Before we get to the story excerpt, some specific stats I wanted to mention from the season that show either an improvement or were disappointing:
In the Mike Anderson era, this was Arkansas' best defensive performance in terms of opponent field goal percentage, particularly inside the three-point arc. So kudos there.
We all know this team struggled with rebounding, but this was actually the worst defensive rebounding team Anderson has had in Fayetteville, which is extremely disappointing to me. I really thought it would be his best. The Hogs allowed opponents to get 36.6% of their possible offensive rebounds, one of the worst percentages in the nation. And in SEC play, that number rose to 39%. That should be unacceptable and it has to get better.
This was the best of the three teams at getting to the free throw line, and the best at free throw percentage. It was also the best at three-point percentage. They actually ranked 2nd in the SEC in that stat, which is a good improvement. Unfortunately, Arkansas' top three point shooters by percentage were Coty Clarke, Mardracus Wade, and Kikko Haydar - all seniors. But hopefully Anton Beard, Nick Babb, and Jabril Durham can pick up the slack there.
Arkansas shot 48% on two-point shots throughout the season, but in SEC play that number dropped to 42.9%, 13th in the league. I think that's a big reason why Arkansas was so erratic this season. When you struggle scoring inside and are relying on long jumpers, there will be some games when you're in trouble. Arkansas has to figure out a way to be more aggressive and effective inside next year, which leads us to my column below.
The following is an excerpt of a column I wrote for Sporting Life Arkansas. You can read it in it's entirety here.
A year ago, I said Razorback basketball made progress but still underachieved. It’s hard to avoid the same conclusion this year – at least until you remember the questions we all had going into this season.
Questions like, "Can Arkansas replace Marshawn Powell and BJ Young’s scoring?" "How good will Bobby Portis really be?" "Will the Hogs have any backcourt scoring?" "How big a jump can we expect from any of the returning players?" "No, seriously, what’s up with Arkansas’ guard situation?"
Few seemed to expect the Razorbacks to make the NCAA Tournament before the games started. But then, funny thing, the games started and Arkansas started answering some of those questions. Ky Madden blossomed into something like the player everyone hoped he’d be when he signed with Arkansas. Michael Qualls added a more reliable jump shot to his game. Coty Clarke became one of the better all-around players on the team. Bobby Portis earned All-SEC status as a freshman. Alandise Harris provided a physical element that had been lacking. Fred Gulley was better. Anthlon Bell was better. There was a lot of better.
And that’s when expectations changed. We all started seeing the Razorbacks listed in NCAA Tournament projections which obviously led to visions of Dancing dancing in everybody’s head.
There’s no need to rehash the losses that cost Arkansas the NCAA Tournament bid – they could have made it but didn’t, which is disappointing – but the point I want to make, and what should be the focus on fixing in the future is the dramatic droughts that the Hogs suffered this year.
The second half against Texas A&M and the first halves at LSU, Alabama, and Cal are the most egregious examples. But there were also what became trademark scoring droughts that would last for about five minutes or so throughout the season.
I think this, improving consistency, is the most important thing the team can do for next season, and why I think the further development of not just Portis, but especially Moses Kingsley is the key to 2015.
You could argue that at times this year, Arkansas made an effort to be too balanced by spreading too many shots around to different players. When shots aren’t going down, sometimes the best thing to do is attack inside and try to get easy baskets. Both Portis and Kingsley led the team in field goal percentage from inside the arc (both just over 53%). If those two can establish a more dominant inside presence next season – and if Arkansas makes a concerted effort to get them the ball in the post more frequently – that could help reduce those types of debilitating droughts.
Further reason to hope for the development of Kingsley and Portis, short of Arkansas landing a late transfer or juco signee, it doesn"t appear they’ll land any elite big men that can come in and immediately replace Coty Clarke (nothing against Trey Thompson, but I don’t expect him to be on Clarke’s level immediately. Would love to be proven wrong). It of course remains to be seen if Jacorey Williams has the ability to make the jump in productivity we’ve seen from his classmates in Qualls and Bell, but it would surely be welcomed.
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