New Head Coach Eric Musselman far exceeded expectations in his first year as Head Hog. He led the Razorbacks to what would likely have been an NIT appearance, maybe even an NCAA tourney bid barring an injury to key sharpshooter Isaiah Joe. The Hogs still managed to win 19 regular season games and their first SEC tournament game, pushing their total wins to 20. A 20 win season and likely NIT bid is nothing to be ashamed of for a first year SEC coach. Not to mention Musselman only had eight players that played more than 20 games, not including sophomore forward Ethan Henderson who started to show signs of growth late in the season.
Razorbacks Road Ahead
After the season was cut short and Mason Jones officially signed an agent in pursuit of his NBA dream, Musselman and company went right to work in preparation for next year. An unofficial tally reported more than 60 players contacted by the Head Hog after entering the transfer portal. While they missed out on a couple big names towards the top of the list, the Razorbacks were able to snag three incredibly versatile and useful graduate transfers, along with four of the highest rated recruits in Razorbacks history, all in one off season. In addition, the Hogs will get three transfers with multiple years of eligibility added to the available roster who all sat out due to transfer rules last season.
All of these new faces are subject to a slight change. The Razorbacks are currently sitting at 14 scholarship players despite only being allowed 13. Expect at least one more change before the season starts. Until then, let’s get into it.
Vance Jackson – 6’9 forward out of New Mexico. 2019-20 averages of 11.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 0.3 BPG.
Jalen Tate – 6’6 guard out of Northern Kentucky. 2019-20 averages of 13.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.9 SPG, and 0.5 BPG.
Justin Smith – 6’7 forward out of Indiana. 2019-20 averages of 10.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 0.3 BPG.
Sit One Transfers
J.D. Notae – 6’2 guard out of Jacksonville. 2018-19 averages of 15.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, and 0.5 BPG.
Connor Vanover – 7’3 center out of California. 2018-19 averages of 7.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.3 SPG, and 1.3 BPG.
Abayomi Iyiola – 6’9 forward out of Stetson. 2018-19 averages of 10.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, and 0.9 BPG.
Moses Moody – 6’6 guard, four stars from Little Rock, AR.
KK Robinson – 6’0 guard, four stars from Bryant, AR.
Davonte Davis – 6’4 guard, four stars from Jacksonville, AR.
Jaylin Williams – 6’9 forward, four stars from Fort Smith, AR.
Razorbacks Potential Lineups
Assuming that Isaiah Joe decides to wear Razorback Red for one more season, the Hogs have incredible potential for versatile lineups next season. The Razorbacks struggled to find depth and rebounding throughout the 2020 season. After one off-season of Musselman Magic, 10 of the 14 players expected to be on next year’s roster are 6’5 or taller. More impressively, most are capable of playing multiple positions. Size and versatility are, in my opinion, two of the most important aspects of college basketball.
All of these lineups are speculation about who I would like to see take the court together, not always what I think will happen. We are also operating under the assumption that Isaiah Joe decides to return for another season. If he doesn’t, the majority of these lineups will have to be adjusted.
Razorbacks First Game Starters
JD Notae – Isaiah Joe – Moses Moody – Justin Smith – Connor Vanover
I would guess that Musselman would play it safe in the first game of the season. This lineup consists of three transfers with experience, the lone returner from last year’s Razorbacks, and the highest rated recruit on next year’s roster.
- Size & Rebounding: The average height for this starting lineup is roughly 6’7. Rebounding is a must for this group.
- Experience: Four players in this lineup are returning and the fifth is expected to be a lottery pick in next year’s draft.
- Shooting: All players outside of Smith are noted shooters, including Vanover at 7’3.
- Continuity: Not one of these players has played in game with another player in this lineup.
- Defense: Smith is known for his defensive prowess, but he’s about the only one. Vanover’s mobility could quickly become a liability, but everyone else on the roster has the potential to be a solid team defender, given time to play together.
Projected Starters by Conference Play
JD Notae – Isaiah Joe – Moses Moody – Vance Jackson – Jaylin Williams
Vance Jackson and Justin Smith are interchangeable in this lineup depending on matchups in my eyes. However, I believe with time to play together and to form some continuity, the defensive drop off going from Smith to Jackson will be covered up by scheme and team defense. Jackson’s versatility on offense brings a new dimension to the Razorbacks’ starting five when they can hold their own defensively as a unit.
- Versatility: Williams entering the starting five for Vanover provides a notable amount of versatility on both ends of the court. His mobility combined with shooting will earn him the nod after some time to get his feet under him.
- Shooting: Subbing Williams for Vanover does not diminish much shooting, but adding Jackson over Smith is a tremendous upgrade from behind the arc.
- Offense in General: This lineup is full of deadly weapons, one through five, at all three levels.
- Defense: These players aren’t likely to rely on one-on-one defense consistently. This lineup will require team and help defense to succeed.
- Rebounding: Williams is still a true freshman banging with SEC caliber big men. Without rebounders like Smith on the court this team could see some struggles.
If this lineup were to lose Isaiah Joe to the NBA Draft, it is likely that KK Robinson or Jalen Tate would be inserted in his place. Again, Sills is a monster off the bench and would likely remain as the 6th man. Tate could see a few starts early in the season, but it is my belief that KK Robinson will quickly become one of the best playmakers on this team on both ends of the court. By conference play, I wouldn’t be surprised to see JD Notae and Vance Jackson join the freshmen trio of Robinson, Moody, and Williams in the starting lineup.
