The week of Thanksgiving is one of the best weeks of the college basketball season, it’s filled with tournaments and events that give fans the opportunity to see some of the best non-conference match-ups. One of the best tournaments is the Maui Invitational and this year features one of the most loaded brackets it has ever had. The second game of the event will feature a struggling Louisville team taking on 15th-ranked Arkansas, we’ll preview the game and what the best bet might be as well.
The Louisville Cardinals have opened this season 0-3 with all three games being one-point losses to inferior mid-major opponents. Tonight the Cardinals will not play a mid-major school instead they’ll take on the 3-0 Arkansas Razorbacks.
Through three games this season the Cardinals are only averaging 66 points per game so if they want any chance at making tonight’s game competitive they’ll need to be much more efficient on offense. El Ellis is leading the team in scoring averaging 24 ppg but as a whole Louisville is struggling to shoot the ball from both three-point range and in general. The Cardinals are shooting 33.8% from three and will need to catch fire in Hawaii in order to compete with the stellar Razorbacks' defense.
Arkansas might be 3-0 but it’s been their defense early on that has carried them, the Razorbacks are only allowing an average of 54 points per game up to this point. Offensively though the Razorbacks are actually shooting the ball worse from three-point land than the Cardinals. Wichita State transfer Ricky Council IV has been leading the Razorbacks in scoring with 18.7 ppg.
It’s still unclear if freshman Jordan Walsh will be able to play tonight but if he is it will be interesting to see if he and fellow freshman Anthony Black can show why they were highly-rated recruits in their first big televised game. Look for another transfer player Trevon Brazile to also play a big role tonight and be a big presence on the glass for the Razorbacks.
The Arkansas Razorbacks are currently favored by -15.5 points but I don’t feel comfortable taking the points for either team with the way their offenses have played, instead, my best bet for this one is the under of 140.5. Neither team has had a game go over this season and I think Arkansas coach Eric Musselman knows until they start to shoot it better they need to rely on their defense to win games.
Louisville has no consistency or chemistry right now on the offensive end so Arkansas is a terrible match-up for them to get back on track. The Cardinals are coming off a loss in which they scored 60 points to Appalachian State, which is not great considering App State is ranked 199th in the country in points allowed this season.
In a similar way to Arkansas, head coach of the Cardinals Kenny Payne knows if they want any chance to hang in this game they will need to play lockdown defense and attack the boards hard. Brandon Huntley-Hatfield leads Louisville in rebounds and I think his length could slow the Arkansas interior offense down a bit, which is important with the way Arkansas is shooting right now. I think the under is the best play to open the Maui Invitational.