Behind Enemy Lines: Talking men’s basketball with Razorbacks Wire
Florida basketball hits the road to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks inside Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Saturday afternoon as the Gators look to cling to their waning NCAA Tournament hopes without their star Colin Castleton, who is expected to be out for the remainder of the regular season.
A home win against the Ole Miss Rebels snapped a three-game losing streak and gave the Orange and Blue a breath of life, but its next opponent is likely to give it some fits. With time running out, Todd Golden’s gang could use another signature win and a road victory over Arky is just what the doctor ordered.
Ahead of Saturday’s men’s basketball matchup, Gators Wire reached out to Eric Bolin of Razorbacks Wire to get an inside scoop on what is happening with the Hogs this season. Take a look at our question-and-answer session below
It seems like Arkansas' season has been a bit underwhelming based on the expectations set prior to the season. How is the fan base feeling?
Scott Utterback/Courier Journal
Nervous. Scared. Arkansas coach Eric Musselman is in a tough spot. He probably shouldn’t be with the team coming off back-to-back Elite Eights. But losing likely lottery pick Nick Smith Jr. for so much of the season and then likely first-round pick Trevon Brazile for the season severely damaged this team.
Smith is back, but he isn’t all the way healthy and Musselman isn’t sure how to incorporate him back into the lineup because of that. Things would be fine, probably, if Arkansas had beaten Mississippi State and Texas A&M the last two times out, but now? Yikes.
Ricky Council IV has been putting up some superb numbers in his junior season. What have been the keys to this year's breakout performance so far?
Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
Council’s a pure scorer. So much of a scorer he went from a zero-shot at the NBA to a potential second-round pick. It’s tricky, though, because he isn’t the most consistent player in the world. Rather, he isn’t the sort of scorer Arkansas can just give the ball over to and say ‘Go get this bucket.’ When Council is on, few are better at scoring in bunches.
But he has a tendency to disappear every three or four games or even in individual games, he goes minutes at key minutes. That said, his ability to get to the rim is absolutely dynamic and he can hit a jumper or two to keep teams honest.
The Razorbacks have four players averaging double digits in points, three of whom have also been solid at distributing the ball. Is there one particular player who embodies the heart and soul of this team?
Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Devo Davis was a middling-high recruit for Arkansas from a local high school three years ago. He’s been a part-time starter the last two years who could score a bit, but his defense kept him on the floor. Now he can’t be taken off the floor. He developed an actual 3-point shot – which he had never had before – and he is legitimately the best perimeter defender in the SEC who always guards the other team’s best out there.
This has been his most consistent season, too. That said, Arkansas simply does not have that guy you can say ‘As he goes, they go” about.
Now that Colin Castleton is out for the season, Florida's attack will be focused heavily on the perimeter. How will the Razorbacks respond this change in approach?
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
If Arkansas can limit Florida’s 3-point shooting, Arkansas will be just fine. If they can’t, the Gators will leave Fayetteville as victors. Florida’s defense will do what it does: stifle and limit and strangle. But that loss of Castleton feels big for Arkansas, which has especially struggled against teams with good defenses and a dynamite big.
If Florida’s interior defense takes a hit because of Castleton’s absence and the Hogs don’t let Florida go off from deep, Arkansas wins. But that’s a big if.
Who do you think will be Arky's x-factor on Saturday afternoon?
Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Smith Jr.
He played several minutes against Texas A&M on Saturday, but all in the first half. He doesn’t look like a lottery pick. Not yet. But the same fans who (inexplicably) didn’t want him to return because he would ruin this team’s chemistry – that was a week ago, mind you, when the Hogs had won five straight in SEC play – are now begging for Musselman to use him to help give the team some more offensive punch.
I don’t think Smith is going to explode for 25 points or anything like that. But for a guy who has basically missed the last eight weeks, a double-digit scoring night would be a spark.
Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports
Just now, I hate predicting Arkansas games. The team makes no sense. Talent-wise, they’re the third-best in the SEC. Four guys are potential first-rounders. But two of them are hurt. Another guy is a potential second-rounder. They have size and strength down low. They have high-quality defense inside the arc.
But they also completely lose their heads in the final 10 minutes of games. They can’t defend the 3 well whatsoever. And, well, those injuries. Honestly, if Florida had Castleton, I’d pick the Gators instantly. Now, though, Arkansas has to figure it’s toast if it loses considering they close the year with Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Arkansas by mid-single digits
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