Michael Qualls

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.

The 23 best college basketball buzzer-beaters of 2014

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1. Michael Qualls’ buzzer-beating dunk in Arkansas’ overtime win over Kentucky — Jan. 14

Kentucky left Michael Qualls alone on the baseline, and he made the Wildcats pay with a buzzer-beater putback dunk. This was the first of two overtime wins for Arkansas over Kentucky during the 2013-14 season. This play was listed as the third best dunk of 2014.

2. Tyler Ennis’ 35-footer keeps Syracuse perfect — Feb. 12

What made Tyler Ennis such an impactful freshman last season was how clutch he was late in the game for the Orange. With 3:14 left in the game at Pittsburgh, Ennis committed a turnover. Up until that point, he hadn’t turned the ball over in the last five minutes of any game. He made up for it with this shot to improve Syracuse to 24-0.

3. Dylan Garrity sinks 70-footer in wild win for Sacramento State over Weber State — Feb. 2

In the final 15 seconds of overtime involved two technical fouls, eight free throws and two 3-pointers. After Davion Berry tied the score for Weber State, Dylan Garrity hoisted this attempt a foot outside the 3-point line on the opposite side of the court.

4. George Mason’s Jalen Jenkins hits a game-winner from 75 feet away — Nov. 29

Not much is expected from the Patriots in the Atlantic 10 this season, however, George Mason had one of the early highlights of the season when Jalen Jenkins stole a game from Manhattan with a 75-foot bomb to beat a pretty good Jaspers team, 64-63. George Mason had trailed by eight with 1:14 left.

5. Rasheed Sulaimon extends Duke-Syracuse Part 1 — Feb. 1

Rasheed Sulaimon endured a sophomore slump last season, though, he did step up in crunch time in one of the most anticipated college basketball games of the 2013-14 season. In front of 35,446 fans inside the Carrier Dome, Sulaimon raced down the floor for this game-tying 3-pointer, forcing overtime. While Duke ended up losing in overtime, 91-89, we thank Sulaimon for extending it.

6. A.J. Hess breaks UT San Antonio’s heart with a 40-foot game-winner — Nov. 30

Southern Utah hadn’t won a road game since Feb. 7, 2013 and with 2.5 seconds left, trailing by two, it didn’t look like that streak would be snapped. That was until A.J. Hess connected on this 40-footer. The call really makes the clip. The announcers were in disbelief, as the same thing happened to the Roadrunners the previous season against Division II McMurry University.

7. Sterling Gibbs pulls a Kemba to beat Villanova — March 13

A stepback game-winner in the Big East Tournament. Sounds familiar. In the quarterfinals, Sterling Gibbs did his best Kemba Walker impression with Villanova unfortunately playing the role of Gary McGhee. This turned out to be one of two early exits for the Wildcats in March. 

8. Cedric Bowen, Charleston Southern uses a tip slam to beat Ole Miss — Nov. 14

This isn’t really the way the SEC wanted to begin the 2014-15 season. On opening night, the Rebels let Charleston Southern walk away with an upset win, as Cedric Bowen charged from the top of the key to throw down the game-winner right before time expired.

9. Rayvonte Rice gives Illinois ‘Braggin’ Rights’ over Missouri — Dec. 20

What’s better than the throwback uniforms the Illini wore against Missouri? Rayvonte Rice’s stepback 3-pointer at the buzzer for the win in the Bud Light Braggin’ Rights game in Saint Louis.

10. Jordan Gathers’ three helps St. Bonaventure upset Saint Louis — March 14

The Bonnies entered the Atlantic 10 Tournament as the No. 9 seed. St. Bonaventure extended its stay in Brooklyn with a buzzer-beater from Jordan Gathers over top-seeded Saint Louis. This upset was part of a late-season unraveling for the Billikens.

13 more buzzer-beaters from 2014:

The 22 best dunks from college basketball in 2014

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1. Nevada’s Deonte Burton dunks on Boise State — March 6

Deonte Burton spoiled college basketball fans over the years, and this one from March 6 might have been his best. Seriously, look where he takes off from.

