5 observations from Hogs-SFA (w/vid)

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— Dusty taking what the defense gives him. He’s making more and more plays off the bounce as defenses try to run him off the arc. Hogs need to find a way to free him for more looks. Missed 2 good ones last night. Definitely slumping.

— Defense was aggressive and disruptive both in the press and halfcourt. SFA’s motion offense meant the defense could just man up more and not have to worry as much about rotating constantly against PNR. (SFA did run some ball-screen stuff). SFA looked overwhelmed a lot, which was to be expected. SFA only scored 89.9 per 100, a really, really good number, much better than Hogs had been doing. That performance got them down to double digits on the year both in raw and adjusted defensive rating.

— The halfcourt offense was interesting all night. Took advantage of SFA overplaying passing lanes with some nice backdoor cuts. Good prep. SFA went to a box-and-1 on Dusty for a while that took the offense out of sync and there are still stretches with poor spacing and standing around. Sometimes they’ll run a set piece to start a possession, it’ll go nowhere and they look clueless. Did better being less tentative, attacking more in the second half. The defense led to a lot of offense both off turnovers and stops allowing them to attack in transition or semi-transition.

— Moses played with a lot of energy in the second half after a quiet first. Said after that he played angry in the second half. Still think they could be more calculated with how they post him/surround him with, but they did have one nice PNR with him late that unfolded really well.

— Kyle Keller praised Manny after the game, bringing him up unprompted. Does a lot of stuff.

— Stray thoughts in there too.

I was maybe one of the two or three that mentioned before the season that Hogs will miss Bell early in the season for sure. Bell was not a fan favorite like Dusty and fans overlook that Bell shot a better percentage on threes than Dusty and what his presence on the floor meant to Dusty, in demanding the attention of the defense.

Experience plays a bigger role than most care to understand. The spacing that Jimmy talks about comes from experience of playing with each other and players just do it by instinct. I always believed that basketball is a game of instinct and you can’t think through it. Kind of like the difference between a true PG (Durham) and combo PG (Barford and Durham).

Macon was just not doing that for Dusty. And for the past two games, Dusty has been playing mostly with Manny, which is making it worse to find open threes for Dusty. Macon at this point can be poor man’s Bell, but Manny is not even that.

My sense is that Macon is going to work back in the rotation with Dusty and more experience will allow for better spacing and Macon will demand more attention from the defense. Teams won’t be able to play box and one on Dusty or Macon will burn them.

It is too early to make a call on this team. If this team looks like this in mid-January, Piggybacker will be proven right about NCAAT. There are so many things that are not working right presently. What we do know is that we have a lot more scorers than we did last year and a better front court. Let’s see what Mike can do with it.

This team’s definitely still in the laboratory stage. Hard to watch. Was good to see Moses Kingsley make some shots.

SFA is such a terrible ballhandling team, it’s hard to extrapolate much. Their 21 turnovers was their second-lowest number of the season. It was relatively good for them. While Arkansas had only 13, the three from Barford, two by Thomas, and a few others here and there were not just unforced but weird. Sometimes the team looks very uncertain in halfcourt.

Is somebody coaching these guys not to shoot quickly? Defenses are leaving a lot of stuff unguarded between the paint and the arc. Our players don’t seem to know whether to take the ball all the way to the hole, pass off, or shoot. Sometimes we see missed opportunities and tough shots. The ball is not moving fast enough to allow anybody to drift out for an uncontested three. Saw it several times, though, where a player passed up an open shot and then threw away the ball with a nothing pass.

If the Hogs had not held down SFA’s 3-point shooting, it would have been a close game. They got 30 chances at the line from Arkansas’s 23 fouls. On the other side, do you see much effort by the Hogs to spread out and work for either layups or kickouts for threes? Don’t see much effort in general to create 3-point shot chances.

Against SFA this produced 25 2-pt baskets and 58% shooting inside, but 3-13 outside. Arkansas is going to need more outside scoring this season. Don’t get the lack of organized effort to create good 3-pt shots.

Quoting Jimmy:

“In other instances, especially early, the Hogs simply stood around the perimeter, apparently freelancing, in possessions marred by a lack of movement and passing the ball around. The spacing in these scenarios is shoddy. In the photo to the left, Hannahs, who would provide great spacing if parked behind the line, is unaware the pick-and-roll is even happening and cutting down the lane, essentially bringing another defender into the frame for Watkins.”

Have the Hogs not practiced any of these lineups enough to have tightened up the offensive execution? It looks like they are emphasizing getting the ball inside so much that there’s not enough attention to spacing and getting looks for threes.

Experience will help. I also think some of the spacing issues stem from not having a built-in counter to pivot to if the first action doesn’t work so that guys know where to go and keep the floor balanced instead of just standing around/haphazardly moving without purpose. I watch an ungodly amount of NBA games and the emphasis on proper spacing is so great, it’s ingrained in most every offense like it’s second nature. Hogs have poor spacing fairly often and it just cramps the floor.

