Hogs’ box score prompts feeling of déjà vu

Photo: UA Athletics

I’m not really a statistics guy. When I grew up, the platitudes that “statistics were for losers” and “the only stat that counts is the scoreboard” were drilled into my head, and for the most part, I still believe that.

Stats are a great tool to tell a story and can’t be ignored, but they can also be skewed based on the competition, the number of games that have been played and whatnot. Some stats mean a lot to some teams and not as much to others.

For instance, time of possession doesn’t mean a lot to Oregon or Texas A&M in football, but it does mean a lot to teams like Stanford or Wisconsin, who like to play keep away. Alabama would fit in that category, too, if the Crimson Tide weren’t so dominant.

In basketball, an individual player’s scoring average can be a bit deceptive, particularly with a bad team. There are players who post what appear to be a winning scoring average, but actually compile a lot of those points when the game is already out of hand. Does it mean anything to score 30 points if your team loses by double digits?

All that being said, I do enjoying looking at basketball box scores. For about a decade, what I saw in Arkansas’ box scores were ugly to me. Poor shooting percentages, high turnovers, one or two guys dominating the scoring, the same two guys always leading in scoring, unbalanced rebounding numbers. Like I said, ugly.

Correspondingly, the play on the court wasn’t particularly pretty either.

Now, it is way early in the season, and there is no telling how bad Southern Illinois-Edwardsville actually is, but the box score from the Razorbacks’ season opener last Friday gave me déjà vu in a good way.

The box reminded me of the ones we used to see routinely from Nolan Richardson’s Razorback teams. What that tells me is that Mike Anderson’s basketball program is finally moving in the direction that both he and Hog fans want it to be.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not declaring the rebuilding process as done, but the box score looked right for Anderson’s basketball philosophy, and that’s something one couldn’t say routinely in his first two seasons.

It’s nice to see evenly distributed minutes with 10 Razorbacks playing between 10 and 25 minutes. Five Hogs scored in double digits and four others scored at least five points. The rebounding numbers were balanced with six players getting at least four rebounds. The Hogs forced 23 turnovers and had 13 for a plus 10 advantage. The Hogs shot 51.6 percent from the field and held SIU-Edwardsville to 39.1 percent. The Hogs had eight steals and eight blocked shots, which are winning totals.

The only number that didn’t really look healthy to me was 14 assists with 99 points. A strong assist total is around 20 or better, but against an inferior opponent where shots come easier 14 isn’t bad.

Now, one game in the season and against a cupcake opponent, I truly realize I may be looking at fool’s gold. If similarly balanced box scores don’t become a pattern, or if the positive numbers take a huge hit in Southeastern Conference play, this one box score will be an anomaly.

But I do believe it is a good sign that right out of the gate, this Hog basketball team came out and played in a manner Anderson wants. And, as the season progresses, I think it will be fun to see if the balance remains consistent.

It is doubtful 11 Razorbacks will be playing double digit minutes in SEC play, but Anderson would probably like nine Hogs who can contribute meaningful minutes at the pace he prefers.