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SEC Basketball Previews: Arkansas Razorbacks

SEC Basketball Previews: Arkansas Razorbacks

Arkansas put together a solid season last year but might’ve been coming up just short of the tournament. Either way, Eric Musselman has almost an entirely new team to work with and mix around to try and make an NCAA bid this year.

2019 Record: 20-12 (7-11), 10th in SEC

Key Returners: (G) Desi Sills

Key Additions: (G) Moses Moody (No.45 prospect), (G) KK Robinson (No.62 prospect), (C) Jaylin Williams (No.81 prospect), (G) Davonte Davis (No.113 prospect), (F) Justin Smith (Indiana transfer), (G) Jalen Tate (N Kentucky transfer), (F) Vance Jackson (New Mexico transfer) 

Key Losses: (G) Mason Jones, (G) Isaiah Joe, (G) Jimmy Whitt Jr., (F) Adrio Bailey, (G) Jalen Harris

2019 Season

2019 started off really well for Musselman in his first year at Arkansas. His squad rolled off eight wins in a row to begin the season before an upset at Western Kentucky. They finished the non conference schedule at 12-1.

Conference play sent things reeling for the Razorbacks. An already slow 4-4 start in SEC play was made worse by an injury to star player Isaiah Joe. An 0-5 tailspin resulted in the guard’s absence. Arkansas did what they could to make a run at the tournament but finished 7-11 in conference play and were questionable for the tournament.

Joe, who was assumed to be returning for most of the offseason, declared for the draft in the middle of August. What was looking like a sure tournament team just lost it’s best player, but a multitude of transfers and the nation’s No.8 recruiting class should be able to fill the void for a strong 2020 season.

2020 Season

Projected Starting Lineup: Desi Sills (G, Jr), Moses Moody (G, Fr), Jalen Tate (G, Sr), Justin Smith (F, Sr), Vance Jackson (F, Sr)

Starters

Replacing production is going to be a project early. Arkansas lost six of it’s top seven scorers and rebounders from last year. Desi Stills is the lone starter from last year and will likely be responsible for taking over point guard duties. Stills didn’t play much at point in 2019 but handles the ball well.

Moses Moody was the crown of the 2020 class and should slide in to the starting rotation with Joe leaving for the NBA. Moody does it all; rebounding, shooting, ball handling, defense. The newcomer is 6’6″ with an enormous wingspan and provides good size and length in the backcourt.

Transfer Jalen Tate played a lot of his time at the four at Northern Kentucky. He made All-Horizon selection twice but missed a chunk of the season last year due to injury. Tate is an excellent ball handler who penetrates defenses well and will do well as small forward.

A pair of highly talented graduate transfers round off the frontcourt. Jackson has ample division one experience both at UCONN and New Mexico. He’s multifaceted for a 6’9″ forward and is a threat scoring from anywhere with the ball in his hand.

Justin Smith started all 32 games last year at Indiana. He’s less of an offensive threat than Jackson, but makes up for it as an adequate defender and board crasher. Smith won’t blow anyone away but will produce valuable minutes and provide leadership for a young team.

Reserves

A pair of stud freshman guards from the 2020 class will be great options off the bench. Robinson has been drawing a lot of eyes. The southpaw has a beautiful shot with good speed and ball control. Davis is a do it all guard with good size at 6’4″. The Arkansas native scored a triple double in seven games his senior year.

SEC Basketball Previews: Arkansas Razorbacks
JD Notae scored 20 or more points nine times with Jacksonville, including three double-doubles. (Photo courtesy of wholehogsports.com.)

JD Notae is another guard off the bench who could contribute in a big way. The former Jacksonville star led the Dolphins in scorings, rebounding, assists and steals in the 2018-2019 season. He had to sit out last season due to transfer rules which works in his favor after having a year of experience in Musselman’s system.

Jaylin Williams is the fourth of the exciting new freshman. He can provide some serious size for the Razorbacks but also presents a three-point threat. He’ll have some competition for minutes from California transfer Connor Vanover and Stetson transfer Abayomi Iyiola.

Vanover is an absolute behemoth. At 7’3″, 243lbs he will dominate the court in size but may struggle with the physicality and speed of the SEC. Iyiola had good numbers at Stetson and dominated the glass. He gave great minutes defensively as well which will be his strength on an already offensive adequate Arkansas team.

Musselman and Arkansas have definitely filled all the needs from the losses of a season ago. This is by far the deepest team he’s ever had. As a guy that liked to run with five or six players at Nevada, it might take some time to get comfortable with 10 or 11 guys capable of producing quality minutes. It’s a good problem to have as Arkansas should be in good shape for a strong season.

Prediction: 6th

 

 

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