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Arkansas Razorbacks March Madness Outlook

Arkansas Razorbacks March Madness Outlook

The Arkansas Razorbacks are in the midst of an impressive winning streak. Winning eight straight, the Razorbacks have defeated four tournament teams, including Alabama, Florida, LSU and Missouri, during their win streak. Steadily, Arkansas’ seeding and rankings have rose, they are in the AP top ten for the first time in over 25 years.

Up-Tempo Play

Arkansas under Eric Musselman, the Razorbacks’ head coach, is truly one of the more entertaining offenses you will see in college basketball. Musselman’s squad has a high-scoring offense that is known for playing at a fast-pace. Ranked 12th, the Razorbacks get plenty of field goal attempts per game by averaging 77.1 possessions.

Plenty of offensive possessions fuels the Razorbacks to 83.3 points per game, ranking fifth in the nation. In addition, Arkansas is 11th with an average scoring margin of +12.7 points per contest. Their lead scorer is the freshman guard Moses Moody averaging 17.5 points. Arkansas scores in bunches and has a go-to scorer.

The Razorbacks only shoot 45.6% as a team, which is interesting considering their average point total. Their up-tempo offense truly is the reason they average so many points a game. Furthermore, they can consistently play at this pace due to their deep team. They have nine players averaging 11.9+ minutes per game, and four players average ten or more points per contest. Also, only two players average thirty or more minutes. This keeps Arkansas fresh and allows them to play at their speed.

Deserving of the Hype?

Arkansas Razorbacks March Madness Outlook
Image Courtesy of ArkansasRazorbacks.com

Due to Arkansas’ elevated play, they have become a trendy pick in the NCAA Tournament. Some even have placed the Razorbacks as far as the Final 4. Arkansas is well-deserving of the high praise, but do they deserve as much hype as they are receiving?

One confusing Arkansas statistic is the Razorback defense. Kenpom ranks them as the 22nd defense in the country. Yet, Arkansas gives up 70.7 points per game and allows opponents to shoot 32.1% from three. In addition, Razorback opponents average 25.5 made field goals per contest, which is 186th in the country. However, Arkansas does post impressive block and steal stats every game by averaging 5.2 blocks and 8.2 steals. The Razorbacks allow a lot of points and field goals per game due to their fast-paced play. Their defense is a solid defense and should not be too worrisome.

Another interesting Arkansas characteristic is where they rank in varying polls. Of course the Razorbacks are 8th in the AP Poll, but they are lower in nearly every other national ranking. Arkansas ranks 18th in Kenpom, 15th in ESPN Power Rankings and 16th in NCAA’s NET Rankings. The Razorbacks are still a really talented team, but some of the hype is a bit too much. In his previous job, Musselman took the Nevada Wolfpack deep in the tournament and he could replicate it with Arkansas.

Razorbacks’ Outlook

Coming off back-to-back 28 point games, Moody is an outstanding freshman guard that can take over games for Arkansas. The Razorbacks’ up-tempo play complements their star player’s game. Also, they have a sneaky good defense. With continued high-level play, Arkansas should be an easy Sweet 16 pick. The question is in regards to the Razorbacks’ chances for an Elite 8 or Final 4.

Arkansas has seen their seeding go up to the three line. If they stay hot and win the SEC Tournament, they should surely be a two seed. Teams that play a slow-paced game with great defense could prevent Arkansas from getting past the Sweet 16. When a Razorback opponent controls the game’s tempo, will Arkansas still put up big offensive numbers and win? Arkansas needs to pull the right matchups to safely make an Elite 8 or further. For the Razorbacks, a Final 4 birth might be out of reach, but who knows it is called March Madness for a reason.

 

All stats courtesy of ESPN, Kenpom, NCAA and Team Rankings.

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