The NCAA Tournament Elite 8 matchup between Arkansas and Baylor presented great value on the Bears. The Razorbacks had once again skirted danger for the third straight game in the 2021 Big Dance by falling behind by double-digits against Oral Roberts before rallying for the win. I argued at the time that the Razorbacks cannot afford to do that for the fourth straight time against this Baylor team — the Bears will start hitting more 3s and the lead will be 20. Baylor did not win by 20 points — but they built a 29-11 cushion in the first half which helped them cover the 7.5-point spread with their 81-72 victory. It was not just the inconsistent play that worried me about Arkansas — it was their particular vulnerabilities they demonstrated that generated their lapses in play.
The Razorbacks entered that game ranked 18th in the nation in Adjusted Net Efficiency when playing at home. However, they fell to 39th nationally in Adjusted Net Efficiency when on the road. Handicappers that only looked at overall Net Efficiency may have overlooked this discrepancy. Let’s put a microscope on this. Arkansas had the eighth-best Adjusted Defensive Efficiency at home, but they fell to 43rd in that metric on the road. Looking even closer, while the Razorbacks held their opponents to just 27.9% shooting from behind the arc at home, ranking 31st in the nation, their opponents make 39.1% of their 3-pointers on the road, ranking 317th nationally. I argued that Baylor was the wrong opponent for them playing outside Fayetteville. And while Arkansas wanted to force turnovers with their full-court press, the Bears’ four-guard lineup only turns the ball over in 16.2% of their possessions away from Waco, ranking 42nd nationally. The Razorbacks only made 32.6% of their 3-pointers away from home at the time, ranking 187th in the nation.
Baylor made only 3 of 19 (15.8%) of their shots from behind the arc in their Sweet 16 game against Villanova despite leading the nation with a 41.5% clip from 3-point land at the time. Against this Arkansas team that had such disparate home/road splits regarding opponent 3-point shooting, the Bears converted 8 of their 15 (53.2%) of their 3-pointers to make the difference in their win and point spread cover. And we won our 25* CBB Elite 8 Game of the Year on Baylor! Finding the hidden value in Arkansas’ home/road defensive splits made the winning difference.
Best of luck for us — Frank.