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Arkansas vs Alabama Stats Review and Mizzou Preview: This Could Get Ugly

Arkansas basketball has been all kinds of UGLY lately. With a trip to last-place Mizzou looming, there are a lot of different possibilities for UGLY.

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the Hogs won. So there's that. Bobby Portis overcame a bad night (struggling after a hard first-half fall) to score the winning points and notch his fourth straight double-double.

Still, it wasn't pretty. Watching Arkansas basketball is like watching a lion toying with its prey and expecting the lion to finally move in for the kill, except it never does and finally you realize that the lion is overrated. Still dangerous, but not exactly the King of the Jungle.

Mike Anderson has to be commended for assembling a roster full of talented, athletic players. Recall that Michael Qualls was a low three-star recruit whose other offers included Tulane and Louisiana Tech. So credit where its due. But Arkansas' talent has routinely bailed out poor game management by the coaches and a general lack of adjustments and strategy beyond the ability to play fast in spurts.

Still, the Hogs pulled it out. The average RPI of Arkansas' first five SEC opponents was 53rd. Now, 6 of the next 9 have RPIs below 100, starting Saturday at Mizzou. Let's take a final look at the Alabama game:

Arkansas Alabama
Score 93 91
Offensive Efficiency 1.03 1.01
Floor % 52.22% 46.67%
Effective Field Goal % 45.07% 59.65%
Two Point % 47.92% 48.48%
Three Point % 26.09% 50.00%
Offensive Rebound % 50.00% 27.59%
Turnovers 10 17
Assists : Turnovers 1.50 0.59

Three key stats from this: floor percentage, offensive rebounding percentage, and assist to turnover ratio. Floor percentage is the percent of possessions that result in points. How many points is irrelevant. Alabama's was lower because so many of their points came from three-pointers, so they scored on fewer possessions but had more points when they did score. You see why floor percentage is an important stat: Arkansas led throughout overtime because the Hogs, in general, scored on more possessions. So if you had one possession to score, Arkansas' chances were better.

I pointed out in the preview that Arkansas had a massive offensive rebounding advantage per the stats, and should chase a lot of their misses. This was the single biggest stat of the game, as Arkansas rebounding half its missed shots (21 of 42) and won the second-chance points battle 20-4.

Finally, Arkansas went +7 in turnovers and nearly tripled the Tide's assist to turnover ratio.

Here are the individual stats using my new possession efficiency score:

BALLHANDLERS Points Offensive Rebounds Steals Field Goals Attempted Free Throws Attempted Turnovers Efficiency
Rashad Madden 17 0 1 8 8 3 1.20
Jabril Durham 2 0 0 3 0 1 0.50
Anton Beard 11 1 1 7 5 1 1.24
SHOOTERS Points Offensive Rebounds Steals Field Goals Attempted Free Throws Attempted Turnovers Efficiency
Michael Qualls 30 4 3 16 12 0 1.68
Anthlon Bell 4 0 1 8 0 1 0.56
Manuale Watkins 0 0 1 1 0 0 1.00
Nick Babb 0 1 0 1 0 0 1.00
FORWARDS Points Offensive Rebounds Steals Field Goals Attempted Free Throws Attempted Turnovers Efficiency
Bobby Portis 10 5 0 12 4 2 0.94
Jacorey Williams 5 2 1 8 4 0 0.80
Alandise Harris 8 3 0 4 4 0 1.83
Moses Kingsley 6 5 0 3 4 2 1.57
Formula: Efficiency = (Points + Offensive Rebounds + Steals) / (Field Goals Attempted + 1/2 Free Throws Attempted + Turnovers)

Portis had a rough night, but Qualls was off-the-charts good (anything above 1.50 is fantastic) and both Madden and Beard were efficient with their minutes. For those unhappy with Madden, the numbers show he had a good game: 17 points on 12 possessions that ended in shot attempts. He had three turnovers, but got one of those back with a steal of his own. Not bad.

