Welcome to Day 2 of the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Nashville where the Arkansas Razorbacks collide with the Vanderbilt Commodores in a 7:30 PM (ET) tipoff that will be carried by ESPN3. A very pro-Vandy crowd should be on hand to help pull the upset as the Razorbacks opened as 2 to 2.5 point favorites and are now 3 to 3.5 point betting odds favorites after early trading.
Thursday's total at Bridgestone Arena is 125 after beginning a point higher.
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Vandy Closes Strong, Hogs Play Tough Slate at End
Not much was expected from Kevin Stallings' squad this season after the Commodores lost their three top players from a year ago, and for the most part Vandy delivered on those low expectations. The one bright spot early on was an overtime win at Xavier, but that was forgotten by the time the 'Dores dropped their first three games on the SEC schedule, eventually sitting near the bottom of the league with a 4-9 conference mark a little more than three weeks ago.
Vanderbilt doubled those four wins in the final five games and closed with a respectable 16-12 record against the spread. Still, this is an offensively challenged team led by Kedren Johnson's 13.6 PPG. Rod Odom (10.2 ppg) is the only other player averaging double digits.
Offense wasn't a problem for Mike Anderson's crew with the Razorbacks ranking in the top 50 of the nation putting up close to 74 points per game over the course of the campaign. That figure dropped dramatically during SEC play, however, down more than 6½ points a contest.
Arkansas' biggest trouble came when the team left the comfortable surroundings of Fayetteville. The Hogs got fat at home this year with an 18-1 record, but mustered only one SEC road win, an 83-75 decision over Auburn who finished in the SEC cellar. The Razorbacks stumbled a bit the past couple of weeks with three losses in the final five games, all of setbacks coming away from home at tough venues (Florida, LSU and Missouri).
BJ Young, the talented sophomore out of St. Louis, leads the Razorbacks scoring 15.1 PPG but went through some shooting woes recently. In the back-to-back losses at Florida and LSU, Young combined for just seven points while connecting on only 2-of-19 field goal attempts. He also sank just four of his last 21 shots from 3-point range during the last six games, all four of the 3's coming in a 30-point loss at Mizzou a little more than a week ago.
Rubber Match After Split in Season Series
The 'Dores and Hogs split their two meetings this season, each coming up with a home win and cover. Arkansas forced Vandy to commit 25 turnovers and held the Commodores to just 10 field goals in the first matchup in Fayetteville back in mid-January, an easy 56-33 victory for the Razorbacks who were favored by 11.
It was Arkansas who was embarrassed in the return match in Nashville about a month ago when the Commodores pulled off a 67-49 upset as 3-point home dogs. Vanderbilt had one of their best offensive efforts of the season in that contest, hitting an even 50% from the field and sinking 9-of-22 from beyond the arc.
Tonight's battle comes down to which team can dictate their tempo; Arkansas will press and want to run while Vandy is going to want to slow it down. Both games this season failed to reach the total, and I'm going to follow that trend with my free pick in the rubber match.
My NCAAB pick: Arkansas-Vanderbilt Under 125 at Bookmaker
Season: 42-33 ($5.70)Check out our pick on Iowa State vs. Oklahoma here!~