Three teams of interest in Faulkner County, the University of Central Arkansas Bears and Sugar Bears and the Arkansas Razorbacks, exited their conference tournaments this week after their initial games.
The reasons were obvious. All had significant flaws, and the bleeding could not be stopped during the season.
They made a lot of progress in Corliss Williamson’s third season as far as cohesiveness and adapting to his system. They came close and were competitive almost every game and had some good clutch players.
However, they were too perimeter-oriented and had no big man who could produce major points and rebounds night after night. In the Southland Conference tournament loss to Sam Houston State, streak shooter Jarvis Garner was 3 of 16. You can’t survive and advance very far with a team of streak shooters.
The Bears also were notorious for slow starts — probably due to their streak-shooting nature and lack of a consistent inside presence to score money points with the shooting was off.
The UCA players also suffered from a lack of game-situation awareness of when to slow a game down, when to make sure they took quality shots. There was also a sense of court awareness and urgency on defense in key situations.
UCA Sugar Bears
They were 15-15 with one of the greatest players in University of Central Arkansas and Southland Conference history, Megan Herbert, who was amazing in her consistency, her competitiveness, her instincts and her ability to improvise.
However ... Exhibit A: Herbert, a high-scoring, high rebounding, double-double machine at post, often had to play point guard in key situations. You never want your All-American post to play point guard.
That was the major problem. This was one of the worst ballhandling teams I’ve seen in more than three decades of watching Sugar Bear basketball, rivaling those in coach Checola Seals-Horton’s last two seasons. The cupboard was bare at point guard. Herbert was a decent ballhandler. Everyone else was mediocre to poor to atrocious. And some of the players with the most problems were the most experienced.
Added to that was few players had any sense of court awareness and game management.
In their last four defeats, the Sugar Bears had 20-plus turnovers, most of which led to points by the opposition.
What’s more the UCA women had no scoring depth, which was exposed early. Three or four players in double figures was pretty much a pipe dream. They were fortunate if they got four players in the scoring column behind Herbert and Courtney Duever. Destinee Rogers and Britney Gowans were hot and cold. Behind them, there was nothing as far as a scoring threat.
They suffered the Jekyll and Hyde complex on home and away.
Away from Bud Walton Arena, the Hogs were mush. They had no cohesiveness. They played with a basketball. They did not play basketball.
There were individually good players, not a team. There had no consistent leadership — no bell cow away from Washington County. There was no consistency off the bench, a major element in coach Mike Anderson’s philosophy. That led to inconsistent shooting.
The Hogs need a steady catalyst inside. Bobby Portis, a top recruit from Little Rock Hall, has a big upside but he may not have as great effect early as fans want. He was frustrated by double teams and pushed around by smaller players from Jonesboro in the state 6A title game. That does bode for big time immediate success in the Southeastern Conference.
Bottom line: There are more questions than answers in returning players for all three teams. And many of the solutions are not on campus.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1335 or firstname.lastname@example.org)