Arkansas comes to town, the last non-conference game on the slate until the Flyers tip off in Pittsburgh against Duquesne on Saturday afternoon. The big news coming into the game with the Razorbacks is obviously Archie Miller’s decision to release Dyshawn Pierre into the wild. After sitting out the fall semester, staying healthy and obviously staying in constant contact with professors, the senior from Canada is prepared to unleash hell on all who stand before him (while continuing his now outwardly frivolous lawsuit against the university that is paying his way — and whose name is plastered on the front his uniform. I still don’t know how this comes out in the wash. Has any college player ever sued a school AND continued to play for them? I feel like this should be a bigger story.)
Anyway, add Brian Kollars, writer for the DDN, to the treasure-trove of opinions on Pierre’s “homecoming.”[su_testimonial name=”Brian Kollars” photo=”http://www.blackburnreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/kollars.png” company=”Dayton Daily Worker” url=”http://www.mydaytondailynews.com/news/sports/second-thoughts-miller-should-let-ud-fans-make-the/nprNL/”]Archie Miller won’t tell the Flyer Faithful how to respond when Dyshawn Pierre returns to the court Wednesday against Arkansas. Miller said last week that Pierre “better be embraced by the crowd … I’m hoping when he walks into the arena they give him a standing ovation.”
A standing ovation? Pierre’s a great player, but it’s not like he’s coming back from war. UD suspended him for a semester after he was accused of sexual assault. No charges were filed. That said, there are only two people who really know what happened in his bedroom in the early hours of April 23, and Archie isn’t one of them.
Maybe a golf clap is appropriate, just to be polite. Or maybe not. It’s a free country. [/su_testimonial]
Don’t automatically put Kollars’ assessment into the hot take shredder. I tend to agree with Kollars here but think he may be missing the context behind Archie’s strong pronoucement.
Giving someone a standing ovation for skirting a rape charge is a bit…peculiar, I will grant Kollars that. There is a macabre aspect to 13,000 people cheering in unison for someone that may or may not have committed a serious felony – honestly, it’s the uncertainty of the circumstances that should keep people plastered to their seats.
However, I think Archie isn’t foolishly implying Pierre was completely void of blame and railroaded by the school. It seems more likely that he is making a pronounced statement regarding the fashion in which the situation was handled by the university and the resulting suspension that Pierre undoubtedly believed he had to agree to.
It seems as if Archie wants to use Pierre’s return as an impish “fuck you” to the body that handled the investigation. It’s no secret that Miller was not pleased with the result of the inquiry, the lack of due process, and felt like the university was doing a great disservice to both Pierre and the basketball program (and let’s not kid ourselves, Miller was concerned about the effect this incident would have on his reputation as well).
I’m not saying, nor is Kollars, that not standing for Pierre indicates your disgust – although certainly this will be the case for some – it’s simply not an appropriate reaction when you consider the implications.
Anyway, stand, don’t stand, who gives a shit. There’s really no right or wrong answer to this issue. Let’s just be LOWD on Wednesday night, especially for the players that have lived up to their end of the bargain this season.
The Razorbacks come into the Sweater Centre with a 6-5 record. Arkansas’ current resume is full of wins against listless programs and littered with losses against decent competition. In short, Arkansas has nothing to show for itself and it’s almost January. For comparison sake, the Razorbacks took down a common opponent, North Florida, by twenty-five points last week.
Arkansas doesn’t return a single starter from last season’s 27-9 squad that won a game in the NCAA tournament. Now Mike Anderson’s program is in rebuild mode, picked to finish eleventh in the SEC by both the league’s coaches and media. Bobby Portis, who had a field day in the Razorbacks’ victory over UD last season, has moved onto the NBA along with Michael Qualls. Arkansas lost the majority of their scoring, 50 points per game, and rebounding, just over twenty boards per contest, from a year ago.
Like UD, Arkansas had some excitement over the summer. Three Razorback basketball players were charged with forgery after passing counterfeit money at a convenience store. One player was kicked out of the program, while two players, Anton Beard and Dustin Thomas were, like Dyshawn Pierre, suspended for the fall semester. Beard has rejoined the team, playing decent minutes in the Razorbacks past two games, while Thomas remains ineligible. It will be a cavalcade of accused felons at the Arena Wednesday night.
