By Kevin McPherson
LITTLE ROCK — It’s only logical the 20th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks move on from their 78-72 upset home loss against unranked North Carolina-Greensboro on Friday, especially given the fast-approaching three tough tests in three days at the annual Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in The Bahamas could spell more misery if the Hogs are stuck lamenting their first defeat of the season.
Arkansas (3-1, No. 29 in KenPom.com‘s rankings) will face Stanford (3-1, No. 64 in KenPom) in the event’s first round at 6:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday (ESPNU). Then on Thursday in the championship bracket semifinals, the Hogs-Cardinal winner will play the first-round winner between Michigan and Memphis, while the losers from those two first-round games will also square off on Thursday in the consolation bracket. Win or lose in any combination in those first two games, Arkansas’ third and final contest of the event will be played on Friday against one of these four teams: No. 14 North Carolina, Villanova, Texas Tech, or Northern Iowa.
Compounding the frustration of their recent loss, the Razorbacks were six hours late arriving to The Bahamas on Monday due to travel delays. Conversely, a source told Hogville that Stanford’s team arrived to the island about 35 hours sooner than the Hogs. The Cardinal defeated Eastern Washington, 95-70, at home on Friday before traveling to The Bahamas on Sunday.
With Tuesday serving as the lone day for on-site preparation, Musselman and two Hogs will take to the podium for a pre-tourney press conference at 2:30 p.m. CT (Arkansas is the last of the eight teams in the event to address the media) before hitting the floor for practice at 3 p.m. CT.
Playing away from home for the first time this season, Arkansas will be looking to bounce back after suffering the program’s first non-conference loss at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville since the ’18-19 campaign. It was the first such loss under Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman as he’s now into his fifth season leading the Hoop Hogs.
UNCG broke a 15-all tie by outscoring Arkansas 23-9 to close the first-half for a 38-24 lead at the break, and the Spartans would grow their advantage to 15 points early in the second half before the Hogs whittled the deficit down to 4 points, 52-48, on a Davonte “Devo” Davis driving layup midway through the final 20 minutes.
But UNCG always had an answer with mini-runs in building multiple double-digits leads in the final 4:37 of the game before exiting BWA with a 6-point upset win.
Senior guard Keyshaun Langley torched the Hogs with 23 points (6-of-11 field goals, including 5-of-8 from 3, and 6-of-6 free throws), 5 assists, 4 steals, 3 rebounds, and only 1 turnover while forward Mikeal Brown-Jones overcame early foul trouble to contribute 16 points (6-of-8 field goals, including 1-of-1 from 3, and 4-of-6 free throws). Guard Joryam Saizonou chipped in 12 points.
The Spartans were effective and efficient everywhere, making 26-of-54 field goals (48.1%), including 9-of-24 from 3 (37.5%), and 17-of-23 at the free throw line (73.9%).
UNCG’s morphing man-to-man and matchup zone defenses were stifling in the first half and effective in stretches of the second half as the Hogs made only 24-of-55 field goals (43.6%), including a dismal 4-of-23 from 3 (17.4%). Arkansas made 20-of-25 free throws (80.0%).
The Spartans won turnovers (13-10), points-off-turnovers (16-8), bench scoring (27-13), rebounds (32-30), points-in-the-paint (32-30), and assists (15-7). The Hogs won offensive rebounds (6-5), fastbreak points (14-6), and blocks (6-1).
Junior wing Tramon Mark led Arkansas with 21 points and 6 rebounds to go with 2 turnovers. Senior guard El Ellis had 19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 turnovers, and no assists. Senior guard Khalif Battle had 11 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 turnovers. Davis finished with 10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and ZERO turnovers in nearly 40 minutes. Sophomore forward Trevon Brazile had 9 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 turnovers.
Snap-shot look at entire 8-team Battle 4 Atlantis field
– 20th-ranked Arkansas (3-1, Southeastern Conference, No. 29 in KenPom) … Stat leaders: Senior 6-5 guard Khalif Battle (16.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.5 apg, 44.1% FGs, 47.4% 3FGs, 81.8% FTs); junior 6-6 wing Tramon Mark (14.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.0 spg54.8% FGs, 38.5% 3FGs, 63.6% FTs); senior 6-3 guard El Ellis (14.3 ppg, 3.8 apg, 3.3 rpg, 52.6% FGs, 35.7% 3FGs, 75.0% FTs); sophomore 6-10 forward Trevon Brazile (10.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.8 bpg, 63.6% FGs, 45.5% 3FGs, 71.4% FTs); senior guard Davonte “Devo” Davis (8.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 40.0% FGs, 13.3% 3FGs, 62.5% FTs) … Best win: 86-68 over Gardner-Webb … Loss: 78-72 against North Carolina-Greensboro … Key stat: Hogs are 4-1 in regular-season tournaments under Musselman.
