Following their 82-74 win over Vanderbilt on January 31, Mike Anderson’s Arkansas Razorbacks looked to be well on their way to earning an NCAA tournament bid in his first season at the helm.
But the Hogs, who were getting used to Anderson’s revival of the “40 Minutes of Hell” that Nolan Richardson made famous, ran out of gas down the stretch.
They’d win just two more games, finishing 18-14 with a 6-10 mark in the SEC.
Yet even with the SEC getting better as a whole (including the arrival of Missouri and Texas A&M), more than a few expect Arkansas to reach the field of 68.
One major reason for that is the return of sophomore guard B.J. Young, who averaged a team-best 15.2 points per game as a freshman.
Young shot 50% from the field and 41% from three last season, but his work this summer has been about working to make things easier for his teammates as well.
“I want to get everybody involved in the game, and then create for myself,” said Young to NBCSports.com. “I feel like I can create a shot at any time, so I want to use that ability to make the players around me better.”
Arkansas lost just two seniors from last season’s team, and the return of the likes of Ky Madden and Mardracus Wade along with Young will make the Hogs a tough out based on talent alone.
Add in the fact that they now understand what it takes to play Anderson’s preferred style of basketball, and it’s easy to see why the Hogs are expected to rebound from last season’s dismal finish.
“We know each other more and we know each others’ tendencies,” said Young. “Also, we understand each other and we’re more conditioned to play the ’40 Minutes of Hell.’
“I feel like we hit the wall but next year we’re going to understand how to play the system a lot more.”
Arkansas forced an SEC-best 16.2 turnovers per game last season but they were also among the worst in the conference when it came to keeping teams off the offensive glass (11th in defensive rebounding percentage).
It takes more than one person to clean up an issue such as rebounding, but the return of Young on the perimeter puts Arkansas in prime position to take a step towards once again being a threat in the SEC.