OK..as promised, "Report card" time...(pre-season prediction revisited)

When I made this season prediction post in November, we were 5-0. I promised to come back and revisit it at the end of the regular season.

All in all, I’d give my post a solid “A” if not an A+ (note that when I made my prediction for season wins, I inadvertently omitted the TCU game - which I had as a “W” - because I was thinking we were done with our non-conference games once SEC Play started…so add 1 win to my season win total in the OP).

Pretty much nailed everything else (with a couple of minor exceptions, noted below). I’ll also note that Dudley was right there with me - so props to him. For once, he agreed with me and we were both right!

I predicted that Jalen Harris would end the season at or below 25% on his 3’s; he’s at 27%. So, off but not enough to be significant. And by the time the season is fully over, he may still drop down below that threshold. I will also note that this point is a follow up to a lengthy debate I had with Clay last season, when he stated that he felt Harris would develop into a “good” 3 point shooter this season. 30% is average (across all of college basketball)…27% is clearly below average; not as bad as he was last season (a historically low 12%), but as I stated then - he’d had enough playing time to see him for what he is…a below average outside shooter. So that has been confirmed.

I also noted that, at that early stage of our season (5 games in), our FT percentage was much higher than one would expect given our overall shooting percentage from the field, and that IF we kept it up it might help us in some close games. It didn’t and it didn’t.

I believe I was the first to compare Muss to Eddie Sutton, and I have seen many others invoke that comparison since. They aren’t exactly the same, but I feel comfortable with my description as “an Eddie Sutton for 2020” description. The game has changed, and coaching has to change with it.

Otherwise, I stand behind the post as if I’d written it today. It’s been a fun season (with a bit of NIT adventure left), and I’m bullish on the future.

Duds got close, we beat his expectation by being 19-12 rather than 18-13 but gawd did we suck in conference play comared to expectation. I’m not buying it was all I Joe missing, we have trouble with basics like inbounding and pressure against us and will even in the NIT where we will not be gratefull to land and will probably wear that emotion in our play. Future’s so bright gotta wear shades, but I get the sense of gloom that has enveloped this team and the pall cast by losing winnable games. More fun and higher expectations for me than with Mike because there is no denying that recruiting and portal potential is higher. Truly sad to me because we are also mid OVC level in all aspects of the game from the top down. I was around for the Sutton genesis and watched the transformation to national power with the real triplets, granted I have a fragmented memory but there was an on court leadership and will to win that this team lacks. I hope there is less me and more we in the next Muss iteration, but we seem close and yet deserve to be playing on Wednesday against Vanderbilt and Stackhouse who has really struggled to learn how to coach winners in the SEC. Feels like a 20 win PR machine to accentuate the positive is about to happen.

I never ever and will never believe in a team that has Jalen Harris, Adrio Bailey and Cyalla as critical compliments to achieve winning. I don’t really believe in Mason Jones in the clutch and more that feel like they played out to the surprise of none. Most of our SEC brethern believe we are imminently beatable any time we get on the court, hence our sub .500 conference record. Short of winning the SEC tournament that had sealed our NcAA bid fate long before we played out the string and even then I did not appreciate that we had achieved moral victory by playing hard each night.

Oh well, sometime early next year my heart will take over and my reason will be lost as I buy into we coulda been a contender Stella. Greek tragedy part deux more likely, but we got some energy and enthusiasm in the Head Hog and hopefully he has some kids that make the play in the crunch. Failed that big time this year. All in all, the original OP was very prescient and spot on. Congrats to Duds for not letting AR emotions cloud his judgment, if only we had such tempered expectations and could then look back positively on this season. Can not do it now. I’m bummed that not everyone plays their best each night (that is my fragmented Sid memory taking over).

It’s hard to win games with role players that can’t score form 3 feet! The inside presence cost us some games but point guard play got us whipped as well!
As the season wore on our guards couldn’t stay in front of anybody! The layup drill In games beat us and at College Station Nebo and the 3 beat us like a drum! Mason Jones went to the bench early and the rest was history. That’s the reality of every loss this
season. No depth and lack of talent.