– Stanford (3-1, Pac-12 Conference, No. 64 in KenPom) … Stat leaders: Junior 7-1 forward Maxime Raynaud (19.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.5 bpg, 56.1% FGs, 25.0% 3FGs, 91.7% FTs); senior 6-8 forward Brandon Angel (missed last two games with a hand injury, but in team’s first two games he averaged 18.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.5 bpg, 82.4% FGs, 2-of-2 from 3, 6-of-6 FTs); senior 6-5 guard Michael Jones (13.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 51.4% FGs, 42.9% 3FGs, 54.5% FTs); freshman 6-7 wing Andrej Stojakovic (13.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 45.7% FGs, 42.9% FTs, 50.0% FTs); senior 5-10 guard Jared Bynum (9.5 ppg, 8.3 apg, 3.0 rpg, 1.3 spg, 35.1% FGs, 20.0% 3FGs, 90.9% FTs) … Best win: 88-79 over Cal State-Northridge … Loss: 89-77 against Santa Clara … Key stat: Cardinal’s 19.5 assists per game ranks 19th in D1.
– Michigan (3-1, Big Ten Conference, No. 36 in KenPom) … Stat leaders: Sophomore 5-11 guard Dug McDaniel (21.0 ppg, 6.3 apg, 3.3 rpg, 1.3 spg, 52.6% FGs, 41.4% 3FGs, 85.7% FTs); Senior 6-9 forward Olivier Nkamhoua (18.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, 67.4% FGs, 44.4% 3FGs, 61.1% FTs); senior 6-7 forward Terrance Williams II (12.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.5 apg44.4% FGs, 40.9% 3FGs, 69.2% FTs); sophomore 6-8 forward Will Tschetter (10.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, 76.2% FGs, 7-of-9 3FGs, 75.0% FTs); veteran 6-4 guard Nimari Burnett (9.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 43.8% FGs, 35.0% 3FGs, 80.0% FTs) … Best win: 89-73 over St. John’s … Loss: 94-86 against Long Beach State … Key stat: The Wolverines are shooting 61.3% on two-point field goals (21st in D1) and 38.7% on three-point field goals (50th in D1).
– Memphis (3-0, American Athletic Conference, No. 31 in KenPom) … Stat leaders: Senior 6-6 forward David Jones (15.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.7 spg, 1.3 apg, 42.1% FGs, 52.6% 3FGs, 55.6% FTs); senior 6-7 guard Jaykwon Walton (14.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 57.1% FGs, 53.8% 3FGs, 62.5% FTs); senior 6-1 guard Jahvon Quinerly (14.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.3 apg, 2.0 spg, 57.7% FGs, 46.2% 3FGs, 85.7% FTs); senior 6-11 center Jordan Brown (10.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.0 spg, 56.0% FGs, 42.0% FTs); senior 6-5 guard Caleb Mills (9.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, 42.1% FGs, 25.0% 3FGs, 83.3% FTs) … Best win: 70-55 against Missouri … Loss: N/A … Key stat: The Tigers are holding opponents to only 40.0% shooting on two-point field goals to rank 21st in D1.
– 14th-ranked North Carolina (3-0, Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 19 in KenPom) … Stat leaders: Senior 6-11 forward Armando Bacot (22.7 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 1.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 61.0% FGs, 33.3% 3FGs, 85.0% FTs); senior 6-3 guard RJ Davis (14.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 43.6% FGs, 27.8 3FGs, 4-of-4 FTs); junior 6-7 forward Harrison Ingram (12.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.0 bpg, 45.2% FGs, 33.3% 3FGs, 40.0% FTs); senior 6-5 guard Cormac Ryan (7.0 ppg, 3.0 apg, 2.7 rpg, 1.3 spg, 28.6% FGs, 21.4% 3FGs, 6-of-6 FTs); freshman 6-1 guard Elliot Cadeau (6.7 ppg, 2.7 apg, 1.3 rpg, 44.4% FGs, 0-of-4 3FGs, 4-of-8 FTs) … Best win: 86-70 against Radford … Loss: N/A … Key stat: The Tar Heels commit only 10.7 fouls per game which ranks No. 1 in D1, and consequently the team yields only 7.7 free throw attempts per game to rank No. 2 in D1.
