It’s almost that time Hog Fans, the Red White Game signaled the beginning of basketball season. With this year’s disaster of a football season it can’t get here soon enough. Over the course of the next two week’s we’ll look at Mike Anderson’s team in his seventh year in Fayetteville. Last year the team finished the regular season 23-8 and ended at 26-10 after nearly upsetting the eventual national champion North Carolina Tar Heels.
This year’s team loses three big pieces in Moses Kingsley, Dusty Hannahs, and Manny Watkins. A lot of the team’s success this year will be dependent on how well they are able to fill those spots left by those three. One spot that won’t be replacing production is at the guard position. We’ll break the roster into three spots (guards, wings, posts) and this spot is the strongest on the team right now.
6’3” 202 lbs. Senior
The growth Barford had last season was both fun to watch and very important for the Hogs. As is common with JUCO transfers, it took about 10 games to adjust to the D1 level and once he did things took off for him. In his first 11 games, mostly against inferior competition he averaged 10.2 ppg. His final 11 games against much better competition and higher stakes it was up to 16.4.
Barford’s assist rate will never be that high, but he’s the hard-nosed, physical, driving point guard that Anderson wants leading his offense. Barford spent most of conference play getting 25-30 minutes per game and that should continue.
What is the biggest thing Barford needs to improve on in 2017? Three point shooting (this is going to be a common theme, FYI). Looking around the roster without Dusty Hannahs and the lack of three point shooting is a big issue. Last year Barford wasn’t shy about shooting, taking at least two threes in all but five of 35 games. He shot 27% from deep, any thing north of 30 percent will be a very welcome improvement from him.
6’0” 185 lbs. Senior
If you look at Beard’s box scores from last year, he was remarkably consistent throughout the year. He’s probably going to have four or five shots, a couple of rebounds, and a steal. If he does that in 2017 at the efficiency he did last year he will be a nice change of pace from Barford. All while shooting a better percentage (35%) from deep.
Anderson talked about how Beard slimmed down this offseason to gain some quickness. Last year he was listed at 198 lbs. and is down to 185 this year. If that added quickness is real and not just coach speak, that could have an impact on his driving and defensively as well.
6’3” 185 lbs. Senior
With Macon and Barford likely starting, there won’t be a true point guard but rather two attacking guards taking their turns with the ball. Throw in Beard and all three of them are right at two assists per game. Arkansas would really benefit from one of those three improving their assist numbers, maybe Macon could be that guy.
He’s also going to have the burden of being the most reliable outside shooter on the team. Last year he nearly matched Hannahs in terms of percentage, on few shots though. With Barford and Beard slashing, Macon being more of a spot up shooter and distributor might be the role for him during the game before being the team’s closer at the end of games.
6’2” 164 lbs. Sophomore (Sitting this year due to transfer)
Harris won’t play this year, but with a couple seniors ahead of him on the depth chart, it seems important to mention him. For those who don’t remember, Harris transferred over from New Mexico, a solid program where he averaged 4.5 ppg and 2.3 apg in about 20 minutes. He could be that low risk, distributing point guard similar to Jabril Durham next year. He doesn’t look to be a high volume scorer, but could be an efficient one in the future as he shot 43% at New Mexico.
Overall, this is the group with the most experience and the most talent on the team. Anderson is going to lean on these three for a good portion of the season. While the collective aggressiveness and driving ability of all three will be very good in the SEC, distribution and outside shooting are question marks. How much improvement is shown in those last two aspects will have a big impact on the season.