Basketball is right around the corner. We’re just a week from games that matter and the Hogs start with a big one against Texas. With that combined with the current bye week, we got together and turned our attention to the start of the Hoop Hogs’ season.
1. After a quick exit in the NCAA Tournament last year, and a lot of roster turnover, what are your expectations on this year’s squad?
Adam F: I don’t have high expectations in terms of win-loss record. But I hope to see a fun team and a team that improves throughout the year.
Derek: It will be fun to watch the team grow game in, game out. It should give Mike a lot of options in terms of going big or going small. He’s got a lot of versatile players, albeit very young or inexperienced. My expectations are extremely low. I feel like it will go a lot like the 2015-16 season went, which was the last time they had to replace this substantial amount of production.
Cody: Though they may be talented this year, I think the drop off in experience and familiarity with one another will overwhelm the talent, especially early in the season. Based on what we know about who we have returning from last season I can’t say that I expect a NCAA Tournament appearance, but after being in it the last two years it is hard not to expect it as well. (But they won’t make it.)
Bailey: Because we have a pretty new roster, it’s not fair to expect a perfect team. I’m hoping our chemistry is strong this year. Our schedule is a good one, so I’m hoping for some good wins. I don’t think it’s outlandish to expect to get to a tournament this year. Anderson has been here long enough that recruiting shouldn’t be an issue.
Adam P: All I really want this year is a fun team to watch. I’m not expecting us to do that well with losing all of our scoring. I just hope I see promise for the upcoming years, which I hoped to do in football this year, as well. Didn’t get that really, sooo......
Eric: I agree with Derek that this year will feel a lot like 15-16. This team has new faces at just about every position and there will be some growing pains. Hopefully they can pull an upset or two.
2. We’ve got a ton of newcomers on the team, which are you most excited to see play this year?
Adam F: I’m anxious to see the big men. I think the Hogs will always have good guards, but I’d love to see guys like Reggie Chaney and Ethan Henderson step up.
Derek: Isaiah Joe. I got to watch him a lot while he was at Fort Smith Northside and through the Red-White Game and one exhibition, he looks like he can fill it up from the perimeter. But it’s an entirely different animal going against teams with an actual pulse, and then the rigors of SEC play.
Cody: Arkansas has had some good 3-point shooting freshmen make it to campus over the last decade, but other than Rotnei Clarke not many have made an immediate impact. I am most excited to watch Isaiah Joe play this year and see if his perimeter shooting holds up throughout an entire freshman season.
Bailey: I’m looking forward to seeing what Desi Sills can do for us. Being rated the #3 player in Arkansas by ESPN is pretty impressive. I am excited to see how he handles the college pace.
Adam P: I agree with Derek’s choice of Isaiah Joe. We’re going to need some shooters and I hope he can fill that gap.
Eric: I think Reggie Chaney can be a really nice compliment to Gafford in the post this year, I want to see how his offensive game looks.
3. Obviously Daniel Gafford is the star of the show for the year, what are your expectations and hopes from him this season?
Adam F: He needs to average a double-double or close to it. He needs at least 12 or 13 points per game, if not more. He needs to shoot about 60% from the floor. He needs to block a couple shots a game and be above-average on defense. But there has to be a conscious effort to get him the ball. So far in Anderson’s tenure, bigs have had to create their own shots far too often.
Derek: I think Daniel will be able to do more this season away from the ball, and I also expect his outside shot to drastically improve. I would like to see 15-8 from him with 2-3 blocks per game.
Cody: Last season Gafford looked very impressive at times, especially down the stretch, without having to be the focal point of the offense. Not knowing how the supporting cast will shape up this season, I expect his minutes to increase from the 22.6 average he had last year and for him to be featured in the offense. This is going to require playing physically down low without drawing too many fouls, something I hope he is capable of doing from game one.
Bailey: Because he was on the All-SEC freshman team, there are certainly a lot of eyes on him. I really hope he plays a big role in elevating the other players. I don’t want to see him just run numbers up—I want to see our team win.
