Michael Qualls

Arkansas v SMU

Arkansas junior guard Michael Qualls to enter NBA Draft

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After making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008 last month, Arkansas will have two key personnel losses to account for as it looks to make a return trip next season.

One day after sophomore forward and SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis announced that he would forego his final two seasons of eligibility to turn pro, junior guard Michael Qualls announced via his Twitter account that he will also be moving on. One of the best dunkers in college basketball, Qualls averaged 15.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Razorbacks in 2014-15.

“My time at the University of Arkansas has not only helped me grow as a basketball player, but also as a man and I’m very thankful for the guidance the coaching staff and everyone at the university has given me over my three years,” Qualls wrote. “After sitting down with my family I felt the best decision for me is to continue my basketball career as a professional. I’m ready to provide for my family and my son.”

2015 NBA Draft Early Entry List

DraftExpress ranks Qualls as the 40th-best prospect on its board of the top 100 draft-eligible players, and he was projected to be an early second-round choice in the 2016 NBA Draft. But even with the uncertainty that comes with being a second-round possibility, it’s clear that there are other motivating factors for Qualls as he makes this decision.

As for Arkansas, the losses of Portis and Qualls leave some significant holes to fill within their rotation. In addition to those two, the Razorbacks also lost seniors Alandise Harris and Rashad Madden. Freshmen Jimmy Whitt and Ted Kapita will look to compete for playing time in 2015-16 with players such as guards Anton Beard and Anthlon Bell and forward Moses Kingsley among the returnees.

No. 4 North Carolina beats No. 5 Arkansas but loses Kennedy Meeks to sprained knee

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Mike Anderson’s Arkansas Razorbacks like to play “the fastest 40 minutes in college basketball,” a style in which they use full court pressure to turn over opponents and cash in on the resulting fast break opportunities. However in No. 4 North Carolina, Arkansas ran into a team that also prefers a faster tempo, and the Tar Heels had the advantage in both turnovers and fast break points as they won 87-78 in Jacksonville.

As a result of the win Roy Williams’ team is headed to the West regional semis next week in Los Angeles, where they’ll play either No. 1 Wisconsin or No. 8 Oregon Thursday night.

North Carolina committed 16 turnovers, just over three turnovers per game more than their average on the season (12.7), but that was still better than Arkansas when it comes to ball control. The Razorbacks committed 21 turnovers, which were converted into 23 points by the Tar Heels (plus-six edge in points off turnovers). Also of note regarding the turnovers committed by North Carolina is the fact that not many of those mistakes led to fast break opportunities for Arkansas.

The Razorbacks scored just seven fast break points, seven fewer than North Carolina. Forced to find the majority of their looks against a set up North Carolina defense, Arkansas shot 36.9 percent from the field and 8-for-25 from beyond the arc. Michael Qualls (ten rebounds) led all scorers with 27 points but shot 8-for-19 from the field, and Bobby Portis finished with 16 points on 5-for-15 shooting while also grabbing 12 rebounds.

By comparison North Carolina shot 45.0 percent from the field and 4-for-10 from three, and they also outscored Arkansas 29-22 from the foul line. Marcus Paige scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half, but the efforts of J.P. Tokoto were of greater importance especially when it came to handling the Arkansas pressure. Tokoto, who also scored 13 points, finished with eight assists and no turnovers.

Add in fellow perimeter players Justin Jackson (16 points, three rebounds) and Nate Britt (ten points, four rebounds), and North Carolina had enough productivity to beat Arkansas despite quiet evenings from the majority of their big men.

The front court is where the concern lies for North Carolina in regards to next week, especially if they face Wisconsin, in the aftermath of Saturday’s win. Kennedy Meeks (nine points, four rebounds in 15 minutes) left the game in the second half with what was termed as a sprained left knee, and while the Tar Heels do have options they need Meeks available.

Brice Johnson scored seven points and grabbed 13 rebounds before fouling out, and neither Isaiah Hicks nor Joel James were all that effective against Arkansas. North Carolina will need all four to be productive (with Johnson and Meeks being the key cogs) if they’re to be successful in Los Angeles if they’re to advance. The good news for North Carolina is that they’ll have another game to prepare for, thanks in large part to the play of their perimeter.

Arkansas’ second-leading scorer ‘day-to-day’ with sprained right knee

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After suffering a sprained right knee late in Arkansas’ win over South Carolina Tuesday night, junior guard Michael Qualls was declared to be day-to-day by head coach Mike Anderson on Thursday according to the Associated Press. Anderson did not expect his team’s second-leading scorer to practice Thursday, with the 6-foot-6 guard’s status for Saturday’s game against Mississippi State yet to be determined.

“It’s a sprained knee, and it’s a day-to-day situation,” Anderson said, per the Associated Press. “We’ll look at it from day to day to see; he probably won’t practice (Thursday), I’m not sure, but it’s a day-to-day situation.”

Qualls is averaging 15.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for the Razorbacks, who enter Saturday’s game 17-5 overall and 6-3 in SEC play. But after scoring 30 points in Arkansas’ win over Alabama January 22, Qualls has struggled from the field in the Razorbacks’ last four games.

Qualls is averaging 10.3 points per game over the last four contests, shooting 26 percent from the field. Looking to snap out of that ongoing shooting slump, this injury doesn’t help matters for Qualls. If Qualls can’t play Saturday Anthlon Bell, who replaced Qualls in the starting lineup Tuesday, and guard Manuale Watkins are among the players who will absorb Qualls’ minutes.