Last year's squad was a team no one wanted to face as their frenetic style tripped up notables such as Kentucky, Missouri, and Florida.
However, their two best players, BJ Young and Marshawn Powell, both elected to declare early for the NBA draft. With their departure, Arkansas lost experience, leadership, and almost half of their scoring output.
Coach Mike Anderson claims that this year's squad will be more formidable now that they have a more balanced attack. His playing rotation goes 10-12 deep and features a blend of youth and veterans. Of the newcomers looking to fill the shoes of Young/Powell, the headliner is forward Bobby Portis, rated as the #14 recruit in the nation.
For those fond of unusual stats, it's worth pointing out that the Razorbacks do not travel well. Under Coach Anderson, they're only 2-22 in road or neutral games.
Fortunately for our sturdy Golden Bears, there's unlikely to be a rabid contingent of Arkansas fans recreating the howling Fayetteville atmosphere.
Our young players have been poised thus far, but this is their first real test of the season.
F Bobby Portis(Fr), 6'10, 242 lbs, 6 ppg, 5 rpg
F Coty Clarke(Sr), 6'7, 232 lbs, 10 ppg, 8 rpg
G Michael Qualis(So), 6'6, 210 lbs, 16 ppg, 5 rpg
G Anthlon Bell(So), 6'3, 188 lbs, 18 ppg,
G Fred Gulley III(Sr), 6'2, 182 lbs 2 ppg, 5 apg
F Alandise Harris(Jr), 6'6, 237 lbs, 15 ppg, 4 rpg
G Mardracus Wade(Sr), 6'2, 178 lbs, 11 ppg,
F Jacorey Williams(So), 6'8, 218 lbs, 7 ppg, 4 rpg
G Rickey Scott(Sr), 6'3, 209 lbs, 5 rpg
G Kikko Haydar(Sr), 5'10, 170 lbs, 5 ppg
C Moses Kingsley(Fr), 6'10, 230 lbs, 4 ppg
G DeQuavious Wagner(Fr), 5'10, 176 lbs, 5 ppg
Bobby Portis was the Gatorade Arkansas Player of the Year. He was selected to participate in both the USA Basketball National Junior Select Team as well as the McDonald's All-American game. He's not going to blow you away with his athleticism, but he has a solid frame and a diverse offensive skill set that mixes post-up moves with a mid-range jumper. If that's not enough, he's also got a good feel for the game and has displayed excellent passing skills out of the post.
Coty Clarke is one of their steadiest players. He's a formidable inside scorer, and lead the team in offensive rebounding last season. On the defensive end, he was 2nd on the team in steals and also showed shot-blocking ability.
Michael Qualis is their version of Tyrone Wallace. He's long-armed, athletic, and loves to fly at the rim. He was one their team leaders in steals. It remains to be seen if he's improved his jumpshot.
Anthlon Bell is their top outside threat and lead the team in three point shooting last year as a freshman. He's a bit streaky, but is capable of putting up big numbers in a short period of time. You can't lose track of him because he's definitely a member of the Gary Franklin No-Conscience Society.
Fred Gulley III is a former transfer from Oklahoma State. He's more of a distributor than a scorer. But, he's also a pest defensively.
Alandise Harris, Mardracus Wade, and Jacorey Williams are their top reserves. All of them fit the athletic slasher/swingman mold rather being known for their jumpers.
1) Poise vs. the Press
Arkansas is going to press, trap, and attack with their defense all game long. Our guys will need to be strong with the ball and make good decisions. Fortunately, this is the first game of the tournament which will give Monty and his staff more time to prepare. Having a senior leader like Cobbs should help immensely. Where we're potentially vulnerable is on the wing if our young guys pick up their dribble early, take it into traffic, or get caught in a bad spot. When we work the ball inside, our bigs need to be prepared for the quick double team. A lot of the Razorbacks' game depends on converting turnovers into points. Take care of the ball, and it's a good first step towards a W.
2) Win the Glass
Like many aggressive, trapping, uptempo teams, the Razorbacks have plenty of athletes to throw at the offensive glass. On the flip side, they're often out of position defensively to box out. Not only do we need Solo and Kravish to continue their strong play, but we'll need contributions from our wing players. Monty has shown already that he prefers to go small and play with just one big as his fall-back rotation. We'll need Wallace, Kreklow, and Bird to be able to handle their share of the rebounding.
3) Free Throws
The Razorbacks' depth lets their guys play very aggressively. Although they force a lot of turnovers, they also put other teams on the line early and often. With the new rules on hand-checking in force, this could be even more significant. We need to make them pay, or there's really no penalty for hacking at our guys all game long.
Tip-Off: 12 pm
Radio: KGO 810 AM
*The rest of the bracket can be seen here:
**And for those interested in stats, kenpom gives us a 69.6% chance of making the semis, and a 13% chance of winning the tournament.