2016 NCAA tournament team previews: Little Rock Trojans
As part of its preview of the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense statistics are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All other advanced stats are also from kenpom.com (unless noted otherwise), and are through March 14.
Record: 29–4 (17–3 Sun Belt)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 108.3 (85th)/96.1 (35th)
Seed: Midwest No. 12
Impact Player: Josh Hagins, senior, guard, 12.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.7 apg
The Case For: The Trojans are the 14th most experienced squad this year, and it shows up in their résumé, having allowed the sixth fewest steals, ranking in the top 50 in turnover percentage and free throw shooting, and going undefeated at home. Guards Hagins and Marcus Johnson lead the charge with a combined 25.5 points per game. Hagins, the school's alltime leader in games played, has had an up-and-down career but has helped Little Rock to the best regular season in school history by logging career highs in scoring, field goal percentage, three point percentage, and free throw percentage. Johnson came in this year from junior college to provide top-notch range, hitting 46.1% from deep. First-year coach Chris Beard also brought in Jalen Jackson from the JUCO ranks, who provides more scoring from the wing. Theirs is a methodical offense, ranking 345th in tempo, but it fits with a defense that ranks in the top 50 overall, in the top 20 in turnover percentage, and in the top 10 against the three. This team has not lost one game in a single month all year.
The Case Against: UALR is 29–4 in part because of their soft schedule—their biggest game this season came against Texas Tech. That game also represents their worst result of the year, a 12-point loss. They did net wins over solid San Diego State and Tulsa teams in nonconference play, but they have not played a team inside the top 100 in RPI since that loss to the Red Raiders in December. And though they have posted good defensive numbers, they can be outmanned on the glass at times, ranking 265th in offensive rebounding and 195th on the other end. They were outrebounded by Texas Tech, 39–23, for instance, and gave the Red Raiders 12 offensive rebounds. Applachian State (8–22 on the year) pulled down 13 offensive boards in a major upset on March 3. As a team, the Trojans rank 263rd in height.
SI Prediction: Lose to Purdue in the first round.