Unless you’re a casual sports follower, you saw Michigan coach Juwon Howard throw a punch at Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft over the weekend. Howard, a Wolverines icon as a former member of the Fab Five, was fiery but not Ron Artest-level hothead during his playing days with Michigan nor in his 19-year NBA playing career. Emotions overcame Howard in the post-game handshake line, though, after the Badgers called a timeout in the waning minutes with the game well in-hand. Howard was ultimately suspended by the school for the remainder of the regular season.
The suspension was rightful. The conduct was embarrassing. Players can throw punches in the heat of the moment. That’s understandable. Wrong, but understandable. Howard’s actions were not in the heat of the moment. Nor were they becoming of a mature grown man whose job it is to be an example for his players.
What’s this have to do with Arkansas? A bit.
See, a certain divide exists among some in the Arkansas basketball fan base when it comes to embarrassing acts. For the record, this writer thinks the subject at hand is not only perfectly acceptable, but to be encouraged. The particular tactic in question was brought into social media’s collective consciousness Saturday after the Hogs’ win over Tennessee that saw some members of the Razorback student body flip the bird to some Vols personnel after the game.
Polarizing Tactic Among Razorback Basketball Fans
But that isn’t the tactic that has drawn conversation. It was a harbinger for Arkansas basketball fans’ – well, Arkansas students’ – approach to rattling a particular player on the opposition. If you’ve seen a game at Bud Walton Arena this year, or perhaps even on TV, the sound is audible: whenever a certain pre-designated player from the opponent touches the ball, boos rain down from student section. Some of the “old-timers” – (I don’t necessarily mean age, but more those prone to classic [read: outdated] values of sportsmanship) haven’t taken kindly to it.
It’s an odd stance in the grand scheme of things. Booing has been an act of displeasure for about 200 years. The word isn’t a curse or swear. It isn’t a damnation or degradation. It’s a tactic to express resentment. Now, aiming it toward children is probably not ideal. But we shouldn’t pretend college basketball players are children. Or even boys. They’re grown man, some of whom are quite literally paid to play. Booing doesn’t mean you hate the player. And in the context of Arkansas basketball, its purpose is simple: distract the player enough to throw him off his game.
Most of the time it works. On average, the player chosen as the target of disdain has scored an average of 7.7 points per game at Bud Walton Arena compared to his 9.8 points per game for the season. He has shot 36% from the floor at BWA compared to his 42% from the floor for the season. He shoots 60% in front of Arkansas’ crowd versus 78% usually. He commits more turnovers and fouls than his standard, too.
Take Arkansas’ win over Tennessee as a great example. Santiago Vescovi, the Vols’ best player, was the team’s leading scorer entering the game. He’s almost certain to be an All-SEC selection at year’s end and had entered Fayetteville averaging 13.5 points per game while shooting 42% from the floor. Against the Hogs, though, he had seven points and shot 15%. Vescovi committed four fouls and had three turnovers, twice his season average.
Was he hurt? No. Well, his pride maybe, given the tweet his fan page sent before the game. Was he annoyed? Absolutely. And that annoyance helped Arkansas win a close game and cement itself, albeit unofficially, as part of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. In fact, each of the last four players chosen as the target have scored fewer points and shot worse percentages than their season averages:
As to who is being selected, that information comes from the Twitter account @BooThisGuyatBud. We reached out to the account for an interview, but did not receive a reply before publishing deadline. It has almost 3,900 followers and follows just seven accounts and didn’t begin until November of last year.
Potential Impact for Arkansas vs Kentucky
Its impact, however, has been legitimately measurable. Coincidental, perhaps, but in a league like the SEC, where there is not a ton of separation between the best four teams, any little bit of potential extra help is a boon.
As for Saturday’s stripe-out Arkansas vs Kentucky game in Fayetteville, no subject has been selected yet. But keep an eye on who it is and how he plays. Arkansas’ chances at a win may very well be helped by it.
The 15 Targeted Arkansas Basketball Opponents So Far
|Jalen Demari Johnson||Sr||G|
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