10 things to know (and a prediction) about the 2022-23 season
It’s Christmas in Arkansas!
It sure looks like it because of the most anticipated season in Razorback basketball since the 1994-95 season. Arkansas hasn’t won a national championship since the 1993-94 season, but there’s plenty of excitement to be had and it’s warranted.
Arkansas brings 3 “diaper dandies” as legendary ESPN commentator Dick Vitale puts it. Nick Smith Jr., Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh were all McDonald’s All-Americans out of high school and 5 stars, among the top 20 prospects based on the recruiting service used. After back-to-back Elite 8 runs in the NCAA Tournament, head coach Eric Musselman has shown he’s capable of leading a roster of veterans or freshmen to March Madness success.
This team, however, is different. The roster has a perfect combination of your young bucks (6 freshmen), impressive transfers (5), and returning players (2). Let’s waste no time as we break down what to look for this season.
1. Year 4 on the “Muss Bus”
What kind of music do you think Musselman, his team and his players listen to on this bus? I think it will always be something that can resonate with everyone. Something that brings the whole team together with 1 thing in mind and that’s winning it all.
Musselman’s overall record at Arkansas is 73-28 and 33-20 in the SEC. Former trainer Mike Anderson left a solid foundation for Musselman to build on and has he already exceeded jump expectations. Had it not been for COVID-19 canceling the SEC and NCAA tournaments, Arkansas would have been left with a general offer in the 1st season. Back-to-back Elite 8 appearances have put the Hogs back on the map and signal to the college basketball world that Arkansas is back under Musselman.
2. The other freshmen
Arkansas welcomes 3 other real freshmen who have been ranked in the top 100 by ESPN:
-Derrian Ford, #71
– Barry Dunning Jr., #74
— Joseph Pinion, No. 89
Dunning surprised Musselman on their trip overseas as a guy who worked with film and scouting. It’s a part of the game that the technical staff takes very seriously.
Ford comes to Arkansas as a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year on Magnolia. He’s built like a truck and could play for a few minutes this season.
Pinion is a freshman who many fans had identified as a redshirt from the moment he signed. However, he could have carved out a role as a ‘3 and D’ type player.
Where are we going to start? Who will be the most important?
The Mitchell twins were popular Maryland signers. They transferred to Rhode Island and showed they were the top 2 players on the roster. Now in Arkansas they will be looking to reach the NBA and the staff at Razorback have a proven track record of getting guys there.
Ricky Council IV was transferred from Wichita State after a strong sophomore campaign, where he averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds per game.
First-team All-Pac 12 forward Jalen Graham bolsters the frontcourt, providing a striking, bouncing presence.
Athletic may be selling him short, but Missouri transfer Trevon Brazile might be the most talented transfer Arkansas has brought. No, his stats as a Tiger won’t appear on screen to you, but he does have the option to be a star. During the overseas trip and exhibition season, Brazile was flying up and down the pitch, leading defense on offense and hurtling down lanes.
Replacing All-SEC forward Jaylin Williams isn’t impossible, but Arkansas will do it in committee.
4. Three point shot
Arkansas didn’t necessarily shoot the ball well from deep during Musselman’s tenure. A clip of 33.4% in 2019-20, 33.3% in 2020-21 then a terrible 30.9% last season.
What Arkansas teams have been doing is scoring substitutes from a 3-point field with the defense, driving to the basket and free throwing.
This season, Arkansas has 2 players who could hit him deep. These 2 are freshmen at Smith and Pinion.
5. Perfectly manicured
It’s a fun treat, okay? Rising junior Davonte “Devo” Davis was on the set of SEC Now during SEC Media Days, talking casually about his Razorbacks being voted the 2nd best team in the conference. Until something interesting came up, Davis’ manicured nails were on display.
Musselman was asked about the manicure and apparently there are 8 other Hogs with polished nails too. The chief pig was asked about his thoughts on his team’s appearance and said he didn’t really care what they wore or how they painted their nails, as long as they won .
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 19, 2022
6. City Lob
Throughout the offseason, Razorback’s social media team would randomly post alley-oop dunks, showing just how athletic this new roster can be this season. There were also some highlights in Arkansas’ exhibition game against Rogers State.
Yeah, this 1 will rock the Bud Walton Arena…
— Eric Musselman (@EricPMusselman) October 25, 2022
7. Waist at all positions
It’s been a very long time since Arkansas had this much height at every position. There are combinations where your shortest player on the court is your leader – Black, at 6-9.
8. Turkey Road Trip — Destination: Maui, Hawaii
The questions that need to be answered will likely come to us right away with the Maui Invitational. The Razorbacks have 3 preseason games to start the season, all at home against North Dakota State, Fordham and South Dakota State.
Arkansas will meet Louisville in the first round of the Maui tournament and see quality foe Creighton or former Southwestern Conference rival Texas Tech, depending on a win or loss.
It’s a busy slice in Maui this season with Ohio State, San Diego State, Cincinnati and Arizona as well.
9. Kentucky Double Dip
It hasn’t happened very often, but Arkansas and Kentucky are meeting for a home-and-away series in the SEC for the first time since 2014. Coincidentally, the Hogs swept the Wildcats this season behind a huge dunk winner by Michael Qualls. at the overtime horn.
10. Auburn Road Conference Game
It’s a huge revenge game for Auburn after falling to the Hogs as the No. 1 team in the nation last season.
The Tigers have built quite a basketball program on The Plains behind Bruce Pearl and don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. It’s sure to be a packed house and primetime game with plenty of eyes on their TVs across the country. This one is definitely going to be an instant classic.
Arkansas leads the all-time series, 37-20. However, Auburn was pretty dangerous at home, going 13-14 against the Hogs.
Prediction: 34-5 overall, 14-4 SEC
Post-season prediction: A loss in the domestic title game
Why am I picking Arkansas to go so far in the tournament this season? Well, history shows Musselman exceeded expectations every season in Arkansas.
His 1st team had no players over 6-7 on the roster who were eligible to play this season. Arkansas won 20 games behind an SEC Player of the Year that no one but me saw coming. Really, check out my old tweets from 2019 and 2020.
Regardless, the 2nd season saw Arkansas hampered by building a roster around 5-star freshman Moses Moody and the 4th-ranked recruiting class. The Hogs reached the Elite 8 before facing off with eventual national champion Baylor, ultimately losing that game.
Then, with a roster not as talented as the year before, Arkansas again exceeded expectations. Defense, hoop driving and free throws were the keys to a regular season turnaround in the 2nd half. In the end, the Hogs failed in their quest for their 1st Final Four since 1995, losing to Duke in the Elite 8.
This season shows a lot of potential, and recent history tells us it could be one for the history books.