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August 15, 2008

Roundtable: Can Arkansas bounce back?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a current topic in the sport.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: With the suspension of Patrick Beverley for the upcoming season, what kind of shape is the Arkansas program in under second-year coach John Pelphrey?
Losing Beverly doesn't hurt as much as you might think, especially for the short term. The Hogs, who already were losing four of their other top five scorers, weren't going to the NCAA Tournament with the speedy guard.

The future of the program is just fine, thanks to the recruiting job Pelphrey and his staff are doing. They signed a six-man recruiting class that features four prospects ranked among the top 150 and one of the nation's top 20 junior college transfers (Montrell McDonald). The group is ranked No. 16 nationally. The Razorbacks also have commitment from a four-star power forward (Marshawn Powell) out of the 2009 class.

Add Beverley to that mix, and in 2009-10 the Hogs certainly would have been better. But by then, they'll have enough talent to contend in the SEC and get back to the NCAA Tournament without him.

Andrew Skwara, Staff writer, college basketball
Anyone in Fayetteville who isn't bracing for a rough season hasn't been paying attention. The graduation losses were heavy to begin with, and the departure of Beverley is a knockout blow. He was poised for a monster season in my opinion. He had performed well at the LeBron James summer camp, and I believe he would have played this season with a chip on his shoulder after not quite meeting expectations last season.

Plus, it was going to be Beverley's show. He was the guy who had to pick up all of that slack left by Sonny Weems and Co. Without Beverley, the leading returning scorer is Stefan Welsh (5.3 ppg), and his 36.3 percent shooting doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of the rest of the SEC.

Pelphrey will be forced to turn to his recruiting class. It's a good one for sure (ranked 16th nationally), but not one that puts the Hogs in the NCAA Tournament this season.

I like Pelphrey and I believe he gets it done long term at Arkansas. The West isn't especially strong this season, so the young guys will get battle tested and still experience enough W's to build their confidence. But anyone thinking Sweet 16s or beyond should be looking at least three years down the road.

Bob McClellan, Editor, college basketball
The program is in fine shape.

Beverley's departure means the Hogs are without their top five scorers from a team that went to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That's not good, obviously. But there's a top-20 recruiting class coming in, and given what should be a wide-open race in the SEC West, the Hogs actually could be in the hunt. While I don't think this is an NCAA tourney team, the NIT is a possibility.

The one question about Pelphrey is his X's and O's ability, and he'll get a chance to show that off this season. Five members of his six-man class are high school prospects, so making sure they're in the right place at the right time on both ends of the floor is going to take some coaching this season. Plus, this season will be a chance for Pelphrey to set a tone with all the newcomers. He took over a veteran-laden team before last season, and those aren't always easy to coach for a new guy.

Long-term, there's no reason Arkansas can't annually be one of the best teams in the SEC West and the league as a whole. The Hogs already have a commitment for the 2009 class from four-star forward Marshawn Powell. If there's one thing Pelphrey has shown he can do whether as an assistant at Marshall and Florida and coach at South Alabama and Arkansas it's identify talent.

Mike Huguenin, Editor, College sports



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