After three close – somewhat unexpectedly close – wins to open the season, the Razorbacks are set to hit the road for the first time this season. They will face Kansas State in their first game of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City on Monday, Nov 22, before facing either Illinois or Cincinnati in their second game of the classic on Tuesday, Nov 23, depending on the outcome of the first round of games.
This will be the biggest test of the Hogs’ young season, and I for one can’t wait to see how they handle the pressure.
Before we get there though, let’s dive into a few key stats from the Razorbacks’ first three victories.
Sharing the Wealth
The Hogs are averaging 19 assists per game and 31 made field goals per game, meaning they’ve assisted on more than 61% of their made shots so far this season. This becomes even more impressive when you remove the first game of the season, a game in which JD Notae went nuclear and many of his field goals came unassisted.
In the Hogs’ last two games, they’ve assisted 44 of their 67 made field goals, a nearly 66% assist rate! As the team gains experience playing together and the new transfers get more comfortable in the system, I only expect this number to continue rising.
It should also be noted, there is not just one outstanding playmaker driving up this total. Instead, the Hogs are achieving this feat by committee. Three different players are averaging over two assists per game, and three more are averaging at least 1.3 APG. Jaylin Williams leads all players with an impressive 5.7 APG primarily from the center position. His improved all-around game will be a major factor in the Hogs’ success this season.
Rebounding by Committee
Musselman’s Hogs have been known to make rebounding a priority in practice and in games, and this year’s team seems to be no different. They’re averaging winning the rebound battle by roughly six rebounds per game, including outrebounding their first two opponents by 11 and 8 rebounds respectively. In what turned into a very close game, the Hogs lost the rebound battle to Northern Iowa by two rebounds, perhaps a telling factor as to why the game was so close in the first place.
Jaylin Williams and Au’Diese Toney are tied for most rebounds per game at 7.3 RPG each, followed closely by Stanley Umude (5.3), Connor Vanover (4.0), JD Notae (3.7), and Devo Davis (3.7). This indicates that the Hogs are rebounding by committee this season. Every player averaging greater than 12 minutes per game is averaging at least 3.7 RPG aside from 5-7 Chris Lykes who’s still contributing one board per contest.
It should also be noted that four different Razorbacks are averaging at least one offensive rebound per game, led by 2.3 ORPG from Au’Diese Toney. He has seven total offensive rebounds this season through three games played, a theme likely to continue for much of the season.
Taking care of the basketball is one of the most underrated but vitally important parts of any team’s success – it’s not generally thought about until it becomes a problem. Thankfully for the Hogs, it doesn’t seem to be an issue so far this season. They started the season with a less-than-desired 15 turnovers but scaled back their mistakes back to only nine turnovers against Gardner-Webb and five turnovers against Northern Iowa, both acceptable numbers for a team learning to play together early in the season.
Every single player on the team has either a positive assist to turnover ratio (A/TO) or hasn’t yet committed a turnover this season. This metric basically measures how many assists a player averages between turnovers. Kamani Johnson, a 6-9 rebound-oriented big man, is the only player to have an A/TO of less than 1.0, mainly due to the fact that he’s rarely asked to distribute the ball.
Four players have an A/TO of 3.0 or better: KK Robinson (3.0), Jaylin Williams (3.4), JD Notae (3.67), and Trey Wade (4.0). In other words, JD Notae for example is averaging roughly 3.67 assists between each turnover. Considering he’s the Razorbacks’ primary scorer and has only turned the ball over three times through three games, this is a fantastic ratio for the 6-1 guard.
In addition to taking care of the ball, the Hogs have done a decent job of forcing their opponents into turnovers as well. They’ve forced 45 turnovers through three games while only committing 29 turnovers themselves. As their own turnovers continue to decline, it’s important to pay attention to the Hogs’ continued success in forcing turnovers on the other side of the ball. Already, the Razorbacks’ opponent’s turnovers have steadily decreased in each game – 18 from Mercer, 15 from G-W, and 12 from UNI – but all of these are still solid turnover numbers for the Hogs’ defense.
Six Razorbacks are currently shooting over 35% from 3-point range this season. Five of those six are shooting 50% or better. Trey Wade and Au’Diese Toney, neither known as pure shooters, have only attempted two 3-pointers each, both going 1-2 on the season. Even ignoring these two low-volume shooters, we’re left with four players hitting at an absurdly high success rate from long range.
