On Monday, Georgia Tech lost to Gardner Webb. That’s not good. Now, just two days later the team has traveled to Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks. An optimist might speculate that Tech was looking past Gardner Webb on Monday, but I’m not there with this team. This team looked ugly on Monday and now they’re playing a decent team on the road on short rest. That’s not a recipe for success.
Arkansas is a young team, they don’t play a single senior and four freshmen get significant minutes. Despite that, they’ve had a solid start to the season and have shown a penchant for playing close games against the better teams on their schedule. Arkansas has played three teams ranked in the top 125 in the country (per kenpom), Western Kentucky (#123), Texas (#31), and Indiana (#26). They lost a very tight one against the Longhorns in overtime in their opening game. Then they notched a solid one-point home win over the Hoosiers 73-72. They also fell to the Hilltoppers 78-77 in their only home loss. Beyond that, they haven’t played anybody else notable, but they have beaten them all comfortably. The Razorbacks come in at 7-2.
Arkansas’ star player is definitely sophomore big man Daniel Gafford. He nearly averages a double-double at 17.9 points and 9.3 rebounds. He does all that while shooting 67% from the field and being a great shot blocker. Limiting him or at least working around him will be a key for this game. He’s joined by wings Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones and point guard Jalen Harris. Joe and Jones are both killer behind the arc, particularly Joe who hits over 4 threes a game at 49.4%. We will have to keep on him at all times.
Arkansas is well balanced at 63rd in the country on offense and 47th in the country defensively. Defensively Arkansas looks a lot like GT. Teams generally don’t shoot well against them and they both force turnovers a fair amount, but they also foul a ton. Arkansas sets themselves apart by blocking nearly 20% of shots, good for third in the country.
Normally teams attach Arkansas by jacking up a ton of threes, shooting 45.7% of their three point attempts from beyond the arc. Given that Tech is not a good shooting team, that does not bode well. We will both need to take a different and hope that our shots fall enough to prevent their defense from collapsing further into the paint. We will need to attack them. Getting their team in foul trouble could go a long way to evening out the disparity between these two teams.
We also need to play our first complete game of the season. Most games Tech has had a stretch of very strong play and a period where they completely collapsed. The other team will go on runs, it is basketball after all, but they have to do better of limiting it before the game gets out of hand.
Arkansas comes into this game as a solid favorite by 8.5 points. I predict that Arkansas covers that one. Tech will either start slow and come back to make it respectable, or they will hang with Arkansas for 25 minutes before letting the game get out of hand.