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Arkansas Fight Panel Discussion: Razorback Basketball Preview

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Gathering our contributors' thoughts on the upcoming basketball season.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

1. Bobby Portis is deservedly receiving most of the headlines going into the season, but who is another player on the team you think might have a breakout year, or at least a much improved year from last season?

Ryan: Jacorey Williams and it's not even close. He spent his first two seasons running around like a chicken with it's head cut off. In his junior season, it appears that he has learned how to play within himself, but still use his impeccable motor.

Jamie: Moses Kingsley sounded much improved on the radio call of the exhibition game on Friday night.  I’m hoping to see him step up and be a force on defense and be someone we can funnel drives into for him to protect the rim

Adam F: I'm hoping for Alandise Harris or Jacorey Williams. Someone needs to step up at the 4 as a rebounder and a down-low threat to take pressure off Portis.

Mark: Love to see Michael Qualls continue to shoot as well as he did in the first exhibition. If so, combined with the energy and SportsCenter highlights he tends to provide, he's a full-time star in the making. But I think this bunch is full of players who'll be able to lead the team on any given night. Perhaps this is the year Jacorey settles into his role. The chicken analogy from Ryan....good one.

Scottie: I tend to agree with Ryan on his Jacorey Williams assessment. Anderson has said on multiple occasions Williams is the best conditioned player on the team. I hope Jacorey uses that to find a way to get easy buckets in transition because I think that's where he can help this team most. I'm still not sold on his jumpshot, but he's pretty good on fast break chances and has a knack for rebounding the ball. It'll also be interesting to watch how Alandise Harris plays with an increased role this season.

Devan: We've seen bursts of what Anthlon Bell can do, but nothing consistent. I look for him to be a playmaker this year. We saw some life towards the end of the season from him. He may be the best pure 3-point shooter on the team.

Adam P: There's so many to choose from. Moses Kingsley is the one I'm most excited about though. He seemed to be hot and cold at times last year, but we need a rebounding machine and I hope Moses becomes the Hogs' Dennis Rodman.

Robert: I think Moses Kingsley is going to have a breakout year. His performance in the red white game was huge. You have to remember that he was a Freshman last season, and he will turn 20 when Arkansas hosts Alabama State on the 16th. I think Kingsley is going to help Arkansas have a great 1-2 punch down low.

Doc: If Anthlon Bell can match Madden's performance last year behind the arc (40%) that will be huge for the team. I'd also like to see Bell be more of a scorer inside the three point line with mid-range jumpers. He's really good at those.

Graham: I don't know who this player is, but I want to see who is going to see who is this year's Kikko Haydar. Who is the guy when the team is down can come in and inspire the comeback with a few plays that change the game. He may be a starter or a guy who comes off the bench.

Also, I want to see if Michael Qualls has done some work in gym to improve his vertical. Because if that's possible, I want his workout plan so I can learn to dunk.

2. You could argue the five toughest teams on Arkansas’ schedule are all road games (SMU, Iowa State, Kentucky, Florida, Georgia). We all know the Hogs have struggled on the road through Mike Anderson’s tenure (last year vs Kentucky excepted), so why should we think the Razorbacks could win some of those games, and how many should they win?

Mark: The road gremlins will visit again this season, but I suspect not nearly as often. We'll hit the road, finally, with what seems like a full deck. That'll make a big difference.

Scottie: The core group of guys from last year are back and bring with them the experiences on winning on the road. I don't expect this team to have the "deer in the headlights" look to them on the road anymore. They know what it takes to win away from home now.

Ryan: They needed to win at Vanderbilt and Mississippi State before they were going to win at Kentucky. It's the proverbial "you have to crawl before you walk." They are now ready to make that next big step and grab some key road victories.

Jamie: I think last year’s team was able to shake a few of MIke’s early demons, especially that road win against Kentucky.  That combined with much more talent and an extra year for players like Bobby will be key in these tough road contests.  I think we need to take 2 of the 5 and can win 3-4 of them if this team plays up to their abilities.

Adam F: I think the Hogs could take one or two of those road games. Really, going unbeaten at home and winning three or four conference road games should be enough to do it, so the Hogs could theoretically go 0-5 in those games and be fine. I'd like to win a big one away from Bud Walton though.

Graham: You have to believe at some point the road woes start to wear off because of law of averages. Earning that elusive SEC win in football will come, and the basketball team has to win road games.

Devan: If they wouldn't have won that game at UK last year I wouldn't expect much on the road from this team. But this is a veteran enough team, they know they can win on the road, and that's a big part of winning on the road. I think they can win at least two of those five games this year.

Adam P: Kentucky is going to be T-U-F-F TOUGH this year. The other teams will be very good, as well. However, if you want people to notice your program, you've gotta step up and get over the hump. If we could 3 out of those 5, I'd be a happy camper. Two wins is a must.