Four-star signee Ted Kapita did not qualify academically and decided to sign with a pro team over in France this fall. Mike Anderson apparently didn’t go the Archie route – which would have Kapita show up on campus anyway and tell the media that the freshman had a “nagging injury” all season before cutting ties with him altogether the following April. For shame, coach.
In spite of the off-the-court drama, Arkansas has been making the most of their depleted roster. With their lack of depth and experience, the Razorbacks are relying on a fast-paced offense and pressure defense to create easy buckets. Anderson’s squad employs the “Fastest 40” minutes in college basketball – which I’m assuming is a takeoff on Nolan Richardson’s “40 Minutes of Hell” that made games against Arkansas so daunting in the mid-90s.
Although the mindset of the current team is similar to those champion Arkansas teams defensively, the Razorbacks lack the efficiently on that side of the floor that made those champion Arkansas squads so dangerous – offenses are scoring a point per possession against the ‘Backs, ranking them 143rd in the country.
Flyer Sleeper Cell in Fayetteville
As you know, Flyers alums are all over the map. Some still call Dayton home, there are plenty of graduates that live in Cincinnati, while others reside all the way in Columbus. It’s a diverse alumni base to be sure. Fortunately, we even have a former Flyer that lives in the land of Sam Walton — he was kind enough to grant us this inside glimpse into Arkansas basketball:
From the outside, you’d probably assume that Arkansas basketball fans and the #SweaterNation don’t have much in common. But looks can be deceiving, and the people of the lower bowl at UD Arena have a lot more in common with the regulars at Bud Walton Arena than you’d think…both fan bases are tied to a strong traditions from the past and devoted to their long departed legendary coaches. The difference is Arkansas fans only have to remember back to 1994, when Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman led Nolan Richardson’s “40 Minutes of Hell” Razorbacks to a national championship. Slightly more timely and accomplished than what Flyers fans are used to harkening back to.
I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas in July 2014. Right after I took the job the Flyers announced a home-and-home with the Razorbacks, and I was going to be able to see the #TrueTeam only 15 minutes from my house in Northwest Arkansas. What were the chances?
The Flyers were fresh off the 2014 Elite 8 run. The Razorbacks had supposedly been the “last team out” of that tourney draw. The Razorbacks fans I am friends with were legitimately happy that Dayton was coming to town. As a stereotypical Yankee, the Southern Hospitality had already taken some getting used to. But this was sports, they were supposed to be trash talking me.
Thanks to some great people in the UD Athletic Department, my family and I had great seats when the Flyers invaded the Basketball Palace of Mid-America (yes, that’s the arena’s “nickname”). We were 2 rows off the baseline, sitting right behind Flyer great Sean Finn…who says celebrities don’t come to Northwest Arkansas?
The Razorbacks weren’t very hospitable to the Flyers that day. Bobby Portis, who would go on to be the SEC Player of the Year and the Bulls first round pick, dominated the Flyers. Both teams went on to make the NCAA tournament, but that weekend was significant for the Flyers…after getting back from Arkansas, Jalen Robinson and Devon Scott set out robbing people at UD and ended their basketball careers.
Fast forward to this season, and it’s the Razorbacks that are shorthanded because of some genius decision making by a few student-athletes.
On July 22, three Razorback hoopsters were arrested for passing counterfeit bills at several Fayetteville businesses. A team that lost 75% of its scoring to the NBA and D-League (good call going out early Michael Qualls!) was now looking at losing two key pieces for the upcoming season. But unlike Robinson and Scott, the stories kept coming in about these guys. The juiciest rumor I heard is that someone related to one player is a big shot in the Little Rock drug world, and the players were given the bills to get them into circulation.
First it came out that Jacorey Williams had a domestic incident with his girlfriend about 2 weeks earlier. Then it turned out he was being sought for knocking out the bouncer that had reported the domestic incident. Boom, he’s dismissed from the team. Anton Beard, the best player of the three, entered a pre-trial diversion program and is now back on the team. It was like a greatest hits of Dayton Basketball screw-ups over the last 15-20 years all rolled into one incident. All that’s missing is Matt Jones beating the shit out of Peyton Hillis while yelling “I’m Matt Fucking Jones!!!” to the cops.
Sure, this means the shine is off this Power 5 match-up. Barring Mike Anderson pulling off the greatest coaching job in history, Arkansas only has “bad loss” potential on the Flyers’ tourney resume. At the end of the day it’s a game between similar programs with similar fan bases and similar problems. The difference is that Dyshawn Pierre IS walking through that door for the Flyers, while no one’s coming to help the Razorbacks this season.
