SEC Make or Break: Arkansas RazorbacksPosted by Brian Joyce on October 19th, 2011
The Make or Break series will tell us what we need to know about each SEC team by looking at the three most important non-conference games on each team’s schedule. Depending on the outcome, these three games could make OR break that team’s season because of the strengths it shows or weaknesses it could expose. The first team in the series is the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson is ready to bring “40 Minutes of Hell” back to the SEC. You may think you saw this in action last year everytime Auburn hit the court or even in the National Championship game when Butler and Connecticut squared off, but this is a different kind of afterlife. Anderson’s version of uptempo basketball is coined “the Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” and promises to bring fire and brimstone for opposing teams, not viewers. The issue for Anderson’s Razorbacks is youth and inexperience. Only two starters return for the Hogs, but Anderson brings in the tenth ranked recruiting class, according to RSCI’s team rankings. Everything Anderson does on the court is fast, fast, fast. He will eventually rebuild in Fayetteville, but it might not happen fast enough to see it this year.
Three key non-conference games that will make or break the Razorbacks’ season:
- Nov. 16 – Oakland: Arkansas’ first game is on November 11 against USC-Upstate, so we will give the Hog fans a warm-up. But the next game on the schedule is a home date against an NCAA Tournament team in Oakland that played Texas close in an eventual 85-81 loss last year. Even without Keith Benson in the post, Oakland is a good team and will provide an early test for Arkansas. However, for me, the bigger question is will the Mike Anderson era put butts in the seats at Bud Walton Arena? Crowds in the 19,200 seat venue dipped to embarrassing numbers in 2010-11. This early season test will serve as an indicator of the excitement level of the Anderson era in Arkansas.
- Nov. 18 – Houston (N. Little Rock, Ark.): The Razorbacks’ first game away from home will be a crucial test to determining the success of the Hogs. This is an extremely young team, and how they handle an environment away from Bud Walton (Even if the game was in Houston it wouldn’t exactly be hostile. It’s more about how they handle any environment away from the comforts of home…) should show us a lot about how quickly this team will come together. We will find out on the road if the youth of this starting five leads to too many mistakes on the court. In Anderson’s defensive scheme, blown assignments lead to layups for the opponent.
- Dec. 3 – @ Connecticut: Arkansas ranked last in the SEC in rebounding at 34.3 RPG and rebounding margin at -2.9. Dead last. And the best rebounding team on Arkansas’ schedule this year with 39.9 RPG in 2010-11? That’s right, the defending National Champions, the Connecticut Huskies. Also, Connecticut is without a doubt the most talented team that Arkansas will face during the non-conference slate, so this will be a good test as to how quickly the Razorbacks are coming along. Can the Hawgs frustrate Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb into turning the ball over?