State of the Hogs: Steamy Cancun

Arkansas won two of its first three games in Cancun and scouting still paying dividends for Heath.

You'd think that a basketball player could recognize that a hot man needed attention and what happened to the Arkansas basketball team in the first game in Cancun would not happen.

But, the difference between game one and game three, when Arkansas shut down the same player who lit them up in the first game was scouting and preparation. And, if there is one thing we should have learned by now about Stan Heath and his staff it is that they can put together a scheme to shut down the opposition's best weapon.

I've always been taught that a good basketball player should try to make the other fellow "beat you lefthanded." That's assuming most are righthanded. And, to really say it right, let's just say the focus on defense should be to make the other guy play with his off hand and not let him do what comes naturally.

I'd say the Hogs did that in their third game last night when they won by 29 points.

The Hogs went to Cancun without any knowledge of the opposition. There were no scouting reports on who they would play and really not little was known about the condition of the gymnasium or anything else on this trip.

As it turned out, the gymnasium was as much a factor in the outcome of the first game as anything else. The Hogs played on a court that was wet from humidity and there usual type of "close out" defense was not possible, so Stan Heath ultimately put the Hogs in a zone for most of the game.

The Hogs did have a scouting report on their second and third foes in this four-game swing through Cancun, and did manage to apply some decent defense and that translated to easy victories. I've been impressed with the way Heath and his staff have prepared scouting reports and implemented them. And, even without seeing these games in Cancun, that's what I believe paid the biggest dividends in games two and three.

It sounds as if Ronnie Brewer, Vincent Hunter, Chuck Tatum, Billy Pharis and Olu Famutimi are going to help this team in a solid way. Everyone predicted that Brewer and Famutimi would be impact players. But if I'm reading things right, Hunter, Tatum and Pharis have played well in Cancun, too.

That does not mean the Hogs are ready to win the SEC West, or even challenge. I'm not prepared to make my predictions on the season just yet, but I would be stunned if the Hogs did better than .500 in conference play this season. In fact, I'd be pleased if the Hogs could finish 8-8 in the SEC regular season. Of course, that could be good enough to get them in the NCAA tournament if they could somehow beat either Oklahoma State or Illinois (a sweep is a little bit farfetched right now) and do well against the rest of the nonconfernce schedule.

Nothing that's happened in Cancun should be taken as an indicator of what the Hogs can do this season. The level of competition on this trip isn't good enough to qualify any predictions.

But, this has still been good for the Hogs. It gave them a headstart on the season. It is still experience, even if it is against an unknown quantity. If anything else, it's given the freshmen along with Tatum and Pharis some time to get used to the way they will be handled by this coaching staff, and it's also helped with chemistry.

Whenever you go out of the country with a team and you are in an area where the language is different, it helps with bonding. That will be a product of this trip, a little chemistry and a little sweat -- or maybe we should say a lot of sweat based on the humidity in this unairconditioned gyms.

No matter how you look at it, this trip to Cancun has to be a good thing for the Hogs. It sure beats hanging around Fayetteville on a rainy Labor Day!

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