NCAA Tuesday Night Basketball: Florida/Arkansas Preview

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday night basketball on ESPN2 features a battle of SEC foes with NCAA Tournament aspirations.

Florida last played on February 3rd when they were upset at home to South Carolina, 72-66, as an 8.5-point favorite. The Gators have had three games postponed this month because of COVID complications.

Head coach Mike White’s team is 10-5 this season with high-profile wins against West Virginia, Tennessee, and LSU. Florida is in fourth place in the SEC with a 6-4 record. Their four conference losses are against Mississippi State, Kentucky, Alabama, and the Gamecocks in their most recent game. They also lost to Florida State in non-conference play.

The Gators are 7-4 since losing the SEC Preseason Player of the Year, Keyontae Johnson, for the season in mid-December with his heart issue. Tre Mann leads the team with a 14.5 points-per-game scoring average, and the sophomore adds 3.8 assists-per-game and 5.3 rebounds-per-game. Colin Castleton contributes 13.2 points-per-game and 5.6 rebounds-per-game. The junior transfer from Michigan is second in the nation with 2.6 blocks-per-game, and he leads the SEC with a 60.8% shooting percentage. Six players average at least 9.6 points-per-game.

Florida is 19th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. The Gators' field goal percentage of 47.4% and 37.5% clip from 3-point land season marks are tops in the SEC. Florida makes 52.4% of their shots inside the arc in conference action, second-best in the SEC. The Gators are 48th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. Led by Castleton, they are number one in the nation by blocking 16.2% of their opponent’s field goal attempts. White has his team sacrifice defensive rebounding for potential fast-break opportunities. Florida is 12th in the SEC by allowing their conference opponents to rebound 34.0% of their missed shots.

Arkansas has won three straight games and six of their last seven with their 86-81 upset win in overtime at Missouri as a 2-point underdog on Saturday. The Tigers were ranked 10th in the Associated Press poll at the time. The Razorbacks’ triumph was their first victory against a top-ten team since 2016.

Justin Smith led the way with 19 points against Mizzou. The senior forward is third on the team with an 11.6 points-per-game scoring average, and he rebounds 6.5 rebounds-per-game. Moses Moody added 16 points, and the freshman is sixth in the SEC with a 16.3 points-per-game scoring average. Jalen Tate contributed another 14 points. The senior is one of five Arkansas players to average double-digits in scoring, with his 11.0 points-per-game clip. Then there is the 7’-3 250-lb Connor Vanover. The redshirt sophomore transfer from California is scoring 7.9 points-per-game with 5.5 rebounds-per-game and 2.0 blocks-per-game.

Head coach Eric Musselman’s team ranks 24th in the latest AP poll with a 16-5 record. However, their highest-profile win this season was likely against Missouri over the weekend, 42nd in the kenpom ratings. The Razorbacks tie for second place in the SEC with an 8-4 record with losses against Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, and Missouri earlier in the season. They also lost to Oklahoma State last month.

Arkansas is 32nd nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. The Razorbacks are also 26th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. They rank ninth nationally with a block rate of 13.5%. They are also second in the SEC with a defensive rebounding rate of 72.8%.

Arkansas is 12-1 on their home court with an average winning margin of 21.3 points-per-game. Florida is on a two-game winning streak on the road. BookMaker lists the Razorbacks as a 4.5-point favorite with the total set at 152.

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

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