Free Picks: Arkansas Razorbacks vs Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

Free Picks: Arkansas Razorbacks vs Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
Arkansas Razorbacks vs Oral Roberts Golden Eagles, NCAA, Bankers Life Fieldhouse

The No. 3 Arkansas Razorbacks (24-6, 14-5 SEC) trailed in both of their NCAA tournament games so far this month, and now they’re facing the biggest surprise of March Madness in No. 15 Oral Roberts (18-10, 13-5 Summit). The Golden Eagles have earned a pair of tight victories over heavily favored opponents to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1974, thanks to some excellent free throw shooting and turnover generation.

Oral Roberts can’t do this again, can they?

If you hadn’t heard of Oral Roberts until last weekend, that’s OK. We get it. Heck, the basketball team only got its Twitter verification check on Tuesday! But fans of the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes know all about the Golden Eagles. So do fans of the No. 7 Florida Gators. And by Saturday, one way or another, so will fans of the No. 3 Arkansas Razorbacks.

What 15th-seeded Oral Roberts has done to survive and advance twice is nothing short of exceptional. But surely they can’t do that again — right?

They’re going to at least try, sitting as 11.5-point underdogs (-105 at Betway) on the latest NCAA basketball odds. On the money line, they’re quite hefty +450 underdogs (Betway), which comes as no surprise. After all, we’re talking about a really good Arkansas team here. They haven’t had the smoothest ascent to the Sweet 16, but they didn’t get here by accident. The Razorbacks defend, defend and defend some more, which has led to them producing the 10th-ranked adjusted defensive efficiency in NCAA Division I. Despite some early struggles versus No. 14 Colgate in the opening round, Arkansas forced 22 turnovers in what ended up being a comfortable win.

Things weren’t as comfortable two days later against No. 6 Texas Tech, who fell to the Razorbacks 68-66, but Arkansas held the Red Raiders to an abysmal 12-of-41 (29.3%) shooting on two-pointers. Ouch.

Both Arkansas and Oral Roberts play fast (top-50 adjusted tempos), and both have excelled against the spread lately (8-2 apiece in their respective past 10 games). So this could be a tough one to call in that regard.

What’s funny is that Oral Roberts’s key to success seems to be outside shooting (not an uncommon trait of underdog teams). The Golden Eagles are 14th in three-point percentage (38.2%) and 18th in three-pointer shot share (46.4% of attempts). And yet Oral Roberts was not impressive from deep in either of its upset wins so far, shooting a combined 21-of-65 (32.3%). Over the course of a full season, that would put them in the bottom third of the NCAA.

So as impressive as Oral Roberts has been, we haven’t seen their best “fastball,” so to speak. How peculiar is that?

Look, we’re not picking Oral Roberts to win. For a team as proven and as defensively disciplined as them, it’s just not happening. But we will take Oral Roberts with the points in our BetPicks prediction. A positive regression form three-point land should help them cover that spread.

Stats

  • Arkansas is 8-2 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The UNDER has cashed in seven of the Razorbacks’ past nine games
  • Oral Roberts is 8-2 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The OVER has cashed in seven of the Golden Eagles’ past 10 games

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Jordan Horrobin is a freelance sports journalist based in Toronto, Ontario, who enjoys sports-related research and telling engaging stories. His work can also be found at Sportsnet, Forbes and elsewhere. Though he abandoned most of his team-specific fandoms in the interest of unbiased analysis, Jordan roots hard for his fantasy football/hockey teams (and he's a complete homer for all things Ohio University). You can follow Jordan on Twitter at @JordanHorrobin

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