When: 12:00 PM EST, Saturday, March 23 rd, 2019
Where: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana
How to watch: ESPN (Dave Feldman and Dan Dakich)
The Indiana Hoosiers will have the opportunity to avenge an early-season loss to Arkansas on Saturday as they welcome the Razorbacks to Bloomington for the second round of the NIT. Though these two teams have met before, they may not look quite the same. The Razorbacks will be without Daniel Gafford, who has already announced his intentions to declare for the NBA draft. Gafford leads the Razorbacks in scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots on the season, and he gave the Hoosiers fits in their first match-up, recording 27 points and 13 rebounds on 12-15 shooting from the field. Indiana could also be without a key piece of its own, as Romeo Langford’s status remains up in the air for Saturday. Langford suffered a back injury during the Hoosiers loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament, and he is expected to be a game-time decision for Saturday.
With Gafford’s Arkansas career all but finished, Isaiah Joe is the next leading scorer for the Razorbacks, recording 13.9 points per game, including an impressive 41.7% from behind the arc. Mason Jones is another key piece for the Razorbacks, averaging 13.8 points per game on the season, including a team-high 18 points in the Razorbacks NIT opener against Providence. On the inside, Arkansas will be forced to turn to the duo of Gabe Osabuohien and Reggie Chaney to fill the void left by Gafford. Osabuohien averages just 3.1 points and 3.1 rebounds on the season, but the sophomore forward stepped up against Providence, adding 11 points and eight rebounds in the contest in just 17 minutes. Chaney has had a slightly bigger role in the Arkansas rotation this season, averaging 5.5 points per game along with 3.5 rebounds per game. Chaney had arguably his most impressive performance of the season against Providence, adding 14 points, five rebounds, and a career-high seven blocks.
Two things stick out from the Hoosiers early season loss to Arkansas, and that is the play of Daniel Gafford and Indiana’s struggles to take care of the basketball. Though Gafford will not be an issue in this one, turnovers at times have still been an area of concern for Indiana. The Hoosiers have been much better of late in taking care of the basketball, but Arkansas has proven effective at forcing teams into costly turnovers, ranking 15th nationally in defensive turnover percentage. Despite coming away with a loss, there are some encouraging things to take away from the first meeting between these two teams. One of the Razorbacks biggest issues this season has been rebounding the basketball, where they rank 350th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, and 171st nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. Indiana was able to take advantage of this in the first match-up, where they outrebounded Arkansas 40-32 on the game, and without Gafford in the middle things could prove even tougher for the Razorbacks.
Indiana’s intensity level in this one will be interesting to watch; the Hoosiers came out lackluster against Saint Francis before turning it on in the second half to cruise to an easy victory. However, such a strategy could prove disastrous against Arkansas, who raced out to an early lead against Providence and never looked back. The Hoosiers have the talent to win the NIT, the question with this team will be whether the Hoosiers can put together a complete game forty-minute game.