– Villanova (3-1, Big East Conference, No. 25 in KenPom) … Stat leaders: Senior 6-5 guard Justin Moore (16.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg, 44.0% FGs, 31.0% 3FGs, 91.7% FTs); senior 6-7 forward Tyler Burton (11.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 48.1% FGs, 40.0% 3FGs, 78.9% FTs); senior 6-5 guard TJ Bamba (11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, 45.5% FGs, 43.8% 3FGs, 88.9% FTs); senior 6-8 forward Eric Dixon (8.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.5 apg, 41.4% FGs, 40.0% 3FGs, 6-of-6 FTs); junior 6-5 guard Jordan Longino (8.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.5 apg, 40.9% FGs, 16.7% 3FGs, 86.7% FTs) … Best win: 57-40 against Maryland … Loss: 76-72 at Penn … Key stat: The Wildcats are shooting 83.6% from the free throw line as a team to rank 4th in D1.
– Texas Tech (3-0, Big 12 Conference, No. 46 in KenPom) … Stat leaders: Sophomore 6-2 guard Pop Isaacs (11.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 26.7% FGs, 25.0% 3FGs, 78.9% FTs); senior 6-0 guard Joe Toussaint (11.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 42.9% FGs, 16.7% 3FGs, 80.0% FTs); sophomore 6-6 guard Darrion Williams (11.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.3 spg, 1.0 apg, 52.4% FGs, 30.0% 3FGs, 88.9% FTs); senior 7-0 center Warren Washington (9.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 50.0% FGs, 56.3% FTs); junior 6-3 guard Chance McMillian (8.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 47.6% FGs, 23.1% 3FGs, 2-of-2 FTs) … Best win: 56-42 against San Jose State … Loss: N/A … Key stat: The Red Raiders rank nearly dead last in D1 in offensive three-point field goal percentage (20.6%), but they also rank 5th in D1 in defensive three-point field goal percentage (20.8%).
– Northern Iowa (1-2, Missouri Valley Conference, No. 120 in KenPom) … Stat leaders: Junior 6-5 guard Nate Heise (14.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.7 spg, 51.5% FGs, 33.3% 3FGs, 66.7% FTs); junior 6-6 guard Tytan Anderson (11.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 47.6% FGs, 16.7% 3FGs, 76.5% FTs); junior 6-11 center Jacob Hutson (11.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.0 apg, 56.5% FGs, 41.2% FTs); sophomore 6-4 guard Kandon Wolf (8.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.0 apg, 36.4% FGs, 33.3% 3FGs, 80.0% FTs); junior 5-11 guard Bowen Born (8.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 30.4% FGs, 15.4% 3FGs) … Best/Only win: 90-50 against Loras … Losses: 83-77 in OT at North Texas, and 74-65 at South Florida … Key stat: UNI yields only 15.0 two-point field goals per game to opponents to rank 44th in D1.
Keys to success for Arkansas
– Find a way (any way) to execute, disrupt, and toughen up on defense. Arkansas faltered defensively in both halves against UNCG, something that was also a problem in the second half of the Hogs’ previous game (a narrow 86-77 home win over Old Dominion on Nov. 13). We’re not sure what adjustments, if any, Musselman can conjure up in short order to remedy inside and out defensive issues with three games in three consecutive days looming. Lack of physicality in the paint and around the basket, inconsistent defensive rebounding, low volume of steals, and giving up wide driving angles and open three-point shots have conspired to make the Hogs vulnerable in what is normally the strength of Musselman-coached teams. The Head Hog may be forced to make alterations to his defensive schemes and/or change up his personnel packages / rotations, but whatever buttons he chooses to push the players need to respond with a sense of urgency on the blue-collar end of the floor.
– For the first time in ’23-24, Arkansas’ three-point shooting (4-of-23 for only 17.4%) failed miserably against UNCG and resembled the nightmarish results that consistently dogged the team throughout the ’22-23 and ’21-22 campaigns. The Hogs took several early-shot-clock, deep three-point attempts without challenging defenders with crisp passing around the perimeter, and that thwarted rhythm shooting as well. Turnovers were another problem (minus-3 at 13-10) leading to a minus-8 margin in points-off-turnovers (16-8) against the Spartans. The Razorbacks’ offense had not misfired until the UNCG tilt, and given that offense so far has been the strength of the team it seems to us the best way to get things rolling again is to focus on productive ball movement via the pass first. Musselman said his team met the expectation of at least 200 passes on offense against UNCG, but only 7 assists (2 in the final 1:07 when the outcome had already been decided) on 24 made field goals is all you need to know to understand the Hogs struggled for long stretches while rarely getting easy scores as a result of productive ball movement. When the ball has energy (i.e. smart passes first, drives and shots second), good things happen. Another helper on offense would be limiting turnovers while forcing live-ball turnovers on defense (i.e. steals) to trigger easy scoring opportunities in transition.
