5 observations (w/video) from Hogs' win over Mount St. Mary's

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— New starting lineup worked on a few levels: 1) wake-up call to JUCOs 2) vets provided better ball movement in starting lineup 3) JUCOs provided scoring punch off bench

— Dustin Thomas had a nice game. Don’t think it was a coincidence he played more with Beard and Watkins. Their passing was great.

— Moses has been taken out of the offense by opposing teams. Few issues here. 1) He’s often getting doubled when he posts up 2) Guards aren’t setting him up as well as Jabril did last year 3) he isn’t hitting the offensive glass like he did last year 4) he’s getting discouraged, floating around and forcing his mid-range J, which isn’t falling right now… He’s passed out of a double well at times. If they surround him with shooters, that can lead to open looks, which this team needs. Still would like a more concerted effort to use him in the PNR with specific pieces situated around him to maximize the action. And I think Barford, Macon and Beard can do a better job of driving and dishing to him on a duck-in.

— Re-watching it, it became more clear how many great looks MSM got out of its spread PNR against the Hogs’ scheme. Mike’s been going to the 2-3 zone a bit more, perhaps as a salve for the easy looks they’re giving up in man.

— Moses is easily the most important player on the team because there’s no one who can come close to replacing what he does, but I’m beginning to think Macon may be the best based on his overall skillset. Can defend, shoot, pass, drive. He’s got a pretty complete skill set, is savvy and doesn’t lack for confidence.

— Stray thoughts

Last night’s game, although a win, left me more concerned. Don’t get me wrong. Plenty of time to iron things out and I know we had a 6 day layoff, but I hoped to see more improvement in some areas you touched on above.

In general, our discipline of both ends has to improve.

Way too many bad and inconsistent reads and rotations defensively last night. After the first game, we improved some on how we defended the PnR. We hedged harder and didn’t switch as liberally, creating less mismatches. Our rotations from there were still sloppy, but at least we slowed down the ballhandler more. Last night, we reverted to sloppy hedging and too many switches. Thank goodness that team had zero frontcourt talent and simply, weren’t that good. They got good looks all night.

Like you said, the zone provided some relief. It’s definitely the better of the two looks right now. Defense has to get corrected or I’m afraid we could be in a similar position as last year.

On offense, more of the same. Lack of flow, purpose and balance. Again, thank goodness there was just a large talent gap. CMA has to demand better spacing and inside-out action. We have to pair Mo and a shooter on the same side of the floor with space more to create more pressure on the defense. Right now, we’re just running around mostly, getting very little from our halfcourt offense, which is leading us to rely on players creating on the own from the perimeter.

Again, it’s discipline. CMA likes his players to play off their instincts, and that can be a very good thing. But, when you have 7 new players, no true PG that’s taking control of the halfcourt and bigs that aren’t committed to creating offense out of the post right now, you have what we have - a discombobulated offense. We need more structure right now. I’m good with freedom and free-flow, only if all of the players are on the same page and there’s proper spacing, timing and role clarity. We don’t have any of that right now.

Individually, there was some improvement last night, but I wanted to see more team improvement than what was shown. SFA and Austin Peay look more down from last year than maybe what I thought they would be, so maybe we have some margin to work through these things this week.

I haven’t got to see any game yet, but I’ve listened to each one. I actually thought last nights rotation was the smartest this team could have. I know that sounds funny, but when the 2nd five is Beard, Watkins, Jones, Cook, and Thompson, I just don’t see a “scoring” option. It has been (in my opinion) the issue with CMA’s teams here. He hasn’t had a “strong” second rotation. I think last night should be the rotation going forward, once the rotation is set, he can start working on those things you pointed out. Hopefully, he gets it. I’m excited about what the next classes are bringing in, don’t want a “bad” season to screw that up.

There was a passage in the game when Arkansas made 10 of 13 shots, with a lot of reserves in the game.

Then later a certain grouping that didn’t include Hannahs or Thomas finally pushed out to a big lead. When Hannahs and Thomas came back, that magic was broken.

The best player rotations for this team might not be the ones that MA wants to play.

BTW: Jimmy sounded critical of Cook in his writeup, but the best lineup of the night included Cook not Thomas.

I had made up my mind not to comment on the play of this team until we are 10 games into the season. Too many new guys to blend in and most important a new guy playing the point. When you are blending new guys in, defense suffers the most. And when you are playing with a new guy at the point and he is not a true PG, half court offense suffers the most, No way they will be a finished product until mid-January. But 10 games into it, we should be able to draw some conclusions.

Can certainly respect that approach. I also believe this team could look very different in mid-January; I’ve said that multiple times on different boards.

Great post.

I’d agree with this. The spacing/movement in the halfcourt is still often lacking. I thought they got out in transition and played more unselfish last night, but there’s very little rhyme or reason to what they do in the halfcourt. When you have high-IQ, experienced guys like Manny and Anton out there, it can be effective and they can work off each other and make plays in quick succession. But the inexperienced guys make you wish there was more organization/purpose to what they do.

