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Arkansas at Missouri preview: Time to come alive


Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Last Time

From Study Hall:

I assumed Missouri would win the rebounding battle. I did not assume Missouri would be +9.3 in terms of expected rebounds. Mizzou dominated the glass, to the point where dreadful ball-handling didn't catch up to the Tigers. Mizzou turned the ball over on more than one-fourth of its possessions, but the Tigers shot better than Arkansas (especially from the free throw line), and while Arkansas grabbed about one-quarter of its misses, Mizzou grabbed nearly half. Arkansas had 17 defensive rebounds, and Missouri had 16 offensive rebounds. That's a pretty good recipe for success. [...]

This was an odd game for any number of reasons. You had Arkansas attempting 14 more 3-pointers in the first half than Missouri. You had Arkansas making 47% of those 3s while going just 2-for-10 on 2-pointers. And you had Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross breaking Arkansas' back by going 5-for-10 on 3s in the second half.

Arkansas Razorbacks (15-8, 4-6)

Since last time...

UA Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.07 1.10
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.25 1.33
2-PT FG% 43% 50%
3-PT FG% 36% 38%
FT% 79% 70%
True Shooting % 53.2% 56.5%

UA Opp.
Assists/Gm 12.3 13.3
Steals/Gm 9.0 5.0
Turnovers/Gm 11.3 15.3
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.89 1.20

UA Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 12.2 10.8
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 10.8 13.3
Difference -1.4 +2.5

Since the last time I was previewing an Arkansas game, the Hogs have fallen apart (home loss to Mizzou, blowout road loss to LSU with Michael Qualls suspended) and rallied. They handled Alabama at home just fine, then went to Vandy and stole a road win. This is a pretty big deal.

Arkansas road wins under Mike Anderson
Feb. 25, 2012: at Auburn (77-71)
Feb. 13, 2013: at Auburn (83-75)
Feb. 8, 2014: at Vanderbilt (77-75)

That's the whole list. Arkansas got smoking hot from 3-point range (10-for-16) and potentially saved their season in Nashville. And now they face a team that seems to have allowed quite a few teams to get smoking hot from 3-point range lately.

Ken Pomeroy Stats (Conference Play Only)

UA Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

UA Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 10 14 UA
Effective FG% 14 12 MU
Turnover % 1 13 UA big
Off. Reb. % 9 10 push
FTA/FGA 13 10 MU
MU Offense vs UA Defense Ranks

MU Offense UA Defense Advantage
Efficiency 3 6 MU
Effective FG% 5 6 push
Turnover % 5 1 UA
Off. Reb. % 5 13 MU big
FTA/FGA 3 12 MU big

Where the Hogs have struggled of late

On offense, Arkansas is settling for jumpers and getting no easy points. When the 3-pointers are falling, that's fine. When there's not, there's been no Plan B. In conference play, Arkansas is 14th (out of 14 teams, yes) in both 2PT% and eFG%. The Hogs are also 13th in FTA/FGA, which means they're taking poor shots and not getting to the line. They're also below average in offensive rebounding. This is a bad combination. They don't turn the ball over much, which saves possessions, but they're not doing much with those possessions.

On defense, you know the story. They foul a lot (12th in FTA/FGA in conference play), they foul guards a lot (11th in FT% allowed), and in going for steals and blocks, they give up a lot of offensive rebounds (13th in DR%).

The matchup with Mizzou is a pretty interesting one; Arkansas' defensive weaknesses play right to Mizzou's offensive strengths (Mizzou is fifth in SEC play in OR%, third in FTA/FGA, and first in FT%), but Mizzou's defensive weaknesses (9th in 2PT%, 12th in eFG%, 10th in FTA/FGA allowed) don't make the Tigers very well-equipped to take advantage of Arkansas' struggles.

(And yes, Missouri is dead last in overall defense in conference play. Yikes. Other than fouling guys who don't shoot FTs very well, Mizzou hasn't done much right on D lately.)

