Arkansas vs. Cincinnati Hall of Fame Classic Championship Preview
After an exciting first day of games which included two nationally ranked teams, the Hall of Fame Classic will conclude tonight when the Arkansas Razorbacks take on the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bearcats have gotten off to their best start in school history at 5–0, and are coming off of a statement win against Illinois in which they won by the final score of 71–51. Arkansas has also yet to lose on the season and took care of business against Kansas State last night, hanging on to win 72–64. This should be an exciting match-up that would be a good win for either team come March. Today, I will give you all the information that you need to know about these two teams ahead of their game tonight.
Hardly anybody, including myself, thought that Cincinnati would beat Illinois. But, the way that they dominated them after falling behind fifteen points in the first half showed that they are a legitimate team. Against Illinois, the Bearcats were led in scoring by Mike Saunders, who erupted for 20 points off of the bench. Jeremiah Davenport also put up 19 points in the win and is their best all around offensive player. Cincinnati is not a great three point shooting team, currently sitting at 234th in the country in three point percentage, which could be a good sign for Arkansas. They only shot 6–21 from deep against Illinois and had an overall field goal percentage of 41.4%. What was most impressive about the Bearcats, in my opinion, was how they defeated the Fighting Illini in the rebounding department. Illinois was one of the best rebounding teams in the country before last night’s game in which Cincinnati pulled down 40 rebounds compared to 36 from Illinois. The Bearcats do not have a huge starting lineup but they block out really well and crash the offensive boards too. Cincinnati also had a stifling defense against Illinois in which they held the opposition to shooting 28.1% from the field and 13.6% from the three point line. The Bearcats have yet to allow an opponent to crack more than seventy points in a game, their most points allowed being sixty-eight. Cincinnati has surprised a lot of people early on but they have a really good team that is highly capable of being an NCAA Tournament team.
Arkansas has yet to play a complete game of basketball but here they are sitting at 4–0 and with a chance to win the Hall of Fame Classic. Their last game against Kansas State was different than the first three as the Razorbacks finally got off to a hot start, leading by as many as eighteen points at one point, before letting the Wildcats cut the deficit to single digits late in the second half. The duo of Connor Vanover and Jaylin Williams played really well together in the win over Kansas State. Vanover finished with 14 points while Williams had 6 points and 8 rebounds. The Razorbacks also have exceptional guard play with J.D. Notae, Devo Davis, and Chris Lykes being great playmakers and being able to go create their own shots. Three point defense had been a concern for the Hogs early on but they did a much better job last night, holding K-State to 3–22 from behind the three point line. The Razorbacks shot 3–22 from deep themselves which is something they will need to improve upon if they wish to beat Cincinnati in the championship game. The difference maker in this game might be the inside play of the Hogs. Vanover and Williams can be a hard duo to stop and with the guard play that Arkansas has, it might open some things up down low.
After how these two teams played on Monday night, this should be a really fun game. Both teams were exceptional for most of the game on the defensive end which sets up for a low scoring affair. When you look at Arkansas, they obviously have the better team. But, if their defense is not there early and they get off to a slow start, it might be too much for them to overcome. However, I expect to see another big game from Vanover inside which will help lead the Razorbacks to a win and the Hall of Fame Classic Championship.
Prediction: Arkansas-73 Cincinnati-62