Chris Lykes leads all Hogs with 6-10 (60%) made triples on the season, followed closely by Devo Davis’s 4-7 (57%) 3-point shooting. Umude, a former 20+ PPG scorer at South Dakota, has made two of his four attempts thus far, setting the foundation for what could turn into a higher volume of shots down the road.
JD Notae has been by far the team’s go-to scorer. He’s attempted 53 shots through three games this season, 28 of which were 3-pointers. That’s roughly 53% of his shot attempts coming from behind the arc. Thankfully, he’s hitting them at a high clip of 35.7% on the season.
As a team, the Hogs are attempting roughly 35.7% of their total shots from behind the 3-point line. This isn’t a shocking number given the importance of the 3-point line at every level of basketball in the modern game, but it’s an interesting tidbit to watch for if the Hogs’ shooting percentages begin to regress from an absurd 40.3% team 3-point percentage.
On the flip side of this coin, a concerning theme to open this season has been the Razorbacks 3-point defense, or rather lack thereof. Despite shooting a scorching 40.3% from distance as a team on roughly 24 attempts per game, the Hogs have been out-shot from distance handily on the young season.
They’ve allowed 99 total 3-point attempts while letting their opponents hit at a 43.4% success rate, including allowing 17 of 37 (45.9%) threes made in their last game against Northern Iowa. “Letting” might be a strong word to use in this scenario, because the Hogs seemed to pick up their defensive intensity in the game against Northern Iowa, the Panthers just couldn’t seem to miss.
UNI’s 3-point onslaught was led by 5th-year senior, Trae Berhow. The 6-5 guard hit 7-11 (63.6%) 3-point attempts to go along with his 23 points and 6 rebounds. Unfortunately for the Hogs, Berhow is no stranger to catching fire from distance. Wednesday night against the Hogs marked his 15th career game with at least four 3-pointers made. In those 15 games, Berhow averages shooting 65.2% from distance. In other words, it somehow could’ve been worse.
Regardless, Musselman and the Hogs are looking to limit 3-point attempts altogether moving forward to – hopefully – discourage shooting outbursts like this one in the future.
The Hogs have been led by JD Notae and Jaylin Williams in nearly every aspect of the game so far this season. While this is something that could easily be sustainable, the level of play we’ve seen from a different pair of Hogs is not something I expect to hold true over the course of the season.
Devo Davis, an all-time fan favorite, is averaging only 6.7 PPG so far this season to go along with 3.7 RPG, 2.7 APG, and 2.0 SPG. These numbers aren’t far off from what we saw from Davis during the regular season last year when he averaged 7.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.0 APG, and 1.1 SPG. However, most fans expected a bit more of a jump from the second-year guard. A jump that we could still see come to fruition very soon.
During the NCAAT last season, Davis averaged 14.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, and 0.8 SPG. While these numbers may not be sustainable over the course of the season for Devo, they do show that he’s capable of producing much more than he has so far this season.
It’s also important to note that Davis’s 3-point shooting seems to have taken the leap fans hoped it might. He’s hit four of his seven attempts this season, good for 57% after shooting an abysmal 15.4% all of last year. Again, this type of leap over one summer may not be sustainable, but the improvement is evident even if the percentage regresses.
Umude was a 21+ PPG scorer during his last season at South Dakota, and averaged 16.7 PPG and 14.4 PPG during his third and fourth seasons with the team respectively, all while shooting nearly 35% from distance.
The man can flat-out score the ball.
In fact, he was thought to be a leading candidate to lead the team in scoring. However, that hasn’t been the case yet this season. His shooting percentages are fine – good even – but the volume of shots he’s accustomed to having have greatly decreased. After averaging 13 shot attempts per game over his last three seasons in SD (16.4 in his senior season), Umude is down to only eight attempts per game so far with the Hogs.
This isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing seeing as he’s making the most of the opportunities. The point of mentioning this is simply to bring to light that, given the opportunity, the Razorbacks have another offensive weapon that has yet to be fully unleashed in his new environment. As he grows comfortable with the offense and other players hit unavoidable scoring slumps, Umude’s offensive prowess could prove to be a secret weapon of sorts for the Hogs later in the season.
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