Final Basketball Thoughts (Long)

They were who I thought they were…

I said it before the season; this was a rebuilding year. 16-18 regular season wins was my expectation. With our strength of schedule, we actually ended up in a little better spot than I thought - 65th in NET, 55th in KenPom and 2nd round NIT. That’s where we landed, and there goes another year.

At times, especially early, this team outperformed my expectations. I looked back at my preseason expectations post the other week, which I always do, and there were some surprises - Mason Jones production, Bailey’s softness and Henderson not playing at all. For the most part, though, they were on par. Fun to watch at times. Frustrating to watch at times. That’s what you get with a team as inexperienced as we were.

Offensively, we ended up 67th in Adjusted Offense. Defensively - 51st in Adjusted Defense. Not bad in aggregate in each category. That’s our second best defensive landing we’ve had under CMA (44th in 2014), which I expected. The issue was consistency, though. Ups and downs…again, to be expected with the experience level.

> Gafford improved and was really productive. Really thankful to have had him in our program. I watched him as a rising 10th grader at a Razorback basketball camp, and you would not believe how far he’s come in a short amount of time. He needs strength and focus, and he’ll get that as a professional.
> Bailey, again, after a couple of seasons where he showed aggressive play and explosiveness, was soft and disappointing overall. He did improve his skill level, and had some moments, but we needed more dog. I like him as a bench player that can provide some spot minutes and energy.
> Mason Jones isn’t a great athlete, but he’s a really good player. Great evaluation by the staff. Putting up 14 a game as a sophomore, he shows a lot of promise the next two years. Good solid high major player.
> Last Spring, I said that Isaiah Joe would be the best shooter we’ve had since Rotnei. He may prove to be better. Like Jones, to be this productive the first year, he shows great promise for the future as well. He’ll get stronger and more confident. He’s also a underrated defender.
> Harris was a little bit of a mystery before the season started. From watching him a little in high school, I knew we’d get the speed, the handle, the burst and the sizzle, but I knew there would be some holes; otherwise, he would’ve been recruited more highly. And, we found out those holes were his shooting and discipline. Still, he’s a sophomore. I like him as a solid player the next two years. Does a lot of things really well, and newsflash for some us, he can improve.
> I really, really like Chaney’s upside. Again, the Derek Hood comp is a really good one IMO. I think he could make the biggest jump in the offseason if he takes it seriously. He should’ve played more.
> So, so proud of Desi. I knew he was underrated coming in, but it took him a little while to come on. But, man, he did. Shot the three better than I thought he would. He’s going to be a great leader, big time defender and overall solid player for us the next few years.
> KES is another one that I like for the future. He just has a nice flow. Just needs more minutes and more confidence. Also, he needs to work on his handle and strength.
> I appreciate Gabe’s energy, effort and ability to pass well most times, but I don’t think he’s a high major player.
> I was a little surprised that Henderson didn’t get any run. Some of you may remember that I went back and forth on liking our taking him as a recruit. He just didn’t progress much from 15 years old. In the end, I was ok with it, and called it a long-term play. We’ll see. Jury’s out.
> Wasn’t surprised that Ali redshirted. Big risk…could be some level of reward down the line. We’ll see.
> Was really disappointed that Phillips transferred. Liked his upside.

Now, about the overall program. Simply said, I’m straddling the fence. Gun to head, I’d probably lean toward replacing CMA, but that’s not a strong feeling, and it’s probably influenced by my never preferring CMA as our head coach. There are great arguments on both sides. I read other boards, and it’s interesting to see the different viewpoints. This board has a few really loud proponents of CMA. Another board that I contribute to has a few really loud opponents of CMA. Reading these two extremes has provided a lot of info for me to consider. Each party thinks the other is stupid and ridiculous. And, frankly, it’s tiring to read both parties’ sentiments over and over again b/c they don’t ever really say anything different and original…and they mostly just whine.

3 NCAAT’s in 8 years is not getting it done. On the other hand, CMA has been really close, and hiring coaches is a really large risk. None of us know how good of an evaluator Yurachek is. The spring signing period isn’t over, and while I’m frustrated that we’re in this position this late, I refuse to project next year until I see our entire roster. I’m not going to assume what next year will be until I have more info. No matter how easy some us say it is, Yurachek is in a really tough spot with only one year of evaluation under his belt on CMA.

I’m unhappy that we’ve had two rebuilding years in the last four. I think that’s unacceptable. But, I really like the nucleus of players we have. Fence straddling defined. Let’s see what happens the next few weeks.

P.S. I really like Tyson Jolly. Sure thing. Think we have a good shot if we’re prioritizing him . I also like Raymond Hawkins. He can contribute day one. Not sure of our shot there; seems like he’s talked a lot about committing without having visited us yet. I understand he’s set to visit us before he commits, but I’m not overly positive about our recruitment of him.

Thanks RazorAg. I always appreciate your thoughts. I think you are the most insightful poster on our basketball program. Pls keep chiming in.

I always pay attention to what you say and have for years. I’ve been on the fence some this year, some of it because of I’ve let the negativity affect my thought process but at the end of the day, i thought this team could improve without Dan being here next year. I am gonna ride with Mike next year and will probably be where you’re at if he doesn’t deliver. I think the only place you and i disagree is that I think Mike can change things up. Loved the defense and offensive flow in the two NIT games and i’d go out on a limb and say that we have our best core of guards that we’ve seen under Mike from a depth standpoint.