Robert: The road losses have been hard to explain. They've happened often against teams that the Razorbacks maybe weren't as excited to play, and that's why you saw that big win against Kentucky. If this team can be excited and mentally engaged against Iowa State and SMU, they will find themselves a few more road wins.

Doc: I don't worry too much about those Kentucky and Florida games. Those are gravy opportunities. Winning one of those two non-cons will be important (plus the Clemson game) but the one I think is most important is the Georgia game. This is the 3rd straight year Arkansas has opened SEC play on the road and in both of the last two they were terrible. A good showing against Georgia will do a lot to show they're going to do damage in the SEC this year.

3. With that in mind, is it fair to set an expectation that the team should go undefeated at Bud Walton?

Adam F: Yes. It will be expected.

Mark: We're a program that should always expect -- ALWAYS -- to go undefeated at home.

Ryan: After looking at the schedule, there is no doubt in my mind they should go undefeated at home. How special would that be that their first year back in the tournament they also went undefeated at BWA?

Jamie: Honestly, I’m going to put that expectation onto the fans as much as on the players.  That building is the toughest place to play in the SEC, WHEN WE FILL IT UP AND GET LOUD.  It’s entirely unfair to place an expectation of perfection on this team, if our fans aren’t willing to attend.

Scottie: I don't see any reason why Arkansas can't sweep its home games. Dayton will probably be the biggest obstacle but Arkansas should win that one. The home conference slate is weak. I'd be disappointed if they didn't go undefeated in BWA.

Adam P: It would be great if they could go undefeated at home....as long as they back it up on the road. With how Coach Anderson's team has played at BWA in the past few years, you almost have to expect them to win all the home games, right?

Robert: I think that going undefeated at Bud Walton should be the expectation every season. They almost did it in 2012-13 with just a little loss to Syracuse.

Graham: They should go undefeated at home based on the schedule and because of how Anderson's teams feed off the energy in BWA. An undefeated run at home is not an unrealistic expectation.

Devan: The home schedule is a bit disappointing. There isn't really a marque game in Bud Walton this year. They shouldn't have trouble winning out at home.

Doc: It's highly possible Arkansas won't face a single top 25 team in Fayetteville. They will likely play some Tournament teams, but no elite teams. Unless somebody unexpectedly has a hot season, the Razorbacks will be favored in every game. The biggest threats are probably Dayton and LSU. But losing any home game with their schedule will be an ugly mark on their NCAA Tournament resume.

4. Should this season be considered a success just for making the NCAA Tournament? Otherwise, what would make this season successful?

Adam P: Without a doubt, YES! Anything less would be uncivilized....

Graham: There is no "otherwise" in my book. If this team doesn't find itself playing in the NCAAs, this season will not have been a successful one. It's the next point on the natural progression of this program. Making the Sweet 16 would be a bonus but not unfathomable.

Devan: No, they need to win at least one game in the tournament. Sure, making it is so much more than we have done for the past 5 years, but they should be good enough to win at least one game in the tourney. Hopefully they get hot around that time where March can be fun.

Scottie: Making the NCAA tournament would be great, but I think we can all see the talent on this roster. One and done in the tournament would be a loss in my eyes. I've got Arkansas out in the Sweet 16.

Ryan: I think it all depends on the draw they get. If they're a 6 seed an get upset by an 11 seed that would certainly be disappointing. But, if they're a 12 and win one of those play-in games that would be pretty cool too.  Hopefully, they can win at least one game in the NCAA Tournament because they have the talent to do so.

Jamie: Given our recent past, yes.  But I think we have the talent to make a Sweet 16 or better run and I think it’d be a bit of a waste to use the talent on this team to  be "successful" on just getting in the tournament.

Adam F: Making the tournament is the goal, just like making a bowl in football. Gotta get back before we can start making bigger plans.

Robert: If they don't make the NCAA tournament, it will be a failure. I would predict that it would be injuries that would derail these Hogs from post season play, and if that's the case you would want to see growth through the season from our returning guys. Additionally, I would want to see this team avoid the road blowouts.

Mark: At this point, right now, yes. Advancement would be gravy. We just need to get back to the dance. But I sure hope we enter March contemplating how high our seed will be, at which point one and done would be a disappointment. Getting back and having any success in the tourney would be huge for the state, much less the program.

Doc: It's obvious getting to the Tournament is critical. I'm not ready to say they have to win x number of games there just because so much can go into where they're seeded that's out of their control. How the SEC does in non-conference play will be a big part of it.

5. How much of an impact do you expect Arkansas’ newcomers to make (Durham, Beard, Miles, Babb, Thompson)? And is there one in particular you’re excited about?

Jamie: I expect a large impact, specifically from the new point guards (yes, we’ll have a real one!).  It’ll be nice to have two after having none for so long as well since they’re both new and if one of them hits a poor stretch we have another option without relying entirely on Madden like we did for the last two years.

