The second of the four games on Thursday to tip will be a matchup between the four-seed UConn Huskies and eight-seed Arkansas Razorbacks. Both teams have had their fair share of difficulties this season, but the two squads enter this matchup in top form. The Huskies began the season 14-0 and reached #2 in the AP poll. Six losses in their next eight contests saw the Huskies fall outside the top-25.
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UConn has won 11 of their last 13, including tournament victories over Iona and Saint Mary’s, each by 15+ points. UConn is led by first-team All-Big East center Adama Sanogo. The 6’9”, 245-pound junior is the top scorer and rebounder for the Huskies averaging 17 points and seven rebounds per game on better than 60 percent shooting from the floor. Sanogo is playing his best basketball right now, with 26 points and 10.5 boards in the two tournament games.
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The biggest weakness of Sanogo is his ability to stay on the floor. He only plays 26 minutes a game. Luckily for the Huskies, they can survive when Sanogo is on the bench due to the play of 7’2” center Donovan Clingan who averages 23 points, 18 rebounds, and six blocks per 40 minutes.
Sophomore wing Jordan Hawkins has also been named first-team All-Big East selection for UConn. The 6’5” sharpshooter averages 16 points per game and has knocked down a team-high 91 three-pointers on a 37.0% clip from long-distance. Overall, UConn is one of the most complete teams in the tournament, ranking third in offensive efficiency and 14th in defensive efficiency.
Like the Huskies, Arkansas also began the season hot as they reached #9 in the AP poll as we entered 2023. The Razorbacks finished the regular season 11-12, including losses in four of five games. A victory over Illinois in the first round and an upset of #1 seed Kansas in the round of 32 has the Razorbacks looking like the team many expected them to be.
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With Eric Musselman at the helm, the Razorbacks are arguably the deepest team remaining. Five players are averaging double-digit points. Ricky Council IV led the Hogs in scoring, averaging just under 17 a contest. Council struggled from the field against Kansas but delivered a flurry of clutch buckets to will the Razorbacks to victory.
Davonte Davis is another one of the Razorback’s stellar guards. Davis has been the Hog’s best player this tournament averaging 20.5 points on over 50% from the field. Davis is arguably the best perimeter defender left, but he will have his hands full with Hawkins. The Razorbacks seem to be hitting their stride. Any team led by Musselman will always be a threat.
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The Razorbacks have numerous offensive talents that will allow them to find success scoring against UConn. Davonte Davis leads Arkansas’s defense. He should be able to make life difficult for Hawkins and the Huskies backcourt. The Razorback’s front court is not athletic or talented enough to keep up with Sanogo. Look for the Huskies to dominate the offensive glass and frustrate Musselman’s squad.
Predictions UConn 69, Arkansas 61.