Opponent Preview: Arkansas Razorbacks

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Since Bud Walton Arena opened in 1993, the Vanderbilt Commodores have gone 3-13 there. Throw in two losses at the old Barnhill Arena, and Vanderbilt is 3-15 all-time in Fayetteville.

That’s probably not the worst record at any SEC venue, but at least Vanderbilt’s record at Rupp Arena is easily explained by the fact that opposing teams in general don’t win much there. Bud Walton Arena, on the other hand, is just a haunted place. Last year, Vanderbilt lost on a last-minute three-pointer by Keyshawn Embery-Simpson, a 28 percent three-point shooter who only got the ball because Vanderbilt successfully prevented Arkansas’s first two options from getting a shot off. (Vanderbilt then lost 84-48 to Arkansas at Memorial Gym on Senior Night, also known as the game that got Bryce Drew fired, for all intents and purposes.)

So what does tonight bring? Well, chances aren’t good.

Arkansas has six players averaging over 22 minutes per game and none of them are taller than 6’6”. In spite of that, they’re 13-2 and rank 15th nationally in defensive efficiency. They rank 1st in opponents’ three-point percentage and 16th in turnover percentage. Their two losses — in overtime at Western Kentucky and by two points at LSU — were both on the road and to teams considerably better than Vanderbilt, and they can also claim road wins over Georgia Tech and Indiana.

On the offensive end, Arkansas runs most of its offense through 6’5” junior Mason Jones (19.2 ppg) and 6’5” sophomore Isaiah Joe (18.4 ppg), the latter being one of the SEC’s best shooters. 6’3” junior Jimmy Whitt literally has zero three-point attempts this season and is averaging 13.8 ppg.

The point is, aside from whatever weird voodoo Arkansas has in its home gym, they’re simply a better team than the Aaron Nesmith-less version of Vanderbilt.

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Tom Stephenson


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