The Flyers should cruise to victory, which means they won’t. It’ll be way closer than it should be, but I think the Flyers prevail 72-68. I know this for sure…I’ll wake up the next day, remind Arkansas alumni that Dayton’s a better school and resume my life mission of capturing pics of Brett Bielema in the wild for Blackburn.
(h/t to Dan Biondi — follow him on the Twitter)
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Anthlon Bell is the Razorback’s returning leading scorer, currently pacing the team with 17.1 points per game. Bell is a streaky shooter; he goes through heat checks like a menopausal woman. He can score in a variety of ways and is a threat to drive because he must be guarded closely around the three-point line. Joining Bell in the starting backcourt is highly touted freshman guard Jimmy Whitt. Although he has struggled offensively throughout December, Whitt is a steady player with a great deal of potential. He is used to being the primary option on offense and, by all reports, has had issues adjusting his game accordingly. Defensively he is fine, he’ll steal the fillings out of your mouth without you noticing.
The biggest revelation for Arkansas this season has been the steady play of guard Jabril Durham. After an up and down junior year, the JUCO transfer has taken the reins of the offense – dishing out an average of 7.7 assists per game, good enough for fourth in the nation. He has been close to automatic from the stripe and leads the team in steals as well. His one weakness is his outside shooting, Durham in connecting on a mere 23% of his three-point attempts.
Up front, the Razorbacks are led by Moses Kingsley and Keaton Miles. Miles is a transfer from West Virginia – obviously accustomed to the frenetic defensive mentality Anderson prefers. He was a complete bust last season but is finding a way to contribute by necessity this season due to Arkansas’ lack of depth in the frontcourt. Kingsley is an old-ass looking man with an old-ass looking man’s game. He blocks shots, gets buckets around the rim and rebounds like his next meal depends on it. Psychoanalysts call it a “prison mentality.”
One of the deadliest shooters in the nation,
George Zimmerman Dusty Hannahs, comes off the bench for Arkansas. Hannahs, a transfer from Texas Tech, gets starters minutes and is a force to be reckoned with from the perimeter, shooting 47% from behind the arc and averaging 16.5 points per contest. His shooting opens up everything else offensively for the Razorbacks. Manuale Watkins and Trey Thompson are two other major contributors off the Arkansas pine. Thompson is a space eater and garbage man; he takes turns giving Kingsley and Miles breathers. Watkins is a defensive-minded guard who has been asked to score more for Anderson’s team this season.
From an offensive standpoint, Arkansas scores almost exclusively inside the arc. They’re one spot away from being dead fucking last in 3 point attempt rate (only 23% of the Razorbacks’ shot attempts are from three-point land, Texas State is the only team in Division I that ranks lower at 19.4%). This is kind of weird because they’re shooting 43% from behind the arc. Then again their long range attempts almost literally come from only two people, Anthlon Bell and Dusty Hannahs. One would assume Dayton could focus on eliminating their attempts and forcing Arkansas to go inside where Dayton boasts one of the top interior defenses.
While most people are probably focused on the return of Dyshawn Pierre, I’m a bit more interested to see how Big Steve does matched up with Moses Kingsley. The 6′ 10″ junior is Top 100 in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, block percentage, and fouls drawn per 40 minutes. It could be a big test for our big man on both offense and defense.
Given Arkansas’ long big is Kingsley at 6- 10, and they only have two other players over 6-4, who matches up with Pollard? The fellas you would think would guard Pollard are very foul prone. Keaton Miles commits almost 7 fouls per 40 minutes. If Pollard draws contact at his elite rate against Miles, who does Arkansas go to? Trey Thompson is 6-9 and 260 pounds. One would think Pollard could make him look silly and he’s fairly foul prone as well, committing 5.4 fouls per 40 minutes. The question, as always, can KP make some of those FTs though?
There’s plenty that worries me coming into this game. First and foremost, how will UD handle Arkansas’ pressure? Arkansas gives up a lot of decent three-point looks, can Dayton continue to hit around 40% from the arc? Lastly, how does Pierre’s inclusion affect the team — should we expect less offensive aggressiveness from Cooke? Diminished playing time for Pollard?
These concerns aside, Arkansas is still a team that feels like it was thrown together at the last minute. The Razorbacks lack depth inside and haven’t been able to hang with decent competition. UD wins, 81-75. Kendall Pollard racks up his first double-double of the season, 15 and 11.