The Razorback men’s basketball team is in the NCAA tournament, and the Butler Bulldogs are the Hogs’ first dance partner as the two squads are set to square off in Detroit on Friday.
The Razorbacks earned a No. 7 seed in the tourney, meaning their road will be a little easier than what fans have seen in past seasons. Still, the Hogs will need more than seniors Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford and freshman Daniel Gafford if they want to make it to the next round.
It’s been pretty much the same story all season. One, two, or all three of those guys typically play well in Arkansas’ victories. They’re really the only consistent players on the team, and even then, each has a tendency to have a bad game every once in a while.
Barford leads the team with 18 points per game. He also averages four rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
Macon averages 16.9 points, 3.9 assists and 2.9 rebounds per contest. Gafford averages 11.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
They’re the only Razorbacks who average double-digit scoring.
When those guys don’t score, the Hogs become stagnant on offense and lose more often than not.
The Razorbacks need another scorer who can put the ball in the basket consistently. If someone doesn’t step up, the Hogs will dance for maybe one or two songs at the most. But which players are the most likely to take on that added responsibility?
Sr. G Anton Beard – 9.6 ppg
This is a guard who people thought would be the heir apparent to the throne left vacant by Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls. As a freshman, he was often the third option for Arkansas’ offense. A string of off-the-court issues and on-the-court struggles have plagued Beard since then, but he’s proven he can score the basketball.
His bread-and-butter shots are spot up threes, driving layups and runners.
The one glaring stat that jumps out for Beard is his 38.7 percent field goal percentage, which is the lowest on the team other than JT Plummer, who’s played a grand total of seven games this season. Still, if he could pour in about 15 a game, the weight of Arkansas’ offense would be taken off the three-headed monster’s shoulder a little bit.
Soph. C.J. Jones – 6.4 ppg
The Hogs’ have had streaky shooters throughout their storied history. Jones is the latest player in that list, and like many of the others who came before him, the guard has proven to be Arkansas’ biggest hero when he’s hitting and the thorn in Arkansas’ side when he’s missing.
When Jones is on, he can hit threes from anywhere. He has a quick trigger, and when he’s confident, he shoots in rhythm. He’s not afraid to take a few dribbles in and pull up from the elbows or wings. His offensive success generally translates to lockdown defense, which Jones has the ability to play due to his obvious athleticism.
When he’s off? Uh oh.
Jones forces up shots with defenders in his face and doesn’t even hit rim. He tries to shoot himself out of slumps and becomes a black hole.
Still, if Jones can hit a couple threes a game and get to the free throw line, defenses will key in on him, leaving other guys the ability to take advantage of switches and mismatches. One never knows when he’s going to erupt for a monster game, and it seems to be only a matter of time. Could the Big Dance bring out the best in Jones?
Fr. Darious Hall – 5.1 ppg
Remember when the forward was only known for his early-season, rim-rattling dunks? Those days are over. As the season has gone on, the freshman jitters have gone away for Hall, who proved to be a key figure for the Hogs in the SEC tournament.
He scored nine, six and 11 in the Hogs’ three games, respectively, and he expanded his range beyond the three-point line. He seemed more comfortable on both sides of the floor, and he wasn’t afraid to take shots. Occasionally, that turned into some forced shots that missed everything. Still, the freshman’s confidence is a good sign for the Hogs going into the tourney.
These three players have proven they have the ability to score, but for whatever reason, they haven’t done it often or consistently. If the Razorbacks plan on making it past the second round, which they’ve been unable to do since 1996, they’ll need more than the three names we’ve gotten used to saying time and time again.