Thursday, March 19, 2009

The 2008-09 Season Set A Drift

See how deep and meaningful I'm being here with this picture? The bird in this picture is the 2008-09 Arkansas Razorback basketball season (metaphorically of course). The person releasing it is me. Don't tell me I didn't make you nod your head in poetic agreement with me just this moment.

If there's a tear running down your cheek also, that's ok. No it's not! You're gay if that's happening because this basketball season was a complete disaster. You should be somewhere between pissed and resigned. The team is not happy and neither is the coach, so it's ok for us to feel that way as well.

The 2009 portion of the season was a complete disaster. 2008 was just fine, because 2008 saw the Razorbacks head into the 2nd round of the NCAA tourney before losing a close one to North Carolina. The end of 2008 also saw the Hogs beat one of the top 10 teams in the country - the redneck, hillbilly bumpkins from next door, Oklahoma.

Here is the good that I'll take with me into the fall as the '09-'10 team takes form:

Freshman point guard Courtney Fortson and his ability to get into the lane and make things happen. As you'll see over the next three weeks, teams with point guards who can do this will make things very difficult on their opponents. Just watch, I promise.

Freshman shooting guard Rotnei Clarke will only get better. He finished 2nd in the SEC in 3-point FG percentage at 39% and he will only continue to refine his skills, and I think he'll remind us all a little bit of Tennessee's Chris Lofton by the time everything is said and done.

Freshman Jason Henry's potential is there. If the dude gets stronger physically, mentally, and can stay out of Pel's doghouse, he could be a great Razorback.

Junior Michael Washington had a very good year and was the team's most consistent player. No need to test the NBA waters at this time, M-Dub - one more year will do you a lot of good, and I'll be glad to have him another year.

This Razorback team was never as good as Oklahoma or Texas for that matter even though we beat them both. The Razorbacks caught lightening in a bottle for a week when we beat these two top 25 powers and Coach Pelphrey had these Razorbacks believing they could beat anybody at that point. I think it's safe to say, the Razorbacks may have over-achieved slightly during this time.

Here is the bad that I'll send soaring away into the air and hope to see much less of next season:

This team's immaturity on and off the court. Let's face it, this was a young team and you're going to get a lot of this kind of stuff. There was very little leadership on this team and way too many off the court incidents. From Patrick Beverley's pre-season dismissal to Fortson to Henry to Moore to even Marcus Monk's situation, the distractions were numerous throughout the season and weren't of any help to anyone.

Second-half collapses. If the SEC games were only 20 minutes long, we'd be talking about a 20 win Razorback team right now. The inexperience showed up in the second half of games especially during SEC play as the Hogs didn't really have that killer instinct needed to win in one of the nation's toughest conferences.

The combined 30% shooting from three-point land by Fortson, Henry, and Welsh. We've just got to shoot the ball better from behind the three-point line or quit shooting it. There were times this season where I had no confidence in any of those three to make a big three-pointer.

Fortson's 1.3-1 Assist to turnover ratio. He's just a freshman and he made a lot of freshman mistakes, so I'll be looking for a ratio closer to 2-1 come next season and wouldn't mind a few more assists and a few less shots. Even though Fortson averaged close to 6 assists per game (2nd in the SEC), he could easily be a 7-8 assist per game point guard which would be a top 10 guy nationally.

Finally, the worst defense in the SEC must fly away as well. These Hogs have to get stingier on the defensive end. The Hogs were last in the SEC in scoring defense.

Well, I feel I can officially put this season to bed and enjoy the NCAA games that are going on right now. I'll be interested to see how well Tennessee, Mississippi State, and LSU represent for the SEC, and I'll be looking forward to a clean slate for this Razorback team come next October when expectations will be up and we'll all hope the losses will be down. SEC champs next season, baby! Drink the red kool-aid and believe it, booyyyeee!


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