Know your "Welcome Back, Mike": Arkansas

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

LEAVE YOUR TRIFECTA PICKS IN COMMENTS.

First, let's talk about Mike Anderson.

If you still have any serious, burning resentment for Mike Anderson, you might need to seek professional help. Yes, he left. Coaches leave. In this regard, Missouri has been incredibly lucky in one sense (Mizzou didn't lose a coach to another school for more than 50 years), and unlucky in another (aside from Dan Devine, Norm Stewart and brief times with Quin Snyder and Gary Pinkel, nobody wanted Missouri coaches).

Yes, he flirted with other schools before leaving. Welcome to Jimmy Sexton's world.

Yes, he said he wanted to "retire at Mizzou." People say things. And people say things they might change their minds about soon after saying them. Maybe it was a bold-faced lie. Maybe it was simply him saying he was content staying at Missouri forever (if other schools didn't come calling, or if he didn't get fired at some point).

Yes, I guess his departure was handled poorly, or at least with unfortunate timing. Word hit the Internet before he could get back to Columbia to tell his team. He also came back. He didn't tell his team via forwarded text. He came back for his former players' graduation last year.

(Yes, he also went to great lengths to avoid the media on his way into, and out of, town. I'm sorry, but I just found the thought of Eric Blumberg trailing Anderson's car funny. I'd have avoided them too.)

Yes, Anderson failed to sign anybody in the 2011 recruiting class, particularly one mister Otto Porter. And yes, he failed to sign anybody in what was a strangely loaded, top-heavy 2011 recruiting class in the state of Missouri -- Porter, Brad Beal, B.J. Young. He also left Frank Haith with Marcus Denmon, Phil Pressey, Kim English, Ricardo Ratliffe and Mike Dixon.

(Yes, he also potentially handled the first set of Dixon allegations poorly. I have no comeback for this one.)

Mike Anderson also inherited a program in relative shambles, with very few scholarships to give and a fanbase that had been completely beaten down over the previous three seasons. Here's the roster he inherited heading into 2007-08: Marshall Brown, Leo Lyons, Kalen Grimes, Matt Lawrence and Jason Horton. That's basically it. He honored commitments from Vaidatos Volkus and Keon Lawrence. He filled in immediate gaps with players he was recruiting at UAB -- Stefhon Hannah, Darryl Butterfield, some no-offense guard named J.T. Tiller. He had one scholarship to give in his first full year of recruiting (it went to Justin Safford). He was forced to deal with Athenagate and Grimes' dismissal. And he still improved the squad from 160th in Pomeroy's rankings in 2006, to 59th in 2007, to 44th (despite Athenagate) in 2008. And when he actually got a full class of recruits and transfers at his disposal (along with a finally healthy transfer by the name of Demarre Carroll), his team won the Big 12 tournament, made the Elite Eight, won 31 games, and brought back the pride Missouri Basketball had lost years earlier. The winter and early spring of 2009 were among my favorite months as a Missouri fan.

Missouri has now been to four straight NCAA Tournaments. At this point, the Tigers are basically locks to make it five straight this year. That will tie for the longest streak ever at Mizzou (1986-90, 1999-03). That wouldn't have happened without the dogged work of Mike Anderson. Long-term, as we get more separation from his departure, I'm pretty sure fans will regard him with a more pleasant tone. But honestly? Two years is long enough. If you're still angry, truly angry, at him, despite the time that has passed, and despite the simple fact that, since his departure, Missouri has been the better program of the two (by a solid margin), then I don't know what to tell you. Sports might not be for you. THAT SAID...

...boo him like crazy tonight, not because of any deep-seated hostility, but because it's fun. At their best, sports allow you to act in ways that you wouldn't be allowed to act in the real world. (And at their worst, sports give people implicit permission to go way, way too far with that.) Perhaps at first, Mizzou fans really were angry at Ryan Robertson for dissing the home-state Tigers in favor of Kansas, but after four years of booing him every time he touched the ball at the Hearnes Center, it just became fun to do so. You couldn't do it without smiling. That is the kind of hate Mike Anderson should see tonight. The "Suitcase Mike" stuff? Bring it on.

It's like Ezekiel Elliott picking Ohio State, then saying he'll "always be a Tiger." No, Zeke, you won't. I wish no harm upon you, and for all I care, you can go ahead and have a successful, long NFL career, but you don't get to be a Tiger. You picked Ohio State. For Mike Anderson, I hold no grudge, and I hold crazy respect for the job he did in both bringing wins to Mizzou Arena and setting the table for what looks like, after two years, a potentially more successful run by his successor. But if you ditch us, we get to boo you when you come back. It's the way it's supposed to work.

