So, we end the regular season in year 1 under Muss on a down note. I’m not going to get into the game, but even though we were favored, I didn’t like our chances. I was disappointed b/c there was a LOT riding on it, but I somewhat expected it. On to one-game elimination season, where anything can happen. The hays in the barn when it comes to evaluating year 1 under Muss, though, so I figured I’d go ahead and give my thoughts.
I don’t do preseason predictions often. I’m not comfortable usually b/c so much can change over a long, 30-game season. I sure didn’t do one this year. New coach. Significantly different style. Big holes in the roster. Some all-SEC talent. Just a mixed bag of factors that led me to answer, “Hell if I know”, when asked how I thought the season would go. So, I went into this season hoping that we’d see some of what gave me a TON of confidence in Muss. That was really my only expectation. And, that was met.
I’ve seen some bring up the comment from Muss, “this team has more talent” than his Nevada team. That is not to be confused with him thinking that this would be a better team than his Nevada team. Here’s what we have in roster talent:
Erratic point guard talent: Jalen Harris is our only pure point guard. I believe he’s a power five talent, but as a depth player. Jimmy Whitt is a combo guard, who was forced to play point. He also struggled with back issues a third of the season, and that affected his ability to penetrate effectively. Mason Jones ended up playing the point a lot at times b/c of those deficiencies, and we all know he’s not a point guard either.
Plus wing talent: Mason, Joe, Whitt and Desi is a great stable of wing talent. This group gave us hope that we might be dangerous this year, and they came through. Mason greatly outperformed any expectation out there. Joe, overall, had a really good season, although he struggled at times with needing to be an alpha dog player and injury issues. Jimmy, again with some back issues and disappearances here and there, was huge throughout the season. Glue guy that did a little bit of everything. Desi, after a horrendous shooting start early, came around to an overall very good season. Our wing talent stacks up with the best in the league.
Poor post talent: This was the glaring weakness. And, it was HUGE. It’s one thing to be small, but it’s another thing to be small and not have effective talent. Adrio, like Jalen, is depth-level talent. He should be an energy guy off the bench that should get 10-12 minutes. That said, he played like a warrior for much of the season, especially early. Chaney is still maturing mentally and that didn’t allow him to be consistent. Ethan is still developing overall and was not ready for many minutes this year. Cylla was a bust evaluation, plain and simple. Muss did some wild things to cover up this deficiency, things that I would’ve never thought I’d see (like the five guard lineups).
So, with all of that said, for me, it really came down to how much can our wing talent and Muss’ coaching get us through this season. Overall, I ended this season being pleased. Not ecstatic or over-joyed, but pleased. Here are a few thoughts on the two halves of the season.
Non-conference: Just blew me away. I couldn’t believe it. I tried to not let the excitement get to me and create expectations that we were going to keep rolling that way, but it was hard. I refuse to call it fool’s gold b/c I think the team earned every win. I think we were healthy, prepared and we were doing some things that our non-conference opponents weren’t expecting. That led to some extremely impressive wins. They weren’t just wins; we were looking extremely good while winning with the roster I outlined above. That’s why the predictive metrics really liked us; we were killing teams. And, a lot of it was surprisingly through our defense. For more than half of the season, our adjusted defensive efficiency was top 10 in college basketball. Yes, we lost to a (Charles Bassey) WKU team on the road, but going 12-1 in the non-conference. Hell, you take that for sure. Using the NET rankings, our non-conference schedule is ranked #10 in the nation.
Conference: I was bracing the whole time. Posted on this board a few times, “we’re going to have some bumps along the way”. I just felt like our roster talent would catch up to us. The margin was so slim. Every year, there will be injuries, and frankly, we couldn’t afford to have any and keep winning. To go 18-7 with a fully manned roster, that feels really good doesn’t it? Those 5 losses without Joe were the difference. Adrio came back down to earth against consistently good opponent post talent. That was super key in a lot of our struggles b/c he was brilliant in the non-conference slate. Our defense worsened. We turned the ball over more. I just wasn’t surprised at all with where we ended up…again, due to the roster talent.
In summary, while I didn’t know how this season would go, we landed in an unsurprising spot that I think we should all be happy with. Going into the last game on the bubble, with an opportunity for us to play ourselves back onto it. NET ranking of 45. Projected to be a 2-seed in the NIT. All in year 1 with a great recruiting class coming in.
Excellent evaluation of our season. Muss gave most of the fans hope. DVH does that in baseball. Pittman is building that up in fb. Exciting times are headed back to Bud Walton on a yearly basis. May be some stumbling but arrow is headed north.
No depth! That’s the most glaring weakness!
Post play and rim protection ( the hogs don’t have post play or rim protection on this team ).
Unable to function against the press! The main issue that resulted in losses to WKY and Auburn! The weakness of poor point guard play!
