Observations from Mississippi State (w/vid)

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20 videos in there, which I think is the most in any observations piece, basketball or football. Mostly about the 3-point defense/lack thereof.

— Showed how MSU got so many open 3s. Weatherspoon hit a few tough ones, but a lot of them were the result of good offense/bad defense. The switching was ineffective and wound up with a big on an MSU guard or with miscommunications about the switch, which led to open looks. Have to be on the same page if you’re gonna do it. Four of Weatherspoon’s 6 3s came off simple pindowns that allowed him to pop out for 3s. Hogs just didn’t do a good enough job of staying connected with him. A few 3s came off traps that left shooters open, gambles that didn’t pay off. MSU shoots a ton of 3s. Arkansas shot 5 more than it had in its other SEC games and still shot 5 less than the Bulldogs. That was the difference in the game.

— MSU guards torched Arkansas’ for most of the night. Peters is big-time and I.J. Ready out-quicked the Hogs. This led to a lot of open looks. Anderson said after the game that players have to know when they’re outmatched speed-wise and give the offensive player space. Pressing basically gave the MSU guards a runway to create what was in essence a fast break. Hogs’ on-ball defense has been pretty shoddy against teams with quick guards.

— Rebounding issues again. Aric Holman said Howland told them Arkansas doesn’t box out well. Hard to argue with that. Gave up 15 offensive rebounds and are allowing SEC opponents to grab 38.5 percent of their misses, which ranks 13th in the conference and is 9 percentage points higher than the national average. MSU came in ranked last in the SEC in offensive rebounding and still pounded Arkansas on the glass. The teams were even with 14 second-chance points each, so it isn’t like that was the difference in the game. But the added possessions meant MSU just got more time to milk the clock. Bulldogs are very deliberate on offense and were No. 217 in the nation in adjusted pace and they actually played slower (20 seconds per possession) against Arkansas than they normally do (17.2). Those added possessions took time off the clock and lessened the margin for error Arkansas had in trying to come back. It’s a big issue.

— Dusty got untracked in the second half and scored 15 after intermission. He got a lot of good looks Tuesday and they started falling in the second half. Hogs ran him off a lot of pindowns and he has a good feel for when to curl and when to pop out.

— Moses didn’t rebound well, but scored a season-high 19, the result of hitting some jumpers and his teammates doing a good job looking for him. He was set up for some nice baskets tonight, which hadn’t been happening as much as it needed to. Arkansas actually hit the screener on pick-and-rolls, so it is possible. Moses can be a good offensive weapon when properly utilized. Tuesday was an encouraging step in the right direction.

— Stray thoughts, including Anderson challenging Macon’s defense, Beard being the team’s clear-cut PG and probably needing to play minutes reflective of that, the Thomas/Cook minutes at the 4, split cuts featuring Trey assists, C.J. having an uneventful showing in his first meaningful SEC playing time, costly FT misses, more.

Gave after game, you are eviscerating the coaching performance of Mike Anderson.

Eviscerating is a bit strong, I think. I’m providing examples of what happened and why it happened in each game. Here’s how I look at last night, specifically. Some of the issues were the result of how Arkansas plays, part of its aggressive identity. Some were the result of player error.

I didn’t think the decision to press a quicker team made a ton of sense and I wasn’t a huge fan of the traps, but that is the way his teams are going to play. Risk-reward that tilted more toward the former yesterday in that MSU got some open 3s and dunks.

Switching guard-to-guard is generally a good idea and should be effective provided you have the personnel to do it, but only works when players are on the same page. There were a lot of miscommunications last night that can’t happen, which is on the players, to me. Don’t mind switching a 4 onto a guard at times, but not a fan of switching Moses onto a guard because it takes your best rim protector and rebounder away from the basket and essentially creates two mismatches for the other team to exploit.

Weatherspoon made 4 of his 3s just coming off a simple screen when the Hogs don’t stay connected and get through it. That’s on players. You’ve got to be able to get a better contest or be in position to keep him from getting off the shot.

The guards got blown by off the dribble repeatedly. MSU’s backcourt just looked better.

I’m not always a huge fan of how the offense spaces the floor and flows, but I thought the offense was good last night: how Dusty got his shots, Moses getting set up for baskets as opposed to force-feeding him for post-ups, hitting the screener (finally). Offense didn’t lose this game.

He was mic’d up and telling the team they needed to box out during one first-half timeout. Is the failure to do so on players or coaches? I’m not at practice to tell you how much they work on it, but he emphasized it in the game. But obviously that’s been an ongoing issue and not just this year. There’s a pattern of struggling to rebound and box out.

Rotation-wise, I liked the move to bring Dusty off the bench. I think Anton is the clear-cut best PG on the team and the only guy who consistently drives and kicks/dishes, which opens up so much for the offense. Seems like he could be starting and playing 30 minutes, but I think Mike has liked him anchoring the bench units, which have been so good in large part because Anton and Trey are both smart players. I think he may flip Dustin and Arlando back soon. I wouldn’t have minded seeing Trey and Moses together.