2. James Young, Kentucky vs. UConn in the 2014 national championship game — Apr. 7

The national championship game ended with UConn winning its second title in four years, but James Young left his mark midway through the second half. Amida Brimah gets a lot of his arm, and the 6-foot-7 Young was still able to finish.

3. Michael Qualls’ buzzer-beating dunk in Arkansas’ overtime win over Kentucky — Jan. 14

The Razorbacks has two wins over ranked opponents during the 2013-14 season, both of which came against Kentucky. Arkansas left Michael Qualls alone on the baseline with time winding down in overtime. When you don’t box out one of the best dunkers in the country, this is what happens.

4. Buffalo’s Justin Moss slams over 7-foot Willie Cauley-Stein — Nov. 16

Apologies, Big Blue Nation. Kentucky is one the wrong end of another memorable dunk. Willie Cauley-Stein is arguably the best defensive player in the country. Buffalo’s Justin Moss didn’t care. The Bulls gave the Wildcats a scare before top-ranked Kentucky ran away with a 19-point win.

5. Demetrius Jackson dunks over Purdue big man a foot taller than him — Dec. 20

Notre Dame guard Demetrius Jackson is 6-foot-1. Purdue freshman center Isaac Haas is 7-feet tall. David prevailed over Goliath with a one-handed jam in a blowout win for the Fighting Irish.

6. High Point’s John Brown throws down reverse alley-oop with ease — Jan. 26

If you are unfamiliar with John Brown, go ahead and look him up on the site. He’s been a stable part of our “Posterization” series. What makes this dunk so impressive is how easy it looks for Brown.

7. Tekele Cotton’s perfect posterization in Wichita State’s perfect regular season — Jan. 22

Wichita State’s big three was Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet during last season’s 34-0 regular season. Tekele Cotton could not be forgotten, especially with plays like this.

8. Aaron Gordon defies gravity with a baseline out-of-bounds dunk — Feb. 24

For second there, I really thought Aaron Gordon wasn’t going to come down.

9. Bernard Thompson proves why it’s called Dunk City — March 9

Florida Gulf Coast was branded “Dunk City” during its Sweet 16 run in 2013. That carried over to the following season thanks to Bernard Thompson. This was one of two dunks in a week-span for the star shooting guard. He had this tip slam against Northern Kentucky earlier that week.

10. Dunk Champ Marcus Lewis slams on Kansas in NCAA tournament — March 22

What’s a list of 2014 dunks without college basketball dunk champ Marcus Lewis? Also, this is a pretty good list if this barely cracks the top 10.

A dozen more of the best dunks from 2014:

Late turnovers cost No. 18 Arkansas in overtime loss at Clemson

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Entering this week with a 6-0 record and a win at SMU under its belt, No. 18 Arkansas looked to do even more to answer questions regarding their level of play on the road. After failing to do so against No. 20 Iowa State on Thursday, Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks visited a Clemson team that on paper was one many expected Arkansas to defeat.

That wouldn’t turn out to be the case, with Arkansas committing three turnovers in the final 1:17 of regulation and their six-point lead evaporating as a result. In the extra session guard Rod Hall scored seven of Clemson’s 11 points, helping lead Brad Brownell’s team to a 68-65 win.

Hall scored 19 points and Jaron Blossomgame added 11 for the Tigers, who managed to remain close to Arkansas in two statistical areas that the Razorbacks tend to dominate when successful.

Clemson (14 turnovers) committed one more turnover than Arkansas, with the visitors scoring 19 points off of those mistakes. By comparison Clemson scored 16 points off of 13 Arkansas turnovers, with four of those points being scored during their rally that pushed the game into overtime. Michael Qualls and Bobby Portis combined to score 39 points for Arkansas, but their inability to maintain separation after a 14-1 run gave them an eight-point lead halfway through the second half proved costly.

From a numbers standpoint Arkansas has been a better team through eight games than they were a season ago, and an NCAA tournament bid is certainly a reasonable expectation for this group. But even with their win at SMU, there will still be questions regarding their ability to go on the road and play they style they want to consistently.

While road wins against ranked opponents will help change the course of that conversation, taking care of business against teams they’re expected to beat will benefit Arkansas as well. Thanks to some sloppy ball-handling down the stretch, the Razorobacks didn’t do that Sunday night.