I completely agree with the need to be more conscious of how the floor is spaced around Moses and by whom. Wrote about it in the piece. If he’s getting doubled, that can be great provided there’s spacing and shooting around him.

And then they’re running more ball screens, which I love, but it seems it’s mostly just done without any consideration to 1) spacing the floor around it 2) who’s involved in the PNR and who is planted weakside. A Barford or Macon PNR with Dusty or Macon planted on the weakside to put the defense in a tough spot. As someone who has watched nearly every Thunder game the 7-8 years, OKC would kill teams with a Westbrook-Ibaka PNR and KD spotted up weakside. Could be a way to get Moses involved and get him the ball as a roll man where defense’s don’t have time to double. Heck, use Dusty as the ballhandler some, too. He’s shown a really nice feel for working off ball screens this year.

Between the offensive stagnation and all the missed/late rotations defensively, they’ve looked pretty undisciplined early on. To be expected to an extent with so many new guys, but you’d hope to see it begin to get better. I know Mike loves to be aggressive defensively, but if all the issues persist I wonder if he thinks about dialing it back into a more conservative halfcourt scheme that doesn’t put guys in a position of having to constantly help and nail multiple rotations.

I’m rambling, but there are some real issues that will be interesting to see how he fixes them or if he tries to let them play through it and improve with experience.

I was and will continue to be critical of him taking mid-range jumpers. He’s about 1-12 on the year and most of them have been early clock misses. But like I wrote, he has the ability to be a good bench big if he plays within himself. The “Stray Thoughts” part of the observations are intended more as just random things I make note of during the game as opposed to (hopefully) more nuanced actual points. I deleted a few thoughts last night because the post was bordering on/past being obscenely long. I thought Trey would be clearly ahead of him, but that hasn’t been the case. Adrio has also still been more raw than I’d thought he might be at this point (not a huge deal). I don’t know that either Cook or Thompson move the needle a ton, but they both bring different things to the table, which is why I’m so interested in how Mike uses him.

The Barford-Macon-Cook bench trio was pretty effective last night, +16 in about 12 minutes when they were on the court together.

I think you’re seeing Mike be more willing to go away from Dusty when his shot’s not falling this year. He’s sat him for a few extended stretches that he didn’t last year after his defense has been particularly bad. Arkansas is giving up 112.3 points per 100 possessions with Dusty on the court, easily the worst among the main rotation guys. On that note, Arlando’s solid performance last night bumped the Hogs up to 71.4 points per 100 when he’s out there, more than 30 points behind the next worst rotation guy (Moses, ironically). But Arkansas only gives up 94.7 when Moses is out there, one of two players with a defensive rating less than 100 (Trey, 98.4).

Thought Macon’s comment that there are scoring guards on the team so Moses won’t always get the ball, was telling. It’s a true statement, to an extent. Through five games, he’s been their clear No. 4 option on offense and a borderline No. 5.

After last night’s game, these were the top five usage rates for rotation guys (percentage of possessions used by a player while they’re on the floor)

Dusty 26.6
Jaylen 22.2
Daryl 22
Moses 20.9
Anton 20.8

Last year, his usage rate was 26 and led the team.

I don’t think this team needs Moses to score at last year’s rate to win. They do need him to defend the post and rebound like last year. 10 points and 10 plus rebounds a game would be sufficient.

Read my mind PJ. I said it a couple weeks ago, but if you think about it, Moses scored last year by default because nobody else outside of Bell or Hannahs could score. Moses doesn’t really have a great back to the basket game and he’s not that good of a shooter. He’s not a Bobby Portis, that can score in a variety of different ways.

To me it was expected that his numbers would go down, most people had to figure Macon and Barford would be double figure scorers, Dustin Thomas would score more than Keaton Miles, and Beard would improve on a bad sophomore season. There’s only so many points that can be scored in a game. If he gets 10 points, 8-10 RPG, 2-3 BPG, and 2 APG he would have done his job this year, IMO.

Good points. His numbers were definitely going to go down a bit just based on the roster makeup. I don’t think he needs to score at the same rate as he did last year, was just throwing the usage out there for reference.

I wrote this in the story: “Arkansas has more scoring options in the backcourt and with Thomas at the four. Macon made the point after the game while stating the team would feed Kingsley the ball when he wants. They should — his involvement will make life easier for them. It’s only five games and the numbers can (and likely will) trend upward, but how Kingsley has looked on the offensive is more concerning than the raw data.”

Him looking lost is more my issue than how much he’s actually scoring. Using him the right way can open up looks for others. They appear to have good shooters but are again taking a really low number of 3s both nationally and compared to Mike’s past teams. Moses’ affect on a defense can open up looks/make life easier for everyone else if he does more than float around in the halfcourt.

I am in PJ’s court on how this team will develop. I believe they will lose several thru the early part of the season in conference but that they will round into a pretty good to really dangerous by the end of the season. I think they will disappoint a number of posters and fans as the season goes along but I just want to see them improve and be the team I think they can be at the end.

Kingsley needs to adapt to the situation, then. Jimmy’s detailed some of the weird things Kingsley did in recent games. They gotta get him back on board.