Harris did better than Williams for the third time in conference play (the other two were ties), so he's clearly the better option at the other forward spot, as Kingsley hasn't done much, although he did snag five offensive rebounds.

Previewing Missouri

Record RPI vs. top 50 vs. top 100
Arkansas 14-4 22nd 3-2 6-4
Missouri 7-11 144th 1-7 2-8

Mizzou is bad. Their badness has been exasperated by a pretty tough schedule that included Arizona, Purdue, Illinois, and Oklahoma State out of conference and Kentucky, Tennessee, and LSU in conference, but this is still a bad team. It's not a game Arkansas can lose and still be a strong tournament team.

Name Position Height Points Rebounds Assists FG % 3FG %
Johnathan Williams III* F 6-9 12.5 6.9 - 0.443 0.286
Montaque Gill-Caesar* G 6-6 10.5 3.3 - 0.350 0.345
Wes Clark* G 6-1 9.7 3.6 3.0 0.350 0.333
Keith Shamburger* G 5-11 8.6 3.4 3.3 0.410 0.357
Namon Wright G 6-5 5.8 1.9 - 0.453 0.451
Jakeenan Gant F 6-8 5.7 2.1 - 0.537 -
Tramaine Isabell G 6-0 4.9 - 1.6 0.354 0.317
Keanu Post* F 6-11 3.7 3.3 - 0.581 -
D'Angelo Allen F 6-7 3.6 3.2 - 0.413 -
Ryan Rosburg F 6-10 2.4 2.4 - 0.439 -

For all the criticism directed at Mike Anderson for leaving the cupboard bare when he left, Frank Haith left it worse. Williams III is a very talented player, and mitigating him takes out Mizzou's best chance to score. Gill-Caesar will play but it is nursing a bad back that caused him to miss a few games. All of Mizzou's forwards other than Williams are really bad, and depth is at a premium. Most of these guys are freshmen or transfers. If the Hogs can bang inside early, foul trouble will kill Mizzou's already-bad depth inside. The Tigers, as we'll see, are 306th nationally in foul rate, hacking opponents on over 30 percent of possessions.

Arkansas offensive overview

Arkansas offense Mizzou defense Advantage
Efficiency 1.13 (12th) 1.03 (266th) Arkansas big
Floor % 53.8% (11th) 49.9% (280th) Arkansas big

Believe it or not, Mizzou's defense is actually better than its offense. The Tigers play at a pace ranked 233rd nationally, so they're among the multitude of teams trying to play an ugly, slow, unwatchable style of basketball. Arkansas would like an efficiency of 1.05 or better in this game, although up around 1.15 seems attainable and would likely lead to a Hog blowout.

Arkansas shooting
Arkansas offense Mizzou defense Advantage
Effective Field Goal % 52.3% (56th) 48.7% (172nd) Arkansas
Two Point % 50.1% (84th) 47.1% (160th) Arkansas
Three Point % 38.0% (43rd) 34.4% (190th) Arkansas big
Three Point Rate 31.0% (248th) 35.3% (214th) -

Like nearly every SEC game, the Hogs own enormous advantages in ballhandling and rebounding, so Mizzou's best chance is to win the shooting battle. Mizzou is just good enough at stopping shots inside the arc that Arkansas can't afford to play sloppy. Portis has to stay involved. Mizzou is very vulnerable to a good three-point shooting team, but Arkansas isn't that team on the road.

Arkansas ballhandling
Arkansas offense Mizzou defense Advantage
Assist % 60.9% (41st) 47.3% (41st) Push
Turnover % 16.3% (36th) 18.3% (227th) Arkansas big
Assist : Turnover Ratio 1.46 (10th) 0.87 (105th) Arkansas

Unlike Arkansas' last three opponents, the Tigers don't press very often or very well, which means they don't give up as many assists (when the press is broken) but they force almost no turnovers. This is where the shooting aspect comes in. Mizzou has a decent chance to hold its own in a jump shooting game, but if Arkansas can limit turnovers, that leads to more shots being put up. Arkansas shot 8 percent worse from the floor against Alabama but won because the Hogs attempted 14 more field goals (71 to 57). If Arkansas can get up more shots (which starts with not turning it over), they don't have to shoot well to win.

