The preseason polls have been released for the 2014/15 college basketball season and the Arkansas Razorbacks are nowhere close to the top 25 again. The USA Today Coaches Poll looks to have Arkansas placed around 38th if you look at the votes outside the top 25. Then, the KenPom ratings have placed us at 44th after ending last season at 52nd.
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With the Razorbacks finishing 22-12 last season, returning four starters and six of their top seven scorers, it’s a bit surprising to see the Hogs this far outside looking in. Are the Razorbacks the most underrated team in the nation heading into the season?
One blogger and analyst seems to think so. ESPN Insider Jeff Goodman has the Arkansas Razorbacks listed No. 1 in his “Nation’s 10 Most Underrated Teams” article. Goodman states, “The Hogs didn’t lose much from a team that nearly made the NCAA tournament a season ago. They return one of the best big men in the country in sophomore Bobby Portis, as well as leading scorer Rashad Madden and key contributor Michael Qualls.”
All three players averaged double figures last season and only look to be getting better. The Hogs also welcome transfers Jabril Durham and Keaton Miles. Both players have shown incredible athleticism in practice and could contribute immediately.
What keeps this team so far back in the polls? My guess is Coach Anderson’s inability to reach the NCAA Tournament in his first three years has doubted many pollsters.
I can only see one reason this team doesn’t make a top 25 appearance and eventually a spot in this year’s Big Dance, and that rides on defensive rebounding. The Hogs finished 7th in the SEC in rebounding last year and have to improve. The Hogs play tough, ferocious defense, but it only goes so far when you can’t rebound the ball after a long miss.
Feb 15, 2014; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks forward Bobby Portis (10) attempts a shot while defended by Louisiana State Tigers forward Jordan Mickey (25) at Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas defeated LSU 81-70. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Portis has set a personal goal of averaging a double-double this season, but will need plenty of help from Alandise Harris and Moses Kingsley who will see significant playing time.
Coach Mike Anderson is enthused and poised to bring the Hogs back to their winning ways of the 1990’s when he was an assistant coach for the Razorbacks in four Final Four appearances. Can the ball coach make this team believe? Two weeks from now Bud Walton Arena will be rocking again and Razorback Nation will soon find out if this team is in fact, one of the most underrated in the nation.