Favorite

Is Michael Qualls the answer? 

As Arkansas basketball has meandered toward irrelevancy over the years, there have two common contributing themes:

1. The Hogs have had a long-standing and pressing need for perimeter shooting, one that Rotnei Clarke was recruited specifically to resolve; and

2. The team has been, by and large, bereft of a true "floor general," who can almost by himself alter the trajectory of any given game with an emotion-swinging play.

Mike Qualls, are you that guy?

Because so far in 2013-14, a genuinely pivotal campaign for the health of the program and whatever legacy Mike Anderson may cultivate here, it seems that the sophomore from Shreveport has the "it" factor. Even mega-talents like Joe Johnson and Ronnie Brewer, Jr. weren't quite able to fit comfortably into the mold of team leader. That wasn't necessarily an indictment of how they played in their time on the Hill: both shined plenty, but there was substantial team dysfunction in the way.

Qualls happens to play on a team that, so far, seems to be a lot more enthusiastic and organized on the court. The vestiges of the John Pelphrey era are fading, and in its place, there's a team with an actual nucleus and pulse. Off to a mostly commendable 6-2 start, these Razorbacks look far more engaged, and it's largely stemming from the energy that transfer Alandise Harris has brought, and the myriad gifts that Qualls has displayed.

He's a likable character, too, anything but generic with his long wingspan, acrobatic flushes and distinctive hairstyle. When last year's team was felled by another late-season swoon, Qualls was actually in full flourish as a player, scoring when he had to but mostly giving the squad whatever boost he could on the glass (11 boards against Tennessee, for instance) and on the defensive end (three blocks in a narrow loss at LSU). The effort that he gave was enough that it forced Anderson to wrest minutes away from other, more experienced players, and it's what gave the lanky guard momentum going into a new year.

Qualls has started this season afire, and it isn't just the fact that he's hit double figures in every game, but the shocking efficiency he's shown. In an era where the average two-guard lofts too many shots to net too few points, Qualls is the antithesis. He's hoisting less than 10 attempts per game, which is a testament to a mature brand of shot selection rather than a reticence to pull the trigger. His 55 percent shooting from the field is evidence enough of the strides he's made, but when you factor in his excellent three-point stroke and free throw accuracy thus far (50 percent and 81 percent, respectively), you get a more complete picture of what may well become a complete player.

The stat line he flaunted in the weekend win over Clemson, a possible tournament-quality team, was unimpeachable: 6-7 shooting, including two successful tries from long range, and six rebounds and two assists in only 27 minutes. Being a discriminating shooter is one thing, but Qualls is also fiendishly careful with the ball for someone with such dynamic abilities, turning it over only once in that game and only 13 times all season.

So, sure, the competition thus far hasn't been daunting. But if any truism has emerged in the last few years, it's that the vault from non-conference play to SEC games isn't quite what it once was. And that's where the measure of Qualls' progress will genuinely be on display. Arkansas is more than capable of contending for conference supremacy, because this is again a bottom-heavy league that likely won't place more than four teams in the NCAA tourney field. Despite the softened quality of the league generally, Arkansas hasn't been able to secure enough road wins and has been tagged by agonizing, bad losses.

That's why this team will continue to go as Qualls goes. When he committed to play for Anderson two years ago, he was something of a mystery, a three-star guy whose YouTube clips suggested five-star skill. Now that he is performing at a level commensurate with his gifts, he may have already evolved into the best asset of the post-Richardson era, physically well-rounded but, most importantly, court-savvy beyond his experience.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of Mike Anderson, Michael Qualls

  • Hawgball prospects

    March 30, 2017
    The sting of the "Grifters in Greenville" incident having finally dissipated somewhat, I am prepared to assess Razorback basketball anew. /more/
  • Tourney time

    March 16, 2017
    Selection Sunday hasn't been a meaningful day very often in recent years for Arkansas. Over the span of a decade, the Hogs knew they were safely within the expanded 68-team field only three times. /more/
  • Hogs going dancing

    March 9, 2017
    Even in a week where a modest winning streak went by the wayside at Gainesville, Arkansas authored one more earnest surge toward an NCAA Tournament berth that not long ago seemed beyond its grasp. /more/
  • Razorbacks rolling

    March 2, 2017
    Tread cautiously, Hog fans — this kind of success as we head toward March, in two sports, feels a little ominous, doesn't it? /more/
  • Not worthy

    February 16, 2017
    There's something to be said for an Arkansas basketball team that spends two-and-a-half games looking like quitters before rising off the mat. /more/
  • Another disaster

    February 9, 2017
    I swear, y'all, I am trying like hell to come up with a new angle on this tragicomic mess called Arkansas basketball. But every week presents the same dichotomy, and the past few days just qualifies as flat-out bewildering. /more/
  • Skeptical about Anderson

    February 2, 2017
    Consider yourselves lucky, Hog fans. Most teams that manage to play about five quality minutes out of 80 in a two-game week don't end up fortunate enough to forge a split like Arkansas did in its latest two road games. /more/
  • Critical stretch

    January 19, 2017
    The minute you take a shine to an Arkansas Razorback team is almost assuredly the same minute you have your sanity tested. /more/
  • Solidly second tier

    January 12, 2017
    It only makes sense that in this numbing era of Razorback slip-and-falls, the Hogs could really put vaunted Kentucky to the test at Rupp Arena for a good 30 minutes of action ... and end up losing by 26 points. /more/
  • Belk bowling, b-ball

    December 8, 2016
    Before Pearls breaks its brief silent treatment about Razorback basketball's latest bid to shake off listless irrelevance, we'll spend a word or two on the Belk Bowl, where the football team draws a Dec. 29 matchup with Virginia Tech in Charlotte. /more/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • Five big questions for Arkansas football

    Among them: Can Austin Allen get a better handle on the job and rein in his emotions?
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • Basketball prospects

    While it is a little difficult to prognosticate on anything pertaining to college basketball anymore, short of the blue bloods getting bluer every recruiting season, what has happened to Arkansas since it finished off an accomplished 2016-17 campaign is probably as subtly bewildering as any offseason machinations you'll see.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Summer hopes

    Bret Bielema is not, regardless of your possible venom toward him or the catastrophic way the 2016 season wrapped, going anywhere.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated itsĀ 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • Five big questions for Arkansas football

    Among them: Can Austin Allen get a better handle on the job and rein in his emotions?
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • Basketball prospects

    While it is a little difficult to prognosticate on anything pertaining to college basketball anymore, short of the blue bloods getting bluer every recruiting season, what has happened to Arkansas since it finished off an accomplished 2016-17 campaign is probably as subtly bewildering as any offseason machinations you'll see.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Summer hopes

    Bret Bielema is not, regardless of your possible venom toward him or the catastrophic way the 2016 season wrapped, going anywhere.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: On "Beyond Scared Straight"

    • I need to find a scared straight program for my 14 yr old daughter here…

    • on July 20, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation