Hall of Fame Showcase: LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (0-0) vs. ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (1-0)
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Scottrade Center: St. Louis, Mo.
Commentators: Dan Schulman/Bob Knight/Holly Rowe
Favorite: Louisville by 9.5
All-Time Series: Tied at 3
Last Meeting: Arkansas won 100-83 on 12/9/97
Arkansas Last Season: 14-16 (2-14)
Arkansas Starting Five
G Rotnei Clarke (So., 6-0) (51.0 ppg)
The sophomore sharp-shooter hit an SEC-record 13 three-pointers and scored 51 points in Arkansas' 130-68 season-opening victory over Alcorn State.
Now get ready for me to blow your mind and show you why I deserve to be making six figures for doing this....Rick Pitino has to make sure his guys know where Clarke is on the floor at all times when the Razorbacks have the ball. See, that's why you come here every day. You're thinking the site's all fun and games and then I completely flip it and throw out coaching advice that would make John Wooden retire out of shame. CardChronicle.com, baby. We take it there.
Clarke is more athletic than some give him credit for but he still isn't a significant threat to score off the bounce and he struggles to create his own shot against teams with athletic guards and wings, but he is a terrific passer and will take advantage if the Cardinal defenders overextend.
G Julysses Nobles (Fr., 6-1) (8.0 ppg)
Nobles is the starter at the point in his true freshman season due to the indefinite suspension of sophomore Courtney Fortson, who led Arkansas in scoring a year ago. Despite his age and slight frame (6-1, 170 lbs.), Nobles is billed as a very confident young man who has already assumed a leadership role on the team.
He looked like a veteran in the season-opener, handing out nine assists and turning the ball over twice. Head coach John Pelphrey was extremely pleased with the way Nobles passed up his own shot in order to create better scoring opportunities for his teammates. This type of play is huge for a team that already has enormous issues from the standpoint of chemistry.
C Michael Washington (Sr., 6-9) (14.0 ppg)
With all due respect to Clarke and Jemal Farmer (who scored 28 against Alcorn State), Michael Washington is the Razorback Louisville should be most worried about. The 6-9, 239-pound behemoth led the SEC in rebounding a year ago at 9.8 rpg and finished ninth in scoring (15.5 rpg), third in field goal percentage (.551%) and eighth in blocked shots (1.3 bpg) on his way to earning a second team all-conference nod. He went through the pre-NBA Draft process before ultimately deciding to return to Faytteville for his senior season.
Washington is a legit inside-out threat who can bang inside as well as knock down the outside jumper with some consistency. He'll give Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings all they can handle on both ends of the floor.
F Jemal Farmer (Jr., 6-5) (28.0 ppg)
Farmer, a junior college transfer, is another guy who was thrust into the starting five because of the disciplinary issues surrounding his teammates.So far, so good as the junior scored 28 points, snatched 12 rebounds and dished out six assists against Alcorn State. He hit 9-of-16 shots from the floor and connected on 9-of-10 free-throws.
He's reportedly very athletic (40-inch vertical), but outside of that and his opening game stats I know very little about Farmer.
F Marshawn Powell (Fr., 6-7) (17.0 ppg)
The crown jewel of John Pelphrey's '09 recruiting class, Powell (Charlottesville, Va.) was tabbed as the 47th best player in the country by Scout.com. Like Washington, he's a big body who can dominate the glass, but he's also got good range and the ability to put the ball on the floor if need be.
He recorded a double-double in his collegiate debut, scoring 17 points and hauling in 11 rebounds. Powell could very easily become an All-SEC calibre player, but this will be the first time he's faced front line like Louisville's in his basketball career. It will be interesting to see how he reacts.
Six months ago Arkansas was billed as a team returning all five starters, poised for a significant improvement from last year's in-conference disaster. All that changed a week ago when Pelphrey suspended five players, including perhaps the team's best player, Courtney Fortson, as well as fellow starter Stefan Walsh.
The suspensions paired with an injury to starting forward Michael Sanchez leaves Arkansas with just nine players, a roster that includes Stephen Cox, a member of the golf team and Brandon Mitchell, a former football player.
Still, the Razorbacks were tremendous in their season-opener, blasting visiting Alcorn State, 130-68. While the Braves figure to be one of the worst teams in one of Division-1's worst conferences, a 62-point win is still a 62-point win.
Louisville has Arkansas outclassed at just about every position and has an enormous advantage when it comes to depth, but Clarke is one of the ten best outside shooters in the country and Washington is probably going to be selected in the first round of next year's NBA Draft. Also important to note is that these guys started last year 12-1 with victories over No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Texas. And then of course there's the issue of Louisville being 1-92 in their first game against a BCS conference opponent under Pitino.
The Cards have to get out and pressure the freshman Nobles. He's Arkansas' only reliable ball-handler and seeing as how the Razorbacks don't currently dress enough players to hold an intrasquad scrimmage, it's unlikely that he'll be able to spend too much time on the bench. I know Pitino likes to experiment during these early games, but given Arkansas' extreme lack of depth and experience I'd still expect to see the Cards press like its midseason.
I'll be a little surprised if the game's outcome isn't still in jeopardy with three minutes to play and very surprised if the evening doesn't possess at least a few anxious moments.
CC Prediction: Louisville 78, Arkansas 74