Mizzou offensive overview
Mizzou offense Arkansas defense Advantage
Efficiency 0.94 (261st) 0.98 (165th) Arkansas
Floor % 44.6% (280th) 46.6% (147th) Arkansas big

Mizzou's offense is so bad that Arkansas' defense actually has the advantage here. Still, the Hogs have been playing much worse recently, so this matchup is closer than it appears.

Mizzou shooting
Mizzou offense Arkansas defense Advantage
Effective Field Goal % 47.3% (236th) 50.6% (252nd) Push
Two Point % 44.7% (274th) 48.9% (215th) Arkansas
Three Point % 34.7% (146th) 36.1% (260th) Mizzou
Three Point Rate 35.1% (157th) 32.5% (119th) -

See what I mean about Mizzou's best shot being turning this into a shooting game? Mizzou's only advantage in this entire preview is three point shooting. Mizzou isn't great at it, but goodness, Arkansas' three point defense has been non-existent recently. Ole Miss and Alabama combined to hit 24 of 47 (52 percent) from beyond the arc against the Hogs, and neither of those teams are great at three point shooting. Any semblance of three point defense and Arkansas has closed Mizzou's best chance to win.

Mizzou ballhandling
Mizzou offense Arkansas defense Advantage
Assist % 48.3% (275th) 51.3% (122nd) Arkansas big
Turnover % 20.0% (233rd) 21.9% (36th) Arkansas big
Assist : Turnover Ratio 0.80 (273rd) 0.80 (50th) Arkansas big

And here's why Mizzou has to shoot well. The Tigers don't move the ball well and turn it over a bunch. Again, major advantage to Arkansas outside the shooting itself, which is why Arkansas needs to give itself a cushion by taking more shots.

Arkansas Mizzou Advantage
Arkansas offensive 37.1% (15th) 67.6% (288th) Arkansas big
Arkansas defensive 71.9% (127th) 27.6% (218th) Arkansas

Remember when I pointed out that Alabama was a poor defensive rebounding team and that Arkansas should dominate the offensive glass? Well, guess what, Mizzou is worse. The Tigers allow opponents to track down nearly 33 percent of their missed shots. Mizzou doesn't grab offensive rebounds all that well either, so Arkansas can generate extra possessions (= shot opportunities) through the boards.

Arkansas Mizzou Advantage
Arkansas drawing 26.5% (232nd) 30.4% (306th) Arkansas
Arkansas committing 25.3% (76th) 28.1% (128th) Arkansas

Mizzou commits a bunch of fouls, ranked 306th in foul rate. Of course, Tennessee was 346th and was whistled for a season-low 12 fouls against the Hogs last week, so counting on the referees to make any sense in a road game is a bad road to take. Mizzou is 260th in free throws attempted per game (just 18.1) and 288th in free throw attempts allowed per game, at a staggering 24.8. So if the game is called fair, Arkansas should hold a 4-5 point advantage from free throws.

Keys to the Game

  1. Dominate the offensive glass. It worked against Alabama, but now the act has to go on the road. The general strategy here is to take 10-12 more field goals than Mizzou, so any poor shooting by Arkansas can be balanced out by pure volume.
  2. No turnovers. There are no excuses, as Mizzou doesn't press and rarely forces turnovers. Again, a possession ending in a turnover is a possession that a shot doesn't go up. Getting the ball into Portis' hands at least once during all possessions lasting more than 10 seconds would be a good strategy as well.
  3. Play some semblance of a three-point defense. Every single SEC opponent has shot above their season average from beyond the arc against Arkansas. Mizzou's only really good offensive player - Williams III - isn't a jump shooter, but Gill-Caeser, Clark, Shamburger, and Wright all could get hot. Clark has been shooting well of late.