The second SEC team on the Pirates' schedule is Arkansas, and with Jeremy Hazell still out, this figures to be a VERY tough matchup on a neutral court at Freedom Hall down in Louisville. Let's face it- Louisville is closer to Arkansas than to Seton Hall, but most of the fans there will be wearing blue. They'll be wearing it to support Kentucky (which plays a practical home game against Notre Dame after the Pirates and Hogs get done- a nice post-game meal to digest), but still. This game will be tough, but without further ado, here is my scouting report:
20010-11 record: 5-1
2009-10 record: 14-18 (7-9 SEC), 3rd in SEC West
Key returnees: Rotnei Clarke, Delvon Johnson, Julysses Nobles, Marshawn Powell, Marcus Britt, Jemal Farmer
Key losses: Courtney Fortson, Michael Washington, Stefan Welsh
The Razorbacks are one of the basketball schools in the SEC. Ok, I exaggerate a bit- every school in the SEC except for Kentucky and Vanderbilt are football schools. But Arkansas is right up there in terms of tradition, with a great home court advantage. Luckily for the Pirates this is not a road game at Bud Walton Arena.
The Hogs and head coach John Pelphrey lost a couple of solid players from last year in big man Michael Washington and 6-3 guard Stefan Welsh. They also lost point guard Courtney Fortson (the team's leading scorer and a bit of a head case I'm told) when he surprisingly declared for the NBA Draft. But the cupboard is far from bare in Fayetteville.
The Razorbacks are led by Rotnei Clarke, and if you don't know his name by now, get to know it soon. This is one of the best pure shooters in the country- as good if not better than Hazell. He is their leading scorer this season so far at 16.5 PTS with a whopping .471 field goal percentage, a .778 free throw percentage, and a 42 percent clip from long range.
I'll give you some time to think about that.
The numbers don't lie, and when Pirate fans see Clarke's sweet stroke, they will soon see why he is the key to the Hogs' attack. This is a guy who went berserk last season for 51 points (FIFTY- ONE POINTS?!) against Alcorn State. Yeah, it was Alcorn State, but scoring 51 in a college game takes some doing.
Joining Clarke is 6'9", 220-pound senior big Delvon Johnson. Johnson is far and away the team's best rebounder, so keeping him from going batty on the boards will help the Pirates. Sophomore big Marshawn Powell, who put up some impressive numbers a year ago as a Freshman (14.9 PTS, 6.7 REB, 50% shooting), has struggled a bit in his comeback from a broken bone in his foot this past summer, so he may not be much of a factor.
The Hogs' backcourt is solid, with Julysses Nobles, Jeff Peterson, and Jemal Farmer. Farmer has good size at 6'5" while the other two are Theodore/Lawrence-sized. That will make them easier to defend, but keep in mind that if/when the Pirates do decide to play man, either Keon or Jordan will be guarding Clarke with all the intensity they can muster.
The Razorbacks are a fairly up-tempo team, ranked 44th in adjusted tempo by Ken Pomeroy, and they have forced about 19 turnovers per game. It is therefore critical that the Pirates control the tempo. While they can play fast, that is only truly possible with Hazell in the lineup. If the Pirates can have more games like St. Peter's in terms of taking care of the ball (15 TOs forced against just 5 committed), they may find the game easier. In fact, according to Pomeroy, St. Peter's and Arkansas are very close in terms of defense.
PIRATES WILL WIN IF:
- Theodore and Lawrence take care of the basketball.
- They control the tempo.
- They force Rotnei Clarke into an off-night (even a semi-off night might work).
RAZORBACKS WILL WIN IF:
- Someone emerges other than Clarke and Johnson on the scoreboard.
- Clarke goes off (duh).
- They force Seton Hall to play too fast.
While UK-ND is the main course on Wednesday night, this is one heck of an appetizer. Pomeroy is actually projecting the Pirates to win 73-68. I guess he hasn't really seen the SHU offense lately. But it's a nice thought anyway.
SIDEBAR: Just a little side note- freshman center Aaron Geramipoor, who was back in England recovering from mono, was seen on campus today.