Mercer at Arkansas Preview
Opponent: Mercer Bears
Date: Tuesday, November 9, 2021
Time: 7:00PM CDT
Place: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Arkansas
TV/Streaming: SEC Network +
All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 4-1
All-Time Series in Fayetteville: Arkansas leads 2-0
Greg Gary begins his 3rd year at Mercer with some momentum. Last season, the Bears went 18-11 overall and with a 8-9 record in conference play. 18-11 is a solid year for a team from the SOCON. In fact, Mercer beat Georgia Tech by 10 in Atlanta last year. Coach Greg Gary had to replace some important production, but the Bears return some experience and add Wake Forest transfer Jalen Johnson.
Last season, Mercer finished 7th in the SOCON, but coaches from the league picked them to finish 4th this year. They seem to believe in what Gary is building. Analytics experts don’t agree. Last season, Mercer ranked 108th in offensive efficiency, but this year they are projected 154th. Their defensive metrics are projected to be worse this year as well.
Mercer scored 76.7 points per game last year. That was good enough for 53rd in the nation. They also boasted the 30th best Effective FG%. This team scored the ball at a high rate. They shoot and defend the 3 well, but can they repeat that in 2021-22? There are certainly question marks on who can replace the lost production.
Neftali Alvarez will make things go offensively. He’ll run things all game for Mercer and the Bears will need him to be great. Felipe Haase, former South Carolina Gamecock, has found a home at Mercer. He played great last season and will look to build on that this year. James Glisson and Kamar Robertson need to make huge strides this year for Mercer to keep the program going in the right direction.
This edition of the Razorbacks has more question marks than the first 2 years of the Eric Musselman era combined. Think back to year 1 with me...Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe were the clear leaders and roles were pretty defined. Now back to year 2...Moses Moody would have instant impact, Justin Smith would lock down every opponent, and Jalen Tate would be the experienced point guard.
This time around we have a lot of questions. Who will play point guard? Is Stanley Umude ready for big time college basketball? Are Devo Davis and Jaylin Williams ready to step into leadership roles? Who can be the lockdown defender on this team? Who are the starters?
We don’t have any answers to these questions yet. Even after the 2 exhibition games against D2 East Central University and NCAA Tournament team North Texas. Arkansas came away with the win in both games, but the team didn’t play well in either game. Arkansas fans shouldn’t be too concerned as all the SEC contenders struggled in exhibition games in the preseason. but it’s time to start answering those questions. We know the Hogs have a lot of talent. We know how Eric Musselman can gel new pieces together. Truthfully, this roster just needs good execution. Now it’s time for it to happen.
The Razorbacks will key in on Haase and Alvarez to limit was Mercer can do offensively. I don’t see that being an issue for the Hogs, but can the Hogs be efficient on offense? Can they avoid senseless turnovers? Can the get the ball moving around like last year’s team?
We know the staff did not scout for the exhibition games and the team struggled defensively. With the season starting, the staff will be all in on scouting and game-planning. Arkansas will be good defensively tonight.
I want to see strong point guard play and good rebounding. Mercer has some big men that can challenge the Hogs on the glass.
Despite the questions that we still have about this team, Arkansas will take care of business tonight.