Have the Hogs Been Improving Through the Season

I’m wonderding if others have seen general (or specific) improvement in the basketball team, especially during the last five games (i.e., 1/2 of our non-conf games played thus far)?

Clearly, our FG defense is not what it was the first few games; and everything’s different from the Rice game.

Of course, Chaney missed a few games at the beginning. So, he may just be catching his stride. And sure, Mason shot lights out last game, but I look at that as more luck (or rested) than purposed improvement.

The play appears very much the same to me, except i’ve noticed more slow downs to our offense - apparently looking for set plays.

My real question revolves around the concept that some of our opponents seem to be figuring us out. I’m wondering, therefore, if we’ve maxed out of our current potential.

Jones’ last game improved his field goal percentage by about 3 percentage points, but he was still shooting 47 percent going into the game. I don’t think there was much luck involved in his game vs. Tulsa, other than maybe the 3 at the first half buzzer. He has become a good shooter.

The defense was way ahead of the offense to begin the season. The offense has taken shape as the season has gone along. We tend to create mismatch problems for teams. Not only that but we seem to be recognizing the mismatches and capitalizing on them in the last couple of games, before that we didn’t recognize quick enough when we had an advantage. I also don’t think our defense has gotten any worse since the first couple of games, there is just now footage on us so teams can now prepare for what we are going to throw at them. I think the defense is actually evolving, there are more wrinkles, more different looks than there were early. I think there is a lot of room for improvement in the transition game. We don’t seem polished when we get out on the break. jmvho.

I don’t post much anymore, some of you old timers might remember arkbball, hawgtalk listservs from way back, if you do, you might figure out who I am. Been on HI since it started up.

I still think they are playing great 3-point defense, but the other team shooting 8 to 12 percent from there was not going to be normal and was bound to go up.

I think they have played hard in most every game with their best efforts on offense probably being Rice and Tulsa.

I’m still not sure they are going to get into the NCAA tournament because of lack of height and quality depth, but do think they are off to a great start and probably should be 10-0.

I think the defensive numbers were going to get a little worse just because we’re playing better teams. A lot of pastry on that early schedule. And people were also missing some open looks that they’re not missing as much now.

Eric Musselman actually hit on this last weekend. He said for a 3-4 game stretch he felt like Arkansas became a grind-it-out team and guys were walking the ball up the floor then getting into actions. He has encouraged players to play with more pace, and we saw that a bit against Tulsa. The only games in which the Razorbacks had more offensive possessions than last Saturday (82) are the two OT games (86 at GT, 91 at WKU) and the season opener vs. Rice (89).

So far our non-conference schedule has been one of the softest through the years. So, whatever stats and NET rating we compile is not a true indicator.

However, I have come to a couple of conclusions.

Our offense is improving. And it is almost becoming lethal and unstoppable at times. I have no worries there. In fact offense is our strength.

I am worried about defense though. I don’t think this strict adherence to man-to-man defense is not sustainable. If that is all EM does, the scouting report is out and I think we will be in trouble unless we adjust. We neither have enough bodies or enough quick guards to sustain it, I am hoping this talk about “I only play man-to-man” is just talk and we have been practicing at least matchup zone.

Further hope they are practicing press and traps. They are going to fall behind by double digits late and are going to need it. One of the problems with Eddie’s teams was that once behind double digits, it was hard for them to rally.

If defense develops some flexibility, I don’t see why they shouldn’t make the tournament. They have perhaps the best three guard offense (probably better than Macon-Barford-Hannahs or as good) and every player has at least one year of SEC ball under them.

NET rating considers strength of schedule. So it takes the pastries into account.

I think that we will be a NCAA team. I don’t expect that we are a man only defense at some stage of the conference season. Muss is going to coach to win and if he has to deviate from his preferred game plan to win, I expect that he will. Case in point was the time out he called in the Tulsa game. He changed the defense on the pick and roll. That stopped Tulsa and the Hogs go on to win comfortably.
He did call a time out to fix an obvious problem and I expect that he is flexible enough to make more mid-game corrections.

