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Arkansas has the athletes to make the Fastest 40 Minutes work

Adding three high level JUCO players could help boost the Hogs back into the race for the SEC and into the NCAA tournament. Previewing the #3 Arkansas Razorbacks.

Arkansas Preview

#3 Arkansas Razorbacks

Last Season: 16-16 (9-9) #90 in KenPom

My Prediction: 11 - 7 (3rd in conference)

Arkansas Fight’s Prediction: 14 - 4 (2nd in conference)

The Masses Prediction: 9 - 9 (5th in conference)

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Arkansas Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

HEAD COACH: Mike Anderson | Sixth Season 102 - 64

Last season I projected a bit of a skid from Mike Anderson’s crew. The Razorbacks lost just about everyone from a very good team, they had offseason trouble which left other members of the team in limbo, and the rest of the SEC was looking to be a bit better than the season before. What Mike Anderson did was take a team led by Dusty Hannahs, Anthlon Bell and Moses Kingsley and made that team a .500 SEC team. 9-9 isn’t a scorching record, and a drop from top 30 in KenPom to 90 isn’t exactly great, but to say Anderson and his group didn’t go a good job coaching up a flawed roster wouldn’t be fair. On the flip side, the roster reaching the point of being so flawed is entirely on Anderson’s shoulders. He didn’t seem to have a backup plan for Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls leaving school early, and it left the Hogs completely exposed. The unrest of having one NCAA appearance in five years is not exactly what Arkansas and it’s fans had in mind when they brought in the former Nolan Richardson assistant. The pressure might be mounting a bit for Anderson, and perhaps just in time as he’s had several recruiting wins over the last year that could help him establish Arkansas in the second tier of SEC basketball schools.

Seat Temp: COOL

Arkansas 10 year look

When Mike Anderson arrived in Fayetteville, few predicted one NCAA appearance in the first five years. The foundation of the program wasn’t in good shape and it took him time to build it up. Then they reached the tournament with a 5 seed in 2015 and lost a lot of players that offseason which caused a setback, albeit not as large of a setback as expected. With some solid junior college players and now a few more recruiting wins it will interesting to watch the progress of the Hogs over the next few years.

WHO’S GONE?

name reason GP %min %pts %ov
Anthlon Bell Graduated 32 .703 .200 .115
Jabril Durham Graduated 32 .682 .079 .234
Jimmy Whitt Transfer 32 .421 .077 .058
Keaton Miles Graduated 32 .367 .036 .032
Willy Kouassi Graduated 31 .195 .024 .007
Lorenzo Jenkins Transfer 1 .005 .001 .001
32 .475 .420 .448

There’s been some weird turnover from the Razorbacks roster over the last few years. Players leaving via transfer is a common problem in college basketball which has hit Arkansas particularly hard the last few years. Jimmy Whitt was a prized top 60 recruit who left the program this spring despite a long relationship with Anderson and his staff going back all the way to Anderson’s time at Missouri, when Whitt was a rising star in Columbia. Lorenzo Jenkins rarely saw the floor and left for more opportunity at Colorado State. Anthlon Bell and Jabril Durham are sizeable losses for the Hogs, as both played a large role in preventing a freefall last season. Bell ranked 3rd on the team in scoring at 15.7 a game, and Durham was far and away the leader in assists with 6.4 per game. Despite starting, Keaton Miles provided very little statistical impact and ranked 9th in minutes played. Then Kouassi was a 5th year senior used to plug in minutes on a depleated roster, but was never counted on to provide an impact outside of fouls, minutes and a few rebounds.

WHO’S BACK?

name year pos GP %min %pts %ov
Moses Kingsley senior post 32 .724 .203 .105
Dusty Hannahs senior cg 32 .663 .211 .117
Anton Beard junior pg 23 .368 .064 .243
Manuale Watkins senior cf 32 .482 .065 .055
Trey Thompson sophomore post 29 .385 .036 .002
Jake Mosiman sophomore wing 1 .001 .000 .002
Dustin Thomas junior cf REDSHIRT -- Transfer Colorado
32 .524 .579 .554
NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Arkansas
Getting Kingsley touches has to be a high priority if the Hogs are looking to compete at the top of the SEC this year.
Gunnar Rathbun-USA TODAY Sports

Moses Kingsley | SENIOR | POST

The coup of the off season for Mike Anderson was when Moses Kingsley elected to return to Arkansas after testing the NBA waters. Kingsley exploded last year after two fairly mediocre seasons playing behind Bobby Portis. He nearly averaged a double-double and his offensive rating soared to 121.5. Before the season the Hogs kicked Jacorey Williams off the team which forced Kingsley to be the only real threat on the interior and he embraced the role in a big way. He’ll have an opportunity to be even more dominant this season.