Where they have been best

Well, this is Arkansas, and the Hogs are of course doing just fine in the turnover battles. And while Mizzou has improved dramatically in this regard on offense (fifth in TO%, second in Steal%), Arkansas still has a big advantage here. (The problem for Arkansas lately has been that, outside of turnovers, they're not doing a lot of other things well on defense.)

Arkansas' offense, meanwhile, is quite well-equipped to take advantage of what Missouri's defense does poorly. First of all, Mizzou's turnover numbers are atrocious (14th in TO%, 13th in Steal%), and Arkansas' aren't. Plus, Mizzou allows you to bomb away from 3-point range (14th in 3PA/FGA, 13th in 3PT%), and Arkansas has lived and died by the 3-pointer of late (fourth in 3PA/FGA, fifth in 3PT%). We've talked a lot about Ken Pomeroy's theory of 3-point defense, how the percentages are semi-random, and how good 3-point defense prevents you from taking the 3-pointer at all. Well, Mizzou is the worst team in the conference when it comes to preventing you from shooting 3s, and that's only partially because the Tigers just faced a no-conscience Ole Miss team. When opponents are taking a ton of 3s, your fate is partially determined by the luck of a good shooting game (Kentucky, Ole Miss) or a bad shooting game (Florida); Mizzou allows you to take all the 3s you want.

Arkansas' Season Since Last Time

  • Wins (Team Rank is from
    at No. 98 Vanderbilt (77-75)
    No. 102 Alabama (65-58)
  • Losses
    No. 44 Missouri (71-75)
    at No. 68 LSU (74-88)

UA Player Stats Since Last Time

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Bobby Portis (6'10, 242, Fr.) 24.4 0.79 30.8 MPG, 18.5 PPG (61% 2PT, 67% 3PT, 88% FT), 6.5 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 2.3 SPG
Michael Qualls (6'6, 210, So.) 11.8 0.55 21.3 MPG, 11.7 PPG (40% 2PT, 50% 3PT, 100% FT), 3.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.3 TOPG
Rashad Madden (6'5, 180, Jr.) 10.9 0.33 33.0 MPG, 13.3 PPG (36% 2PT, 35% 3PT, 84% FT), 3.5 APG, 3.3 RPG, 2.5 TOPG
Coty Clarke (6'7, 232, Sr.) 9.0 0.36 25.3 MPG, 8.5 PPG (43% 2PT, 40% 3PT, 77% FT), 4.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.3 TOPG, 3.8 PFPG
Mardracus Wade (6'2, 178, Sr.) 4.3 0.24 18.3 MPG, 5.0 PPG (22% 2PT, 38% 3PT, 100% FT), 1.3 SPG
Kikko Haydar (5'10, 170, Sr.) 4.0 0.25 15.8 MPG, 4.5 PPG (50% 2PT, 44% 3PT, 100% FT), 2.5 RPG, 3.3 PFPG
Alandise Harris (6'6, 237, Jr.) 3.6 0.31 11.7 MPG, 5.0 PPG (40% 2PT, 50% FT), 1.0 SPG
Moses Kingsley (6'10, 230, Fr.) 3.5 0.29 12.0 MPG, 2.8 PPG (17% 2PT, 64% FT), 3.0 RPG
Fred Gulley (6'2, 182, Sr.) 2.5 0.12 20.5 MPG, 2.8 PPG (20% 2PT, 30% 3PT), 2.3 APG, 1.5 RPG
Rickey Scott (6'3, 209, Sr.) 0.8 0.12 6.7 MPG, 0.7 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 1.0 APG
Jacorey Williams (6'8, 218, So.) 0.5 0.06 8.8 MPG, 2.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG
Anthlon Bell (6'3, 188, So.) -1.3 -0.16 8.0 MPG, 1.3 PPG

