14. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last season: 27 - 9 (13 - 5 in conference)
My Prediction: 3 - 15 (in conference)
Arkansas Fight's Prediction: - 8 - 10 (in conference)
The Masses Prediction: 6.0 - 12.0
Mike Anderson enters his fifth season at the helm in Fayetteville, and after a bit of a rough start he seemed to have everything moving in the direction he wanted. The Fastest 40 system had been in place, the athletes were stacked on the roster, and Anderson led the Razorbacks to a top 30 finish, a 5 seed in the NCAAs and momentum heading into the offseason. There was a risk going into the season of losing players to the next level, but the level of attrition that has happened will create probably the toughest coaching job Anderson has faced yet at Arkansas. So let’s take a look at who isn’t coming back for the Hogs this year.
WHO THEY LOST
|Jacorey Williams||Kicked Off||36||.401||.196||.061|
Perhaps no team lost more and brought back less than the Arkansas Razorbacks. It was a little surprising that Bobby Portis didn’t turn pro a year earlier, but him coming back helped propel Arkansas into a five seed in the NCAA tournament. Portis was a true difference maker for the Razorbacks last year. His ability to impact play on the offensive part of the floor was almost unparalleled around the country. Portis was nationally ranked in almost every important offensive category, but amazingly as a post player, he also ranked in the top 100 players in the country for turnover rate. Michael Qualls was the lightning to Portis thunder, and was every bit as impactful because of the defensive end, where he was a tough defender and an exceptional rebounder. Rashad Madden was no throwaway either, he was overshadowed by Qualls and Portis, but Madden had a stellar 4 year career in Fayetteville. Alandise Harris was one of those bit players that the Razorbacks couldn’t do without as part of the Mike Anderson system. Nick Babb was a guy who never quite found a place in that system and left for greener pastures despite a lot of room opening up this upcoming season. But perhaps the most surprising exit was that of Jacorey Williams who seemingly fell apart once the season wrapped up and ended up kicked off the team. Williams was going to be counted on to keep the Razorbacks running and instead he’s suiting up for the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders as long as he stays out of jail.
WHO IS COMING BACK?
|Dusty Hannahs||r-junior||G||REDSHIRT -- Transfer from Texas Tech|
Anton Beard | Sophomore | Guard
player to watch
Anton Beard has a chance to be the top player on a roster in need of a lot of help. He's a playmaking combo guard with the ability to stretch the defense when he gets hot. Beard was a perfect complimentary guard a season ago, when the roster was filled with talent and experience, but he's one of the few from that team that has a real chance to take a big step forward this season. Beard is a good player, but likely a year or two from being that kind of player, and that’s not even to speak of the fact that Beard is still under suspension stemming from events over the summer where he was caught in an attempt to use forged money. If Beard doesn’t make it back from suspension, things get even stickier for the Hogs.
Summing up a list of Arkansas' newcomers could be a pretty short summary. Mike Anderson has some pieces to work with, but after such a breakout season a year ago, losing so much scoring is going to be tough to make up. Anton Beard might be the only returner who has any real experience as a scorer, as Anthlon Bell was more of a shooter. If he gets hot, Bell can carry a significant part of the scoring load but he’s not a guy you expect to carry any sort of scoring load without the help of another player to draw the defense away. Beard played a combo role as a guard for the Hogs and came on more towards the end of the year, he could be the primary scoring threat, and that in of itself is one of the problems with the roster. Moses Kingsley was a highly rated 4-star Power Forward out of Huntington Prep who almost seemed to have more of an impact on the team as a freshman over his sophomore campaign, so Arkansas is going to need Kingsley to become the player that he showed at times as a freshman if they’re going to have any sort of season.
WHO ARE THE NEWCOMERS?
|Jr||Dustin Thomas||6'7||225||TRANSFER -- Colorado (will sit out)|
|Sr||Willy Kouassi||6'10||230||GRAD TRANSFER -- Kennesaw State|
Jimmy Whitt | Freshman | Guard
player to watch
Mizzou fans should be pretty familiar with Jimmy Whitt, the 4-star combo guard from Columbia was plucked out of the Tigers backyard by former Missouri coach Mike Anderson. Anderson and staff had forged a relationship with Whitt and his family while they were still at Missouri, and that bond was enough to lure him to Arkansas. Whitt is a perfect fit for the Anderson system. He’s a long rangy combo guard with great midrange game. He should start right away, and almost out of necessity. But the ceiling on Whitt is high, and that in of itself should lead to a bright future in Fayetteville. Whitt has enough ability that he could be a surprise in the SEC. He’s athletic and explosive enough with the ball that he should be able to generate his own shot despite still needing to add strength. If Whitt lives up to early billing, Arkansas can be better than expected.
