2007-08 Arkansas Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #15
Conference Rank: #2 SEC
2006-07: 21-14, 7-9, 3rd (t) West
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
Arkansas snuck into the NCAA Tournament due to a nice run in the conference tournament, where they were quickly disposed of by Southern California. It was probably a year early to expect much more from the team and Coach Stan Heath really did a decent job reaching the big dance. But that did not stop the administration from looking for a new coach. The new head man is Coach John Pelphrey, who guided South Alabama to the NIT last year and the NCAA Tournament the previous season. Razorback fans hope the coaching change brings more discipline and team play to the program and if that happens, Arkansas will be very dangerous in March. If they struggle and do not make the tournament, Coach Pelphrey will be feeling a lot of heat very quickly.
There is not much lost from the Razorbacks this year. Cyrus McGowan, Preston Cranford and Sean McCurdy have all transferred after seeing very limited action last year. McCurdy started six games but averaged less than ten minutes per contest.
Since the top nine scorers return, little will be asked of the newcomers this year. Power forward Michael Sanchez recorded a double-double in every game he played in high school last year and will a big contributor in 2008-2009 when just about every frontcourt player on the team will graduate. On the wings Marcus Britt, Nate Rakestraw and Levan Patsatsia will look to prepare for the future. Britt is a hardworking and versatile combo guard who will help out the team on many levels once he cracks his way into the regular rotation. Rakestraw can do a little bit of everything as well, but it is his shooting that has Arkansas fans excited. Patsatsia, a native of Tbilisi, Georgia, is a solid transition scorer. At 6-6, he has good size for a shooting guard and he will knock down the outside shot with consistency. He has plenty of international experience playing for Georgia and he will be ready to be a big contributor very soon. Walk-on sophomore guard Stephen Cox will add some emergency depth to the backcourt, but the rest of the newcomers will have a vast majority of the depth covered for the next couple of years.
Who to Watch:
The frontcourt is full of talent and experience. At times they have been inconsistent and have not lived up to their potential, but that could be said of the entire team. Charles Thomas, Steven Hill, Darian Townes and Vincent Hunter are all extremely experienced seniors. Thomas has developed into a decent scorer and the team’s best rebounder. He averaged 10.7 points and 5.7 rebounds last year and both of those numbers could stand to be increased and, unless his perimeter shot improves, he needs to spend less time behind the three-point arc. Hill does the dirty work under the basket and is a very imposing figure in the paint. He racked up 2.8 blocks per game and will do some scoring and rebounding as well. Townes can do a lot of scoring in short periods of time. The 6-10 forward will be coming off the bench again this year, but he is a great player to have filling in for Thomas or Hill. Hunter has the versatility. He can be effective on the wing or at the power forward spot and, at 6-10, creates match-up problems either way. Another 6-10 forward, Michael Washington, had a promising freshman season and will try and steal some more minutes from the seniors off the bench.
Gary Ervin did a decent job running the point his first year in Fayetteville, but the Mississippi State transfer needs to work on the turnovers. He is quick and will push the tempo, which explains some of the turnovers, but there is a difference between pushing the tempo and being out of control. Coach Pelphrey should be able to fix that problem. Patrick Beverley had a tremendous freshman campaign, averaging 13.9 points, 3.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds. With a year of experience under his belt, the freshman All-American will become one of the best players in the conference. Sonny Weems starts on the other wing and averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds. Depth at the point is a concern and Coach Pelphrey hopes Stefan Welsh can improve enough to fill the void. Welsh showed potential as a freshman and can fill in at both guard spots.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Gary Ervin, Senior, Guard, 9.9 points per game
Patrick Beverley, Sophomore, Guard, 13.9 points per game
Sonny Weems, Senior, Guard, 11.8 points per game
Charles Thomas, Senior, Forward, 10.7 points per game
Steven Hill, Senior, Center, 6.2 points per game