* 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%: Harris (29%), Qualls (27%), Potis (24%)
  • Highest Floor%: Portis (53%), Haydar (42%), Qualls (40%)
  • Highest %Pass: Gulley (75%), Madden (55%), Qualls (54%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Portis (69%), Harris (54%), Wade (40%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Kingsley (52%), Portis (18%), Harris (17%)
  • Highest %T/O: Kingsley (19%), Qualls (9%), Madden (7%)
  • Highest OR%: Portis (12%), Clarke (8%), Kingsley (7%)
  • Highest DR%: Kingsley (22%), Haydar (15%), Clarke (14%)

  • Bobby Portis has been outstanding lately, but it's only mattered so much because a lot of his teammates have faded. I've mentioned this before, but a good per-minute rate for Adj. GS is anything over about 0.40 or 0.50. Anything above 0.30 is mediocre to acceptable. Below 0.30 is bad. Of the nine Arkansas players averaging at least 10 minutes per game recently, two have been good to great (Portis, Qualls), three have been acceptable, and four have been bad.

    (And since we're talking about it, here are Mizzou's per-minute averages this year: Jabari Brown 0.53, Jordan Clarkson 0.53, Earnest Ross 0.47 ... Johnathan Williams III 0.32 ... Ryan Rosburg 0.22, Tony Criswell 0.21, Wes Clark 0.19 ... Torren Jones 0.05, Keanau Post -0.02, Shane Rector -0.14 ... yeah, I wish I hadn't looked this up. That's horrifying.)

Keys to the Game

Yeah, these are pretty obvious.

  1. The whistles. We know this is important because we watched Mike Anderson teams play for many years. If Kikko Haydar is able to harass Mizzou guards without getting called for fouls (a problem of late, since he's averaging more than one foul for every five minutes), his ability to make jumpers and flop draw fouls can pay off wonderfully for the Hogs. And if Coty Clarke (one foul every six minutes or so lately) is able to stay on the floor, rebound, and make open shots, Arkansas is an infinitely better team. And quite simply, if the whistles aren't ringing, Arkansas is probably generating turnovers instead of sending you to the line. The game was called surprisingly even in Fayetteville; we'll see what happens in Columbia.

  2. The 3-pointer. Mizzou got outshot dramatically from 3-point range against Kentucky and Ole Miss and barely lost. The Tigers also outshot Florida and were able to stick around for a while. The Tigers have a really good 3-point offense (mostly thanks to Jabari Brown) and an absolutely woeful 3-point defense, and when both teams are shooting a ton from behind the arc, the game is thrown into randomness a bit. Mizzou did a nice job of attacking the rim in Fayetteville, but even if the Tigers are successful in that regard, they still have to keep Arkansas from yanking up 3-balls. That, or they just have to hope Arkansas misses.

  3. The glass. When the Tigers win the rebounding battle in conference play, they're 2-1. When they lose, they're 2-5. Mizzou obliterated Arkansas on the glass a couple of weeks ago and won despite Arkansas' 3-point shooting and the predictable ball-handling issues. But beyond that, when Mizzou is winning the rebounding battle, that means the team is showing a level of intensity that it has quite often lacked, and I think that tends to rub off in other ways too -- attacking the rim, etc. We know that some Mizzou players (Clarkson) are getting fed up with the inconsistent effort of other Tigers, and we'll see if Clarkson speaking out to the media about it after the Ole Miss game has a positive or negative impact.


Despite Arkansas' 1-game road win streak, ahem, I feel pretty good about this one. Mizzou Arena should be pretty well-charged, and for the season as a whole, Mizzou's been a better team than Arkansas. Pomeroy projects an 80-75 Mizzou wins, and I'm thinking something more along the lines of 83-73.

That said, it's not like any of us can feel too confident in a prediction, one way or another, not with Earnest Ross' scattershot recent shooting, not with Mizzou's "here one minute, gone the next" performance on the glass, and not with Mizzou's inability to prevent 3-point attempts. If Arkansas is hitting 3s (a possibility) and forcing turnovers (a given), the Hogs could easily score a couple of knockdowns and take this one. Show up, Mizzou. You're still probably in the NCAA Tournament, but you might not be if you lose this one.