Florida Gators vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Florida Gators (12-5 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (8-9 SU, 5-5 ATS), 9:00 p.m. EST, Thursday, January 21, 2009, Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Ark. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Florida -1.5/Arkansas +1.5
Over/Under: 146

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At one time this season, the Florida Gators were a top-15 team. Now, they aren’t even looking like an NCAA tournament team. After a 72-58 win over LSU on Saturday gave them their first SEC win, the Gators will try to put together a winning streak when they visit the Arkansas Razorbacks Thursday night.

After wins in late November over Florida State and Michigan State, the Gators were looking like one of the best teams in college basketball. Even after an 85-73 loss to Syracuse in Tampa on December 10 that gave them their first loss of the season, the Gators still played well against an elite team and looked like they were in the top 25 to stay and would certainly be one of the best teams in the SEC. But that loss led to a loss to Richmond in their next game and then a shocking home loss to South Alabama for their third straight loss. After a couple meaningless wins, the Gators got lucky with a full-court buzzer-beating heave by Chandler Parsons that gave them an overtime victory over North Carolina State. The next two games were their first two in SEC play, both of which resulted in losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

Florida finally bounced back in its last game with a much-needed 72-58 home win over LSU, a team that isn’t very good this season, but nonetheless it’s a win for Florida. All five starters scored in double figures for the Gators, a very good sign for them. Freshman guard Kenny Boynton led the way with 18 points, Erving Walker and Vernon Macklin each had 14 points, and Alex Tyus and Parsons had 11 apiece. The Gators shot 50 percent from the field and 7-for-17 from 3-point range.

Arkansas has not been a very good team this season with its best wins coming over Missouri State (in overtime) and Alabama (on Saturday). The Razorbacks lost consecutive games early in the season to Morgan State, East Tennessee State, South Alabama (all at home) and at Oklahoma.

But the Razorbacks got their first conference win on Saturday at home over a decent Alabama team, 71-59. Marshawn Powell (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Michael Washington (17 points, 13 rebounds) both had double-doubles down low for the Razorbacks. Point guard Courtney Fortson had seven turnovers but made up for it with 10 assists to go along with his 12 points. Sharp-shooting Rotnei Clarke also had 17 points, including four 3-pointers. The Razorbacks shot 46 percent from the field and held a 13-rebound edge on the boards.

This should be an interesting matchup, as both teams’ biggest strengths and weaknesses are in the 3-point department. Arkansas shoots 36.7 percent from 3-point territory while allowing opponents to make 38.5 percent of their 3-point attempts. Florida is only making 31.3 percent of its 3-point attempts but its opponents are only shooting 28.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Florida is 2-5 ATS in its last seven games. Arkansas is 4-0 ATS in its last four home games and 4-0 ATS in its last four games overall. The Razorbacks are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games as a home underdog. The favorite and the home team are both 4-0 in the last four meetings between these teams. Florida is 0-3-1 ATS in its last four games at Arkansas. The under is 4-0 in the last four meetings between Florida and Arkansas.

Ryno’s Pick: Arkansas is one of the worst teams in the SEC, but Florida is right now as well. Based on how well they were playing earlier in the season, the Gators are capable of being a very good team, but they just haven’t played that way in a while. If they can get a balanced scoring effort like they had against LSU, they will win this game as well. The Gators have been good at defending the 3-point line, and Arkansas shoots from the perimeter very well. Clarke is especially dangerous if he isn’t defended well. He can shoot from anywhere on the court. If Florida can limit Arkansas’s 3-point shots, they will win this game. But the Gators haven’t put together a solid road effort yet this season, so it’s hard to predict one at Arkansas. The Gators struggled for much of the game at Jacksonville, got lucky to defeat NC State, and gave up 95 points in a loss at Vanderbilt. Expect Arkansas to put together a solid effort against a team the Razorbacks know they can beat at home. Take Arkansas +1.5.