The SEC tips off conference play this weekend,and the marquee matchup will take place in Fayetteville, Ark., with No. 20Tennessee visiting the unranked but on-a-roll Razorbacks. The teams are acombined 19-4 so far and both are ranked among the nation’s elite in thecurrent NCAA RPI with the Volunteers sitting eighth and Arkansas holding downthe 13th spot.
The Razorbacks are averaging an SEC-best 90.0points per game, which ranks eighth nationally, while the Volunteers areaveraging 77.5 and allowing only 65.3, third in the conference. Both teams willapply full-court pressure at times and rank first (Arkansas, plus-5.8) andthird (Tennessee, plus-3.5) in SEC turnover margin. The Razorbacks are 19thnationally in analyst Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive-efficiency ratings andplay at the nation’s 29th fastest tempo while the Volunteers areninth in adjusted defensive efficiency. “Arkansas is a great transition team whichcan really explode on you,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said in a post-practicenews conference Thursday. “They can score in bunches and are a multipledefensive team with a lot of depth. It should be a game that’s really anup-and-down game.”
TV: 1 p.m. ET, SEC Network
ABOUT TENNESSEE (9-2, 0-0 SEC): The Vols’ onlylosses have come against top-10 teams Villanova (85-76) and North Carolina(78-73), but they also have beaten nationally-ranked Purdue (78-75 in OT) and theACC’s N.C. State (67-58), Georgia Tech (77-70) and Wake Forest (79-60). ForwardGrant Williams is pacing the squad in scoring (15.4 points) and rebounding(6.6) while guard Jordan Bowden (12.0 points) and forward Admiral Schofield(11.9) also are averaging double figures. Guards James Daniel (3.6 assists) andJordan Bone (3.5) are setting the table for the offense, which has recordedassists on 66.9 percent of its made field goals, a rate which ranks only behindSMU (67.8) and Michigan State (67.3) nationally.
ABOUT ARKANSAS (10-2, 0-0): Coach Mike Anderson’sRazorbacks have reeled off five straight wins and are 7-0 at home this season,winning by an average margin of 27 points. Guard Jaylen Barford leads fivedouble-figure scorers with 18.6 points and is shooting a team-best 46.4 percentfrom 3-point range. Guards Daryl Macon (15.3 points), Anton Beard (12.1) and C.J.Jones (10.5) and forward Daniel Gafford (11.7) also average double digits forthe Razorbacks who rank 21st nationally in field-goal percentage(50.3).
1. The series is knotted at 19 wins apiece, butArkansas has won five straight and six of the last eight, including fourstraight in Fayetteville.
2. Bowden is shooting 53.2 percent from the floorand even better from 3-point range at a sizzling 61.9 percent (26-of-42).
3. Neither team has been particularly dominant onthe glass with Tennessee entering the contest with a plus-2 average reboundmargin and Arkansas sitting at plus-0.4.
PREDICTION: Arkansas 79, Tennessee 75