Anton Beard was able to navigate his off the court troubles to be an effective player once he returned from suspension, and I’d look for Beard to take a big step forward this year with a few more weapons around him. He certainly looked out of step at first, and prior to him getting suspended I would have though Beard might have played a larger role. He didn’t, but he should this season. We’ve yet to see a real impact from Trey Thompson, and Dustin Thomas should be able to contribute after sitting out a year after transferring from Colorado.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Arkansas
If Arkansas is creating open opportunities for Dusty Hannahs, you’d have to think things are going well for them offensively.
Gunnar Rathbun-USA TODAY Sports

Dusty Hannahs | SENIOR | COMBO GUARD

Amazingly, Kinsley was only the second leading scorer last season and mostly because Dusty Hannahs went nuts. Just like we all predicted right? He shot over 43% from three-point range and nearly 46% overall. Anyone claiming they expected Dusty Hannahs to be the biggest impact transfer in the SEC last year are probably lying to you, but that’s basically who Hannahs was a year ago. He’ll have more support this season, but Hannahs was deadly a year ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if his overall numbers and production dipped because the talent around him is better, but I would expect the talent around him to create even more open opportunities for him to shoot. Which is a dangerous proposition for the rest of the SEC. I don’t remember a long range bomber like this in a Razorback uniform since the days of Alex Dillard.

WHO’S NEW?

class player ht wt rating ranking pos
Fr Brachen Hazen 6'8 190 253 CF
Fr Adrio Bailey 6'7' 215 279 CF
Fr C.J. Jones 6'5 180 350 WING
Jr Jaylen Barford 6'5 200 1 (JC) CG
Jr Daryl Macon 6'3 170 5 (JC) CG
Jr Arlando Cook 6'8 205 6 (JC) CF

A stacked class of Junior College transfers include 3 of the top 6 players in the country last year. The most impactful is probably going to be Jaylen Barford, the #1 overall ranked JUCO and a player who was pursued by a lot of High Major programs. Barford is a big combo guard who has the ability to get to the basket and earn a lot of points at the free throw line. Daryl Macon was an Arkansas pledge before heading off the JUCO and is a quick and persistent defender with a soft touch on his jump shot. Macon is a guy who has the ability to play both the point and off guard position and should find a good home in the Fastest 40 system. Arlando Cook originally committed to Nevada before changing to the Razorbacks, I always felt the Hogs would be a good fit for the slight and crafty mid-post forward who is originally from St. Louis. The lowest ranked player of the Freshmen is probably the one who has a chance to make the biggest impact. CJ Jones has the offseason hype as a guy who has impressed early in workouts and could work his way into a rotational role as a freshmen. Adrio Bailey and Brachen Hazen may have trouble finding a lot of minutes on a roster that seems more well rounded and experienced than a season ago.

DEPTH CHART

Point Guard Combo Guard Wing
Anton Beard Dusty Hannahs Jaylen Barford
Daryl Macon C.J. Jones Manuale Watkins
Combo Forward Post
Dustin Thomas Moses Kingsley
Arlando Cook Trey Thompson

Depth is the operative word here as the Hogs are deep with a pretty even swath of talent. I think you start with Barford, Hannahs and Kingsley and work your way down from there. I’ve got Dustin Thomas starting here but could see him and Arlando Cook competing and switching off starting duties. Thomas and Cook will be relied upon heaviliy to provide interior minutes. I like starting with the experience of Beard, and pairing him with Barford gives you two capable ball handlers and Hannahs on the outside. It’s easy to see why Mike Anderson likes his team.

SCHEDULE

My Projected Record: 21 - 10 | KenPom Projected Record: 20 - 11

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Media Day Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Non-Con: @ Minnesota, Houston, North Florida, UT Arlington, Texas (n), North Dakota St, @ Oklahoma St

As per usual the non-conference slate isn’t exactly murderer's row. They’ve got a road game against a rebuilding Minnesota team, a home game versus Houston, a tough neutral site game against Texas, and everyone else is a mid-major and most of them are played at Bud Walton Arena. Going 11-1 or 10-2 with this non-conference slate should be expected, and being undefeated isn’t completely out of the question. They’ll also take on Oklahoma State in the Big12/SEC Challenge towards the end of January, another very winnable game as the Cowboys will be rebuilding under new coach Brad Underwood (pictured above).