They had some nice set pieces last night and got into a few of them fairly quickly in the shot clock. I wonder if Mike has tried to implement more of them since, like you said, the combo guys haven’t really stepped up as natural shot creators for others so far. Barford’s had his moments where he’s been more aggressive looking for his own shot, but he hasn’t really been a playmaker like he was in practice. I don’t know if that’s just him playing it safe and playing to avoid turnovers, but he’s underwhelmed in that regard so far.

On your other point, Hannahs and Macon played together for less than 3 minutes last night, Hannahs and Watkins 16:31. I agree with you, that’s probably gonna change moving forward.

My goodness, this is the truth. Far cry from last year’s team. I wrote that they looked overwhelmed at times. Hogs obviously had something to do with it, but they just didn’t have anyone who really could do much off the bounce. Didn’t really run a ton of PNR and weren’t that effective when they did, so they didn’t challenge the Hogs the way they probably need to be.

We got parts, but players seem to still be working out their roles. The backcourt in particular seems to be having trouble meshing together.

In my opinion we aren’t currently playing the most balanced units together. If you do a blind stat resume on the team, the two PGs would appear to be Beard and Watkins. Barford is doing a lot of good work at both ends, but his biggest weakness thus far seems to be ballhandling. As a PG, he currently looks like a really good big wing. Beard has clearly been the PG on this team to this point. I think he needs to be on the court as the primary ballhandler for 25 minutes, and he is at his best with two other scorers in the backcourt.

Hannahs is shooting the ball far more than anybody on the team, Watkins the least among the guards. C. J. Jones needs more shots, but he isn’t going to get them playing with Barford and Macon. Thus far, those three comprise about the highest TO rate we could put in the backcourt together.

I would split up Watkins and Beard. My starting five would currently be Beard at PG, Macon at SG, Barford on the wing, Thomas at the hybrid, and Moses. That lineup is almost as good as we can do on defense. All three in the backcourt are all-court scoring threats and willing passers. It might be a unit that can get Moses going, especially with Thomas coming on as a scorer.

The second unit would be Watkins at PG, Hannahs at SG, Jones on the wing, Cook at the hybrid, and Trey. Against small teams Bailey playing some five in a speed unit might be interesting. That unit would have some concerns on D. Of course, you don’t have to platoon, but I would generally keep, one and only one, of Beard and Watkins on the court at all times with scorers around them.

What is your opinion of spacing last year? Trying to understand if you think it is a Mike Anderson issue or an issue caused by new set of players this year.

BTW, you have been a great addition to the staff. We never had a multi-media analysis of each game. Your analytical skills are excellent.

I watch NBA more than college ball. You are right about the premium on spacing in The League. It is amazing how the guys are always in the right place. Difference between pros and amateurs and in my opinion experience.

When we were all speculating starting lineups before the season, I had almost the same starting lineup as what you have except I had Dusty instead of Macon.

I think Beard is there to stay in the starting lineup. I think Mike is settled on four starters that he trusts at this point. Kingsley, Thomas, Beard and Hannahs. Manny is starting right now to send a message to Macon and Barford. I expect either Macon or Barford to return to the starting unit by end of December.

I don’t see Dusty going to the second unit. He is a too good of a scorer and is a senior.

The only thing about that second lineup is you will arguably have the 2 weakest defenders both on the court at the same time in Hannahs and Jones. Jones looks absolutely lost on defense half the time and he’s not really moving his feet quick on defense and it’s easy to drive right past him. Hannahs has gotten better, but his rotations on switches are still slow and he still gets lost sometimes as well.

And as far as our starters I’m kinda torn between the Beard/Watkins starting lineup over Macon/Barford. On one hand Macon and Barford are obviously better talents, on the other hand it’s obvious that Beard/Watkins take care of the ball better and bring instant energy from the start. I’m glad I’m not CMA cause I wouldn’t know what to do, do you let Barford and Macon just get away with being careless with the ball or do you do what he’s doing and show them if you don’t take care of the ball you don’t start.

I’d personally like to see how a Watkins, Hannahs, Macon, Thomas, Kingsley starting lineup looks, with Barford being the 6th man. I think with Macon out there to go along with Hannahs the spacing is better, and dusty will get better looks. Macon and Watkins are the best on ball defenders, so they could keep the defensive energy up for first unit. With Barford, even though he’s the 6th man, he’d still log about 23-25 MPG. I’d eventually like to see Watkins used like how Fred Gulley was used his senior year. Basically he starts the game for defensive/energy presence but only plays around 18 MPG. I really think for us to be successful Macon and Barford have got to prove themselves and bump both Watkins and Beard down to about 18 MPG.

This year we are more of a complete team. Compared to last year when we were a 3 man team. You shot down any one or two of the three, we were done. Now we have several big men, 3-shooters and guards who carry us in a given day. Hannahs knows he doesn’t have to score 30 points to keep us in the game. Neither does Moses. What was striking to me was that offense was not trying to go through Moses. Moses was not touching the ball rotation. With bigger and more aggressive defenses, outside shots and drives becomes more difficult. Posting the ball to moses; him scoring and drawing fouls could open other opportunities in jumpers, 3’s and drives. Also, the two JC’s, although good, need more experience in this level. Both made numerous costly mistakes. If we can iron out several issues, we may have a good team. Final success depends on our opponents, how good are they?

