Missouri has a realistic chance to be above .500 in SEC play, let's hope they take advantage...
this the Arkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas has been an interesting team so far this year, they've played well enough at times to make you think that Mike Anderson pulled a rabbit out of a hat and they're pretty good! They've also looks downright dreadful. Currently the Hogs are #74 in KenPom with an 8-7 record. An early loss to Akron at home probably shocked some people, but... Akron is good and currently ranked in the top 60. Arky is currently on a two game winning streak, which matches their season long winning streak. I think that means they're due for a loss.
The key players for Arkansas isn't a long list, but Moses Kingsley has stepped up big time and is giving the Hogs 16.8 ppg and 9.8 rpg. Kingsley's contributions are important because Arkansas doesn't get much else inside. After Kingsley, the Hogs look to outside shooters Dusty Hannahs (16.3 ppg, 46.3% 3P%) and Anthlon Bell (17.3 ppg, 47.1% 3P%). They've recently gotten Anton Beard back in the fold after some offseason trouble, and former Mizzou recruit Jimmy Whitt is having a solid impact early.
BEST WIN(S): Vanderbilt (28) 90-85 OT; Evansville (41) 89-76
WORST LOSS(ES): Mercer (140) 69-66 OT; @ Wake Forest (100) 88-85
Q&A With ARKANSASFIGHT
Our man on the scene, as always, is our good friend Doc Harper. Doc is the best guy to talk with when it comes to Arkansas hoops. Hear what Doc had to say about his Hogs this time around.
RockMNation: The Razorbacks are exceeding my expectations so far this season, what would you say has been the biggest surprise this year? What has left you disappointed?
Doc Harper: You always hope players get better from year to year, but a few players have made really big jumps this season. Moses Kingsley has been fantastic, especially considering he's been Arkansas' only real scoring option down low. He really struggled against Mississippi State in the last game but still ended up with 13 and 8. Jabril Durham has been a fantastic distributor at point guard. Anthlon Bell and Dusty Hannahs are playing the best basketball of their careers at the 2-guard spots, and have started together in a 3-guard lineup the last few games.
The expectations going into the season were so low that it's hard to be too disappointed in anything. Losing the big lead to Stanford (17 point lead with 6 minutes left) was really frustrating. You hate that they played so badly in the first 10 minutes against Dayton, fought all the way back to force overtime, took a 4-point lead in OT, then gave up three straight fast breaks to lose the lead for good. Ultimately, they haven't won away from Bud Walton Arena yet despite a few good chances to do so.
RMN: Arkansas only has one real bad loss to date, is there a realistic expectation that the Hogs make a play for the NCAA tournament at this point?
Harper: I don't think any of us are ready to go that far. They have a couple of good wins but not great wins, and again, haven't won away from Fayetteville yet. They've got some work to do before people start taking them seriously for the postseason. There will be opportunities for it, though.
RMN: With a relatively thin margin for error, what needs to happen for Arkansas to play well on a nightly basis? What generally is the problem when they don't go well?
Harper: The Razorbacks basically only have three consistent scoring threats in Bell, Kingsley, and Hannahs. Any one of them can go for 20+ on any given night. Arkansas can play with anybody when all three are playing well. When any of them are off, how much help they get obviously determines a lot about how well the Hogs do. Arkansas only had 5 bench points on Saturday. That's fewer than usual, but Bell and Hannahs were both hot so it didn't matter. But normally they'll need more help.
RMN: What is the biggest worry about the game against Mizzou? Did the most recent result in the game against Auburn make you more concerned than before?
Harper: My biggest concern is just that Arkansas hasn't won away from home yet, and that includes the loss to Mercer in Little Rock. We know Mike Anderson has a history with road struggles. Arkansas doesn't have a great history playing in Columbia. Even though the Hogs won last year it was a really ugly game that Arkansas was really fortunate to win.
The Auburn game isn't too big of a concern. It was a nice win for Missouri, and certainly shows that Arkansas won't be able to walk into Columbia and expect an easy win, but I don't think any of us were expecting that anyway.
RMN: How do you see this game playing out? What is a final score prediction?
Harper: I really don't know. I'll say Arkansas wins just because that's what I want to happen and think there's a good chance. I wouldn't put money on it, though.
Doc is the best. Make sure you give him a follow if you aren't already. Now to the nitty gritty of the game itself.
I wasn't high on Arkansas going into this year to be honest. I just didn't think they had enough coming back, but the players they've had come back have gotten a lot better, and have proven that they can be decent. I wouldn't go so far as to call the Razorbacks good this year, but they aren't bad. Which is more than I can say for some SEC teams.
The Hogs are a really good offensive team, and everything seems to roll through their guard play. When Arkansas is finding Bell and Hannahs in transition, they're going to get more open looks, and with their ability to shoot, they're going to make a lot of those shots.
1) Slow Hannahs & Bell
If you're able to slow these two guys down a bit, you're going to have success. There aren't enough other guys on Arkansas that will beat you like these two. In wins, Bell and Hannahs are shooting 55% from the three point line, while in losses they are shooting 38%. They're going to hit shots, but you're going to need to make sure they are taking tough shots. If I were the coach, playing a triangle and two would absolutely be on the table.
2) Attack the glass & Moses Kingsley
Moses Kingsley has 56 offensive rebounds, that is more than the next three players combined for the Razorbacks. So... you might wanna get a body on him. Outside of Kingsley, the Hogs aren't a particularly good rebounding team. And we know, that when given those kinds of circumstances, Mizzou has the potential to control the glass. This is very important, because not getting the boards could frustrate Kingsley, and get him into foul trouble. Then the depth of the Hogs will come into play.
3) It's a Mike Anderson team, so... Value the ball
Don't let the press get to you, play the pace you wanna play. Eh, Mizzou is just as deep and plays pretty well on the break. I say attack the pressure and just try to dunk on it. But don't be careless, be aggressive. There's a line.
In the end this is a game that Missouri needs badly. They won't have many games where they are projected to be within a possession of the other team, and this is one of them. KenPom projects a 76-74 game. I tend to think that he's giving Arkansas more credit than I think they deserve. Bell and Hannahs are tough at home, less tough on the road, and the Hogs don't have any real scoring after those two and Kingsley. The one asterisk is Whitt, who is talented and will be playing in front of friends and family, in an arena he's been in a few times. He could go off a bit. This isn't an overwhelming matchup for the Tigers, they can beat Arkansas. They just need to take care of those three keys above, and they'll pull it out. I honestly think they do. I'll pick a score of 75-67. I think they get to Kingsley and limit the other two, and Arkansas struggles to keep pace with the now confident Tigers playing at home.
I could be wrong. I just don't think Arkansas is quite as good as their KenPom ranking says they are. We'll see tonight.