Inexperience Affects Hogs, Bulldogs Different

He tried to fluster Tennessee late in Arkansas' 74-72 loss Wednesday night. He wanted to throw the Volunteers off by switching from a zone defense to man-to-man for the first time since the first half.

But with four juniors on the floor, Tennessee didn't panic after Arkansas coach John Pelphrey's strategical move.

"Experience can be a deadly weapon," Pelphrey said. "They quickly got themselves organized and got the ball where they wanted to. Those were more experienced players out. You're talking about J.P. Prince, Tyler Smith and (Wayne) Chism doing those things.

"It is an invaluable asset."

And unfortunately for Pelphrey, it's a resource Arkansas lacks more than most teams, a reality that makes the task of winning today at Mississippi State a daunting one.

In fact, according to Ken Pomeroy's, a college basketball research Web site, Arkansas has the seventh-most inexperienced squad out of 344 Division I teams. That isn't too much of a surprise considering only juniors Michael Washington and Stefan Welsh played substantial roles for the Hogs last season.

Experience, of course, doesn't guarantee success by any means, nor does inexperience guarantee failure, as Welsh noted earlier this week. Welsh said he didn't think the Razorbacks' lack of experience was a valid rationalization for their recent swoon, which includes losses in six of their last seven games.

"No one was talking about our inexperience when we were beating Oklahoma and Texas," Welsh said.

Welsh added he didn't believe freshmen such as Courtney Fortson, Rotnei Clarke and Jason Henry could truly be classified that way these days.

"They're not freshmen anymore," Welsh said. "They had a whole nonconference schedule and played against two top 10 teams. They've played at Florida. They played Tennessee here. So they're not typical freshmen anymore. We can't use that as an excuse anymore.

"We've shown what we can do."

Arkansas' opponent this afternoon serves as an example of a team that has overcome inexperience to produce more consistent results. Mississippi State brings a 5-2 league mark into the 2:05 p.m. game and possesses road victories at St. Bonaventure, Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky.

After all, experience isn't everything. Just ask the man who crafted the rankings, which are figured by using seasons of experience weighted by minutes played.

"I have done them for three seasons now, and I haven't really seen any correlation of experience to team quality," Pomeroy said.

Mississippi State's roster, which Pomeroy lists as the 320th most-experienced nationally, looks eerily similar to Arkansas'. Two juniors, shot-blocker Jarvis Varnado and Barry Stewart, provide the bulk of the Bulldogs' experience.

Stansbury also starts sophomores Phil Turner and Ravern Johnson, who were rarely relied on last season, and freshman point guard Dee Bost. The Bulldogs have overcome their lack of experience by playing to their strengths, Stansbury said.

Still, he realizes how fragile any unseasoned team can be.

"It's kind of what we are, and it has been a problem in some games," Stansbury said. "It's a fine line for us. We have a small margin for error. We've been fortunate in some ways so far. We know that light can come on and go off just as quick. So we have to take it game-to-game."

Today's Ticket

Arkansas at Mississippi State

When: 2:05 p.m. TV: KHOG (Cox channel 7, Cox HD channel 707).

Where: Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, Miss.

Records: Arkansas, 13-7, 1-6 Southeastern Conference; Mississippi State, 15-7, 502

Radio: KEZA-FM 107.9, KKEG-FM 92.1, KUOA-AM 1290, FM 105.3.

Coaches: Arkansas, John Pelphrey (36-19, 2nd season at Arkansas; 116-85 overall in 7 seasons); Mississippi State, Rick Stansbury (223-122, 11th season at Mississippi State and overall).

Series: Arkansas leads 26-20 (Mississippi State leads 15-5 in Starkville).

Last Meeting: Mississippi State beat Arkansas 70-56 on Jan. 10 in Fayetteville.

Southeastern Conference Inexperience

Ken Pomeroy's, a college basketball research Web site, lists the experience level of every Division I basketball team. By Pomeroy's standards — seasons of experience weighted by minutes played — Arkansas has the seventh-most inexperienced squad out of 344 Division I teams. Eight of the SEC's 12 teams rank in the bottom 70 of Pomeroy's experience rankings.

Team National Experience Ranking

Auburn 27

LSU 36

South Carolina 64

Alabama 131

Georgia 274

Kentucky 287

Tennessee 295

Florida 318

Mississippi State 320

Vanderbilt 337

Arkansas 338

Ole Miss 343

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