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Top-seeded Hoosiers to host 5-seed Arkansas on Saturday

The Razorbacks will be without their best player, but that’s no reason to assume Indiana will win

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Indiana
Will Romeo Langford play against Arkansas, or will Rob Phinisee and the rest of the Indiana backcourt have to perform well in his stead?
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info / How to Watch

Who? Indiana Hoosiers (18-15 (8-12), #46 KenPom) vs Arkansas Razorbacks (18-15 (8-10), #55 KenPom)

When? Saturday, 3/23/19, Noon

Where? Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana

Channel? ESPN

Vegas? Over/Under 149.5, Indiana -6

KenPom? Indiana by 5, 73-68, 67% chance of Hoosier Victory

On Saurday Indiana will continue its run through the NIT by hosting the Arkansas Razorbacks in the second meeting between the two teams this season. The last time they played Arkansas took a 73-72 win in Fayetteville thanks in part to a controversial final possession. There may have been a goaltend call that was missed, there may have been some miscommunication by the Hoosiers—either way it didn’t turn out the way IU hoped it would have.

The Opponent

Since that win over Indiana the Razorbacks have had a pretty up and down season that doesn’t seem like it was too dissimilar from IU’s. They did pick up a big win over SEC Champion LSU on the road but struggled overall in the conference, ending with a losing SEC record. They crashed out of the SEC Tournament against Florida, but managed to take down Providence on the road last week in their NIT opener.

Daniel Gafford was Arkansas’ de facto star this season and is a solid NBA prospect which is why he won’t be playing in the NIT—he chose to sit out to save himself rather than risk injury. That leaves Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe as the biggest threats for the Razorbacks. Each player averaged just under 14 points per game this season and they can both knock down three-pointers at a respectable rate. Against Providence the duo combined for 30 points, nine rebounds, and six assists.

“When you take into account the shooters that they have and how they shoot the ball from the three-point line and how they can change up defensively, they really make your team read and react throughout the game” IU head coach Archie Miller said. “So we’re going to have to be really organized in terms of what we have to do defensively and offensively.”

Four Factors

The most noticeable thing about Arkansas’ four factors is that the Razorbacks allow their opponents to grab a lot of offensive boards. There are just three worse defensive rebounding teams in the country. They also allow opponents to get to the line at an above average rate. One thing that’s positive for Arkansas is that it turns over its opponents at a rate that’s among the best in the country with a defensive turnover percentage of 22.6.

Three Things to Watch For

  1. Will Romeo Langford play?

It’s well publicized that Langford didn’t play against St. Francis in Indiana’s NIT opener thanks to a concern with his back and once again Langford’s status will be a major storyline going into the game. If he’s healthy he’ll obviously be a big boost to the Hoosier offense, but if he were to miss a second consecutive game the Hoosiers should be able to persevere. Against St. Francis the IU backcourt of Devonte Green, Al Durham, and Rob Phinisee played pretty well—combining for 43 points, 15 rebounds, and 12 assists.

“I thought those guys did a nice job, and they’ll be a big, big key at both ends of the floor defensively and offensively against Arkansas,” Miller said.

2. Daniel Gafford won’t play for Arkansas

On the other side of this matchup we already know that Gafford won’t be playing. The forward led Arkansas in scoring, rebounding, and blocks this season on his way to being named First Team All-SEC as well as receiving SEC All-Defensive Team honors. Typically losing a star player is a bad thing, and the loss of Gafford could certainly be seen that way, but Miller seems to think that there’s been some sort of positive spin on the loss for the Razorbacks.

“I think that the one thing that goes unnoticed is how versatile they become without him and how random they become with their offense and their defense and their pace of play is so fast,” Miller said.

3. Razorback Pressure

Arkansas tends to play a couple of different press defenses, something that might’ve shaken up the young Indiana guards earlier in the season. This seemingly helps contribute to them turning opponents over, but it’s something that IU has seen and prepared for.

“I feel like we’ve played the pressure already between them and Illinois, so I feel like we’ve just got to execute our game plan and not turn the ball over and just run good offense, and I feel like we’ll be fine,” sophomore guard Al Durham said.

Miller also noted that it seems as if the Razorback press is a little different when they’re playing on the road when compared to when they’re playing in Fayetteville. The brunt of the task of breaking the press will fall on Indiana’s ballhandlers including Durham as well as Phinisee, Green, and Langford if he plays. Having multiple ballhandlers on the floor should benefit the Hoosiers as well.