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Vermont Catamounts vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Prediction: NCAA Tournament First Round Preview

Vermont Catamounts vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Prediction: NCAA Tournament First Round Preview

Razorbacks take on the Catamounts to close out the opening day of action in Buffalo

The NCAA Tournament Round of 64 will begin on Thursday afternoon. One of the more intriguing matchups will be between No. 13 Vermont and No. 4 Arkansas.

Arkansas (25-8) made a run to the Elite Eight last year before losing to eventual national champion Baylor. The Razorbacks finished fourth in the SEC standings and are 20th in the NET and the KenPom rankings. This was the 14th time Arkansas posted 25 wins and its' also the first time since the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons that the Razorbacks accomplished the feat back-to-back.

Vermont (28-5) is making its first NCAA appearance since 2019. The Catamounts defeated UMBC 82-43 at home to win the America East Conference Tournament title. It's the school's eighth appearance in the Big Dance where Vermont has a 2-7 record. The Catamounts' last win was over Lamar in the First Four back in 2012.

Thursday will be the first time these two teams will have faced each other.

West Region: No. 13 Vermont Catamounts (28-5) vs. No. 4 Arkansas Razorbacks (25-8)

Time: Thursday, March 17 at 9:20 p.m. ET
Where: KeyBank Center (Buffalo, N.Y.)
TV: TNT
Spread: Arkansas -6

Keys for Vermont

While Arkansas has struggled of late, Vermont enters the NCAA Tournament as one of the hottest teams. The Catamounts have won 22 of 23 games, including their three-game romp through the America East Tournament.

If Vermont is going to pull off the upset, it will need a huge contribution from America East Player of the Year Ryan Davis. This season, Davis is averaging 17.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

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Ben Shungu, who averages 16 points per game, will also need to have a game for the ages for the Catamounts, as they're only scoring 60.3 points per game. That is 16 less than the Razorbacks averaged this season.

Keys for Arkansas

Arkansas enters its matchup against Vermont having dropped two of its last three games, including an 82-64 loss to Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament. The Razorbacks will rely on their potent scoring to get them past the Catamounts.

JD Notae leads the Razorbacks with 18.4 points per game. He is also first on the team in assists (3.7).

Arkansas also has depth with Stanley Umade (11.8 ppg), Au'Diese Toney (11.0), and Chris Lykes (8.2) providing consistent scoring. Jaylin Williams is the top big man, leading the way with 9.6 rebounds per game fourth on the team in scoring (10.5 ppg).

As good as Vermont has been recently, it certainly doesn't have the depth and talent Arkansas has.

Final Analysis

Both of these teams rely a lot on their defense. Arkansas is used to playing in many tight games as three of its last five have been decided by five points or fewer.

Vermont is a veteran club with talented players such as Davis and Shungu, so it should be a close game in the second half. But Arkansas' depth and scoring ability will be the difference in its first-round matchup.

Prediction: Arkansas 76, Vermont 67

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.