Arkansas Razorbacks Since Last Time (3-2)


UA Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
68.2
Points Per Possession (PPP)
0.94 0.96
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.07 1.25
2-PT FG% 44.6% 47.8%
3-PT FG% 27.8% 31.3%
FT% 59.2% 66.9%
True Shooting % 46.5% 52.2%




UA Opp.
Assists/Gm 12.4 11.2
Steals/Gm 8.0 6.0
Turnovers/Gm 12.8 15.4
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.59 1.12




UA Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 13.3 10.8
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 13.4 9.8
Difference +0.1 -1.0

It's always weird previewing a team with a really short turnaround, so I'll just say this: Since the first time I previewed Mizzou-Arkansas, Arkansas has rebounded well, played good defense, and lost any and all sense of reliability on the offensive end. As we'll see below, the team's offensive leaders have regressed to a point, while others are still in the process of emerging. Depth has saved Mike Anderson's team, but the Hogs have some serious work to do to somehow scrape into the NCAA Tournament this year.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

UA Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

UA Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 92 80 push
Effective FG% 176 92 MU
Turnover % 11 292 UA big
Off. Reb. % 164 44 MU big
FTA/FGA 237 34 MU big
MU Offense vs UA Defense Ranks

MU Offense UA Defense Advantage
Efficiency 9 61 MU
Effective FG% 71 160 MU
Turnover % 117 12 UA big
Off. Reb. % 6 247 MU big
FTA/FGA 219 307 MU

Where the Hogs are weakest

From an advanced stats perspective, this is basically the same team we saw a short while ago. They still can't really shoot (73rd in 2PT% but 304th in 3PT% and 228th in FT%). They still foul too much, especially on the road. They still don't get many calls (knock on wood) away from home. They still don't rebound that well (164th in OR%, 247th in DR%), though they are indeed improving in that regard. They are still inexperienced (274th in Experience), and they are still rather small (206th in Effective Height).

Where they are best

The Hogs also still turn you over like crazy (12th in Def. TO%, 23rd in Steal%) and prevent you from taking the ball from them (11th in Off. TO%, fifth in Steal%). They still use their bench at a downright silly rate (fifth in Bench Minutes). And they are still all sorts of active on defense (23rd in Steal%, 24th in Block%). They are still Mike Anderson's team.

Arkansas Since Last Time

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    No. 22 Missouri (73-71)
    No. 33 Kentucky (73-60)
    No. 104 Georgia (62-60)
  • Losses
    at No. 1 Florida (54-71)
    at No. 99 LSU (60-65)

Three home wins, two road losses, Rinse, repeat. (That said, of course, the Hogs barely beat Georgia at home and almost knocked off LSU on the road, so the "always great at home, always terrible away" thing doesn't really work.)

Arkansas Player Stats Since Last Time

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Coty Clarke (6'7, 225, Jr.) 21.2 0.80 26.6 MPG, 12.0 PPG (76% 2PT, 71% 3PT, 72% FT), 6.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 2.0 SPG, 1.2 TOPG, 3.2 PFPG
Marshawn Powell (6'7, 240, Jr.) 11.0 0.43 25.8 MPG, 14.8 PPG (47% 2PT, 19% 3PT, 62% FT), 4.8 RPG, 2.4 TOPG, 2.8 PFPG
Mardracus Wade (6'2, 176, Jr.) 7.5 0.30 25.2 MPG, 5.0 PPG (50% 2PT, 26% 3PT, 67% FT), 2.6 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 2.0 APG
Anthlon Bell (6'3, 190, Fr.) 7.4 0.59 12.5 MPG, 8.5 PPG (33% 2PT, 40% FT), 1.3 RPG
Michael Qualls (6'5, 205, Fr.) 5.6 0.28 20.0 MPG, 4.4 PPG (37% 2PT, 20% 3PT, 40% FT), 5.2 RPG, 1.2 BPG
Kikko Haydar (5'10, 162, Jr.) 3.6 0.24 15.2 MPG, 4.6 PPG (60% 2PT, 39% 3PT, 50% FT), 1.6 RPG, 3.0 PFPG
Rashad Madden (6'5, 181, So.) 2.2 0.16 13.6 MPG, 2.4 PPG (43% 2PT, 75% FT), 2.0 RPG, 1.8 APG
B.J. Young (6'3, 180, So.) 1.5 0.05 28.6 MPG, 9.2 PPG (44% 2PT, 6% 3PT, 56% FT), 3.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 3.2 TOPG, 2.6 PFPG
Hunter Mickelson (6'10, 245, So.) 1.2 0.10 12.0 MPG, 2.0 PPG, 1.8 RPG
Rickey Scott (6'3, 205, Jr.) 0.9 0.07 13.0 MPG, 2.0 PPG, 2.6 RPG
Fred Gulley (6'2, 177, Jr.) 0.8 0.10 8.0 MPG, 1.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls. It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Highest Usage%: Powell (35%), Bell (30%), Young (27%)
  • Highest Floor%: Clarke (58%), Haydar (37%), Madden (37%)
  • Highest %Pass: Madden (70%), Gulley (63%), Wade (62%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Bell (100%), Mickelson (59%), Powell (52%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Powell (21%), Scott (17%), Clarke (15%)
  • Highest %T/O: Mickelson (14%), Young (11%), Powell (9%)