It will be interesting to see how the team will look with some more weapons and depth. With more depth and a better rim protector, will we see more pressing? Joe and Jones are both good players, but not the exceptional athlete, that I sense that KK and DD might be, so will we be able to change up tempo with some substitution patterns and different player combinations?

The thing that I doubt anyone could have predicted was that one of the league’s best player would miss around 3 weeks of the SEC season after knee surgery.

Yes and No.

If you’re saying that had Joe remained healthy, we likely would have won a couple of more games and be safely inside (instead of outside) the Tournament bubble, I’d completely agree with you.

But the thing is, teams rarely go a whole season without some kind of problem popping up. What “it” is varies from year to year…serious injury to a key player; less serious injuries to multiple players; a suspension; some unlikely opponent playing way above their typical level against you (and then, just as inexplicably, reverting to mediocrity afterward); a stretch where everybody on the team is in a slump for a few games, etc.

Over the years I have observed that most people, when making a season prediction in advance, tend to a “best case” scenario. They are excited about the potential/upside of each player, and talk themselves into “If ‘A’ plays as well as he did at the end of last season, and ‘B’ comes back completely from his injury, and then ‘C’ comes in and performs like a 4 star recruit should, and the team adjusts immediately to the new coaching staff/system. and…”, etc. It’s called a “best case” scenario for a reason…namely, that ALL of those things very rarely happen together without one or more of them not falling into place. Just doesn’t happen very often.

That is my (as usual!) long-winded way of saying that Joe’s injury - though not specifically - was “baked into the cake” of my projection. I didn’t know what would happen, but the odds were that something would, and I adjusted down a couple of wins accordingly. At the very least, I felt our lack of depth would cause us to wear down coming into the last couple of weeks. I actually think that was almost as big a factor as Joe’s injury in our failing to get where we all hoped we would.

All of that said - as mentioned in the OP last November - I’m very happy with the trajectory of this program. We at least met and probably exceeded my personal goals for the season (as contemplated last summer) and I’m confident we will continue to add to and build things in a positive fashion going forward.

I guess I forgot to post my predictions here. But I created a file prior to the season and had Arkansas down for 18-13 overall and 8-10 in the league.

I wrote after the hiring of Musselman that I thought his beliefs that they would be an NCAA tournament team were off. Just not enough height or depth. Of course, then I wrote in January that Pat Foster and James Dickey believed they would be in the NCAA tournament. Those were their comments and not mine, but I presented them in story form. I never made an in-season prediction based on the hot start in non-conference.

If you had told me Isaiah Joe would miss three weeks with knee surgery, then I don’t think it was even remotely possible they could make the tournament.

I believe you, Clay. In fact, I seem to remember some of your comments along those lines.

But will you at least admit now that Harris will never be a “good” 3 point shooter? Have you finally seen enough (you had stated when we had this conversation a year ago that you hadn’t seen him play enough college ball to make that call yet) to concede that point?

He’s now almost at the end of 3 full years of college play (1 at New Mexico, 2 here at Arkansas) and his career record for 3-point attempts is 20.0%. Average is 30%, good is around 35% and 40% or better is elite. Jalen has done better this year than last - but he almost HAD to…12% is low for YMCA-league ball. I have always given him credit for playing hard and making some outstanding, athletic plays. But an outside shooter, he is not.

Did I say he’d become good? If I did I was wrong. I said he would improve.

I will be one of the first to praise a player’s attributes, but you have to also point out his deficiencies that prevent his being Player of the Year or Best this or Best that. Highest scorer on a team or in the SEC is one thing but allowing a lot of points on defense or not guarding well or turning the ball over at critical times or committing last minute charging fouls is a drawback to an overall assessment of being The Best…

Sometimes ego at continuing to score a high # of points in a game can over-ride an internal feeling of playing with a “team effort”… A team effort outweighs an individual’s play… you can’t do it by yourself!! This year’s team composition was not one for a first year SEC coach to succeed in being a big time winner. I had thought we would do good to win 18 games and then maybe 2 SEC tournament games. My NCAA tournament thoughts were nil. NIT is for teams rated 65 and higher, NOT something to brag about. Remember we, as in the recent past, should turn down an NIT bid. To only play one more game and have our players continuing to NOT playing on the same page and lose yet again. Why?

