*State began the week ranked 11th by Associated Press, and 15th in the ESPN/Coaches poll, both ratings coming out before Wednesday's defeat. The AP ranking is the highest so far this season, after MSU was rated 12th in both the preseason and opening-week polls. At that time the Dogs were ranked 14th in the coaches list. Arkansas is unranked but received 19 voting-points in the most recent poll which would make them 33rd in an extended poll.
About the Razorbacks
Maybe it's still a bit early to proclaim that Arkansas is all the way ‘back'…but most indicators are certainly pointing the right directions. Now in his third season in Fayetteville, Stan Heath has rebuilt a program that unexpectedly crumbled in the chaotic final year of Nolan Richardson's regime. His first two teams took their lumps at 9-19 and 12-16, and now that growing pains are out of the way the Razorbacks will soon lock up a winning season. True, the pre-SEC schedule was nothing to shout about—other than a loss to #1 Illinois--and might eventually bite the ‘Backs come selection time. But wins are wins and this team has gained valuable confidence along the way. It's a maturing squad, with once-young hotshots like Ronnie Brewer, Eric Ferguson, and Jonathan Modica now reaching their collegiate primes just as SEC rivals have feared. But Heath didn't stop with two good recruiting classes of backcourt and wing standouts; he's filled in the gaps on the front line with size. 7-0 Steven Hill and 6-10 Darian Townes have put muscle in the lineup, and added a defensive dimension previously lacking: they have blocked 77 shots between them already, and the collective club has 109 swats in 16 games. Don't be mislead by the modest rebounding numbers, as every Hog can get to the backboard. Still, scoring is the calling-card for Arkansas. Five ‘Backs have ten or more treys on team 42% accuracy at the arc, and the team makes just under half of all shots attempted. Brewer and Ferguson both distribute the ball effectively and despite a typical end-to-end style of play the bench is deep enough that Arkansas seldom has to slow the pace. If there are any lingering questions it is how well the team defends in halfcourt play over the haul of a SEC schedule; and if the rebounding hurts them in crucial games. But with a team featuring only one senior, a reserve, there is no question—barring early departures, of course--about which direction the program is headed back in, and who looks to be the early SEC West pick for 2006.
Probable Starting Lineups
Arkansas: F Charles Thomas, 6-7 FR, 8.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg; F Olu Famutimi, 6-5 SO, 10.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 26 3ptrs; C Steven Hill, 7-0 FR, 3.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 47 blks; G Ronnie Brewer, 6-7 SO, 15.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg; G Eric Ferguson, 11.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 28 3ptrs.
Razorback Alternates: G/F Jonathan Modica, 6-4 JR, 9.5 ppg, 13 3ptrs; C Darian Townes, 6-10 FR, 8.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 30 blks; F Rashad Sullivan, 6-8 JR, 2.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg.
Mississippi State: G Gary Ervin, 5-11 SO, 8.3 ppg, 6.1 apg; G Jamaal Edmondson, 5-9 JR, 4.3 ppg, 18 3ptrs; C Marcus Campbell, 7-0 SR, 6.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg; F Lawrence Roberts, 6-9 SR, 19.0 ppg, 11.5 rpg; F Shane Power, 6-5 SR, 10.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 28 3pts.
Scoring: MSU 75.9ppg, ARK 78.7ppg
Scoring Defense: MSU 61.9ppg, ARK 59.8ppg
Rebounding: MSU 43.5rpg, ARK 35.7rpg
Rebounding Margin: MSU +11.1, ARK +3.1
Shooting: MSU 45.8%, ARK 49.5%
Shooting Defense: MSU 38.0%, ARK 38.4%
Three-Point Shooting: MSU 34.5% (109/315), ARK 42.2% (103/244)
Three-Point Defense: MSU 28.1%, ARK 29.0%
Arkansas has a 22-14 lead in a series that began in 1952 but only became annual in 1992 after a 14-year void. Since this became a SEC series the Razorbacks have won 17 of 27 games, including a seven-game streak from 1998-2000. But things have balanced out in the last three seasons with State winning five of eight meetings, including the first Bulldog victory in Fayetteville (77-70 last February) since 1971. State holds a 11-5 lead in Starkville and has won the last four games played in The Hump. Rick Stansbury is 5-8 against UA.
Did You Know?
*These teams have played two common opponents so far. The Bulldogs beat Jacksonville State 95-53 in Jackson, while Arkansas took a 73-67 win in Fayetteville. In SEC play the Razorbacks beat Mississippi 69-46 at home, while State beat the Rebels 87-76 in Oxford.
*Mississippian Charles Thomas of Jackson, a true freshman, starts at forward for Arkansas. UA did sign another state star last winter but center Al Jefferson turned professional. There are no Arkansans on the Bulldog roster.
*Arkansas opened the season by winning the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, beating Winthrop, Troy, and Eastern Michigan.
Bulldog Game Notes
*Since being allowed to play without a protective mask, senior forward Lawrence Roberts has averaged 21.9 points and 12.4 rebounds in nine games. In his first three SEC games Roberts notched 64 points and 35 boards. He is racing Auburn's Douglas Toney for the league scoring lead.
*What is not as noticed about Roberts' game is that the frontcourt star is a playmaker for teammates. Roberts has handed out 33 assists this season, including three at Tennessee and two at Mississippi.
*Roberts leads active NCAA players in career double-doubles with 46, 24 of them at State. Counting his two seasons at Baylor, Roberts now has 1,685 points and is the NCAA's active rebounding leader.
*Before he was injured, senior Winsome Frazier had climbed to eighth on the MSU career steals list with 135. He also ranked sixth in career three-point goals at 137.
Arkansas stays on the West Division road with a Wednesday game at LSU, while as noted the Bulldogs visit Alabama for a Tuesday night TV game.