razorback Sports Network (Chuck Barrett and Matt Zimmerman)
Listen to Razorback Sports Network Online: CLICK HERE
Sirius/XM: XM Channel 192 – Streaming Online on Channel 963
See Eric Musselman recap the Hogs’ two huge road wins in this new 27-minute long episode:
Jonah Rapert is an avid college basketball watcher with a strong interest in advanced metrics. He writes more about Hogs and college basketball on his blog here.