Vermont vs. Arkansas Odds
Arkansas got hot down the stretch, as the Razorbacks have done most years underneath Eric Musselman. After an 0-3 start to SEC play, the Hogs won 14 of their final 16 to end the regular season. And the defense ramped it up, ending the season tops in the SEC in defensive efficiency.
But the Razorbacks are running into a tough matchup with Vermont.
The Catamounts have an offense that’s unstoppable. The Vermont offensive metrics are off the charts. The Cats covered in conference play at a 60% clip while laying close to 20 points every night. They then won the America East title game by almost 40 points.
These are two immensely talented teams. It’s tough to decide where the value lies.
Let’s dig in.
John Becker runs a five-out offense that has a big trend toward play under the basket. From that set, the Cats throw the book at opponents. And whether it’s pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops, baseline drives or post-ups with the big, the shot goes in.
The top team in the country in half-court PPP was South Dakota State. Vermont ranked second.
The top team in the country in post-up PPP was Iowa. Vermont ranked second.
The top team in the country in 2-point percentage was Belmont. Gonzaga was second, but Vermont ranked third.
The Cats also shot 37% from 3, which is just a bonus.
In conference play, Vermont shot 61% from 2 and 41% from 3. Those are almost impossible shooting splits. The Cats also went 17-1 in America East play with 16 of those wins coming by double-digits.
Ryan Davis is the big man who hovers toward the rim, and the offense orbits around him. Davis scored almost 10 paint PPG this season while averaging 1.25 PPG in post-up situations, but he also shot 43.6% from 3. He’s the perfect stretch center.
Meanwhile, Ben Shungu is the lead guard who creates a dangerous inside-out duo with Davis. Shungu walked on to the Vermont team after graduating from Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington. He’s been playing basketball in Vermont for 10 years and has scrapped his way to the top of the depth chart.
Shungu runs every set to perfection. He ranks in the top 5% of players in pick-and-roll efficiency, top-15 in both hand-off and off-set efficiency, and top-three in spot-up situations (where he shoots 42% from deep).
Moreover, Shungu’s bag is infinite. He’s silky-smooth finishing with both hands. He has this left-driving baseline step-back jumper that is butter.
Shungu can cook any defender, and he earned America East Tournament Most Outstanding Player as a result.
The roster fills out perfectly. “Huckleberry” Finn Sullivan has turned into a deadly spot-up shooter. Justin Mazzulla is the glue-guy who’s nationally ranked in defensive turnover rate and has a 59% true shooting mark. Isaiah Powell leads the team in rebounds and serves as the de-facto big man when Davis is on the bench.
I love this Vermont team. This version of the Cats reminds me of the 2004 team that upset Syracuse in the first round, but they spread the floor better and are deadlier offensively.
Eric Musselman has done it again, reaching into the transfer portal to build a team that gained familiarity in late January for a run at the Final Four.
Last season, the Razorbacks struggled to find an identity before winning 12 straight SEC games and earning a trip to the Elite Eight, where they lost to eventual national champion Baylor.
This season, Arkansas lost its first three conference games before ripping off 14 wins in 15 games.
The process included limiting Chris Lykes’ role, adding Kamani Johnson’s astronomical rebound per minute usage and the emergence of senior Trey Wade.
This is one of the best defenses in the nation, finishing 16th in efficiency, per KenPom. The strength comes in the rebounding and block rate of center Jaylin Williams and the top-100 steal rate of JD Notae.
Arkansas does play aggressive defense, which can lead to foul trouble.
Musselman is known for sitting players in the first half with two fouls, an issue with Notae during the SEC Tournament. Arkansas is 313th in bench minutes and 290th in minutes continuity, dictating that foul trouble changes the entire game plan for the Hogs.
From an offensive perspective, this version of the Razorbacks focuses more on attacking the rim than shooting from the perimeter. Arkansas had a 3-point streak dating back to 1989 that was snapped this season.
Any opposing defense that excels in transition or protecting the rim will give the Hogs problems. More importantly, a lockdown guard that will keep Notae from getting hot at the 3-point line is the most direct path to beating the Razorbacks.
Vermont vs. Arkansas Betting Pick
I love this matchup for Vermont.
The Hogs are hot, but I think they might be slightly overvalued in the market. Arkansas has some inconsistencies defensively in post-up and cutting situations—both areas where Vermont is deadly.
Arkansas doesn’t have a huge size advantage at any position, and do we trust Jaylin Williams to lock down the paint?
JD Notae is the only true offensive star on the Hogs. Meanwhile, the Catamounts are filled with offensive stars. The Razorbacks will want to push the pace in transition, something Notae is especially adept at. But Vermont is second nationally in transition PPP allowed.
This line opened at Vermont +6.5, but the spread quickly got pushed down to +5 by sharps, and KenPom makes this line four. The line also continues to move toward Vermont despite 55% of the tickets being on Arkansas.
Vermont is a legit squad with legit offensive weapons and an offensive chemistry unrivaled by any team in college hoops. This is not a team to mess with.
And if you think Vermont only dominated because the Cats play in a very weak conference, think of this: America East teams have covered four straight games in the tournament and eight of the last 10.
I think the Cats win this game outright. I’m willing to bet them down to +4 on the spread and down to +150 on the ML.
But in the end, Cats by 20.