On Saturday, the Vols fell to the Auburn Tigers in an away match-up that easily knocked 3-6 years off of every invested Volunteers fan that had the displeasure of watching. With the surrendering of an 18 point lead, 24 BAD turnovers, and no offensive flow following Santiago Vescovi’s accrual of his 4th foul early in the 2nd Half, we all should AT LEAST draft a copy of our wills.
Up next is a familiar foe, one we SOUNDLY defeated earlier in the season. This game and our opponent will have much different looks compared to the last time we met though. For starters, we are playing in Fayette-nam, not only one of the worst towns in the SEC, but also home to one of the historically difficult places to play a basketball game. Secondly, the Razorbacks will have one of their best offensive threats back. Let’s take a look at the Razorbacks’ season up until now.
Arkansas 2019-2020 Recap
- Record: 17-10 (5-9 SEC)
- SEC Standing: T-10th (w/ Missouri)
- Categorical Leaders:
- Points: Mason Jones (20.5 ppg)
- Assists: Mason Jones (3.4 apg)
- Rebounds: Mason Jones (5.9 rpg)
- Steals: Mason Jones (1.6 spg)
- Blocks: Adrio Bailey (1.4 bpg)
- Current NCAA Tournament Projection (Lunardi): Out
Quick Commentary: This past weekend, Arkansas put the skids on a 5 game losing streak. While their full complement of guards will be in action against the Vols on Wednesday (Mason Jones, Isaiah Joe, and Jimmy Whitt, Jr.), the fact remains that Arkansas’ average player is 6’4” tall and that leaves them VASTLY undersized compared to the rest of the SEC. The Hogs are (kinda) still on the bubble as far as the NCAA tournament is concerned, but that bubble could burst with a couple more losses in any of their four remaining regular season games. Bud Walton Arena is historically a tough place to play (a la “40 Minutes of Hell”). Since it opened in 1993-1994, the same year Arkansas won its only NCAA Championship, Bud Walton Arena has seen the Razorbacks win 370 games compared to just 88 losses (that is an 81% home winning percentage).
- Getting to the Foul Line– (615 FTA- 31st in NCAA and 3rd in SEC)
- Forcing Turnovers – (226 steals- 35th in NCAA and 2nd in SEC)
- Size– (6’4″ average player height- Smallest in SEC; Tennessee’s average height is 6’6″)
- Rebounds– (859 Total Rebounds- 335th NCAA and 14th in SEC)
Game 1 vs. Vols
In what was likely the best performance for the Vols all season, Tennessee really put their foot down on Arkansas in their first match up. The Vols won 82-61 at TBA with 5 players (Bowden, Fulkerson, Nkamhoua, Pons and Vescovi) scoring in double figures for the Big Orange. Granted, the Razorbacks were without Isaiah Joe, but it was clear that U.T. put the better team on the court that night. It still remains the largest margin of defeat for the Razorbacks this season.
Vols-Razorbacks pt. II
Two are going to change this game from the first match-up. Number one is that the Razorbacks will be at home, which as I mentioned earlier, is pretty hostile territory (there is a reason it is nicknamed Fayette-nam). Second, the Razorbacks will have Isaiah Joe (16.2 pts, 4.7 reb, 2.0 ast) back, and likely will have a more focused Mason Jones than we went against in round 1. Remember, Mason Jones was benched to start the game by HC Eric Musselman for a violation of team rules, and went on to have a very sub-par performance.
I still believe the Vols will put the defensive clamps down (we are the SEC’s leading scoring defense) and hold the dangerous Razorbacks backcourt in check. Also, the size advantage the Vols possess will definitely come into play again. In the first match-up, the Vols out-rebounded the Hogs 38-27. For a Tennessee team that has proven to have difficulties on the glass multiple times this season, that was just another measure of how superior the Vols were on February 11th.
This is a tough one to call. I think Isaiah Joe will definitely help the Razorbacks, but I am not sold on Musselman as a head coach or that the Bud Walton Magic is as strong this season as years past. I think Vescovi comes out for the Big Orange with a little extra “mmph” after it was painfully obvious that his foul trouble was the negative catalyst in the Vols meltdown against Auburn.
If Tennessee again wins the down-low battle, and holds Mason Jones in check on the offensive end, I see the Vols winning this one. They also have to take better care of the ball. 24 turnovers against Auburn was one of the main reasons we lost to the Tigers. The Vols need to keep it at 15 (which is still too many) or under to win this one. BUT... my pick is Vols 68 Arkansas 59.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Tennessee is in a tough spot- there may not be much more to play for but pride at this point. But that is enough. Arkansas has some holes in their game, just like the Vols do, but I foresee a good bounce-back on the road. That hole down in Arkansas sure does get loud though.
For minute to minute news concerning all aspects of all Volunteer sports, be sure to check out MoreImportantIssues on Twitter (@More_Issues), as well as listening to the podcast on any of the various podcast platforms! Trust me, Landon and Caleb won’t let you down If you’re looking for quality Big Orange talk with a laid-back attitude. Baseball has opened with Vitello’s team ON FIRE and it looks like it is going to be an exciting season on Rocky Top! Until we meet again, this is Dakota Robertson saying see ya later and Go Vols!
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