– Brazile as the X-factor? This did not materialize against UNCG, but prior to going down with his knee injury in early December last year Brazile was a force in the Hogs’ final two games in the Maui Invitational during Feast Week (late November 2022) as he averaged 18.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.5 steals while shooting 46.4% from the field, including 46.2% from 3, in matchups against ranked teams Creighton and San Diego State. Maybe another away-from-home, outside-the-continental-United-States, three-games-in-three-days tournament is just what the versatile forward needs to take his game to another level while helping the Hogs improve as team. His 9 rebounds against UNCG was a step in the right direction, he’s blocked a combined 11 shots in the team’s last three games, and he’s been efficient on offense, but he’s yet to author the kind of overall production and impact he flashed a year ago that prompted the league’s media and coaches to tab him as a preseason All SEC first-team selection in ’23-24.
– The Hogs need consistent production and positive impact from both the 1-spot and 5-spot. Senior guard El Ellis has been up-and-down as the team’s primary ball-handler and facilitator, while the revolving door of senior centers Makhi Mitchell, Chandler Lawson, and Jalen Graham has raised more questions than provided answers when looking at the arc of three October dress rehearsals and four regular-season games to this point. If Arkansas is to win 2 or 3 games on this trip in a 48-hour span, it’s going to require more from that group than they’ve been able to contribute so far.
– Musselman dialing up winning formulas in quick-turnaround settings has been a success at Arkansas when you add up the Hall of Fame Classic title two years ago, the Maui Invitational third-place finish last season, and deep NCAAT runs the last three campaigns. The common denominator has been Musselman, and with his ability to get his teams ready for win-and-advance events it means Arkansas’ players should not lack confidence or belief as they begin Feast Week in The Bahamas.
Hoop Hogs updates and tidbits
– As mentioned above, Musselman is 16-7 in tournament formats at Arkansas (includes a 4-1 record in regular-season tourneys, a 4-3 mark in SECTs, and an 8-3 record in NCAATs). He’s 98-43 overall as Head Hog, which includes a 53-10 record against non-conference opponents and a 45-33 mark against SEC foes.
– The Hogs are 58-66 all-time against the other 7 teams in the Battle 4 Atlantis field (0-2 against Stanford, 3-4 against Michigan, 11-10 against Memphis, 3-7 against North Carolina, 0-3 against Villanova, 40-40 against Texas Tech, and 1-0 against Northern Iowa).
– Arkansas was without the services of senior forward / center Jalen Graham (back spasms) against UNCG, an issue that kept him out of the lineup in the team’s two exhibition games in October. His availability for Battle 4 Atlantis is unknown at this time.
– Musselman started the same lineup for five straight games (two exhibition matchups in October and the first three regular-season games in November) — Brazile, Davis, Mark, Ellis, and senior Chandler Lawson — before inserting senior transfer Jeremiah Davenport into the starter group in place of Lawson for the Hogs’ most-recent contest against UNCG.
– Arkansas slipped six spots to No. 20 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll that was released on Monday, Nov. 20, following the team’s six-point home loss to UNCG on Friday. The Hogs are ranked No. 29 in KenPom.com‘s Division 1 ratings (28th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 42rd in defensive efficiency), and they’re No. 27 in ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI).
– The Razorbacks slipped two spots to a projected NCAA Tournament 7-seed in Joe Lunardi’s updated ESPN Bracketology that was released on Monday.
– More Razorbacks rankings in D1: The Hogs are 2nd in blocks per game (7.8], 4th in free throws attempted per game (30.5), 13th in free throws made per game (20.5), 45th in defensive rebounds per game (30.0), 46th in offensive two-point field goal percentage (58.7%), 60th in overall offensive field goal percentage (49.1%), 61st in points per game (84.3), 70th in defensive two-point field goal percentage (43.5%), 140th in offensive three-point shooting percentage (34.4%), and 293rd in defensive three-point shooting percentage (36.3%).
– After playing three games at Battle 4 Atlantis tourney, Arkansas will return home for the first-ever ACC/SEC Challenge as the Razorbacks will host No. 9 Duke at 8:15 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at BWA (ESPN).
– Hogville is your one-stop shop for complete 2023-24 Arkansas Razorbacks men’s basketball coverage (schedule, results, and game articles are linked here: https://forums.hogville.net/index.php?topic=756493.0).