I’d like to see 4 or 5 minutes a half of this “small” lineup on the floor:

Hannahs (3), Macon (2), Beard (pg), Barford (Stretch 4), and Kingsley. That should be a really good, fast tempo scoring team. With Beard and Macon, you also have 2 very good defensive guards. In the JC game I saw, Barford played a stretch 4, and looked very good on both ends of the floor. Barford doesn’t have great hops, but with that body, he is certainly capable of blocking out and hitting the boards. If one of those first 4 are in foul trouble, you could insert Manny in any of the 4 positions.

Obviously, you couldn’t play lots of minutes with that small line-up, especially against a team with a tall, athletic front court. Villanova has had some terrific teams playing a lot with 4 guards and a big.

Watkins - 66.5
Beard - 23.4
Hannahs - 21.4
Jones - 15.3
Macon - 12.1
Barford - 9.9


Beard - 6.2
Macon - 8.1
Watkins - 10.2
Barford - 12.3
Hannahs - 18.8
Jones - 23.0

What I feel strongly about is that one of Beard or Watkins and two of Macon, Hannahs, Barford, and Jones should be on the court at all times. How you work that out would depend on matchups and who has it going. I don’t like Beard with Watkins unless a stop is the primary goal or Jones with Barford and Macon.

Note: Jones is rebounding fairly well on defense. If you want to go all out O, you could put him at the #4 in a speed lineup. We could surround Moses with four good perimeter shooters and try the old Houston Olajuwon offense for some sets.

Honestly, I haven’t watched a ton of Arkansas basketball the last few years. Had a crash course in the summer when I made the transition and have had a lot of conversations with people in/close to the program. I think the new players definitely play a role in some of the issues. Takes a while to get used to get acclimated to each other.

I think Mike encourages/allows freedom in the halfcourt, which can be a good thing but can also lead to poor spacing/flow if guys are floating around or don’t play well off each other, which may be what we’re seeing early this year with all the new players.

Appreciate the compliment. I decided to go ahead and do the observations in football season, but the idea initially came about as a way to try to break down basketball games. I’m definitely a hoops junkie.

A lot of really interesting lineup discussion in this thread. Mike’s definitely experimenting with a ton of groups — he’s played 72 lineup combinations in six games.

Some of you guys put forth some interesting backcourt combinations… Here’s how those groupings have looked together so far. Obviously a lot of small sample sizes.

Niels mentioned a Beard, Macon, Barford, Thomas, Kingsley starting lineup. That grouping has only played 53 seconds together so far this year (2-2). But the Beard, Macon, Barford backcourt pairing is -9 in 10:52 together this season but -2 in 8:36 while playing in two-big groups.

His second unit of Watkins, Hannahs, Jones, Cook and Thompson hasn’t played together, but that backcourt is +4 in 2:06 together, which makes up most of the 3:02 Watkins has played as the sole primary ballhandler so far this year.

I agree with PJ that Dusty will likely stay in the lineup (watch Mike sit him tomorrow now). His lineup of Beard, Hannahs, Barford, Thomas, Kingsley is actually Mike’s fourth most-used lineup so far this year and is a +4 in 7:20. That backcourt hasn’t played much together, they’re +3 in 9:53, which includes -1 in about two minutes of small-ball lineups.

Blu floated a Watkins, Macon, Hannahs, Thomas, Kingsley group, which is +4 in just 2:22 this year. That backcourt has actually outscored opponents 8-1 in 3:51 in regular lineups. Watkins, Macon and Hannahs are mainstays in the small-ball lineups and are about even, +1 in 17:03 when playing together in those alongside another guard and a big.

Harley’s small lineup of Beard, Macon, Hannahs, Barford and Kingsley is interesting. Hasn’t been used. Watkins has been a part of all 10 small-ball lineups Mike has used this year. Obviously they’d have to be aware of the opposing team’s personnel, but I have my doubts that most college teams would consistently hurt the Hogs by posting one of the guards (presumably Barford) enough to outweigh the advantages Arkansas could have on the other end. Defensive rebounding would be the question mark/key with that lineup. Would have to be a group effort.

Niels mentioned surrounding Moses with shooting in small lineups. The small-ball groups as a whole have been a net negative and the lineups with Kingsley are just +1 in about 14 minutes, but I think those groups are worth continuing to explore this month. I think they could be effective as guys get used to playing off each other.

For all the talk about how our offense is sputtering Pomeroy currently has our O ranked #39 in efficiency in the nation and 3rd in the SEC, not far behind #2 UF. If we can ever get all the pieces working in unison…

Thus far, the SEC seems to be light on O. Almost half the conference is 100+ in O. That might be good news for us.

I love your Bball insight and observations Jimmy. Keep it up. I notice the same things. CMA offense worries me and I worry that pressing should only be very situational with the new touch foul rules.

Good stuff, I like the first lineup, but the second lineup would have Hannahs, CJ, Cook and Thompson together. I think the individual and team D would suffer pretty badly.