5 Observations (w/vid)

<LINK_TEXT text=“http://www.wholehogsports.com/news/2016 … rth-dakot/”>http://www.wholehogsports.com/news/2016/dec/21/5-observations-arkansas-71-55-win-over-north-dakot/</LINK_TEXT>

— Mike went small when NDSU cut it to 2 early in the 2nd half. None of their 4-guard lineups have worked well this year for the most part, but the Beard-Macon-Hannahs-Watkins-Kingsley group scored 9 straight as part of 11 unanswered small-ball points in a 16-0 run that changed the game. I like the look in spurts. Not a lot of teams have two good enough low-post scorers to where having Manny guard them tilts the math in the opponents’ favor, while the spacing, playmaking and scoring of the groups can create offensive runs on the other end.

— First-half struggles are a thing and have been for a while. Would be nice to see them come out quickly Thursday and set the tone for the Florida game. Obviously you don’t want to lay an egg by getting off to a bad start in the SEC opener in what may very well be the best home game of the season. Some of it could be overlooking opponents, but they started slow at Minnesota and against Texas.

— Moses had another so-so night. Some really ugly offensive sequences. To me, his struggles have stemmed from 1) not getting good position and not being a good enough offensive player to create a good look out of it (he’s not Bobby) 2) teammates rarely setting him up for easy looks. I think the idea that he needs to be a go-to post scorer is expecting too much from him. Sure, he can score some. But it’s becoming obvious that dumping the ball down to him is a less-than-productive exercise. Even in the NBA, top-tier low-post scorers generally aren’t super efficient on post-ups (so not counting scores off lobs or dump offs). Post-ups can be a vehicle for offenses to play inside-out and Moses has shown he’s a very good post passer, but he has just 2 assists the last 4 games. It seems obvious he’s frustrated and is forcing it. That’s when it becomes an inefficient action.

— Defense was really good again. Held NDSU to 76.4 points per 100 possessions, the third straight sub-100 defensive rating they’ve posted. They’re starting to switch more, which leaves the defense less vulnerable. Encouraging signs with SEC play around the corner.

— The zone is a tool that’s been mostly useful to go to for stretches. Didn’t think it was especially effective against Texas, but it was tonight. Gives Mike something different to throw at opposing offenses. I think it’s important to be cognizant of who is on the court when you go to it. Need length.

— Stray thoughts, which includes Dusty long 3s, freshmen being mostly quiet when inserted back into the rotation and Dustin Thomas going through a rough patch.

I bet that’s the most minutes C.J. has played in his life without taking a shot.

I believe the runs against Texas and NDST in the second halves have featured Kingsley on the court with Macon, Beard, and Hannahs on the perimeter. They are our three most reliable perimeter shooters not named Jones, and one of the better ballhandling groups that we can field. That may be one reason why Moses has been better in the second half. Watkins isn’t a perimeter shooter, and Barford is under 30% on treys now. The starting lineup is balanced on O only when Thomas and Barford are making jump shots. I wouldn’t mind seeing Jones on the court with Kingsley some as well. He has the length to play some #4.

Right now our best lineup seems to be Macon, Hannahs, Beard, Cook, and Kingsley. Cook looks great on D. That group should probably finish unless somebody else has it going in a particular game or we are protecting a lead, in which case you want Manny on the court for D and ballhandling.

Barford had a bad game. I’m expecting him to look better against the the more athletic teams when the SEC starts, though. His strength at the moment seems to be when the game is fullcourt when his athleticism at both ends becomes a major asset. He’s our best finisher on the break.

Tried to link this in the piece and meant to link it above, but, for reference, here are the NBA’s top scorers off post-ups. Note that very few average a point per possession.

<LINK_TEXT text=“http://stats.nba.com/players/post-up/#! … =PPP&dir=1”>http://stats.nba.com/players/post-up/#!?CF=FGAGE50&Season=2016-17&SeasonType=Regular%20Season&sort=PPP&dir=1</LINK_TEXT>

The post-up in and of itself is not usually incredibly effective over the long haul, but is made effective in that it allows the offense to play inside-out. Moses forcing it negates a lot of the positives that can come from throwing him the ball on the block.

Against Texas, the Barford-Beard-Hannahs-Cook-Kingsley lineup outscored Texas 20-9 in 4:23 in the second half (2 stints). That was by far the most productive lineup Anderson used and one he hadn’t rolled out before. Barford is 2-19 from 3 since starting 5-8. He’s developing a bad habit of settling for long late-clock 3s. Some can’t be avoided, but there are others where he has time to put his head down and get to the rim, but decides to just settle.

Watkins was out there as the small-ball 4 against NDSU when the Hogs scored 9 straight with Moses, Beard, Macon and Dusty. Obviously his playmaking at the 4 can make up for his lack of shooting, especially when the other options there aren’t big scorers anyway. Then Cook came in for Manny and they scored 5 more in a row. I’m not married to a Cook closing lineup, but he has been the best option next to Moses for at least the last few games so I think it’s warranted for now. His defensive intensity alone is worth it if Thomas is going to struggle.

C.J. at the 4 is interesting. He’d have to be able to make a lot of rotations and help plays on defense that he hasn’t necessarily shown he’s capable of, but he’s athletic, active and obviously provides shooting.

The Beard-Macon-Hannah-Cook-Kingsley lineup is outscoring opponents 12-4 but has only played 3:42 together, including 58 seconds last night.

I think it is going to be a different lineup that does the best each game. That is the beauty of this team. A lot of options and interchangeable parts. Mike knows the best based on what he sees in practices.

I am glad to see Cook has won you over, but I still like Thomas over Cook. Thomas has better offensive skills and also a better rebounder. I think Mike believes his starting five is his best defensive unit.