NCAA Basketball: Baylor/Arkansas Preview, Odds and Prediction - 03/29/2021

by Big Al Staff

NCAAB Monday CBS Preview: Arkansas versus Baylor.

Arkansas plays Baylor in an Elite 8 matchup in the East region on CBS at 9:57 PM ET.

The Razorbacks advanced to the opportunity to win the East region with a 72-70 victory against Oral Roberts as an 11.5-point favorite on Saturday. Davonte Davis hit the game-winner with 2.9 seconds left in the game. He finished with 16 points. Jalen Tate led the way with 22 points. Arkansas’ top-two scorers against the Golden Eagles are the fourth and fifth-highest scoring players on the team, averaging 10.9 points-per-game and Davis adding 8.3 points-per-game.

Offensive rebounding was critical for the Razorbacks against the Golden Eagles. Arkansas pulled down 18 offensive rebounds, representing 38.3% of their missed shots, which resulted in 18 second-half points. The Razorbacks held a +11 rebounding edge against Oral Roberts for the game. For the third straight game in this tournament, Arkansas rallied from a double-digit deficit to pull out the win. The Razorbacks defeated Texas Tech, 68-66, and Colgate, 68-55, after falling behind by 10 points and 14 points in those contests.

Eric Musselman has seven players who are scoring at least 6.3 points-per-game. Moses Moody leads the way with a 17.0 points-per-game scoring average, with the freshman making 36.7% of his 3-pointers. Justin Smith is second on the team with a 13.8 points-per-game scoring average while leading the team with a 7.3 rebounds-per-game mark. The 6’7 senior is one of the best defensive players in the nation. Connor Vanover is an intriguing contributor. The 7’3 250-lb redshirt sophomore transfer from California is scoring 6.3 points-per-game with 4.5 rebounds-per-game and 1.8 blocks-per-game. He only played four minutes against Oral Roberts, with Musselman concluding he needed to match the Golden Eagles small-ball by going small himself with Smith playing the “five” position.

Arkansas ranks 18th in the kenpom ratings with a 25-6 record. They earned a three-seed in the South region after a 9-8 record in the regular season of the SEC. Their highest-profile victories are against Alabama, LSU, Florida, and twice against Missouri. They beat Colgate and Texas Tech to reach the Sweet 16. Their six losses are against Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, and twice to LSU.

Arkansas is 15th in the nation with an 81.7 points-per-game scoring average. They play at a fast pace on both ends of the court. The Razorbacks are 16th nationally in pace on offense, and they force their opponents to play at the third quickest pace in the country. They rank 47th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They are 10th in adjusted defensive efficiency using the kenpom metrics. Their full-court pressure, which Musselman dubs his “55” defense, forces turnovers in 20.3% of their opponent’s possessions, ranking 83rd nationally. They rank 23rd nationally with a block rate of 13.0%.

Baylor won their seventh game in their last eight with their 62-51 victory against Villanova as a 7.5-point favorite on Saturday. The Bears only made three of 19 shots from 3-point range but adjusted in the second half by going inside. Baylor shot 53% from the field in the final 20 minutes, despite making only one 3-pointer. Adam Flagler led the team with 16 points, with the sophomore averaging 9.0 points-per-game. Davion Mitchell added 14 points. The junior is scoring 14.1 points-per-game, and he leads the team with a 5.3 assists-per-game average.

The Baylor defense has been an area of concern since a three-week pause from COVID in February. The Bears had not allowed more than 69 points in their eight conference games before their shutdown after February 2nd. When they returned on February 23rd, they allowed at least 70 points in five Big 12 games and six of seven overall going into the NCAA Tournament. In their three tournament games against Hartford, Wisconsin, and the Razorbacks, Baylor has allowed 56.3 points-per-game with a 41.3% opponent’s field goal percentage.

Junior Jared Butler leads the team with a 16.6 points-per-game average. Senior Macio Teague adds 15.7 points-per-game. Scott Drew has a deep rotation with nine players averaging at least 10.9 minutes per game. Drew had six players return from the Baylor rotation that finished 26-4 last year.

The Bears rank third in the kenpom ratings with a 25-2 record. They finished 13-1 in the Big 12 regular season before getting upset in the conference tournament semifinals to Oklahoma State, 83-74. Baylor has wins against Illinois, Texas Tech (twice), Wisconsin, and now Villanova, who all rank in kenpom’s top-twenty. The Bears’ two losses are against Kansas and the Cowboys. They are the top seed in the South region.

Baylor is third-best nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to kenpom. They are second in the nation with a 40.8% shooting percentage from 3-point land. They rank sixth in offensive rebounding by grabbing 36.8% of their missed shots. Drew’s team is the 27th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They force turnovers in 24.3% of their opponent’s possessions, ranking third nationally. If there is a weakness to this team, it is with their defensive rebounding. Baylor allows their opponents to rebound 30.3% of their missed shots, 265th in the nation. The Bears do not get many freebies on the charity stripe, given a free throw rate that ranks 295th nationally.

BetAnySports lists Baylor as a 7.5-point favorite with the total set at 148.5 at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The victor plays the winner of the Oregon State/Houston contest in the Final Four next Saturday. 

Computer prediction:  Baylor 79 Arkansas 72

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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