After Marcus Williams hit a dagger to break Georgia’s heart, the Aggie men’s basketball team returns to Reed Arena for a big matchup against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday at noon. If you aren’t in the BCS area, the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network. If you are in Aggieland or even moderately close, GET TO REED. I have a hunch that this is going to be another highly entertaining game, and the Aggies could use the benefit of a raucous crowd to welcome them home.
DraftKings Sportsbook has posted the Aggies as 1.5-point favorites* at home. Kenpom.com says the Ags are 56% favored to win and predicts them to come out with a 74-72 victory.
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
The Razorbacks come into this game with a 10-4 record, but all four losses have come in their last five games. After wins over a decent early non-conference slate that included Kansas State, Cincinnati, Northern Iowa, and Gardner Webb, the hogs dropped games to Oklahoma and Hofstra then opened SEC play with a 13 point defeat at Mississippi State followed by a heartbreaking 75-74 loss at home to Vanderbilt.
Eric Musselman is in his third year at the helm of the Hogs after coming over from Nevada. During his Arkansas tenure, Musselman has amassed a 55-23 record, finishing last season with an NCAA Elite Eight and #10 national ranking. The Razorbacks and Aggies are very similar in their metrics this season. Arkansas has a slightly better offensive efficiency rating due to their lower turnover percentage, but the Ags have the better defensive efficiency because of the turnovers that they create. A&M shoots the ball better from beyond the arc, but the Hogs convert more two-point chances and free throws. Arkansas plays at a faster tempo, so it will be interesting to see if the Aggies can utilize their 3/4 court pressure to slow the Razorbacks down and control the pace.
Senior guard JD Notae is the unquestioned leader of the Hogs, sitting at the top of the team totals in points, minutes, and steals. He’s also third in assists behind sophomores Davonte Davis and Jaylin Williams. Senior point guard Chris Lykes is second in scoring on the strength of this ability to draw fouls and make free throws. If it’s a close one down the stretch, you can bet they are going to get the ball in Lykes’s hands. The aforementioned Williams pairs with Stanley Umude to form the core of the Arkansas interior. Neither is a dominant interior threat, but Williams’s 6’10” frame and shot blocking ability may pose an issue for the Aggies.
This also will be a special matchup for a player on each squad who faces his former team. A&M senior forward Ethan Henderson transferred to A&M this summer after playing three seasons in Fayetteville. While underutilized, Henderson developed a reputation as a savvy defender who exploited help side rotations for monster dunks with the Hogs. Henderson has significantly increased his production for the Aggies, averaging almost 2.9 points in over 17 minutes per game with more rebounds and blocks already this year than he had in all of last season. On the other side, Jaxson Robinson left A&M after his freshman year to join Musselman’s Razorbacks. As a fish, Robinson, played in 14 of the Aggies’ 18 games, averaging 2.1 points in just under 10 minutes per contest. In his sophomore year in Fayetteville, Robinson is averaging 5.8 points in 15 minutes per game.
This Arkansas team is clearly reeling and desperate to get back on the winning track. A win would give the Ags an important leg up later in the year against a team that projects to have a similar record at the end of the year. So get to Reed, wear white, and be rowdy.