Death From Above: Arkansas

Submitted by Brian on January 20th, 2012 at 3:42 PM

THE ESSENTIALS85408489.jpg.21417.0_crop_340x234[1]

WHAT Michigan at Arkansas
WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville, AR
WHEN 2 PM Eastern, 1/21/2012
LINE M –2 (Kenpom)
TV National on CBS


Despite a relatively shiny 13-5 record, Kenpom ranks the Razorbacks Michigan's third-easiest opponent left this season ahead of only Nebraska and Penn State. As we'll see in the next section, that's because Arkansas has played few good teams and beaten none of them.

I happened to flip on the TV after the State game Tuesday and was serendipitously presented with the Arkansas-Kentucky game. Unfortunately, the huge talent mismatch and Arkansas's insistence on pressing made my observations brief and not very useful:

  • Good god, Anthony Davis.
  • Trey Burke shouldn't have any problem breaking this press.
  • Jesus, that guy's arms make him look like a dinosaur. Also he seems to be dunking on every possession.
  • Arkansas has a guy who kind of looks like Joakim Noah.
  • I think the Pistons should try to lose the rest of their games this year…
  • …not like you can tell the difference between Dumars doing that and trying to win these days.
  • The only thing more impressive than Anthony Davis's arms is his unibrow.

And so on.

1004333[1]If Arkansas was futilely trying to press Kentucky despite the rain of Davis dunks it produced you can rest assured they will do the same against Michigan, which has not broken a press in a way that would threaten the defense yet this year. Their offense thrives on transition and bogs down considerably when forced into the halfcourt, so they've got to try to prop up their top-30 steal rate or the offense is reduced to "Please do something, BJ Young." (@ right. Via Hawgs Illustrated.)

Young is a freshman taking over 30% of Arkansas shots when he's on the floor. He shoots 42% from 3, 56% from two, and has a decent assist rate. He does not get to the line much and he turns the ball over too much. Even so he is impressively efficient for a high-volume scorer. Unfortunately for Arkansas, their 40-minutes-of-hell style limits his minutes. No Arkansas player averages more than 70% of available playing time and Young, their go-to guy, only gets 59%.

Arkansas's other efficient players are sophomore sniper Madarcus Wade, a near-50% three-point shooter on more than four attempts a game, and platooning senior forward Marvell Waithe. Both are low usage types.

Aside from Wade and Young, Arkansas has some hugely ineffective three point shooters. Rickey Scott is 3 of 34 on the year, Rashad Madden 10 of 37. The amazingly named* Julysses Nobles is hitting a third of his attempts; he is really struggling within the arc.

Overall, it looks pretty simple: deal with Young and don't let Wade get good looks at that basket. Any relatively contested shot by someone other than those two is a good one.

*[Arkansas is a strong contender for Name Of The Year National Champions. Wade, Waithe, and Nobles are all positives, and then you've got Devonta Abron and Hunter Mickelson.]


There isn't much of one. Arkansas played only two Kenpom top 100 foes in their nonconference schedule and lost both. Those were @ UConn by 13 and @ Oklahoma by 15. They also dropped a "Semi-home" game against #209 Houston, currently 1-4 in CUSA. The rest of their nonconference schedule was against low majors. Positives include a win over #115 Charlotte and beat common opponent Oakland 91-68 early in the year.

They do have a couple of a decent wins at home in the SEC, beating Mississippi State and LSU by about ten points at home. They lost at Ole Miss, however, and are coming off a 23-point scalding at the hands of Kentucky that wasn't even as close as that.


Four factors:

Factor Offense (Rk) Defense (Rk) Avg
Effective FG%: 49.0 170 44.7 37 49
Turnover %: 18.3 45 24.6 25 20.8
Off. Reb. %: 33.8 122 36.2 294 32.5
FTA/FGA: 39.4 99 33.4 114 36.5

These should be taken in light of the Arkansas schedule.

The other thing that leaps out from the stat sheet is pace. Michigan remains one of the country's slowest teams; Arkansas is one of the country's fastest. This is partially because of their pressing style. It is also a dedication to running in any conceivable situation: look at those awful defensive rebounding numbers compiled against mostly low-major short stuffs. Razorbacks will bail for cherry-picking opportunities at any opportunity.