I think that he is still very much in the teaching mode and he wants his team to be an aggressive man to man defense. I think that they will have to use some zone in the SEC, if nothing else just as a surprise to the opposing team. With Arkansas being an exclusive man defense team, a defensive switch to zone will like likely cause our opponents to make mistakes because all their game preparations and scouting will be predicated on the Hogs playing man defense. Any new wrinkle that a team shows is almost always successful because the opponents have not practiced against or expected that they would have to deal with that scheme. I feel certain that the team has played zone in practice to show how other teams play zone against us as part of his game preparations.

If he stubbornly refuses to change, I will be critical.

He wants to get his team in shape and have them ready for extended minutes. With all the media timeouts, he can play his starters more minutes. If the team has dead legs or foul trouble, he will be forced to either substitute or change to a zone to conserve energy.

Before we become critics, Muss has a small and shallow roster this year and we were picked to finish 11th in the SEC. I don’t think that many would have predicted his winning percentage. At this stage, I think that he has done an excellent job. As the competition improves, we will lose some more games. I do think that we will continue to exceed expectations and that our basketball team will be a upper echelon team starting next year. It will be great to be back as a top 10 team and I can’t wait.

I understand that. But it is all relative. The teams that look strong now don’t look as strong in January and the other way round.

Our current NET rating does indicate we are probably good. But hard to say how good.

Same would be true if we were as good as Ohio State. Or anyone who has played North Carolina, which looks like crap now.

Team chemistry is greatly improved. They are playing team basketball with each player having a better understanding of their role. It is like putting together a great pie whereby the right mixture of all ingredients is necessary. Chaney has not been very good but he is making progress and they really need to maximize his potential because of their obvious size disadvantage. Never thought I would say this but Harris and Bailey are greatly improved.

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Very much so. Last year, I was one of Harris’ harshest critics. This year, I’m really happy with his game. He has improved in almost every facet of his game. Obviously his shooting has improved. I think Jimmy being here has helped Harris’ game. Last year, he was constantly forcing things on offense rather than playing within himself and the flow of the game. Jimmy is obviously a master at that and I think Harris has tried to emulate him.

Most of all though, I’m happy that Harris has accepted his role of coming off the bench and is making the best of it. He is a big key to our success so far this season. Before the season started I thought that either KK or Devonta would take over the starting PG next year, but if Harris continues his improvement, he may prove me wrong.

Much of the same points can be made about Bailey also. He’s certainly been a mainstay in our lineup this season. Great athlete.

Yes. That is why at least I have not been able to Judge early season rating, unless the team comes in with high preseason predictions.

Yes, I believe we have, but lack of depth and size will be our undoing. Better opponents ahead combined with sprains and strains will take its toll in conference play. I continue to believe that Muss will get the players necessary to take us to the next level over time. I think we will upset some good teams in Bud Walton before the season ends and not sure if we can get in the tournament this year. WPS

Against Tulsa, Harris led our team in Plus Scoring minutes at “26”, playing a total of 23 1/2 minutes, while personally only contributing four points. Sort of the key game within the game stat.

Putting up 41 against anyone is not luck. Mason played a very smart and efficient game against Tulsa. We almost hung 100 on Tulsa so I would say for sure that’s called getting better.

Not sure how you slow down more but put up almost 100???

Everybody seems to have covered major points pretty well.

As far as teams figuring us out. I don’t think it’s that as much as their just exploiting the weaknesses we have and have had since day one. Biggest one is our lack of a true big man down low for both offense and defense. If we aren’t shooting well, then we struggle big time and if our opponent has a high scoring big man, our defense get stretched too thin trying to cover for Bailey and Chaney. Chaney is doing a pretty good job down low defensively mostly because he’s strong as a bull and can’t be pushed around easily, but that takes a toll, especially on him getting in foul trouble. Our saving grace is the discipline and speed of our guards being able to double up and recover to guard their man when the double breaks down.

I don’t consider Joe, Jones and Whitt as quick guards. That is the problem I see against quicker SEC guards. I don’t think we have faced a good backcourt yet. By this time every year, we have had faced some PGs on these mid majors that made us wonder why don’t we have them.

When we have both Sills and Harris on the court, our backcourt does look quick.

I agree on mostly.

I think Joe and Whitt are quicker than they look. In my mind, there’s a difference between being an explosive athlete and being quick to the ball. Whitt is quick to the ball and his long arms definitely help. Joe is similar to being quick to the ball. Jones isn’t quick, but he’s got good instincts of getting the ball.