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Hogs and Blue Devils Battle for New Orleans

The Arkansas Razorbacks have made a return to the Elite 8 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the legendary days under then-coach Nolan Richardson. This is a testament to the job that head coach Eric Mussleman has done in his 3rd season at the helm. His hogs recently made history by being the only SEC team to ever beat the #1 seed {Auburn} during the season and the overall #1 seed {Gonzaga} in the NCAA Tournament. Hog fans are reminiscing of a 1994 National Championship type of run, and they will meet a familiar foe in that run tonight in the Duke Blue Devils. 

As I mentioned, these two teams have a little bit of history against each other. In the all-time series, the Razorbacks hold a 2-1 lead, with the series tied 1-1 in games played in the NCAA tournaments. The last game played was the 1994 National Championship when Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck, and others led the hogs to a win in a classic 76-72. Head Coach Nolan Richardson led his team with a physical brand of Offense and a relentlessly aggressive full-court defense he coined as “40 Minutes of Hell”.


In tonight’s game, all eyes will be on Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski in his final season after a historic 42-year career there. His #2 seeded Blue Devils come into this game looking to repeat the 2015 season that ended with a National Championship. Led by Freshman big man Pablo Banchero, Wendell Moore, Aj Griffin, and others, this team is young and hungry. In their most recent win over Texas Tech, Banchero scored 22 points while shooting 7/12 from the field and 3/4 from deep. The Devils will lean on him to keep his hot hand against a fisty Razorback’s defense. Duke will need to continue their high percentage shooting to beat the hogs tonight. One key for Duke is to see if they continue to expand their use of the bench. They have relied on a 7-man rotation for much of this season but against Texas Tech they expanded to an 8- man rotation. Will they expand more against a deep Arkansas team? 

Arkansas Razorbacks

For Arkansas, it is all about one thing: defense! According to Bart Torvik, a system that measures defensive efficiency over the last 12 games using a slightly different algorithm, Arkansas has the 5th best defense in the nation. Arkansas will need to continue to turn teams over to continue this run. They have forced teams to speed up, make mistakes, and create extra possessions for an offense that had struggled before the Gonzaga game. Arkansas will need to defend the three-point shot with the relentless effort tonight to get the win. Duke has three players shooting 40% from beyond the arc. Offensively the hogs will need to take high percentage shots and get to the foul line, where they score roughly 33% of their points, to move on to New Orleans. Jd Notae, Jaylon Williams, and Chris Lykes rank in the top 300 nationally with most fouls drawn in 40 minutes. Duke will make this difficult by averaging just 11.7 points per game from the line during the season and 9.6 per game during the tournament. Arkansas will need more than the 14 attempts against Gonzaga tonight to be successful. 

Numerous backstories will be talked about during this game. From Coach K, the 1994 National Championship, to the hog’s incredible season, one thing is sure. No matter the outcome of tonight’s contest, Arkansas Basketball under Head coach Eric Mussleman has become a national landing spot for top recruits to play and grow as players and young men and a national powerhouse in the SEC and Nation. 

Wes Pruett