Tonight on ESPN at 8pm CST the Arkansas Razorbacks will host the Florida Gators at Bud Walton Arena.
This will be a pivotal SEC match-up early in the season for both teams. Florida is 1-2 in SEC play and a loss would be another shot to the gut of a team that came out of the gates this season on fire that has recently gone cold.
The Razorbacks are 1-1 in SEC play after an awful non-conference stretch, but the Hogs are playing their best basketball of the year with starting point guard Courtney Fortson back in the lineup.
A win over the Gators, would send the Hogs into Lexington, KY on Saturday with more confidence and would position them nicely in the SEC early on in the season.
This game is pivotal for both teams to get going in the direction that they want to take for the remainder of the season and in SEC play. There are three areas that I believe will have an impact on who wins or loses this game:
First, is who wins the turnover battle. The Gators will try to pressure the Razorbacks into making mistakes and converting those into easy buckets, so the Hogs must take care of the basketball. Fortson has been a spark to the team, but has averaged just over five turnovers per game since his return.
On the flip side, the Razorbacks will also try to apply pressure to Florida in spots, because the Gators are playing some young guards at times. Whoever can take care of the ball in this game, will have an upper-hand on the scoreboard.
The next key is who can control the boards. The Razorbacks win over Alabama last week was largely due to the Hogs winning the battle of the boards. Against Florida, the Hogs will need to attack the glass with the same intensity.
Florida has not been a great rebounding team, especially when they switch to their smaller lineup. Rebounding could very well be the difference in who wins and loses this game.
The final key is home court advantage. Lately, Bud Walton Arena has not been as hostile to the opposing squad like in past years. The crowds have been at record lows this season, but the Hogs improved play as of late has more fans buzzing.
In their win over Alabama Saturday, the Hogs drew their largest crowd of the season. and the crowd had a big impact on the game. Tonight against Florida, expect the Hogs to draw an even larger crowd and for the crowd to be loud and rowdy.
The Razorbacks have won the last two times Florida has come to Bud Walton Arena.
It is never easy to go on the road and win, but Florida is 2-1 on the road so far this season. For the Gators to come out of Bud Walton Arena with a win, they will likely need to win both in turnovers and rebounding. They could take the crowd out of the game early, but that is not likely.
At the end of the night the team that comes out on top will be sitting in good shape early in SEC play, but the team that losses will be in a hole to start league play. That is why this game is pivotal for such an early SEC match-up.