Although the Arkansas men’s basketball team is 9-0 on the season, it dropped two spots to No. 12 in the latest Associated Press Poll ahead of its Saturday matchup with Oklahoma.
Those who do not follow Arkansas basketball might assume the Hogs lost a tough game to fall in the rankings, but the Razorbacks won both their games last week and started this week off with an 86-66 win over Charlotte.
Last week, the Hogs defeated in-state opponents Central Arkansas and Little Rock by 37 and 15 points, respectively. Winning two games by a combined 52 points usually presents an opportunity to move up in the rankings.
Alabama jumped seven spots in the polls after a big win against No. 3 Gonzaga, leapfrogging Arkansas in the process. The Razorbacks also fell behind Arizona, which stayed put at No. 11. Arizona beat Oregon State, which is 1-8 on the season, by 25 in its only game last week.
Moving forward, the Hogs could get a chance to advance in the rankings once more when they take on future conference rivals the Oklahoma Sooners this Saturday in Tulsa.
The Sooners are 7-2 and enter the neutral-site matchup coming off an overtime loss to the Butler Bulldogs on Tuesday. They present a possible quadrant-1 win for Arkansas, which is something the Hogs will need if they want to move up in the polls.
Oklahoma earned an impressive win over then-No. 14 Florida. Senior forward Tanner Groves led the team with 20 points and eights rebounds. Groves leads the team with 14.9 points per game and has shot 59% from the field.
“Groves is a really good player,” head coach Eric Musselman said in a press conference Thursday. “He’s a big focal point for what they try to do from an offensive standpoint. He can space it out, he can pass the ball, he’s good inside. I think Groves is a hard matchup every night for whoever goes against him.”
As a team, the Sooners shoot 49% from the field and 33% from deep. The Razorbacks have shot just 28% from beyond the arc, including a disappointing 21% during the six previous games.
“Well, we haven’t made many 3s,” Musselman said. “I mean, we can’t shoot it any worse I don’t think. Knock on wood.”
The Hogs’ 3-point defense has improved after a shaky start to the year. After the Razorbacks allowed their opponents to shoot over 40% from deep in each of the first three games, only Central Arkansas has done that in the last six games.
Arkansas has also struggled from the line. The Hogs have made 70% of their free throws, but only four players are shooting above 60% from the charity stripe. Arkansas needs to shoot better from the free-throw line as well as the 3-point line to take down Oklahoma.
A couple bright spots for Arkansas recently are sophomore forward Jaylin Williams and sophomore guard Davonte Davis. Williams is coming off a career-high 15 points on 7-9 shooting Tuesday. Davis has scored 16.7 points per game over the last three contests after averaging just 6.3 points a game in the first six.
“One of the things we talked to him about was ‘play with joy,’” Musselman said. “I thought last year, the cool thing about him, being around him, coaching him, his teammates, we all kind of fed off his energy, his enthusiasm to play. He seemed a little more serious to start this year. I think he’s a guy we need. We feed off of his personality and we’ve seen a lot more of his personality of late.”
The Razorbacks and Oklahoma will meet at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the BOK Center. The game will be televised on ESPN2.