None of the weaknesses will be resolved before the SEC tournament .
Vandy is currently on a 2 game winning streak and they are playing good on both ends of the floor. Wednesday the hogs don’t need to get beat by them!
That would put a big thud on a positive year!
I’m surprised they won as many games as they have and have been close with a chance to win every game but 1 at Tennessee where they took a whipping the only blow out loss of the year.
After watching year 1 my thoughts focus on point guard play first. With a true point guard there’s a lot of games especially the WKY and Auburn game that would go in the win column. Second a rim protector would have slowed down teams like Miss State where we lost 2 games as well as many more. CEM has a recruiting class coming in that fills these needs and a few transfers that day out this season.
When it comes to coaching we won with the hiring of CEM! He can attract talent especially on state players that we have been missing. The future is bright.
Muss’s challenge is not to get instate kids. That has been done before. His challenge is to get out of state 5 stars, if we are to reach glory days again. 2020 Arkansas class of 4 Top 100 players is rarity. Even there, there is only one 5 star.
We missed out on Monk and Allen. There is no proof Muss could have got those. Other than that, we virtually swept the state with Portis, Beard, Gafford, Hall, Garland, Joe, Henderson, Sills. The previous coach made a choice not to recruit Davis (Bryce Thompson) and McBride (Hill) just like Muss made a choice not to recruit McBride (KK). It is unsubstantiated speculation that the previous coach could not have landed some of Moody, Williams and KK. KK had not even blown up when the previous coach was here, I am pretty familiar with what Moody people were thinking. I never got the impression that they had any problem with Anderson. They were just focused on getting a schollie from blue bloods.
If you want to stoop down to the level of Austin Reeves, I can name another 25 kids from Arkansas that did not make it to Arkansas. We are looking at Payton Brown and Zane Butler, as we speak.
Once again Austin Reeves was a choice and not that Austin turned us down. Also, as an administrator you read every post, so I am sure remember the history of this. At the time Austin committed, he had not academically qualified to enroll at Arkansas. Wichita State took a chance on him and it worked out as he qualified later.
BTW, the current Coach has not got every Arkansas recruit that he offered. I am not complaining because it is virtually impossible to get every recruit you want. Not every recruit and their family have the same likes and goals. Time to worry is when you lose recruits consistently. That did not happen under Anderson or Pelphrey or Heath.
Great thoughts as always RazorAg. Wish you would post more frequently.
I think the killer was the mid season stretch of so many tough close losses. 3 OT losses in the seaon (1 OT win which was in fairness fortunate with Mason’s bank shot). The tough loss at WKU where we had the lead late; against Auburn which would have been a huge win for the NET rankings. And at Missouri wasn’t discussed much but without Joe we have a chance to win and Desi misses a FT with 30 seconds left. We hold them with game still tied and then Harris misses a last chance runner at the buzzer. Another road win would have been huge.
The early SEC game at LSU was back and forth and they win by two on a shot and foul with under 15 seconds. Think of the impact of winning that one. We needed one more stop. Miss State and SC at home both last second losses. Against Miss State, Mason shoots an airball on our last possession. If he even hits the rim and there is a chase for the ball and Miss State is probably getting one shot rather than two which was the difference. Such a fine line between winning and losing. Those games were hugely deflating.
I know we won some close games and it typically averages out but it just didn’t this year. We get just one or two of those and we are all focusing on a win in the SEC tourney to clinch a bid. Then the feelings on the year are drastically better. Everyone is saying what a good job Muss did to get a tourney team out of our 7 man roster.
I’m all behind Muss. Did a great job and I can promise he will have a chip on his shoulder to get in the tourney next year, if we don’t make it this time.
Swine, he’s a terrific all around player. Just a miss. I’m good friends with the family. I live in Paragould and see his step grandad every day. There is a young man here right now I’d love to get a chance as a pwo. Zane Butler can really ball!
There are lots of players that Mike looked at in Arkansas, but passed on because they wanted to sign early. Dusty Hannahs is one that comes to mind. If you don’t offer them a chance to sign early, you effectively sent them elsewhere. That is what happened with Dusty and Austin. That’s recruiting mistakes with the way both evolved. It’s partly the reason he’s no longer at Arkansas. I say he was fired for recruiting mistakes as much as coaching.
After calming down a few days I look back and think we played well enough to win 20 games and had a good NET ranking when you really think about it. I am feeling that next year we will be very good and go to the NCAAs.
I, like many of us, feel with losing SO MANY games by 1-3 points or losing late in the game by shutting down the last few minutes or being so far down from the beginning and coming back to within 2-4 points, that we could have won 24 games easily. But, it did not happen. I am sure other college teams feel the same about their “borderline” teams. Looking forward to a 7’3" in the paint and better rebounding and stop shooting so many 3 pointers by the wrong shooter and not driving the lanes more often. Go Hogs