Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I'm going out of order, since I am stuck here in Arkansas I might as well preview their team. Feels more authentic.
#22 ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Last Season: 21-14 (7-9), lost to USC in the first round of the NCAAs
Key Losses: None
Key Adds: F Michael Sanchez (#17 PF), G Nate Rakestraw (top 300), G Marcus Britt
New coach John Pelphrey inherits a sick, sick player in last season's SEC Freshman of the Year SG Patrick Beverley. Last season Beverley led the team in scoring, steals, minutes, and three pointers, was second in assists, and, at just 6-1, was third on the team in rebounding. He does a little bit of everything, although he hit a bit of a wall towards the end of his freshman season and saw his production tail off. This summer, however, playing for the U.S. at the under 19 World Championships, he lead the team in scoring and was second in rebounding, and led the entire tournament in steals. The sky is the limit for Beverley.
The point guard position will be manned by former Mississippi State transfer Gary Ervin. Ervin can be inconsistent, and turns the ball over a bit too much, but in his first year as a Razorback he managed to set career highs in almost every category, scoring 9.9 ppg and dishing out 4.8 assists per, good for fifth in the SEC. Ervin also upped his shooting percentage to 46%, up from 38% his last season at Miss St, and three pointers went from 23% to 37%. If he can keep those numbers up, it bodes well for the Razorbacks.
Depth is an issue here. And somebody will have to step up. Little used sophomore Stefan Walsh is first in line. Pelphrey has said Walsh needs to be the most improved player on the team this season. Three freshman, Marcus Britt, Nate Rakestraw, and Levan Patsatsia will also fight for time. They all have question marks, but Rakestraw is an excellent shooter.
The wing belongs to 6-6 Sonny Weems, an athletic scorer who was second on the team in scoring and rebounding last season at 11.8/4.8. He's a big key to the Hogs' success, and needs to take better care of the ball (more turnovers than assists). Weems is nursing a broken hand, but should be back in time for the season.
There are plenty of big bodies down low, with starters 6-8 Charles Thomas and 7-0 Steven Hill, who wears a sweet headband and has long floppy goofy stupid surferboy hair. Thomas is the scorer of the pair, coming in third on the team at 10.7 ppg and also led the team in rebounding. Hill, despite the goofy hair, is a force on the defensive end, leading the SEC with 2.8 blocks per game on his way to winning the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award.
Pelphrey got a very nice late signee in PF Michael Sanchez, a hometown kid who was ranked as the 17th best PF. It was a nice boost to a class that looked pretty bad, and now is bumped up to meh. He will battle with a few other nice pieces for playing time, in backups 6-10 Vincent Hunter, 6-10 Darian Townes, and 6-10 Michael Washington. Townes can score (8.1 ppg in 17.7 minutes per game), and Hunter is tall, although he's seen his stats go down each of his three years, and his playing time diminish accordingly. The most intriguing of the backups is Washington, who put up a couple of double-digit scoring games, including 17 against Florida, late in the year after playing sparingly most of the season.
After squeaking in to the NCAA tournament despite a losing conference record last season, the Razorbacks got worked by USC 77-60, running the Arkansas NCAA tournament game losing streak up to 5 in a row. Look for that to come to an end this season. There are some very nice players here, and as long as the lack of backcourt depth doesn't ruin them, and Pelphrey can handle the big conference load, this team could make some serious noise in March.