LITTLE ROCK — Buried under a long-dead NCAA bracket, updated odds on the 16 teams still in the hunt and old news from Oaklawn Park, much-needed reference material was unearthed.
On a single page, recruiting know-it-all Dudley Dawson had provided a rundown on the athletes who are supposed to help the Arkansas basketball team in 2014-15. This might be considered a rush to look ahead, but the season that ended late Monday night in Berkeley, Calif., has been done to death — particularly the redundancy of the need for a reliable three-point shooter.
“Turn the page,” a late friend and everyday occupant of the Oaklawn pressbox used to say as soon as the order of finish rendered his wagers worthless.
As effective as the IV employed by the anesthesiologist, CNN’s unending use of a cockpit simulator caused me to miss more than half of the Arkansas-Cal game. When I woke up, the Razorbacks trailed by 21. During the next 15 minutes, the guys in gold uniforms never ventured outside the three-point arc, double-dog daring Arkansas to shoot from outside.
Arkansas attempted 24 from long range and made four. Anthlon Bell, Michael Qualls, Bobby Portis, Coty Clarke, Mardracus Wade and Fred Gulley were 1 of 16. Bell, Qualls, and Portis will be back to try again next year.
During an 8:32 span, Arkansas missed 14 consecutive shots. Meanwhile, the Bears shot 55 percent from the field, their best in more than two months.
I hung in until the end — 12:21 a.m. according to the clock on the nightstand — and appreciate that Arkansas reduced a 24-point lead to eight, but the final was a respectable 75-64 only because the Razorbacks forced 16 turnovers and committed five.
The fact that the Razorbacks took 31 more shots than the Bears and still suffered a double-digit loss underscores Arkansas’ shooting percentage. Golf buddies who rehash Saturday scores on Sunday morning get tired of hearing the senior player’s cryptic, “Shoot good, you win; shoot bad, you lose.”
There are exceptions to every rule, but extrapolating the winning team from a box score begins with shooting percentages.
The loss to Cal does not alter the fact that Arkansas made progress in Mike Anderson’s third year. The next step is to make the NCAA Tournament and that is reason enough to review Dawson’s notes on incoming recruits.
Asked if Arkansas has a point guard or 3-point shooter in the next class, Dawson cited two point guards — Anton Beard of North Little Rock and Jabril Durham of a community college in Oklahoma — plus 6-foot-5 shooting guard Nick Babb from Arlington, Texas.
Projecting how a high school senior or even a junior college player is going to perform in college is a crap shoot. Even the best of this year’s freshmen were inconsistent — Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins scored four points in the NCAA loss to Stanford and Duke’s Jabari Parker was 4-of-14 in the tournament loss to Mercer.
Encouraging are some tidbits from Dawson:
• Beard was one of only 16 high school point guards invited to the Deron Williams NBA Point Guard Skill Camp.
• Durham had offers from Oklahoma State, Marquette, Texas A&M and others. Same as in football, I am impressed when Arkansas outdoes quality opponents.
• Babb shot 43 percent from 3-point range. I have no idea if he will be able to get his shot in the SEC, but shooting percentages from long range are pure.
Dawson also mentioned 6-foot-10 Trey Thompson of Forrest City and redshirt Keaton Miles, who transferred from West Virginia.
If Thompson can contribute immediately, Portis and Moses Kingsley could be on the floor at the same time.
Not one to keep close tabs on recruiting, I had to look up Miles. Impressively, he started 30 games as a freshman for a team that made it to the NCAA Tournament. But, he had few starts as a sophomore.
All told, Arkansas should be better. If so, an NCAA bid is in sight.
Harry King is a sports columnist. His email is HLeonK42@gmail.com.