With the Hogs' basketball season now nine games old and the start of SEC play just around the corner, we decided a chat with John Gasaway was in order. John writes about college basketball for Basketball Prospectus, a site dedicated in part to detailed statistical analysis of the sport. Many thanks to Mr. Gasaway for taking time out of his busy holiday schedule to talk with us.
Expats: What are your general impressions of the Razorbacks so far? What are they doing well? Any real trouble spots with this team?
Gasaway: In addition to the fact that they're really feisty? This group is two OTs away from being undefeated! Also they've played tremendous defense. I realize the Hogs haven't exactly been facing Duke game in, game out. OK, let's be honest: their strength of schedule's been seriously deficient. Still, holding opponents to 42 percent shooting on their twos? That's really good. Delvon Johnson and Glenn Bryant do alter some shots, don't they?
Expats: So far, Arkansas has played with Marshawn Powell hampered by post-foot-surgery ouchies, but he appears to be getting close to full speed. How much of a boost would a fully healthy Powell provide this team? Would it have a huge effect? Modest effect?
Gasaway: Modest, though a modest positive effect is of course still a move in the right direction. Powell clearly gets the featured scorer treatment in Fayetteville, but what's less clear is whether a guy who draws fouls, shoots in the mid-60s at the line, and makes about half his twos can provide a huge boost. That being said, does Rotnei Clarke want another featured scorer healthy and on the court alongside him? Yes - yes he does.
Gasaway: Anyone following in Fortson's footsteps will record fewer assists and miss fewer shots. Nobles and Peterson both fit the bill there, but of the two I'd say Nobles has been more impressive to me. He dishes assists and takes pretty good care of the ball. Nobles even shows up on the defensive glass, which isn't easy for a player listed at 6-1. As for Peterson, he might be a 2-guard trapped in a point guard's body. He's 6-0 so people keep playing him at the point, but he keeps committing turnovers there. (Ask Iowa fans.) Meantime he's making 48 percent of his threes. Last thing: both Nobles and Peterson foul way too much relative to their steal rates.
Gasaway: Well, if Peterson keeps hitting threes the way he has that is definitely a big impact. Waithe pretty clearly excels on the defensive glass, but he also has a decent block rate. He gives John Pelphrey the luxury of making a situational substitution -- if the Hogs have a good lead Waithe should be playing. And as for Wade, after 256 personal possessions he's still a bit of a mystery to me. Maybe it's him, maybe it's me. Maybe both.
Expats: Is an NCAA Tournament bid entirely out of the question for this year's squad?
Gasaway: Not entirely out of the question at all. Win the SEC tournament. I'm serious, I don't think the Hogs are on a safe at-large trajectory, but then again I don't suppose any team in the league this year is so terribly scary. Win the conference tournament and the bid will be there waiting for you.