Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#713 Arkansas -1.5 vs.
#714 Western Kentucky 138
Saturday, December 7, 2019 at 7:30pm EST
Written by Nick Raffoul

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#713 University of Arkansas
#714 Western Kentucky University
8-0
6-3
16-18
21-13
11-23
13-21
75
71
72
69

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The Arkansas Razorbacks will head on the road to Diddle Arena on Saturday evening as they get set for a tough non-conference battle against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

When Eric Musselman left Nevada for Arkansas in the offseason, he inherited a talented team that already had NCAA Tournament aspirations and was expected to compete in an ultra-competitive SEC Conference. However, eight games through his tenure, expectations are starting to shift and Razorbacks fans are starting to believe that this team might have a chance to make a deep tournament run. Arkansas, 8-0, will try for its second quality win of the season against a Hilltoppers team in the midst of a tough stretch of games. The Hilltoppers will be playing their third straight quality opponent in a stretch of four straight Tier-A or Tier-B contests. Western Kentucky has won six of its first nine games but they come into this matchup having lost two in a row during that stretch. Can Western Kentucky earn its first quality win of the season against undefeated Arkansas on Saturday night?

Arkansas trying to remain undefeated under Musselman

Graduate transfer Jimmy Whitt scored a team-high 17 points to help Arkansas avoid an upset with a 69-61 win over Austin Peay on Tuesday. Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones finished with 16 points apiece for the Razorbacks, who overcame a 20-turnover performance by forcing 21 turnovers on the defensive end of the floor.

Musselman’s squad comes in slotted at No. 28 in the latest KenPom rankings thanks to a defense that ranks among the stingiest units in the entire country. Arkansas has surrendered just 87.4 points per 100 possessions (10th in the NCAA) through its first eight contests while limiting teams to an effective field goal percentage of 39.4 percent (4th in the NCAA). The Razorbacks have forced their opponents to turn the ball over on a whopping 28.1 percent of their defensive possessions (3rd in the NCAA) and they have held them to an NCAA-best 19.9 percent shooting from 3-point range (1st in the NCAA).

On offense, Arkansas does most of its damage from inside the arc and at the free-throw line. The Razorbacks have scored 104.6 points per 100 possessions (76th in the NCAA) while shooting 55.3 percent from 2-point range (35th in the NCAA) and 78.9 percent from the charity stripe as a team (12th in the NCAA) so far this season.

Hilltoppers still searching for first quality win

Western Kentucky lost its second straight matchup against a quality opponent on Tuesday night, falling short 76-74 on the road against Wright State. Charles Bassey finished with 19 points and nine rebounds while Camron Justice added 17 for the Hilltoppers, who blew a 10-point second-half lead in a disappointing loss.

Rick Stansbury’s squad comes into the weekend slotted at No. 94 in the latest KenPom rankings after dropping to 6-3 through their first nine contests. The Hilltoppers have scored 107.4 points per 100 possessions (44th in the NCAA) for the season but turnovers have held them back on offense. Western Kentucky has turned the ball over on 21.9 percent of their offensive possessions (292nd in the NCAA) through their first nine contests. However, they’ve been able to make up for some of that carelessness with the basketball by sporting an effective field goal percentage of 55.1 percent (30th in the NCAA). Western Kentucky has shot 55.6 percent from 2-point range (28th in the NCAA), 36.1 percent from long-range (75th in the NCAA), and 78.1 percent from the charity stripe as a team (19th in the NCAA)so far this season.

On defense, the Hilltoppers have given up 99.5 points per 100 possessions (152nd in the NCAA) and they have held opposing teams to just 30.8 percent shooting from 3-point range (101st in the NCAA).

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While the Razorbacks might be the more high-profile program with a big name coach, the Hilltoppers might actually have the best player on the floor in 6-foot-11 forward Charles Bassey. Bassey is going to cause all sorts of problems for this Arkansas defense, which lacks size on the inside. However, Western Kentucky might have trouble getting him the ball, especially against the backcourt pressure of Arkansas. The Hilltoppers rank 293rd in the country in turnover percentage and the Razorbacks rank among the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers on the defensive end. Those extra possessions will help them negate Western Kentucky’s advantage on the inside. Take Arkansas to cover the spread on the road in this non-conference battle on Saturday night.

Prediction: Arkansas Razorbacks -1.5

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Arkansas has not given up more than 61 points in a game yet this season and they rank in the top-10 in several major defensive categories. The Razorbacks are fourth in effective field goal percentage defense, third in defensive turnover rate, and first in 3-point defense coming into this game. They also take about 17.5 seconds to get their shots up in an average offensive possession, which ranks outside the top-200 in the nation. Western Kentucky doesn’t push the pace either, ranking 197th in adjusted tempo and 183rd in average possession length. Take this game to stay under the projected total on Saturday night.

Prediction: Under 137.5
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Written By Nick Raffoul

Shortly after graduating with an Honors in Business Administration, Nick turned his attention from traditional stocks and bonds to investing in the performance of sports teams. And has now joined our team here at Winners & Whiners. Nick uses a combination of advanced stats and historical data to create sports investment models to identify value and generate consistent profits. Let Nick win for you.