Sorry, Doc Harper.
I know you'd rather turn the page on this basketball season. Aside from the Gulley dunk and possibly the greatest gif in Hog gifhistory, there wasn't much to get excited about as Arkansas' season ended Monday night.
The years may change, but the theme remains the same: How close have the latest group of Hogs gotten to the bar set by their 1994 and 1995 predecessors? Every year, we get the same answer - "Not very close." - by only slightly varying degrees. Still, fans have to be heartened by Bobby Portis' emergence as the best Hog big man since Corliss Williamson.
While no single Razorback team since 1995 could come within 25 points of beating the 1994-95 teams if all involved were playing at their highest levels, I'm interested to know if you think there would be a team composed of 1996-2014 players who could beat those halycon day hogs.
It's a question originally raised on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly, which I delve into further on Sporting Life Arkansas. Yes, it's pure, delusional fantasy. But it presents a more humane way to show 2013-14 out the door. And it beats the living hell out of ever having to think about those first 10 minutes in Berkeley again.
Here’s a poll - with the original article - asking you to choose five players from the below pool of candidates. In the early going, the top five vote-getters are Portis, Johnson and Brewer, along with Pat Bradley and Patrick Beverley.
Best Perimeter Players since 1995:
Best Post Players since 1995:
Here’s my take:
Forget trying to match the power of Williamson and Stewart inside. You’re not going to do it. No matter what, you will take some lumps.
The best tact to beat the national championship team is strangling them on the perimeter with size and strength, making those entry passes to Williamson difficult in the first place.
That’s why the core of my team is Joe Johnson, Ronnie Brewer and Sonny Weems. These three wingmen are all in the 6-6 to 6-8 range, very athletic, smart and able to create their own shots from almost anywhere on the floor. They have major height advantages over Beck and McDaniel while not sacrificing too much quickness. Each of these three Hogs would cause havoc in the passing lanes, and they could easily get their shots off. Moreover, each of them is more athletic and stronger than Thurman, which would diminish the sharpshooter’s effectiveness.
My big man is Corliss’ former pupil, Bobby Portis. Williamson (as a sophomore) would have the advantage over Portis as a freshman. He would have a clear strength and quickness advantage. But Portis would not be absolutely manhandled. The strongest part of his body is his legs, which would would help him keep his balance against an opponent with a center of gravity advantage against any foe outside of Charles Barkley. Portis’ four inch height advantage and reach would annoy Corliss enough to minimize the damage.
With the offensive firepower and creativity of Johnson, Brewer and Weems, the key is to find someone who doesn’t demand the ball but can clean up on the offensive boards, play sound post defense, has good hands and finishes around the basket. Portis is the best fit here.
For the fifth player, we want someone who is quick, savvy, unselfish and a great passer. By far, the best candidate for the job on this team is Kareem Reid. Arkansas’ all-time assists leader will give up inches and strength when guarding Beck or McDaniel, but his ability to penetrate the defense and pass to the Big Three outside or Portis inside will more than make up for this liability. Plus, Reid, who is third on Arkansas’ steals list, has the ability to make Williamson and Stewart jumpy as he occasionally goes for strips coming around from the blindside on double teams and traps.
I would put Weems on Stewart to start the game and dare Stewart to try to exploit his size advantage in the paint. You want Stewart trying to be the go-to guy down low. Because the post game was never the long-range bomber’s strength, and extra shots for him would likely take his team out of its flow.
On rebounds, Weems and Portis must hustle and keep their bodies on Stewart and Williamson. Johnson and Brewer will swoop in and take care of the boards.