Arkansas at LSU: 2021-22 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

The LSU Tigers have emerged as one of the SEC’s best. The Arkansas Razorbacks? Not so much, but there’s time to fix that.

TV Schedule: Saturday, January 15, 2:00 pm ET on ESPN2

Arena: Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

At the beginning of the season, it seemed reasonable to expect these teams to be in opposite positions. Arkansas came in with all the hype, while LSU lingered below the surface.

Instead, LSU is surging with just a single loss all season. Meanwhile, the Razorbacks had to beat up on a bad SEC team to get their first win in conference play after losing their first three games of conference play.

LSU comes into the game on a three-game win streak, all fairly impressive victories. The Tigers beat Kentucky at home, beat Tennessee even more convincingly at home, then took their show on the road for a close victory over Florida on Wednesday night. The team’s only loss this season came at the hands of potential new No. 1 in the nation Auburn.

The emergence of Cincinnati transfer Tari Eason has been pacing the hot start for the Tigers. He leads the team in scoring, averaging 15.5 points per game. The sophomore is also averaging 7.2 rebounds per game, creating a formidable front line with fellow forward Darius Days.

If the only thing you knew about the Razorbacks was that they beat Missouri by 44 points the other day, you’d think all was well in Arkansas with the basketball program. But that couldn’t be further from the case.

Prior to the demolition of Mizzou, Arkansas had lost five of its past six games, the only victory coming against Elon. That included a home loss against Hofstra, a 22-point defeat against Oklahoma, and a 13-point loss at Mississippi State.

Arkansas simply isn’t getting enough production from its frontcourt. The top five scorers on the Razorbacks are all guards, led by JD Notae’s 18.8 points per game. Jaylin Williams is the strongest contributor among the forwards, averaging more rebounds (8.6 per game) than points (7.4 per game).

Now, the team will have to trudge forward without its head coach. Eric Musselman was injured in a collision with a player and required shoulder surgery (h/t ESPN). He’s expected to miss the next two games, beginning with the LSU contest.

Of course, the Tigers could be without a key figure too. Senior guard Xavier Pinson recently suffered an MCL strain. It’s not impossible for him to return for Saturday as he’s day-to-day, but it doesn’t seem terribly likely.

Despite the difference in the teams’ records and personnel situations going into this game, this could wind up being a close contest. LSU has the more dominant group of forwards. Arkansas has the more dominant group of guards, especially if Pinson is out.

Where LSU has a major advantage is on the defensive end. The Tigers give up just 56.5 points per game, one of the best marks in the country. The team makes things ridiculously hard for opposing shooters, holding them to 35 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from three-point range.

Arkansas is already one of the worst shooting teams in the nation, hitting just 29.7 percent of their threes. With LSU guarding them on the perimeter, the Tigers could be in for a long day.

Prediction: LSU 72, Arkansas 60