…the key player this year and next year is Anton Beard. He is the only point guard on this team and, unless there is a big surprise from Glasper or a JC point guard, he will be the only one next year. I think his shoulder injury early in the year was a critical blow to this team and it caused him to struggle most of the season. Don’t know whether it finally healed enough, whether the light/confidence just clicked on, or what, but his impact on the North Carolina game was huge. Without him, our half court offense was helpless against a very long and talented man-to-man defense. Barford, Macon, and Hannah needed a screener to get across the half court line. We had the lead, we ran the clock down dribbling back and forth 40’ from the basket, and we jacked up a long shot as that shot clock went down to zero, over and over in the last three+ minutes. Even though Beard was not himself after going out with an ankle injury earlier, his three attempt (after we went down by three) was the best shot ANY Arkansas player got off in the last three minutes of the game. Our press had rattled NC and got us back into the game. We competed better on the boards in the second half. Macon got hot, finally, and could not miss until he went out with cramps. We took a five point lead, slowed the game down to run some clock, NC got set up and played really tough defense, and we had no point guard to handle it and initiate the offense.
Weakness at point guard and power forward was a constant problem this year. There may be help on the way at power forward. Maybe Thomas will make the leap in quality of play in his second year back like JC transfers sometimes do. A healthy, senior, Anton could be the answer at the point unless he gets injured again. Then we are right back where we were this season with no setup guy to run the half-court offense. JMVVVVVVHO
I had not thought of it, but you’re right about the slow down strategy allowed UNC to get their defense set when we didn’t have a PG/Beard in the game. Even when the 3 guards made it back in the game it was obvious they weren’t 100%.
Barford and Macon will be our core. You are right -Next year Beard is pivotal. CJ Jones may be just as pivotal because we need him to play a LOT of minutes next year. Although, I think Trey Thompson is MORE pivotal because Trey will have to handle a lot more minutes until Gaffords can get acclimated. Trey will have to improve stamina to handle the minutes until Gaffords can absorb more minutes. Trey is much better in the match up zone, so we probably use the zone more next year. I think that is a good thing to improve our rebounding fundamentals. We desperately need Cook, Thomas and Bailey to make progress this off season at the 4. I would love to see Hazen gain serious muscle and he may become more of a factor with his post passing.
I have trouble classifying Beard as a PG anymore than Barford and Macon. They are all combo guards. Just have not seen the dribble penetration, passing or finishing skills that a PG should have from Beard. Barford and Macon can do that a lot better.
I see us with a high post-low post offense when Trey is in the game playing mostly match up zone with Gafford as the power forward and then switching to a three forward offense when Trey and Gafford go out with more pressing pressure, man-to-man. I think we will have lots of 3+ and 4+ players to play the three forwards, but we have only one true center in Trey with Gafford helping if he bulks up some over the summer. CJ will be the third shooting guard behind Macon and Barford so he will be sorely needed to come in and bust zones when they rest. I guess Glasper or Garland will be Anton’s subs. I can see a really long limbed press with Garland as the point guard (if he can handle the point) plus Bailey, Jones, Cook, Hazen, Gafford, Perry, etc.
Macon and Barford can go one-on-one against one defender with no help better than Beard, but Beard is the better passer and ball handler. He is not the ideal point guard but he is the closest to that on this team.
Beard is a short combo guard who can do a lot of things in Mike’s system. I think he will be a role player again next year, probably getting a few more minutes, but he would need to really improve his three point shooting to be a consistent important scorer.
His defense now is pretty good if you can keep him out of switching onto bigs, and his passing has gotten better. He understands Mike’s system and has a lot of experience, which bodes well for him staying in what I expect will be a four or five combo guard rotation.
He lacks the quickness to overcome his lack of height and physical strength when he drives into the lane, so talent-wise he is not going to consistently be a good penetrator. He has to see the floor well, be opportunistic, and make good decisions when he drives the ball. He just is not physically capable of beating good interior defense very often.
I think by mid-season, we will settle into a starting lineup of Trey, Thomas, Garland, Macon and Barford. Mike likes that traditional 3 spot manned by a skilled ball handler. Garland has that ideal combination of size, ball handling and shooting skills, Garland could be an upgrade on Manny, but for experience. Every time I see Garland play, I see a poised, calm player that does not make too many mistakes. He is also one of the better finishers.
I feel Beard will be the backup PG. Beard does bring in a lot of value. I think Mike likes a veteran guy coming off the bench to lead the second unit. That is invaluable. Don’t get me wrong about Beard. He brings in a lot, but just not the primary PG role.
Two intriguing players are Hall and Glasper. I think it will be hard to keep Hall on the bench. That length and energy and ability to get to the rim will get him a lot of minutes, even as a freshman. With Glasper, he is coming off an injury, so it is hard to project. He is probably going to get his minutes the following year. But if he is ready to go, it will be interesting.
I don’t see Trey as the only big man for a major part of the game. I think he works best with a power forward shot blocker like Moses was and we hope Gafford will be. Trey at the high post with his soft shot able to pass to attacking wings and a low post scorer is a powerful combination. Then you take him out, put in an attacking five full of long and lean fast guys and I think that is a nice combination. JMVHO.
Now if we can just get a ball handler to lead the half court offense, we would really have something.
I think Beard could move into Manny’s role as Glue man. He is the closest thing we have to a PG and he has been through hell and back. I think Mike likes Beard and his resiliency against his past. Beard can be a tough little guy, play good defense, teammates listen to him, and he will be a SR. He was one of the few that would feed post players. Beard came back from legal troubles that would have gotten into the pysche of most players. It would have been easy to give up and walk away. I am proud of him.