SEC Tournament Betting Preview: Arkansas is favored vs. Vanderbilt

SEC Tournament Betting Preview: Arkansas is favored vs. Vanderbilt

The men’s SEC Basketball Tournament starts Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN. The curtain jerker will pit 12th-seeded Arkansas against 13th-seeded Vanderbilt at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on the SEC Network.

As of early Tuesday morning, I had not been able to locate a spread for this game yet. KenPom had the Razorbacks as six-point favorites with a total of 148, while my line was Arkansas -4.5.

BetOnline opened Arkansas as a 6.5-point favorite around lunch on Tuesday. The total was 149 points.

By Wednesday morning, most books had the Hogs favored by six points with a total of 148.5. The Commodores were +215 on the money line at DraftKings.

These teams met in Fayetteville on Feb. 27, with Vandy (9-22 straight up, 14-16-1 against the spread) capturing an 85-82 upset win as a 10-point road underdog. The 167 combined points soared ‘over’ the 143.5-point total.

Arkansas (15-16 SU, 12-19 ATS) jumped out to a 20-10 lead in the first eight minutes, but the Commodores finished the first half on a 25-11 run to lead by four at the break.

Vandy extended its lead to 69-55 with six minutes left, but the Hogs rallied to trim the deficit to 78-75 with two minutes remaining. They pulled to within one on Khalif Battle’s 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left.

But with 3.5 ticks remaining, Vandy point guard Ezra Manjon buried a pair of free throws. Arkansas guard Tramon Mark’s potential tying trey from the left wing at the buzzer was off the mark.

Manjon’s 22 points sparked Vandy to its first true road win of the season. Tyrin Lawrence added 21 points and five rebounds, and Ven-Allen Lubin had 19 points, 12 boards and two blocked shots.

Manjon had four rebounds and three assists without a turnover, hitting 8-of-16 field-goal attempts. Lubin went 9-of-10 from the field, and Paul Lewis was also in double figures with 11 points off the bench.

Battle scored a game-high 36 points for Arkansas. He also had six rebounds, three assists and three steals. El Ellis added 19 points and Mark finished with 15 points and six boards.

It was Vandy’s third straight win over the Razorbacks both SU and ATS. The ‘over’ has hit in five consecutive head-to-head meetings between these SEC rivals, with those combined scores netting 167, 181, 149, 163 and 159 points.

Eric Musselman’s team is 6-1 ATS in its last seven contests, with that lone non-cover coming vs. Vandy. Arkansas led through all 40 minutes of regulation Saturday at Alabama as a 14.5-point road underdog. However, the Crimson Tide pulled even in the final minute and ended up winning 92-88 in overtime.

The extra session allowed the 180 combined points to slip ‘over’ the 174.5-point total.

Arkansas led by as many as 15 points in the first half, but Alabama star guard Mark Sears drained a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left in regulation to pull his team into a 74-74 tie.

Aaron Estrada’s layup with 2:03 remaining in OT gave the Crimson Tide the lead for good, and his two free throws with 12 ticks left put the game on ice.

Battle had a team-best 22 points and seven rebounds. Makhi Mitchell was in double figures for the 10th time in the Hogs’ last 12 games, finishing with 18 points, five rebounds and four blocked shots.

Trevon Brazile added 12 points, six boards and two blocked shots. Mark and Ellis were also in double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Arkansas was undone by 15 turnovers and 4-of-20 shooting (20.0%) from 3-point range.

Jerry Stackhouse’s squad is 4-1 ATS with two outright wins in its last five games, including this past Saturday’s 79-78 win over Florida as a nine-point home underdog. The 157 combined points elevated ‘over’ the 153-point total.

With 24 ticks left, Vandy cut UF’s lead to one on two free throws by JaQualon Roberts. Next, Lawrence stole the Gators’ inbound pass and scored the game-winning layup with 15 seconds remaining.

The Commodores closed the game on a 20-11 run over the last 5:59. Lubin led the way with 25 points, 11 rebounds and two steals, while Lawrence finished with 14 points, seven boards and two assists.

Roberts had seven points and seven of Vandy’s 16 offensive rebounds, and Manjon contributed eight points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals.

The ‘over’ is 23-8 overall for the Razorbacks, cashing in six straight games and 10 of their last 11. On the flip side, the ‘under’ is 19-11 overall for the Commodores, but they’ve seen the ‘over’ go 3-1 in their last four outings.

KenPom has Arkansas ranked #105 nationally in offensive efficiency and #125 in defensive efficiency. The Hogs are ranked #106 at KenPom.

With the exception of the home loss vs. Vandy, Arkansas has played well in six of its last seven games, as its 6-1 ATS mark suggests. Musselman’s bunch has a 78-71 win at Texas A&M as a 12-point road underdog, an 88-73 win vs. Missouri as a 5.5-point home ‘chalk’ and a 94-83 win over LSU as a 4.5-point home favorite.

Two Saturdays ago at Kentucky as a 13-point road underdog, Arkansas led the Wildcats 84-75 with less than nine minutes remaining. UK responded with a 23-8 run, though, and eventually pulled away for a 111-102 win.

KenPom has Vandy ranked #204 nationally in offensive efficiency and #192 in defensive efficiency. The Commodores are ranked #187 at KenPom.

Stackhouse had Vandy’s 2022-23 team playing great basketball in February and March of last year even after its leading scorer Liam Robbins went down with a season-ending injury. Nevertheless, the Commodores won 10 of 11 games, including seven wins over KenPom Top-75 opponents, to advance to the SEC Tournament semifinals.

After losing to Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament semifinals, Vandy beat Yale and Michigan at home to make the NIT quarterfinals, but the season ended in a 67-59 home loss to UAB. The ‘Dores finished the year 22-15 SU and 20-17 ATS.

Unfortunately for Stackhouse, Vandy’s athletic department was woefully unprepared to counter what other schools were offering players from an NIL perspective. The result was the departures of Jordan Wright to LSU and Myles Stute to South Carolina.

Those defections were undoubtedly tied to NIL opportunities. The transfers of key role players like Quentin Millora-Brown and Trey Thomas probably weren’t NIL related, but they nonetheless hurt this year’s team.

Millora-Brown has averaged 11.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots per game for The Citadel, while Thomas has scored at a 11.3 PPG clip for Bowling Green. Colin Smith, who had two double-doubles in Vandy’s first seven games, went down with a season-ending injury in mid-December, further exacerbating the team’s roster issues.

Another monster loss Stackhouse had to deal with earlier in his tenure was that of Dylan Disu, who averaged 15.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.2 blocked shots and 1.1 steals per game as a true sophomore before transferring to Texas.

Whatever the case, Stackhouse is on the hot seat. He reportedly inked a contract extension after last year’s surprising surge that had Vandy thinking it might get an at-large bid to the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

But the details of that extension and his buyout are unknown. Therefore, whether Stackhouse will be coaching his final game for Vandy on Wednesday or later in the SEC Tournament is a mystery – at least for now.

As for Musselman, he has job security galore after taking the Razorbacks to two Elite Eight appearances and one Sweet 16 in the three previous seasons. If anything, Arkansas might be concerned about potential overtures from other schools like Louisville and Ohio St.

The winner of Vandy-Arkansas will advance to Thursday’s second round to take on fifth-seeded South Carolina in the second game of the afternoon session. That game will be on the SEC Network and start 25 minutes after the conclusion of LSU vs. Mississippi St.