South Carolina basketball beat writer David Cloninger looks at every other team in the SEC as the season approaches.
Oct. 26: Alabama
2012-13 record (SEC finish): 19-13, 10-8 (7th)
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Mike Anderson (37-27, third year; 237-125, 12th year)
Top returners: F Coty Clarke (7.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg); G Mardracus Wade (6.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg); G Michael Qualls (4.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Biggest losses: B.J. Young (15.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg); Marshawn Powell (14.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg); Hunter Mickelson (5.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
Full disclosure – I really like Mike Anderson. The guy has built winners at UAB and continued a winning tradition at Missouri, and I believe he’ll do great things at Arkansas. He hasn’t had a bad start with the Razorbacks, either, going 18-14 (6-10 SEC), then 19-13 (10-8).
But, man he’s got to win a road game. Just got to.
The numbers are staggering. Arkansas won 18 games two years ago, with 17 of them at home. The Hogs were 1-9 on the road and 0-1 on a neutral court. Last year, 18 of the team’s 19 wins were at home. It was another 1-9 stinker on the road, 0-3 on a neutral court.
I’m not saying the Razorbacks have to even split their road games. Just win four or five. That alone would get them to 20 wins, make their record a little more respectable, increase the RPI. Another year of a near-zero away from home and Anderson is going to have to realize what’s happened at Arkansas since his longtime boss Nolan Richardson was turfed – Stan Heath got five years, John Pelphrey got four.
Anderson lost his top two scorers and three of his top five, but Coty Clarke and Mardracus Wade are solid blocks to build a team around. He certainly has a lot of options on what to put around them on the floor – I count 16 names on the roster. Arkansas was picked middle of the pack, or really the top team of the teams that aren’t expected to do a whole heck of a lot (Kentucky-Florida-Tennessee-LSU are the big guns, Mizzou-Bama-Ole Miss the next level, then Arkansas and the other guys). Who knows? With Ole Miss on the constant Will-Marshall-Behave carousel, perhaps Arkansas wins a few games it’s not picked to win and rises into the top six.
Road schedule – Maui Invitational (three games, with California, Syracuse/Minnesota, TBA); South Alabama (at North Little Rock), at Texas A&M, at Georgia, at Tennessee, at LSU, at Vanderbilt, at Missouri, at Mississippi State, at Kentucky, at Alabama. I can see five wins there.
2012-13 record (SEC finish): 20-13, 6-10 (T-8th) *WNIT second round
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Tom Collen (113-79, seventh year; 330-149, 16th year)
Top returners: F Keira Peak (9.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg); G Calli Berna (7.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg); F Jhasmin Bowen (6.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
Biggest losses: Sarah Watkins (12.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg); Quistelle Williams (10.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg); Dominique Wilson (6.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
A very strong program that is in for some rebuilding. The Hogs slipped to a 6-10 SEC record last year after winning 24 games the season before, and lost three starters. They were predicted 12th, above only an Alabama program that has been locked into the bottom three spots for five years and an Ole Miss program that is facing an NCAA investigation.
I wouldn’t put too much into that prediction, though. One, not many actually voted. Two, many of the ones that did didn’t do a lot of research into it. Three, I put Arkansas in the category of finishing anywhere from seventh to 12th. That middle-of-the-pack grouping after Tennessee-Kentucky-LSU-A&M-South Carolina-Georgia-Vanderbilt is full of teams that will beat up on each other.
Tom Collen has had three straight 20-win seasons and reached the postseason in all of them, each time winning at least one game in whatever tournament he reached. He won’t have the height that he’s had – Jessica Jackson stands 6-foot-3, but there is nobody else above 6-2 – but has some quickness. Keira Peak won’t come out of a game until she graduates and Calli Berna had over 200 assists last year.
In what’s termed a project year, Arkansas could very well finish in the top half of the league. That can only help on the recruiting trail and show that Collen isn’t content to accept the label.
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