Arkansas is a bit of a phony this season.
Soft non-conference schedule, soft in-conference schedule, a period where the team lost five straight games, bad losses, and Selection Sunday excuses already being made by the media are what defines Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament candidacy. The “Oh, but” excuse is far too common and actually exposes the team for being far weaker than what the SEC Network pundits want you to think. Arkansas without Isaiah Joe and with Isaiah Joe should not be a difference where the team loses five straight games without him. Arkansas, if they are the hyped team that they are, should not be losing games to Missouri, Tennessee, and Mississippi State regardless of venue. Joe played against Kentucky, Mississippi State, and South Carolina prior to his injury and the team still lost. In fact, Arkansas lost 3 of the previous 4 games that Joe played in. The game they won, they beat Alabama when Joe was held scoreless.
Arkansas is a fraud.
The SEC is down, it is the 6th strongest conference in the country and Arkansas played a weak schedule for a power conference program. Their highlight is winning at Indiana, which is a bubble team. Winning at Alabama is not a major accomplishment.
They are 2-6 against Quadrant I teams (per NET) and 3-4 against Quadrant II teams (per NET).
This is a 6-9 team in the SEC, they are not blowing the doors off anybody. This is a shallow team in terms of depth that gets fatigued at the end of games and while they want to play fast and give Isaiah Joe space to shoot and Mason Jones space to make things happen, they get gassed at the end of games.
Arkansas’ accomplishments are thin and nobody is going to be impressed by anything that they accomplished in 2020. Winning at Indiana meant something then, but means far less now. Is beating the 10th best team (currently) in the Big Ten an accomplishment? If Indiana loses to Illinois, they will fall to 11th in the Big Ten.
If the season ended on Friday, Arkansas would be the #11 seed in the SEC Tournament. How can anyone take Arkansas seriously as far as their quixotic NCAA Tournament campaign? A team playing on Wednesday Night in Nashville being selected by the NCAA Tournament Committee as an at-large bid would be a ludicrous development. They are one of the next teams out, but this is a revolving door and teams keep on passing Arkansas on their way in and out of the field.
How can Arkansas have the same seed number in the SEC Tournament (the sixth strongest conference in College Basketball) as they could possibly earn in the NCAA Tournament if the NCAA Tournament Committee truly lost their minds?
It seems surprising that this is a Georgia-Arkansas Basketball game and hardly any mention of Georgia has been made. Why? Well, Arkansas has been a very popular topic of conversation in e-mails during this season. No team not named Georgia is more discussed than the Hogs because of the absolute ridiculousness of sports media to gaslight the audience into thinking that Arkansas is worthy of being in the NCAA Tournament field. Arkansas’ position is nearly the equivalent of a team that is not eligible to make the tournament, they get passed over so easily. Their positioning on the outside means absolutely nothing.
How will the media gaslight if Georgia beats Arkansas?
Arkansas is a Thin Team
If you are a coach and you want to try the Triangle and Two, Arkansas is the team to do it against. Shouldn’t the strategy be simple against the Razorbacks? Give them 40 Minutes of Hell with presses all night long and then in half court, go into a Triangle and Two with Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe covered up. The defensive strategy should be obvious.
The offensive strategy should be to not give into temptation from three point range. Arkansas is an undersized team. Downhill drives and post-ups should be the order of the day. Force Arkansas into foul trouble and make them defend the restricted arc. The Hogs love it when you want to do everything on the perimeter, they attack passing lanes and want you to shoot really stupid three point shots.
This is a test of Georgia’s ability to game plan. The game plan should be obvious. Can Tom Crean figure it out and tell his guys, maybe you should just attack the basket all night? Anthony Edwards, don’t take a single three point shot tonight. You are barred from it, Anthony. Just go straight to the rim and take 15 Free Throws. Show everyone you can bully Adrio Bailey.
The toughest player to guard will be Mason Jones because of his unpredictability. The toughest player for Georgia to blow it defensively would be Isaiah Joe because whomever is defending will give him too much space. The objective is to stay on Mason Jones all the way and force Isaiah Joe to become a dribble driver and not have any catch-and-shoot opportunities. Easier said than done, but the game plan is really simple and it would be a shame if this team lets Arkansas play to their strengths so easily. A Mark Fox coached team would let that happen, why repeat it under Tom Crean?
So this is the challenge for Georgia. Can they actually have a game plan that plays to the absolute obvious and stick to it for 40 minutes? It is not like it is not doable, it absolutely can be done. South Carolina was the gutcheck game, this is the game that tests whether they have done their homework.
Georgia wins this game if they want to turn this into a game of knockout, a foul fest. They set the tone from the tip, do they take a ridiculous three point shot attempt on the wing from an iso or a ball screen without running any offense? If they do that, Tom Crean should call timeout and rip the team a new one.
It’s a mental game for the Dawgs and the staff. Against South Carolina, they were able to do it for 35 minutes of the game until they started running isos inexplicably or to showcase Anthony Edwards at the most inopportune time.
What to Expect
Georgia is not going to press the entire game, if they press it would be the most pleasant surprise of the season. The team will be inconsistent as far as attacking the rim and how they defend the perimeter. If Georgia gets out to a large lead early, Arkansas is not like Alabama, they could just end up folding their tent like the way Texas A&M and Tennessee did.
Georgia will win this game, but it will be maddening and less impressive than the Auburn game. In the Auburn game, the defensive effort was always there. Georgia is a much better defensive team at Stegeman Coliseum and it will show in the half court for most of the game. Offensively, the decision-making is going to drive everyone nuts and while this game should be a blowaway game, it will not because this Georgia team is their own worst enemy. It does not matter what opponents do, Georgia will find ways to do dumb things on the offensive end that will confound. Everyone is doing it.
But Georgia will win this game. Everyone will have aged 5-10 years out of complete frustration. It will be the equivalent of watching Dora the Explorer or really dumb livestreamers. It’s a cringe game. On the upside, next season will feature far less reckless three point shots and isos. Hooray offensive movement and efficiency!
Prediction: Georgia 70 Arkansas 65