The balance of power has taken a strange shift in recent weeks. Here are the top five Hogs in terms of AdjGS/game the first time I previewed this team: Powell (14.8), Young (14.7), Clarke (7.5), Mickelson (7.1), Wade (6.2). Powell's production has stayed reasonably similar, but seemingly everybody else has either improved or regressed dramatically. Young completely misplaced his game right around the time he was drawing the second of the two semi-bogus three-point plays at the end of the Missouri game. In the four previous games, he is averaging seven points, shooting 37% on 2-pointers and 0-for-12 on 3-pointers. But he isn't the only one to see a crazy shift.

Clarke: +13.7 Adj. PPG
Bell: +6.0 Adj. PPG
Madden: -2.5 Adj. PPG
Powell: -3.7 Adj. PPG
Scott: -4.4 Adj. PPG
Mickelson: -5.9 Adj. PPG
Young: -13.2 Adj. PPG

Now, momentum shifts occur over the course of the season. We should know that as well as anybody (cough Keion Bell, cough Laurence Bowers). But this is rather absurd. Bell, for instance, came out of absolute nowhere to score 17 points against Georgia (in the three games since, he has scored 17 points; in the 11 games before that one, he had scored nine).

For all we know, Young will find his groove again, and the offense will flow just fine. But it hasn't recently. Clarke has been amazing, but he's not a "the offense runs through him" guy (as evidenced by his 15% Usage Rate). Arkansas needs Powell and Young to play well to have a chance tonight. Not saying it won't happen -- it would be just Missouri's luck -- but all we know for sure is that it hasn't recently.

Keys to the Game

  1. The Whistles. Always. This is a game involving a Mike Anderson team.

  2. Mizzou Arena. Mizzou Arena is funny. When it is 100% into a game, which only happens once or twice a year, it has the power to cow both the visiting team and the home team. It seemed frequent in those old Kansas games that, when the stakes were high (primarily 2009 and 2012), both teams played a bit freaked out at first; and it happened again to an extent against Florida a couple of weeks ago. But that building can also carry the home team down the stretch. It is an amazing arena to behold in the final minutes of a rivalry game. And with the Anderson Effect, combined with Senior Night, I expect it at its best tonight. If Arkansas can overcome potential runs, keep the game close at the end, and then win in that environment, power to the Hogs.

  3. Tag Team. I could have gone with Phil Pressey here, and I could have gone with BCI! BCI! (this is a Mike Anderson game after all). Instead, though, I'm going with this. Over his last three games, Alex Oriakhi has averaged 17.3 points per game (on 72% shooting from the field) and 9.3 rebounds (4.3 on offense). And on Saturday, Laurence Bowers officially looked like Lawrence Bowers again, scoring 23 points and grabbing 10 boards. The battle between Bowers-Oriakhi and Clarke-Powell will likely decide the game. Lord knows Flipadelphia will play a role, as will plenty of other factors (ball-handling, rebounding, etc.). But this battle is absolutely enormous.

Prediction

Pomeroy projects an 81-70 Missouri win. Honestly, my gut says it won't be that close. It says Mizzou makes a couple of runs, maintains its recent, strong level of play, and Mizzou runs away, 85-65. That said ... strange things happen in rivalry games, and this has all the makings of a hell of a rivalry. Home court advantage can turn into a disadvantage against a defiant, fiery road team, and the dynamics of this game, with Anderson's return, Senior Night, etc., could be very interesting if Arkansas makes an early run of its own or keeps things close. (And lord knows that we are familiar with the "Anderson team gets dominated on the road, then makes a crazy late run to make things interesting" effect.) I expect a Missouri win tonight, but ... I also know that expecting any result of any kind might be pretty foolish. You never know.

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