Preview: Arkansas vs. Auburn
The Hogs are coming off a down-to-the-wire upset over Michigan at Bud Walton, and that's where they'll be tonight. Arkansas must avoid an emotional letdown after hands-down their wildest win of the season. One confidence booster has to be that they played absolutely horrible against the Wolverines in the second half, but made the necessary plays to get the job done. One injury the Razorbacks will be forced to deal with is Marvell Waithe's leg injury he sustained in the opening minutes on Saturday. Waithe isn't a headline player, but I like to think of him as Mike Anderson's Secret Canadian Weapon. He's long, has great range on his jump shot, and presents a fairly substantial matchup problem, but today, he'll be wearing street clothes on the bench. For one of the few times this year, the Hogs' size disadvantage shouldn't come into play all that much, as they are about the same size as Auburn's guys that actually get playing time. I'm excited to see the BJ Young versus Frankie Sullivan matchup. Young still comes off the bench for the Razorbacks, but yet he's the team's leading scorer, a luxury that Anderson will continue to use until BJ proves his worth on the defensive end. Sullivan is a scorer. He can get to the basket and he's got range for days. He's more physical than most of the Hogs' guards, so they're going to have to find somebody that can body up on him and keep him away from the rim.
A very tepid Auburn squad rolls into town after a win over the worst team in the conference, South Carolina. It took the Tigers a massive second half run to overcome a halftime deficit, but they got it done at home. On top of the aforementioned Frankie Sullivan, Kenny Gabriel (who I swear has been there for 7 years), is their top big man. He's a pretty scrawny big man, but he can play above the rim, unlike most of the Hogs' post players. Arkansas' Mike Sanchez and Hunter Mickelson are going to have to use their 20+ pound weight advantage to keep him away from the basket. The other big man they'll have to deal with has perhaps my favorite name in the SEC, Rob Chubb. He's massive and I don't know if the Hogs' have anybody that can out-muscle him, plus he's been to jail so you know he's hard (but probably not).
One advantage Auburn may have is depth, simply because Arkansas is injury-riddled. The Tigers have about 10 or 11 guys that will get playing time tonight, while the Hogs will only have about 9. That number may not seem big, but with the tempo the Hogs try to play with, sometimes that extra guy on the bench to give the starters a break can be huge.
I still the the overall talent advantage for the Hogs will be too much for the Tigers to handle. BJ Young, Rickey Scott, and Mardracus Wade make one of the best young backcourts in the country. It will be hard to keep them from scoring, and scoring fast. One thing I hope to see is Razorbacks' Freshman Rashad "Ky" Madden to step up and make some plays. Barring some huge emotional letdown, which will be Mike Anderson's job, the Hogs will win this one by a decent margin.
Prediction: Arkansas - 77, Auburn - 63