Much like Oklahoma the Arkansas Razorbacks are fairly untested this basketball season. The will come into Norman this afternoon with a 5-2 record. Their two losses are very respectable (87-78 to Houston, 75-62 to UCONN) and they've pretty much have had their way with the other five teams on their schedule. That doesn't mean in any way that they won't pose a challenge to OU though. If there was any team on the schedule that mirrored the Sooners its Arkansas.
The Hogs are averaging 80.6 points per game (OU 78.1) behind Marshawn Powell's 19.5 points per game. At 6-7/235 he's certainly going to keep Oklahoma's big men busy under the basket. He's shooting over 71% from the floor and makes it to the free throw line an average of 7 times per game. Joining Powell in double figures are guards B.J. Young (15.4), Mardracus Wade (10.9) and Julysses Nobles (10.4).
As a team Arkansas is shooting 45% from the floor (OU 46%) so rebounds should be there for the taking all game long. The Hogs grab an average of 40 boards per game (OU 40) so its safe to say whoever wins the battle of the boards has a clear upper hand in this contest. Much like Thursday night's ORU game, second chance points are key. Powell leads the team with 6 rebounds per game but forward Devonta Abron is a close second at 5.4 rebounds per game.
Arkansas connected on 45% of their three-point shot attempts and while the departure of Rotnei Clarke could hut the Hogs from long range there are still a couple of guys on the roster who can throw daggers. B.J. Young is shooting 50% from beyond the arch and Wade is good for 48%. Look for Arkansas to feed the ball in to Powell and then kick it outside when the defense collapses. Oklahoma is going to have to stay honest when it comes to defending the perimeter,
Arkansas turns the ball over 16 times per game while stealing it from their opponents 11 times. Here we have one of the intangibles of this game. The Shooting most likely is going to be wash which means this game will come down to three factors. Rebounding and second chance points are the first followed by ball security and then free throws. The Sooners must protect the ball while forcing Arkansas to turn it over.
The Razorbacks aren't particularly dangerous from the charity stripe. Mardracus Wade is the best on the team at 84.2% followed by Young (78.9%) and Julysses Nobles (76.2%). Beyond those three no one else is above 70%. You don't want to put them on the line but it isn't the end of the world if you do.
Oklahoma's season is still very young but this is the kind of game they need to win in order to make a push at gaining a post season bid. I asked Coach Kruger earlier this week if this was a game in which a victory would look good on a tournament resume. His reply was that they would rather focus on improving with each game than looking down the road at the post season. I can certainly respect that but it doesn't remove the pressure that this game is a true test of Oklahoma's improvement and may very well have post season implications.