The fact that the Arkansas Razorbacks are 16-7 on the season and 4-4 in conference play is a true testament to the coaching abilities of first-year skipper Mike Anderson. Anderson, who took the job after a successful five-year run at Missouri, inherited a team that needed to find a way to score without last season’s leading scorer, Rotnei Clarke.
Clarke led the team with 15.2 points per game last year before deciding to transfer for Butler for his senior season.
To add insult to injury (literally), the team’s second leading scorer from a year ago – Marshawn Powell – went down after just two games this year with torn knee ligaments.
Powell, who was expected to carry a large portion of the scoring load, was off to a phenomenal start before his injury, averaging 19.5 points and 6 boards.
Despite these horrific personnel losses, the Hogs are in a position to play themselves into an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with quality wins over Michigan, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.
Arkansas plays an intense brand of pressure defense, which is customary of a Mike Anderson-led team. Anderson’s style of play has been characterized as the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball”, with his team pressing and pushing the ball for the majority of the game. Whether UGA will be able to handle that kind of full-court pressure or not will dictate the outcome of tonight’s game.
The Hogs are first in the conference in three-point percentage defense, limiting opposing SEC teams to just under 25% from beyond the arc. The Arkansas defenders also have very active hands which is probably why they lead the conference in team steals with over 9 per contest.
The bulk of the Razorback offense comes from its backcourt trio of B.J. Young, Julysses Nobles and Mardracus Wade, who are averaging 13.0 ppg, 12.4 ppg and 10.2 ppg, respectively.
Fortunately for Georgia the Hogs’ major weakness is their lack of a strong inside game due to the fact that they are playing without Marshawn Powell. Arkansas is down near the bottom of the SEC (along with Georgia) in both rebounding and rebounding margin, meaning that UGA‘s bigs have a chance to secure a rare win in the rebounding battle.
For the Dawgs, whatever goals they carried into this season have probably been scrapped off the table by now. The new plan for Coach Mark Fox’s team for the remainder of the year should be to play the role of “Bubble-Burster” in games like this one, and to look for opportunities to improve in nearly every facet of the game.
Georgia has the lowest number of turnovers of any SEC team in conference play, yet with a team field goal percentage of only 35.3%, all those missed shots start to resemble turnovers. I would be much more encouraged about next season if Georgia could manage to get itself out of the cellar in regards to this statistical category. If the Dawgs could find a way to knock down 45% of their shots from the floor from here on out they could possibly end up at 40% on the year in SEC games.