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SEC Team Previews- Arkansas Edition


Arkansas Preview


Heading into his second season in charge in Fayetteville, there is a lot of

optimism surrounding Eric Musselman’s Arkansas program. The former Nevada boss’

first season was one of streaks, with the Razorbacks winning their first eight games

before losing five SEC games in a row in February. Through these inconsistencies, the

Razorbacks still finished with a 20-12 record (7-11 SEC) last season, which would have

likely sent them to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in the last six seasons.


Who’s Back, Who’s Gone?


The Razorbacks lost their top three scorers last season in first-team All-SEC

performer G Mason Jones, G Isaiah Joe, and F Jimmy Whitt, with the first two declaring

for the NBA Draft (controversially, in Joe’s case) and the latter exhausting his NCAA

eligibility. They also lost F, Adrio Bailey and F, Jeantal Cylla to graduation, as well as F

Reggie Chaney (Houston) and G Jalen Harris (Nevada) to outgoing transfer. These

players leaving accounted for 84.7% of the scoring load and 89.1% of the rebounding

from last year’s squad, which shows how reliant they were on those players, specifically

Jones, who led the conference in scoring at 22 points per game.

As far as players returning for the Razorbacks, there is a distinct lack of

experience playing in Musselman’s system. The most experienced player left on the

roster would be G Desi Sills, who was the fourth-leading scorer last season. Outside of

Sills, there isn’t much SEC experience, although the Razorbacks had three sit-out

transfers in Bebe Iyiola (Stetson), Connor Vanover (California) and JD Notae

(Jacksonville) as well as Ethan Henderson that will factor into the rotation

conversation.


Newcomers


The story of Arkansas’ season in 2020-21 will be primarily written by their

newcomers, with three impressive grad transfers and a top-10 recruiting class making

up over half of their roster. G/F Jalen Tate (13.9 PPG at Northern Kentucky), F Justin

Smith (10.4 PPG at Indiana), and F, Vance Jackson Jr., (11.1 PPG at New Mexico)

combined to average 35.4 points per game last season, and will be expected to provide

a similar level of production as well as veteran leadership, as Arkansas doesn’t have


any other senior scholarship players on the roster. On the opposite end of the spectrum

as far as age is concerned is the top-10 recruiting class that Musselman put together,

which includes the point guard of the present/future in KK Robinson, an overall scoring

stud in hometown product Moses Moody and two other homegrown four-star players

that look to factor into the rotation in G, Davonte Davis, and F/C, Jaylin Williams. With

all of the losses that the Razorbacks suffered from last year’s squad, the trio of

experienced grad transfers and the quartet of freshmen will be relied upon to take the

Razorbacks to new heights in the SEC as they look to improve from their subpar SEC

record last season.


Projected Rotation


G: Desi Sills

G: Moses Moody

G: Jalen Tate

F: Justin Smith

F: Vance Jackson

Bench: KK Robinson

Bench: Connor Vanover

Bench: Davonte Davis

Bench: Jaylin Williams

Bench: JD Notae

Bench: Ethan Henderson

Bench: Bebe Iyiola


Arkansas has a few options as far as the starting lineup is concerned. The

starting point guard job is up for grabs between Desi Sills and KK Robinson, but

because of the collegiate experience I tend to lean more towards Sills being the day-

one starter, although Robinson certainly has the potential to take over that spot very

quickly. The forwards spots also are hotly contested, with Justin Smith and Vance

Jackson taking those spots in this projection. Connor Vanover was highly regarded

during his recruitment, and his 7-3 stature provides a matchup nightmare for teams that

Arkansas hasn’t had since Daniel Gafford left for the NBA draft, although Musselman

opted to play small last season up front, which would mean that Jackson and Smith at

6-9 and 6-7 respectively are the favorites to start at those front court positions.


Looking to the Future


Arkansas has a very balanced roster setup for the future seasons, with no class

having more than four players. They had four open scholarship spots heading into next

season, and looking at next season’s recruiting class, they already have three

commitments in four-star SG, Chance Moore, from McEachern HS in metro Atlanta,

junior college product C, Akol Mawain, who is ranked as the third-best JUCO recruit by

247 Sports and recent Arkansas-Little Rock transfer, Kamani Johnson, who is

expected to be eligible for the second semester of the 2021-22 season after earning

third-team All-Sun Belt honors last season. The Razorbacks also picked up a

commitment from 2022 four-star F, Joseph Pinion, from Morrilton, AR, marking the start

of their 2022 class, where they have five scholarships open.


Final Thoughts


After the dismissal of Mike Anderson at the end of the 2019 season, there was a

sense of a lack of direction in the Arkansas program. The next coaching hire was going

to be crucial in the direction of the Arkansas program for the next decade, and after

hiring Eric Musselman from Nevada after all of his successes in Reno, it seems like the

Razorbacks got it right to this point. As the Razorbacks move into Musselman’s second

season, they’ve pulled in a top-10 recruiting class to pair with a group of quality grad

transfers and a group of returning players that can provide depth to a roster that has

struggled for quality depth in past seasons. Look for the Razorbacks to have a much

more balanced roster heading into next season as they look to move forward without

the talismanic services of Mason Jones.


_________________________________________________________________________


Be sure to follow me on both Twitter and Instagram @andrewparrish1


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