With CA being under CNR for as long as he was and as tenacious as CNR was on defense, one would tend to think by this point in the season we would have a GOOD HUNGRY GRASP on defense by now… especially at home. I realize we still have a decent record but now we are playing conference ball and if not hungry defense now, when?

Mississippi State was hard to gauge, having played an extremely soft schedule. Their losses were unimpressive (UCF, Lehigh, East Tennessee, Alabama), and their best win had been over Boise State in November.

By beating Arkansas, MSU eked into Pomeroy’s top 100. Maybe they are going to be great. Who knows. They made 4-21 threes at home against the Tide, 9-27 at LSU, 12-26 against the Hogs.

MSU had been a week offensive rebounding team but got 44% of its misses against us. The Hogs had been a strong offensive rebounding team but got only 28% against the Bulldogs.

We only fouled them 17 times, but almost every foul put the Bulldogs on the line. They shot 32 free throws. That’s really unusual, 17 fouls leading to 32 free throws.

For anyone who didn’t see the game - The dreaded end-of-first-half slump returned. Arkansas led 24-17 with 9:40 in the first half, was outscored 23-10 the rest of the half.

The game was last tied 46-46 with 13:37 left. Rest of game, score was 38-32. Miss State scored much too easily with 38 points in 22 possessions (1.7 points per possession).

Inside the last 7 minutes of the game, Dustin Thomas and Dusty Hannahs went 3-6 at the line. Our missed free throws allowed MSU to inch out to an 8-point lead. Around the 7-minute mark, they rebounded two of their own misses, and the third time they reset their offense, they made a jump shot for a 5-point lead. That was huge. Trey Thompson and Thomas were in the game, giving up those boards along with Hannahs, Daryl Macon and Manny Watkins.

In the last few minutes the Hogs started fouling, and the Dogs made 10-14 free throws.

What really killed us was giving up a dunk that allowed MSU to extend the lead back to 8, with 53 seconds left. We followed that with Moses Kingsley missing a three, and we fouled the rebounder.

If we had gotten a stop when it was 78-72, the game might have been in reach.

Arkansas led for a little more than 8 minutes in the whole game. Never could sustain a long enough stretch of good defense.

Macon played 24 minutes with one rebound and no steals. Watkins played 18 minutes and got two steals but no rebounds. Thomas amazingly played 26 minutes with just one foul. Kingsley, Thompson and Cook combined for 10 fouls.

Didn’t watch the game until this morning. 2 things.

  1. We had several open shots in the lane that didn’t go. We have been hitting those shots.

  2. That Miss St Team reminded me of the freshmen MayDay team. I think they’ll dance, took them awhile to find a rhythm and I think they’ve found it

They could be a team that comes on in conference play as they gel. It was like the last thing I wrote, but just watching the game, they seemed like the more talented team, especially in the backcourt. Peters is big-time. Weatherspoon hit shots. Ready impacted the game with his speed.

Wasn’t criticizing. The analysis, though, is damning.

You’re good, I didn’t take it as criticism. We agree that some of the defensive problems were the result of the scheme, just wanted to point out that there were a lot of player issues, too (busts on simple switches, repeatedly not fighting through screens).

My main thing with scheme is that how they played left themselves susceptible to giving up open 3s against one of the best shooting teams in the conference. And they pressed guards that were quicker than them. Both tactics put them in position to fail.

I don’t know that the guards are long/athletic enough to warrant the amount of trapping and pressuring they did. That may be something the staff adjusts moving forward after last night’s results.

The two of you here have provided some excellent analysis and I hate to see Jimmy backing away from it a little bit.
I do not want to see CMA let go and I don’t believe that will happen. The commits that we have for the future are very encouraging. When they get here they will need to be coached.

But (and you knew there was going to be one) virtually everything listed in this analysis are coaching issues. Whether it is kids not taught the right things or not doing the right things and still playing, that falls on the coaches.

Some examples:

  1. Team is not good at blocking out. Coaching.
  2. Players not recognizing that they are out gunned with speed. CMA tried to blame that on the players, but he had all game to point it out to them and switch to a defense that was more suited to the opponent. Coaching.
  3. Guys that cannot shoot free throws playing late in the game. Coaching.
  4. Just now discovering that Beard is the best point guard on the team and needs more minutes. Coaching.
  5. Players not knowing how and when to switch. Coaching.
  6. Players not keeping contact with a red hot shooter. Coaching.
  7. The fact that it is rare that the team or an individual player has played a complete game from start to finish. Coaching? I am not sure, but I have to think so.
  8. Your potential all SEC center listed as a forward and playing like one offensively and defensively. Definitely coaching.

I am sorry, but when you start putting this all together these are too many problems for a team with four to five coaches at this high a level. It seems to me half of these could be fixed by better game prep and in game adjustments. It seems CMA is just expecting the players to make all the adjustments and is surprised and disappointed that they are not doing it. It is the coaches job to get them to make the adjustment.
There are times when CMA talks that he sounds like he is talking to the uninformed. If we knew anything we would agree with him on everything. Your analysis in this piece shows he might want to listen to others. There are a lot of holes in his dyke.

