Delvon Johnson dunks against Seton Hall. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
As the basketball Hogs take a break to do what they truly came to Fayetteville for - study for exams - it seems like a good point to consider where they may be headed this season. However, after donning my tweed jacket and thoughtfully stroking the fake goatee I bought for such contemplations, I realize my answer is basically the same as it was before the games began: "Hell if I know."
Over the years, I have certainly been guilty of being too optimistic about the basketball program, but I do think there are a number of reasons to believe that this team could have a decent year ahead of them. For starters, Delvon Johnson's improvement has been striking. It seems as though both he and his teammates are just beginning to see what he is capable of. If he becomes more assertive offensively in the post, then this offense will have a dimension that it hasn't had in a while.
Furthermore, the Hogs have played this year without Marshawn Powell at anywhere close to full strength. He looked a good deal healthier against Seton Hall and hopefully the current weeklong layoff will enable his foot to heal significantly. We all saw what he's capable of last year. A healthy Powell with an improved Johnson would give the Hogs a really nice 1-2 punch in the frontcourt. (We'd love to see Michael Sanchez added into the mix as well - but given his medical history, we're not holding our breath.)
I also think that the Hogs, in the post-Fortson era, are moving the ball much better on offense. Jeff Peterson is still shaking off the rust after sittting out last year, but he and Julysses Nobles play a much more unselfish point guard than Mr. Fortson. On the downside, the Hogs still have too many possessions where the shot clock reaches 10 seconds, and they don't appear to know what they want to do offensively.
As I said the other night, the season has more or less unfolded the way I thought (although I was a wee bit surprised they beat Seton Hall). The Hogs have looked OK at times (they looked flat out good for much of the first half against Seton Hall) and flat-out ugly at others.
But that's OK - the season is only seven games old, they're trying to get Powell healthy, and, overall, they're young and inexperienced. They have some players - Rickey Scott, Mardracus Wade and Glenn Bryant spring to mind - who could take a big leap forward at any point.
My eyes are wide open - given the last two seasons, who could be surprised if yet another year goes off the rails? Still, I'd urge you all to give this team a chance. Better days may be here sooner than you think.