Arkansas Razorbacks set sights on Fighting Illini
The Arkansas Razorbacks face Illinois in a first-round game of the NCAA men's basketball tournament today in Des Moines, Iowa.
- We compared notes with our Axios colleagues for insight you won't get elsewhere.
Justin Kaufmann, co-author of Axios Chicago, writes: The Illini have some big wins this year, including against UCLA and Texas. Guard Terrence Shannon Jr. is the star since transferring from Texas Tech.
- Yes, but: Shannon and the rest of the team are erratic. They played ugly during the Big Ten tournament and it's getting hard to watch postgame interviews with coach Brad Underwood, who uses the word "disappointing" way too much.
Our thought bubble: The Razorbacks had a great recruiting class, so fans’ expectations were high, but the team is inexperienced. Head coach Eric Musselman was challenged to put the puzzle together and get them working as a team.
- On top of that, the squad has been plagued by injuries and inconsistencies in play.
- It's time for Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black to step up and focus on this game as Razorbacks.
Threat level: Musselman is familiar with NCAA tournaments — this'll be his sixth straight year he's taken teams to March Madness.
- But he's been a hothead recently in a loss to Texas A&M and an expletive-laced tirade after a narrow win over San Diego State last November.
The intrigue: The last time these two teams played was in 2004. The Illini won that game and are 5-0 lifetime against the Razorbacks. The teams have never met in the postseason.
Watch the game: Thursday at 3:30pm on TBS.
What's next: If Arkansas defeats Illinois, they'll face the winner of No. 1 seed Kansas and No. 16 seed Northern Kentucky on Saturday.
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