Final thought is that NEXT year is what I am looking forward to and the success of Coach M and a team composed more of “his” player choices and a couple of very good current players who MIGHT stay and not go “portal” or PRO… hmmmm Can’t wait for great rebounding and in-the-paint play and not so, so many 3 point attempts from poor shooters or from one who hits 3s but does not defend…

You’re assuming that Jones is doing what he’s doing because of ego. It’s quite probable that Muss is telling him to do what he’s doing because that gives us the best chance of winning.

The rest of your post is not very coherent but it appears you’re advocating turning down an NIT bid. Not happening, and I have no idea why you think it should.

Why did we do it back before Anderson.???
… We declined the NIT at the advice of the HC due to poor playing the last few games and not playing well together. What does one more loss prove?

What would five more wins prove?

We have athletes. Athletes compete. These guys have been busting their butt for four months, one night in Knoxville being the exception. With a high NIT seed, which seems to be possible, we could have two or three home games to get to NYC.

Well, I missed the my prediction. I had them going to the tournament.

I looked at the following:

We were the only SEC team without a freshman
We looked good in the NIT without Gafford. He was the only significant loss.
6 returnees with one year of SEC experience. Not counting Henderson.
Those 6 were first year players last year and players improve the most from Year 1 to Year 2 and that did happen.
We added two fifth year seniors who were successful in their prior stop. Also that added to the experience.
We had a significant upgrade in coaching.

Yes, Joe’s injury may have affected outcome of some games. But that is hard to gauge because it is not like we won every game with Joe. We lost games with Joe to less talented teams than Auburn and Miss State. Also the two week rest allowed Joe to be fresh after he came back. He was looking wore out before he got hurt. Also the teams we lost to in that stretch also had key players missing,

We were picked to finish 11th. In last decade or so, Arkansas has mostly if not always finished ahead of the projection. So I felt that roll will continue.

So I am a bit surprised we finished where we did.

But this is the first year for Coach Muss as a head coach in a P6 conference. Muss will tell you like Darrell Walker has said that NBA is a players’ league where key players make a lot of in game decisions. College is all coaches’ league. Plus he played with just 2 players he recruited. So finishing where we were picked is a plus rather than a minus.

I would advise playing in the NIT. I think giving some like Ethan Henderson and Reggie Chaney more playing time is a good idea.

I think Joe was looking hurt before he went out, not wore out. An injured knee will do that to you.

The NIT also gives us 1-3 more weeks of practice time with, and for, our 2 red-shirting Bigs and our red-shirting guard.

I was harshly critical of Anderson and his staff for allowing Harris to continue to shoot 3 pointers when he was missing them at a historical pace. I pointed out just how poor his shooting was with stats and you responded that we hadn’t seen enough of him at the collegiate level yet…that he was still adjusting and you expected him to “improve greatly” (or something similar) after another off-season. I countered that after two full seasons PLUS a year practicing against D1 level competition (as a red-shirt) that his outside shooting ability had been exposed for what it was, and though he might improve somewhat (to use an old line, Stevie Wonder could have improved on his shooting from last season), he would always be a liability from three point distance…that he’d never shoot even 30% from distance. Said I’d come back and re-visit again after next (this) season.

The thread got deleted for some odd reason that neither you nor I were aware of shortly thereafter. I did remind you of it and you said you remembered the thread and discussion, but didn’t know why it (prior thread) had been deleted. There were some pretty hot opinions being shared by some others, so a Mod probably made the decision to pull the plug on it. As you recall, there was a LOT of bickering about MA last year at this time, and it seemed almost every thread devolved into an argument between his supporters and detractors.

If I’m wromg, I’m wrong. Not a big deal. I figured he’d improve and he did. Maybe not enough to keep him on the floor for big minutes. He’s had some flashes of really good play this year, but never great shooting.

FYI, he went from 11.6 percent to 27.1 percent. Slight bump up. Not a big bump up, as you say. I thought it might be a little better.

I’m not picking sides and not trying to be a smart a either but if you can’t shoot the ball by the time you’re a 4th year junior will you ever?