Conference: Florida (2x), Missouri (2x), LSU (2x), Texas A&M (2x), Vanderbilt (2x), @ Kentucky, @ Tennessee, @ South Carolina, @ Auburn, Georgia

When the Hogs hit league play things get a little tougher because they get Kentucky on the road, meanwhile their home and home opponents are Florida, Texas A&M, LSU, Vanderbilt and Missouri. The Gators, Aggies and Commodores should all be very tough opponents while I don’t think you know what to expect from LSU and Missouri. They also play at South Carolina and Auburn which should prove to be very tough road games. If they’re able to keep serve at home against the best teams in the conference, the Hogs should have no problem winning double-digit games in league play, steal a few on the road and 12-13 wins in the SEC isn’t out of the question. Really a 25 win season is a possibility.

OVERVIEW

When Bobby Portis and Chad Qualls declared for the NBA Draft, Rashad Madden and Alandise Harris graduated, and Jacorey Williams got kicked off the team (not to mention the suspension of Anton Beard), things looks bleak in Fayetteville. Particularly because the Hogs were riding high off their return to the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years. With a roster depleted, Mike Anderson got back to basics and ran with what he had. He shortened his usually deep bench and placed the scoring load on three players, Anthlon Bell, Dusty Hannahs and Moses Kingsley. It wasn’t enough for a return trip to the tournament, but it was enough to buoy the program as it waited for reinforcements to arrive.

Arkansas’ returning players shot chart

The reinforcements arrived in the form of three of the top five junior college players in the country in Jaylen Barford, Arlando Cook and Daryl Macon. Those three should be able to offset the loss of Bell, Jabril Durham and 4-star guard Jimmy Whitt. This roster and it’s makeup is much more of a Mike Anderson style of roster with a plethora of athletic guards, many of whom who can shoot, and some bigs who can run. If there’s a team poised for a rebound this season it has to be the Razorbacks, and I think Mike Anderson knows it. He L-O-V-E-S this team if you read between the lines of his quotes at SEC Media days. Or if you just read this quote as he says it: "We're back. Watch out for us."

If there are concerns on the roster you have to be worried about Moses Kingsley’s backup. The Hogs aren’t deep up front, even Arlando Cook is a slender framed big. As long as Kingsley is on the court they’ll be fine, but what sort of production can Anderson and company expect from Trey Thompson? Brachen Hazen and Dustin Thomas can fill in if needed but I wouldn’t count on much of a rebounding advantage if you’re playing without Kingsley and not getting the production from Thompson. They’ll have guards coming out of their ears, but will the Razorbacks be able to keep pace on the interior with the rest of the conference. They’ll expect another big season out of Hannahs, and they’ll hope the JUCO additions are enough. I think they’ll be enough, but it’s no guarantee when you’re talking about Junior College transfers.

I’ve listed Mike Anderson’s seat as cool up above, and I do feel it is, however this season has the potential to turn up the heat a bit. Anderson’s tenure hasn’t exactly gone according to plan as they’ve struggled to consistently make the field of 68. If the Hogs fall flat and run out another .500 season will the faithful start to turn on Anderson? He’s had some notable misses (particularly Malik Monk) in recruiting but Anderson was never at his best when he was going after big 5-star guys. Anderson’s best teams were always unheralded players with a relentless work ethic. We’ll soon see if this year’s version is closer to the latter. They’ve got all the makings of a team that Anderson will make a run with. They’ve got athletes at each position plus guys who can shoot, plus they’ve got an anchor in the middle who will be tough for anyone to play against. I think something like 21-10 (11-7) probably gets the Razorbacks back to the tournament, and frankly that looks about what kind of team they have.


About the preview: Each SEC site was asked to submit one representative to pick the entire league schedule game by game. Because these are game by game picks, they often tend to be a bit of a rosier picture of each teams potential. Each rep’s picks are reflected in the record prediction for the site listed at the top of the page, and within “the Masses” picks as well. Included in “the Masses” are various SEC media members who made picks at my request also.

If you’d like to submit your picks, here is the Google Form we used:


GLOSSARY

GP - Games Played

%min - percentage of total available minutes played, does not account for time missed due to injury

%pts - percentage of teams points scored

%ov - offensive team value, simple formula of (%points + %rebounds) - %turnovers/*100, similar to Offensive Rating but places more value on performance to the team