Blows my mind that improving rebounding and cutting down the in the paint scoring is a must as of late and our best inside player is always guarding and playing out on the perimeter and is less and less coming in to crash the boards even when he sees the outside shot going up! I mean please, does coach not watch game film after too! Its getting worse instead of better, we don’t need a 6’11" guard, we need inside play! Plus lets give these freshmen some time, CJ can go off at anytime. You could see that early and after our last 3 halves of D, it isn’t gonna hurt that bad! Less than 100% effort from here on out should equal immediate bench time and then the team will respond and that goes for Kingsley, Hannahs and Beard especially!

In SEC games only, Arkansas ranks last in the league having given opponents a free throw attempt / field goal attempt ratio of 51%. Also last in the conference for defensive efficiency, having allowed 1.18 points per possession. That is a ghastly number.

The Razorbacks are 13th in the SEC for defensive rebounding %, offensive rebounding %, 2-pt field goal % defense, and forced turnovers.

That is one ug-ug-ugly trifecta - poor rebounding, FG% defense, and forced turnovers. Normally your basketball philosophy operates on a continuum between pressure/ball denial and shot denial/rebounding. By emphasizing some aspects, you naturally relax focus on others.

I keep saying that it does not look like Arkansas is focused on any one strategy, instead shuffling between different approaches. Well, look at the numbers.

You cannot afford to give up easy 2-point shots AND offensive rebounds too! It’s a recipe for disaster. These are the hallmarks of failure.

Arkansas also is last in the conference with only 26% of its field goal attempts coming from 3-point range. And 13th in the SEC for assists / field goals.

What are the Hogs really trying to do? Anybody? In four SEC games, Arkansas forced turnovers on 14.6% of opponents’ possessions. That’s like we are hardly trying. More than 20% would be real pressure defense. We’re miles away from that.

At the same time, the Hogs rebounded 61.5% of opponents’ missed shots (giving them a huge 38.5% offensive rebounding number) while getting 25% of their own.

That defensive rebounding % is typical of a Nolan-style pressure defense, but the pressure is not there. Like we go through the motions of a press without really working it.

I guarantee you - this team would be vastly better if it fell back and played halfcourt, shot-denial, low-contact man defense and blocked out furiously for defensive rebounds. That’s what the available players could handle. This is not a fullcourt pressing team. It needs to play a slower game that could lever Kingsley’s matchups and the physical strength of the guards.

On offense, they need to get wide spacing and play inside-out, force defenses to react and kick to an open shooter. The Hogs do not have a great low post threat, but they have several who can attack the paint and draw the defense. At times, Arkansas has been very good at going to the hoop and getting fouled. That must be a central strategy for this team, which needs to exploit anything it’s really good at.

What do you do when your head coach has recruited a roster that doesn’t fit the style he knows + shows no signs of recruiting one that fits in the future? Is it reasonable to expect him to change his stripes?

Thank you, you saved me 15mins of typing the exact same thing. My feelings exactly!

I just didn’t love the word eviscerating. There were some questionable scheme choices, which I pointed out and stand by. Also some player error. Could they have been put in better situations? Yes. But obviously they didn’t play a great game, either.

Your list brings up some good points.

Everything I quoted is really interesting.

The lack of 3-point attempts is a big issue, because you’re essentially playing at a disadvantage against teams that do shoot 3s in high volume. You better be really efficient otherwise to compensate for it. I agree that the offense is at its best when the guards are penetrating. Sometimes that becomes difficult because there’s poor spacing and the paint is congested, taking away driving lanes.

That 14.6 percent would rank among the bottom 10 nationally for the season. It’s just difficult to pressure with a bunch of 6-3 guards who don’t collectively possess great quickness. Instead of forcing turnovers, they’re essentially creating transition opportunities for teams. MSU doesn’t really run, but did a few times the other night because it could beat the pressure. A more conservative scheme would theoretically better leverage their strengths and make offenses operate against a set defense with Moses in the paint as a rim protector.

So, if we played half-court defense oriented style, we’d be better than 12-4? Not sure that’s a guarantee I would put money on.

As CMA has stated many many times, the press is not meant just to get steals, it’s meant to speed up the game and dictate the pace. The numbers and statistics aren’t going to show you how tired an opposing player is, it’s not going to show you a player leaving the game due to cramps, when he was on absolute fire (Nick Moore), and it’s not showing you if a guy that had been making big shots was too tired to get off a screen to get the ball for a game tieing shot (Texas game).

Also, I would highly encourage you to listen to Nolan Richardson’s interview he did with Bo a couple days ago. Very informative, it’s almost like he’s been reading message boards. Key take away I got from him, is he likes the game to look ugly and he doesn’t care about statistics and x and o’s. Which seems to be a pet peeve of some fans. He’s a Hall of Famer and won a National Championship, so I’m going to take his word that it’s not as bad as some fans think it is.

http://www.sportstalkwithbo.com/nolan-r … -anderson/

I don’t know if he said it on the show, but he has also said JUCO’s take a semester to a year to develop. His response was about Barford the first time during one of our televised games. Bo tweeted he said the same thing to him as well (about JUCO’s).