Florida vs Arkansas Odds & Prediction: Offenses to Explode?
James Gilbert/Getty Images. Pictured: Florida’s Kyle Lofton.
Florida vs Arkansas Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
As the season draws closer to March, each and every game seems to mean that much more.
Arkansas hosts Florida on Saturday looking to stop a two-game skid that has sent the Razorbacks careening seed lines according to bracketologists. The Razorbacks are currently slotted as a 9-seed, per Bracket Matrix.
Florida’s hopes for an NCAA Tournament berth are all but gone, especially with the recent injury to star big man Colin Castleton. Still, this Gators group is a tough one, and “throw in the towel” isn’t in its vocabulary.
Expect UF to bring a fight to Fayetteville.
The major news from Wednesday’s game against Ole Miss was Castleton exiting the contest with a broken wrist. He’s been declared done for the year, and with him goes Florida’s most important player on both ends of the floor.
Castleton leads the Gators in scoring, rebounding, free-throw attempts and blocks while ranking second on the team in assists. He’s a top-five SEC rim protector by block rate and one of the better big man scorers and passers in college basketball.
UF will need to change its entire approach when it squares off against Arkansas on Saturday.
The Gators have no choice but to go small. Backup center Jason Jitoboh, who stands 6-foot-11, will be forced into greater action, but he can’t play major minutes, and nobody behind him fits a true post role.
With the shift in personnel, we can likely expect to see a more spread-out Gator offense — one that will look to run in transition more and rely heavily on its perimeter to score.
Defensively, it’s a good bet that head coach Todd Golden experiments with some zone looks in an effort to combat a now-much bigger Arkansas squad, hide his smaller frontcourt defenders and force the Razorbacks to beat him with outside shooting.
Arkansas is a poor perimeter shooting team: It ranks 13th in the SEC in 3-point attempt rate and 11th in 3-point percentage. You can bet Golden and his analytically-driven staff know these numbers and will look to exploit them.
Florida should be able to hold its own defensively, but it’s a real question as to how it’s going to score. Scoring against Ole Miss was no trouble simply because shots were falling — the Gators went 10-of-17 from deep, good for their second-best outside shooting performance since Dec. 4.
But given Florida has shot just 30.5% from deep in SEC play, solely relying on the 3-ball seems like a risky play.
Transition and attacking the basket are two other scoring avenues, but Arkansas is a good offensive rebounding team and solid defending in transition. The Razorbacks’ guards are also very long and highly athletic, making driving past them a significant challenge.
Without Castleton roaming the paint, Arkansas should be able to score at will if the Gators opt to play man. While Florida does have some excellent perimeter defenders and athletic wings, the Razorbacks have multiple players capable of getting into the lane off ball screens and isolation sets and setting themselves up for high-percentage looks or foul-drawing opportunities.
Without Castleton as a safety net, it’s unclear just how effective this Gators defense can be.
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman has been slowing the tempo down recently, opting to play more in the half-court versus his usual up-and-down style. If Florida decides to go zone, though, it might benefit the Razorbacks to amp up their open floor attack, especially with freshman phenom Nick Smith back in the fold.
Arkansas has scored just 0.761 points per possession against zones this season, which ranks 345th in the country, per Synergy. Conversely, Arkansas scores 1.141 points per possession in transition, one of the best marks in the country.
Smith has been back for two games, but his impact and playing time has been curiously limited. In a losing effort against Texas A&M, Smith logged just four minutes off the pine. It’s unclear if Smith is still shaking off the rust of injury or if Musselman has him the doghouse for an undisclosed reason.
Arkansas still has plenty of firepower with Anthony Black and Ricky Council, but Smith’s talent could potentially take it to another level.
The Hogs have historically enjoyed one of the best home-court advantages in college basketball, but despite being 11-2 straight up at Bud Walton Arena this season, the Razorbacks are just 6-6-1 against the spread.
With Castleton out the lineup for Florida, this spread could balloon near double digits. Do the Razorbacks have the horses — or the possession count — to cover such a lofty spread?
Florida vs Arkansas Betting Pick
This game is going to be a chess match between two great coaches.
On one hand, Florida’s best chances at scoring involve going small and pushing tempo. On the other, Florida’s best chances at stopping Arkansas are going zone and forcing a half-court contest.
Also, given the talent level discrepancy, the Gators know fewer possessions equals higher variance equals a higher chance for the less talented team to come out on top.
Castleton’s absence impacts the defensive end far more than the offensive, according to Pivot Analysis. The Gators score 1.09 points per possession (PPP) with Castleton and 1.04 PPP without. On defense, Florida allows just 0.979 PPP with Castleton and 1.10 PPP without.
Florida’s pace also increases when its big man is off the floor.
Given the lack of Castleton, my lack of trust in Arkansas blowing anyone out right now, and the fact Florida will be forced to play small for nearly the entire game, the over seems like the best course of action.
Tempo should exceed KenPom‘s projected 71 possessions, and Arkansas’ efficiency should at least be strong.
Pick: Over 137
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