5 observations from Arkansas-Emporia State

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Watkins handled very well last season - 9.5 minutes per assist and 26.2 minutes per TO.

Watkins handled very well last season - 9.5 minutes per assist and 26.2 minutes per TO. Something many failed to notice when they were wondering why he gets minutes.

Agreed. Dusty and I were talking the other day about how underappreciated Manny’s game is to a lot of people. Smart, smart player. He looks more comfortable and assertive so far this fall than I can remember. A lot of people seemed to think the influx of newcomers would cut into his playing time, but I have a hard time thinking he averages less than 18 minutes a game.

Probably because he hasn’t shown an ability to knock down a jump shot to save his life.

I think that’s definitely why. But he does bring a lot of other stuff to the table. Not everyone has to be a knockdown shooter, but obviously it makes it a lot harder for someone like Manny to be as effective when there aren’t many other shooters on the floor.

They think they have more capable shooters this year. We’ll see. I’m writing about it for next week as part of a preview series to lead into the opener.

Remember Jimmy Counce and how important he was. He hardly made a shot.

I got to see the Hogs BB team for the first time this year on Friday night. I came up to Fayetteville for a basketball/football weekend. It was a great week-end to be a Razorback fan.

Obviously, the competition was not competitive. Clearly, this team is blessed with a much more talented roster than we had last year. With 7 newcomers, it is impossible to know this early if the increased talent will mesh into a team that maximizes that new talent. If they do, I firmly believe there is enough talent for us to be a solid top 25, or better, team.

They looked like a top 10 team in a couple spurts, especially the first 4-5 minutes of the 2nd half, when they played outstanding defense. If Mike can get them to play with that same defensive intensity for 20 minutes a game they will be a very good team this season.

A few takeaways from Friday night:

  1. Darryl Macon is just a joy to watch on the basketball court (this is the 2nd time I’ve seen him in person). If you’ve played, or intently followed, basketball at the college level, it’s pretty easy to spot a “baller”. After just a few times up and down the court, Darryl quickly stands out as a uniquely talented basketball player. Great lateral movement and really quick hands on the defensive end of the court. Nice handle, good court vision, a good 3-point shooter (not Hannahs good, yet), who can also get to the rim and finish with very good elevation. The best definitions I’ve seen written about Darryl’s movements on the basketball court are “fluid” and “glides”. Similar to a smaller Joe Johnson.

  2. I came away very impressed with Dustin Thomas. Based purely on his Colorado resume, I wasn’t expecting the player I saw Friday night. I know Jimmy has been touting Dustin in his articles, and I’m a believer now. He should be a major upgrade at the 4.

  3. Anton and Manny are going to be terrific leaders on that 2nd wave at the 5 minute mark of each half. I really liked the way Mike left Macon on the court with that team for 2 or 3 minutes. Defensively, Darryl, Anton, and Manny will drive the opponents ball handlers crazy. Beard looks like the “freshman Beard” with 2 years experience. Manny’s year over year improvement these 4 years is astonishing. I saw Manny play with the Wings, and if someone would have said back then that he would become a major contributor at the high D-1 level, I would have said they were crazy. He has become one of my favorite Razorback BB players. Nobody’s worked harder to become a valuable contributor to the team than Manny has.

  4. Kingsley and Hannahs both look great and improved over last year. I believe Moses will be a beast this year on both ends of the court. I’ll be a bit surprised if he doesn’t average a double-double this year. Hannahs looks to be improved in all the non-shooting phases of his game. He’s something like 1 for 7 on 3’s, but after watching him in the pre-game shoot-around, I’m not a bit worried about his shooting this season. I watched him shoot 3s, working his way from the corner to nearly the top of the key going 8 for 8 without ever touching the rim.

  5. Jaylen Barford has a world of talent, but doesn’t seem quite comfortable and confident yet being a primary ball handler, facilitator, and scorer. I’m sure his confidence and his play will keep improving as he settles into his role on the team. In the only game film I saw of Barford last year, he played the 3/4 the entire game. He’s not only learning a new system. He’s also learning a new role within that system. He’s so talented, you know he’ll get comfortable and confident soon, and when he does, this team will be a very tough out.

This is a season I’m looking forward to as much as I did the 2014-15 season. I believe this team has a chance to be as good as, or maybe even better than, that team.