New Mexico State vs. Arkansas Predictions & Picks
Last Time Out:New Mexico State beat Connecticut 70-63; Arkansas edged Vermont 75-71.
About the Matchup:Finally, New Mexico State has made it to the weekend of the NCAA tournament. The Aggies have been a fixture in brackets for the better part of a decade, as they usually dominate the WAC, find themselves seeded somewhere between 12 and 15 in the bracket and give a credible effort before succumbing and exiting the tournament against the higher seed. But this time, the Aggies flipped the last part of the script and reached the second round for the first time since 1993, ending a 12-game losing streak in the NCAA tournament. They haven’t been to the Sweet 16 since 1992, and they’ve never beaten two single-digit seeds in the tournament, as their only Final Four trip took place in 1970, before teams were seeded. But Arkansas might be a tough second act to follow after besting Connecticut, as the Razorbacks have their sights set on Gonzaga in San Francisco in the next round. Arkansas has played some of its best basketball as of late and did enough to stay ahead of a strong opponent in round 1 in Vermont. New Mexico State should be far more willing to run with the Hogs than the Catamounts were, which could lead to a high-tempo, high-scoring game — which might play into Arkansas’ hands more than it does New Mexico State’s.
Scouting the Aggies:Beating New Mexico State is all about stopping one man: Teddy Allen. Not only did Allen hit almost half of the Aggies’ shots against Connecticut, he was also the only one who actually made it to the free throw line, hitting all 13 attempts from the charity stripe. Allen scored 37 points on the Huskies, who never found an answer in a game where shots were limited.In this game, William McNair or Jabari Rice might need to step up as a No. 2 scorer. Allen simply cannot take all the shots this time, given how many more possessions there are likely to be. Rice hit three 3-pointers in the win over Connecticut, and it’s likely that Arkansas might focus on Allen in the early going and dare him to shoot. If he can get in a flow early, it might keep the Razorbacks from focusing all of their defense on stopping Allen.
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Scouting the Razorbacks:The thing that has to scare New Mexico State is that JD Notae didn’t even shoot that well against Vermont and still scored 17 points. That’s what Arkansas does to teams: it puts up big numbers by creating a lot of possessions and forcing teams to play at their speed. Vermont was able to do it well enough, but still found itself taking some time off the clock by working the ball around for a good shot.
New Mexico State might not do that, which could open things up for Arkansas to run. The Razorbacks will look to force some turnovers, get active on the boards and get their offense moving before the opposition has time to breathe. New Mexico State took care of the ball against Connecticut, but its rebounders didn’t do a lot in the face of good offensive days for both squads. The rebounding game could be where Arkansas asserts its edge.
Best Bet Alert: Memphis vs. Gonzaga Point Spread Pick >>>New Mexico State will Cover If: Someone steps up to help Teddy Allen. He won one game by himself, but winning two seems highly improbable. The Aggies need to plan on at least two players in double figures to try to win this game. Arkansas will Cover If: The Razorbacks can dominate the glass and speed up the Aggies to the point where it gets overwhelming. The Razorbacks have the edge in talent and bodies; they need to exploit those positives here.
Dan’s Best Prop BetsThis total seems to be too low. New Mexico State is not a slow-paced team and Arkansas definitely isn’t. These teams are likely to get into the 140-150 point range as long as dead legs don’t lead to low shooting percentages.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the SpreadThis game might be one too far for New Mexico State. Arkansas should be able to focus on Teddy Allen and keep him from taking over a second time. Allen will get some scoring going, but I doubt his teammates can enable him to keep up. I think this is Arkansas’ to lose. I’ll back the Razorbacks to cover.
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