After Whitt, the excitement for the incoming class is limited. Lorenzo Jenkins is almost a prototypical Anderson recruit. An under the radar kid, so much so that his weight is listed anywhere from 190 to 215, who has the flexibility and athleticism to play multiple positions. Dustin Thomas is a former top 150 recruit who transferred from Colorado, and Willy Kouassi is a 5th year transfer who has great length, but had two pretty average years at Kennesaw State before moving on to Arkansas. Missing from this list is Ted Kapita, a 4-star power forward who committed Arkansas, but didn’t qualify out of Huntington Prep. After deciding to go to prep school for another year before making his way to Fayetteville, Kapita surprised everyone by signing a professional contract to play in France.
|Point Guard||Combo Guard||Wing|
|Anton Beard||Anthlon Beard||Jimmy Whitt|
|Jabril Durham||Dusty Hannahs||Manuale Watkins|
|Moses Kingsley||Trey Thompson|
|Keaton Miles||Willy Kouassi|
I’m an unabashed fan of Mike Anderson. I know those are fighting words in mid-Missouri, but I’ve always loved teams that play at a faster pace and push tempo with defense. But as much as I like Mike, I don’t see how he digs himself out of this hole they’ve gotten themselves into this year. Things have been trending up, but Arkansas lost nearly everyone from a very good team a year ago, and they compounded the problem by signing almost nobody. Where they needed a strong recruiting class, they ended up with four guys, one of which will have to sit out the season. Then to make matters even worse, Anton Beard, Jacorey Williams and Dustin Thomas all got embroiled with the money forgery legal problem over the summer, and Williams was kicked off after getting into a fight off campus. So the most experienced post player from last season is gone, and the fate of a highly regarded transfer in Thomas, and a sure starter in Beard are now unknown. Then one of their top recruits signs to play in France and things just got worse. When you add all of that up, it doesn’t look like there will be a lot of positive to come out of this winter for the Hogs.
Maybe all of that can be fixed with a strong 2016 recruiting class, you say? It’s still possible. The Hogs grabbed one of the stop JUCO combo guards in Jaylen Barford, and another highly ranked JUCO guard in Daryl Macon. They are considered one of the top two schools for 5-star Malik Monk, but the other school is Kentucky, and they’ve missed on most of their top targets at post so far this offseason.
But if there’s one place where Mike Anderson excels, it’s at finding enough guys to play his way and compete in games. The Razorbacks style itself is strong enough that he could wreak some havoc where you might not otherwise think they would. If Beard gets back from suspension, Bell shoots well, and Kingsley takes that step forward, there is a path for the Razorbacks to win enough games to be respectable. The usual cupcake schedule, where the only power 5 opponents are all games that could be winnable. Georgia Tech and Wake Forest have struggled in recent seasons, but Dayton is a top 30 team, however the Flyers rarely have much in the way of size, which could benefit the Hogs. That schedule should help give them enough confidence heading into the SEC slate where they have a pretty tough road in the early going. Six of the first eight games are against teams that are projected to be in the top five (they play A&M twice). If the Hogs can get through that stretch by winning 3 games, there’s a chance they can get to .500 in league play. I tend to think that doesn’t happen however. There just isn’t enough on this current roster for me to feel comfortable picking this team anywhere but at the bottom of the conference. Probably no higher than 10th, and quite possibly last.
If the worst comes true, and the Hogs end up last in the conference, I wouldn’t freak out if I were a Hog fan. Anderson is a pretty proven commodity at this point, and he’ll get Arkansas back on track. If they find a good post in the 2016 class, and they’re in on some good recruits in the 2017 class as well (they’ve already got a commitment from a 4-star center in that class), it won’t be long before Arkansas is back in the NCAA tournament. It just ain’t happening in 2015.
Honestly, there isn’t much here to disagree with. Arkansas lost most of the best players on the team and completely whiffed the spring signing period. Everyone is excited about Whitt, but virtually the entire team is unproven. There have been a few players who’ve developed significantly under Anderson at Arkansas (Portis, Qualls, Madden to name a few) so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a Moses Kingsley or Jabril Durham could make something of a jump this year. But if everybody plays about at the level they played last year, it will certainly be ugly.One of the big questions is Beard, and it’s clear they don’t want him off the team, but will let his legal situation play out, and his suspension will likely last as least as long as that takes, so who knows when or if he could come back.
That being said, depth in the frontcourt is a much bigger issue. Other than Kingsley, there’s nobody really to be excited about. Trey Thompson played well in the Red-White game, but it seems unrealistic to expect too much from him this year.
Overall, if the team can avoid the Wednesday night games of the SEC Tournament (the bottom four teams) I think most people will be reasonably satisfied since recruiting seems to be going well at the moment. Arkansas has commitments from three of the top juco players in the country, and we have a chance with Malik Monk, so there will be much more anticipation for 2017 than this season.
|Doc Harper||Arkansas Fight|
Last year Mike Anderson finally got it done, he got the Hogs back to the Big Dance...and they almost barfed it all up to Wofford (be scared Mizzou fans) in round 1 of the tourney subsequently losing to UNC in the second round and then, everything went south. Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls left, others graduated, and still three others got caught using counterfeit money. And that's just the players on the team that made it to campus, Ted Kapita did not qualify and now, here we are today. Arkansas is in trouble coming into 2015-2016 and frankly it won't be pretty. Hog fans will have to live off last year's magical season because this one probably won't go very far to satisfy you. Now, in a year's time this will all be different because Arky's got a bunch of good players coming in, but for the time being, look for them at the bottom of the standings, hopefully the lunatic fringe has been swayed by last year's performance to not feel the need to run Mike Anderson off from his dream job, but you never know...
About the preview: Each SBNation site was asked for one representative to submit a Game-by-Game pick of the upcoming SEC season to get a different look than if we just asked them to submit a ranking by team, or a prediction for their record. It yielded some interesting results as you can see.
GP: Games Played
%min: Percentage of team minutes played that were available
%poss: Percentage of usage, when a player is the cause of the end of possession (turnover or shot)
%points: Percentage of points scored vs team points
%rbds: Percentage of rebounds vs team rebounds
eFG%: Field Goal percentage with added weight of 50% for three point shots made
%3pm: Percentage of 3-point makes to team 3-point makes
ORtg: Average points scored per 100 possessions (if the player was responsible for each possession)
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