Adam F: I like what I've heard about Durham. Hopefully someone can take the backcourt pressure off Rashad Madden.

Mark: My expectation for the new point guards is to help alleviate some pressure off of Madden and free him up. But I think both will need to ease into their roles a little. Suspect the biggest newcomer impact will come from those two, Durham especially, and Miles, who seems to be a classic Nolan garbage player a la Lenzie Howell.

Scottie: I'm particularly excited about the two point guards and Keaton Miles. Beard brings a scoring threat to the guard position and Durham looks to facilitate more but can hurt you if you don't respect his jumper. I think they'll be fine. I, for whatever reason, like Babb as well. I think he may be able to provide a little something off the bench. He's got a smooth stroke.

Ryan: With Miles and Durham being two older guys, I definitely expect them to come in and have an immediate impact. Of the younger guys, I hope Anton Beard can make the transition. He gets buckets and will more than likely take over the point guard reigns from Madden after this season.

Graham: I like the size of Nick Babb, standing at 6-4 as a guard. If he develops as expected, he could be a great on-ball defender on smaller guards and has the size to shoot over or back down smaller defenders.

Devan: You can't expect too much from first year players, but I'm excited to finally have a true point guard on the team. That should take some pressure off of Ky Madden and open up a lot more things on offense. Whether it's Beard or Durham, they should make the half-court offense more consistent.

Robert: I'm excited to see them play. Bringing in this many new faces is exciting after having so many of the same guys for so many years. I think I'm most excited about Thompson and Williams. Those guys should be able to get a few more rebounds subbing in for the front court. I am excited that their presence should let Harris slide out to the 3.

Adam P: No matter what my expectations, they've gotta produce this year. We need a true point guard to emerge and I'm hoping to Mother Mary of all that is holy that Anton Beard becomes that guy.

Doc: I've seen positive flashes from all of them in the couple of exhibitions so far. Durham and Miles seem most capable to make an impact right away. Miles has a larger frame than I realized. He seems really capable of being physical in the paint. Durham is very quick and can score. I'm also excited to see Anton Beard develop through the year. He could be a big contributor by the end of the year.

6. With all the attention Jimmy Dykes is attracting, how does his presence impact how much attention you’re going to pay to the women’s basketball team?

Jamie: I’m glad he’s there and hope he does great, but honestly I’m not going to pay a lot more attention, wish I could say that I would, but I do need to save some attention for family, friends and my job.  Sorry Jimmy, best of luck!

Adam F: I'm afraid they aren't going to be very good this year, but I'll certainly follow them more closely than in years past. I think Dykes has brought some excitement back to the program.

Mark: My second fav Sutton-era walk-on (behind Eugene Nash) has definitely impacted my interest in the women's team. I'll pay attention more to the Lady Backs. (Sorry, I'm sticking with Lady Backs.)

Scottie: I'll pay more attention. I think he's a brilliant basketball mind. The question is whether he'll be able to recruit the talent to make Arkansas a contender after Calli Berna and Jhasmin Bowen leave next season.

Graham: I'll check in here and there because I want to know how he coaches and if he can make a run to the NCAAs. He is proud of this team and to be from Arkansas, which is something we all can get behind.

Devan: It definitely makes you want to keep up with them more. But I think he only has like 9-10 scholarship players on that team. There is talent there, but not a lot of depth. He's put a spark under the program though, making people talk about Women's Basketball in Fayetteville is an accomplishment in itself. Can't wait to see where he takes it.

Ryan: First off, I think he needs to win in year one. He returns most of a team that was one win away from the NCAA Tournament last season. He has the best PG in the conference with Cali Berna and the reigning SEC Freshman of the year in Jessica Jackson. I'm watching this team because this is the year they should make it back to the tournament, not because of who the coach is. Dykes is inheriting a situation much like John Pelphrey did. His predecessor wasn't let go for being down right awful. Collen was let go because he wasn't consistently good enough. There is a difference. There is more than enough talent for him to win now. The rebuilding will start in year 2, like it did with Pelphrey.

Adam P: I'll be 100% honest. I'll pay about as much attention this year as I did all my previous 30 years. I'll let you guess how much.

Doc: I'll pay more attention, but I don't know that I'll actually attend games. I may watch some on the SEC Network or something. The Wife barely tolerates all the attention I have to pay to men's basketball.

Robert: I sat through a lot of rough games with Gardner at the helm. Collen started things in the right direction, but it was pretty clear he couldn't build any excitement. Dykes played at Arkansas, assistant coached at Arkansas, and has been present in Northwest Arkansas and building excitement for our university for a very long time. I'm excited, but I'm not expecting him to blow the doors off right away. It's going to be tough, because the SEC is a women's basketball powerhouse. To answer your question though, I imagine the SEC Network will be more responsible for me watching more games this season than the Head Coach.