Adam P: We’re very lucky to have him back this year. I hope to see him continue to improve all of his aspects of the game and gets a chance to showcase himself for the next level. Hopefully he won’t get the Moses Kingsley curse.
Eric: Honestly, I just want to see him stay on the court longer. All his numbers will rise if he can get up from his 22 minutes per game last year to somewhere in the 28-30 minute range. With how important he is to everything this team does, he can’t spend nearly half the game on the bench.
4. It’s looking a lot like a rebuilding year in a season where the SEC looks like it’s getting pretty strong. Mike Anderson has taken the Hogs to the tourney 3 of the last 4 years but this year could be a struggle. How confident are you in Anderson moving forward?
Adam F: At this point, anyone thinking Anderson should be replaced needs to, at a minimum, hold that thought for a couple years. LSU, Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, Kansas, NC State, Arizona, Oregon, Miami, Louisville, and DePaul are just a few of the schools mentioned by name in the FBI case against Adidas execs. All of the evidence presented in those cases is now available to the NCAA if it wants to start investigating and punishing. Arkansas and Anderson were not named. He’s seems to be running a clean program. College basketball as we know it is about to change and for Arkansas, that could end up being a very good thing.
Derek: I love Mike, but in terms of what I expected from him in March 2011 compared to what has transpired, it’s definitely been a disappointment. He has elevated the program from what he inherited, I just expected more. I expected multiple Sweet 16 trips by now, and while the Hogs been close (thanks a lot, NCAA selection committee and UNC), he hasn’t been able to get over the hump. I think the recruiting class he just brought in will either get him another extension or cost him his job.
Cody: My confidence in Mike Anderson ends with his ability to recruit skilled, athletic players. I have yet to see the man coach well in a game where coaching could win or lose it. That being said, the recruiting class may surprise us with a few gems that get off to a fast start, and sometimes that is what teams need to be good enough in a rebuilding year to stay at or above .500 (something Anderson has always done at Arkansas).
Bailey: I am on the fence on this one. Because my freshman year at Arkansas was Mike Anderson’s first year as a coach, I feel some pride and loyalty to him. That being said, I would like to see our team make a little more noise. 3 out of the last 4 NCAA Tournaments is not a bad record, however we didn’t even make it to the sweet 16. I hope to be a real contender very soon. I would like to think he is the guy to take us there, but my patience is running a little thin.
Adam P: People love to make excuses for good people. People love to say “I like Coach Mike Anderson, so I want to give him a chance.” Have we hit our peak under Mike Anderson? Unfortunately, I think we have.
Eric: He’s shown that we know what you’re going to get. Anderson is going to put together a team that plays hard but won’t ever be front runners. There has been a good level of consistency which can be pretty hard to find in college basketball though, and if you think that isn’t good enough you might be taking a big risk in what comes after him.
5. How do you think the season goes for the Hogs? What’s their record and do they make a postseason tournament?
Adam F: I’m thinking of an SEC record somewhere between 6-12 and 10-8. Getting to 9-9 would be a big success, since almost everyone on this team will be back next year.
Derek: I’m pretty much on the KenPom outlook, 17-14 (8-10), and an outside shot at a NIT invite.
Cody: Playing 11 of our first 12 games in Fayetteville or Little Rock will help to win more games early, but it will hurt later when this young teams goes into SEC gyms with little experience playing on the road. Let’s say they win 9 of those initial 12 (because of experience and team familiarity issues), split the not too terrifying SEC schedule (especially at home), and lose the Big 12 matchup in Lubbock, then I have the Hogs finishing 17-14 (9-9), and preparing for the next season right after the SEC tournament.
Bailey: I think we should get some solid wins before we start to play a string of conference games in January. My prediction for the season is 20-11. I think we should have a chance at the NIT tournament, and if we don’t, might be time for some coach shopping.
Adam P: NIT or bust.
Eric: Avoiding Tuesday Night Sadness in the SEC Tournament is a goal, and contending for the NIT should be there too. I’m with most that somewhere in the range of 16-18 wins is most likely.