This presents an interesting dilemma for Michigan: get back to deny transition opportunities or try to pound the boards. Survey says the former.


Go small again? This seems like a game where having Stu Douglass available to check a huge-usage perimeter player is a good idea. Arkansas has four guys over 6-8 who each average about 40% of available minutes so about half the time Arkansas is playing only one of them, leaving Novak with a matchup against a similarly-sized player.

Going small has other benefits. It adds another ballhandler against the press, and reduces the defensive workload of Michigan's most important offensive player. With Smotrycz struggling  and Arkansas the worst-rebounding team on both ends of the floor in SEC play I'm betting on another Douglass start.

Feel free to sag off most players. Whoever has Wade needs to stick with him; when he's out of the game Michigan can collapse off the other guards without getting hurt much. This is something Michigan has done a lot of this year to the detriment of their three-point percentages; this doesn't seem like an opponent where they'll get burned by leaving their Thornton-equivalents to help in the post.

Limit Wade shots. He's already low usage. He can be taken out of the game entirely, and then Arkansas's offensive efficiency really starts hurting.

Don't get baited into their pace. Michigan is not a good transition team and should keep it cool.

Win turnovers. Immovable object versus irresistible force matchup here. Michigan thrives on avoiding turnovers; Arkansas thrives on creating them. Whichever strength wins out here is likely the difference.

Hardaway bad idea shot count: three or less. Go to the hoop, please.


Michigan by 2.

Etc.: a composite schedule put together by RCMB poster Andy_H shows the difficult road Michigan has ahead:


Click for big. Michigan has a more road-titled schedule than anyone in the league and they're currently tied for the most difficult league schedule with a couple other teams. Revel in YOUR FIRST PLACE MICHIGAN WOLVERINES while you can.

UMHoops preview. Ditto from Holdin' the Rope. Rush the Court breaks down the Arkansas press.



January 20th, 2012 at 3:53 PM ^

breaking the Kentucky all-time single season block record by like January 15th is my favorite college basketball stat in a long time.  


January 20th, 2012 at 6:57 PM ^

Horford won't be traveling to Arkansas, per article:

The 6-foot-10 big man will not travel with Michigan to Arkansas (2 p.m., CBS) on Saturday, though.

"He was OK," Beilein said of Horford's first workout with the team since early December. "He showed a lot of signs of not being in the lineup for a while.

"He'll practice again today, but it takes some time."

Though he won't play this weekend, Beilein said there is a chance Horford is available at some point next week for the Wolverines. 


January 20th, 2012 at 4:08 PM ^

I'm a little nervous for every game, but doesn't it feel like Beilien just dismantles these run and gun ultra athletic teams?

It seems like over the last 3 or 4 years every time we go against a super athletic undisciplined team everyone thinks we'll get run out of the gym and we toast them.   This has the feel of Memphis or Tennessee.

The main problem will be finding the happy medium between Burke layups and Burke turnovers as he breaks the press.


January 20th, 2012 at 4:23 PM ^

We haven't played since Tuesday.  Someone broke down Beilein's record when his teams have more than three days between games, and it was outstanding.  Given ample time to prepare, he consistently succeeds.


January 20th, 2012 at 5:57 PM ^

Michigan should win this game.  I agree with the above about Beilein and Michigan shredding these alleged athletic teams that like to stretch the court vertically.  I have faith that this "press" will be destroyed by our boys in Blue.  I never like being this optimistic going into a game(s), but tomorrow is giving me a gut feeling Michigan will shred the Hogs. 

I also agree it would be nice to see some of our shooters get back on pace.  With this press, and a prediction of beating it, some 3's should open up and I'd love to see Stu/Novak/Smotz/Vogrich nail some, helping open up a lead.


January 21st, 2012 at 9:24 AM ^

The official mgoblog position on Michigan's current level of basketball success is....

Sorry...just couldn't help it.  I'll do my best not to enjoy the current standings, but its going to be tough.