Appreciate the post, let’s see who we land in the next couple of weeks.

I don’t disagree that there are reasons to be dissatisfied and reasons to replace Mike. But you’d better know (not just hope) you can get somebody better. If HY screws this up we could be irrelevant for another 10 years.

Generally agree with your thoughts on the roster.

Thanks RazorAg…I respect your insights and opinions.

As others have said there are valid arguments on retaining and firing CMA.

My position has been all along…who can we get that is better? We’ve not done good at that since we fired Nolan.

I was pretty encouraged by the way Bailey played against Indiana, it looked like he got just a little confidence back yesterday. If it could carry over into next year that would be a big plus. I also like Chaney, a lot for both offense and defense next year. We still need more height and bulk, because both of those guys are a little small to bang with 6-9 and above guys on a regular basis.

I was very, very encouraged by Sills getting his shooting stroke the last ten games or so. He and Joe should be a lot of fun to watch next year. Still early to know about Embery-Simpson, but I’m leaning towards him making good strides if he can stay healthy. I’m glad we are recruiting a bigger JC guard who can score, as I think we will continue to play three guards most of the time, regardless of who we bring in or how the holdover big men develop.

Harris needs to work on shooting, work on shooting, work on shooting. And then go back and work some more on shooting. Everything else is there for him to be a really good player as a junior and senior.

There’s a place for Gabe on the team, but unless he improves his offensive game I’m not sure it’s a place he’s going to like. I don’t know if that jump shot can be tamed. He works very hard on defense, and he is getting good at drawing charges. If the offensive game does not come on, I think his best role will be as an energy player who can make the small plays that help you win.

Henderson showed a glimmer against Providence, it was the only time in his very limited minutes this year that I thought he relaxed and played with some flow. Of course pretty much the whole team played like that against Providence, so I’m not sure you can read a whole lot into that for Henderson. Like most of those freshmen, he needs to get bigger and stronger.

The two redshirts, Ibi and Justice Hill, are of course question marks. I’ve seen highlights of Hill, and I think in the long term his flirtation with football may be helpful, as it will help him be more physical than most would expect from a guard that size. He’s got athletic ability, intelligence and mental toughness by all accounts, all of which bodes well for him being effective in the guard rotation next year.

Ibi is a large person. What I’m hoping for is that the redshirt year and the summer will allow enough progress to put him out there in the rotation for five or ten minutes each game, with no expectations of anything but mixing it up on the boards and maybe blocking a few shots.

The gut reaction is of course to think that we can’t be any better next year without Gafford, since he was so important to us this year. I think a more accurate statement is that if Gafford had stayed we would be better than we will be without him. I think we will be a better, more consistent team, but how much better I have no idea.

Good stuff RazorAg

great post. I hope Mike gets some breaks and nobody transfers. Mike is a great man and loves the Razorbacks and wants to be here. The next coach may be better or not. Since Nolan, CMA is our most successful coach. Our ability to hire a high profile coach has not happened. That being said better athletes who can play basketball is the key

Thanks RazorAg. Well written and well worth reading.

Good accurate post RazorAg and really good replies and summaries to boot.
Nothing here to add but thanks for sharing some very good observations.

WPS!!!

I agree with this. I’m very encouraged by what I saw in the NIT, but it would be nice to have the big guy in there in 2020. Maybe we’re a 21-win team without him but would have won 23-24 with him. Of course we could make up some of the difference with spring signings.

I struggle with 3 for 8 or 3 for 5.

With 0-3 start, the math is always going to look bad unless Mike stays here for a long time.

I tend to look at everything for the last 5. In most cases in life, if you go back all the way, there is very little chance of recovery.

Only way to stop people from choosing which math to look at is to make Final Four soon. Sweet 16 or even Elite Eight will provide just a temporary one year relief and then back to the math.

I think Ali is the X factor if he is still here.

Jimmys and Joes, our Jimmys and Joes will be a year older next season and a year older makes a big difference to 18/19 year old kids. Their skills will improve but the big thing is that they will be physically stronger. Got to be strong and tough to play in our league. We will be stronger and tougher. I look for a good season.

GREAT stuff as always RazorAg, thanks for sharing. I’ve always enjoyed your hoops analysis and opinions. I feel pretty much exactly the same as you do about MA.

I’ve hear that excuse for 7 of 8 last years.

Link?

No you haven’t. But keep telling yourself you have if it makes you feel better. :roll:

Add the 12 or so years before that and I guess you have been a sad sort for a very long time.

Would any of the true insiders on this site, take a stab at why Mike won’t make coaching changes…besides using loyalty as his reason? Lots of head coaches are loyal to their staffs, but he seems to take it to new levels. I’d just like to hear what his personal friends on here have to say about him. Thanks in advance.

I’m just glad there is some level of civil discussion here. I’m getting attacked on another board bc I got tired of 10 threads a day to call for Mike to be fired. I’m a mediocrity loving fan I’ve been told. Even that the fan base is SOOO upset it’ll be worse next year than it was with Nutt. That attendence will fall to 6000 a game and signs, ads, and banners will fly again. Idk what the hell fans like that think all that negative press will do except make and decent coach think twice about coming to replace the one they want gone.