Crunch Time Small Ball Lineup (With and Without Joe) suggested by ESPiNto
With Joe: KK Robinson – JD Notae – Isaiah Joe – Moses Moody – Justin Smith
This lineup is the epitome of small ball. The average height is 6’4, but almost every player is a capable team defender and rebounder. New addition Justin Smith is expected to play a role similar to that of Adrio Bailey in the Razorbacks’ 2019-20 season, except an inch taller, slightly more athletic, and a potentially better rebounder.
- Speed: This lineup is small, quick, and exceptional offensively. They have the ability to fly around both ends of the court and create mismatches across the board.
- Shooting: Smith isn’t known for his outside shot, but he’s more than capable of knocking down shots from the center position. The other four players are expected to be well above average shooters.
- Ball Handling: Robinson, Notae, Joe, and Moody playing together will provide playmakers all over the place. This is an elite crunch time lineup.
- Size: Smith at 6’7 isn’t exactly a monster in terms of size. However, his elite athleticism makes him a great rebounder for his size. Even with that, everyone else on this lineup is 6’6 or under.
W/O Joe: KK Robinson – JD Notae – Moses Moody – Justin Smith – Vance Jackson
This lineup is virtually the same as the first, except we add Vance in place of the assumed NBA-bound Isaiah Joe. What this lineup loses in shooting and quickness it makes up for in added size and rebounding. The positives remain virtually the same minus some of the shooting ability, but the negative becomes somewhat remedied with the additional size of Jackson.
Davonte Davis – Jalen Tate – Vance Jackson – Justin Smith – Connor Vanover
This lineup is incredibly oversized, especially considering the lack of size the Hogs had on their roster last season. From a 6’4 point guard to a 7’3 center, the average height of this lineup is over 6’8. Despite the incredibly length displayed in this lineup, it would have some shortcomings if it ever did take form in a game.
- Size: This one is fairly self-explanatory. At an average of 6’8, this lineup is huge for any college standards.
- Rebounding: If nothing else, this lineup should be able to hold their own on the boards with anyone. This is truly an NBA sized lineup with a couple elite rebounders in tow.
- Defense: Tate and Smith are elite individual defenders. Adding a tall, strong point guard and two forwards over 6’9 wouldn’t do much to hurt defensively either.
- Playmaking: This lineup consists of only one true playmaker in true freshman Davonte Davis. While I’m excited to see what he can bring to the table, I’m not sure it’s smart to throw out a lineup without a legit secondary playmaker alongside a true freshman point guard.
- Mobility: While this lineup boasts incredible length, it’s only natural that this many big men on the court wouldn’t be as quick as a lineup consisting of smaller guards/wings.
KK Robinson – JD Notae – Isaiah Joe – Moses Moody – Vance Jackson
Five playmakers taking the court together is ideal for any Razorbacks’ lineup. This lineup has just that, in addition to elite shot making ability. All five players can drive to the rack, all five players can make a play for themselves or others, and all five players can knock down the three ball at a great rate.
- Shooting: The entire point of this lineup is shot making from every position to open up the court for everyone. With all five players being able to drive, kick, and shoot, this lineup could prove to be lethal.
- Versatility: The three front court players are all 6’5 and up and have tremendous combined shooting ability. They can be interchangeable in many situations.
- Spurt-ability: This is a small ball lineup capable of going on dangerous scoring runs if one or two of these shooters get hot.
- Defense: None of the top defenders on this team are included in this lineup; it is built for offensive firepower and reflects just that.
- Rebounding: Despite having Jackson at 6’9 on the court, the top few rebounders on the team would have to be on the bench in order for this lineup to unfold. A team effort would be required on both ends of the court.
KK Robinson – Desi Sills – Jalen Tate – Justin Smith – Jaylin Williams
This lineup is potent in multiple ways. Most prominent however is the defense capabilities. Tate has won multiple defensive honors in his first three collegiate seasons. Smith has been known for his athleticism and defensive abilities as well. These two anchoring a lineup consisting of length, quickness, and high IQ across the board is a deadly combo.
- Defense: As stated in the title, this lineup is designed for one purpose: to smother the opponent. An average height of nearly 6’5 combined with the ability to switch 1-5 makes this squad interesting to say the least.
- Transition: Desi Sills alone is capable of being a one man fast break. Couple this tenacious mentality with the plethora of steals and deflection this lineup is liable to create and you have yourself a true Run & Gun style offense.
- Rebounding: Despite not having anyone on the court over 6’9, this group contains a few of the teams’ best rebounders. Smith is a strong candidate to lead the team in rebounding this year alongside true freshman, Jaylin Williams, the 2nd tallest player on the roster. Not to mention the bulldog mentality that drives Sills into more than his fair share of RPG despite only standing at 6’1.
- Guard Size: This issue isn’t likely to cause a ton of problems, but it is noteworthy that both guards in this lineup stand under 6’1. The team defense as a whole should help in hiding this, but the lack of size at these positions has potential to be exploited.
- Shooting: Williams and Robinson are expected to be above average shooters in their freshman campaigns, but it’s hard to accurately predict how a true freshman will react on the court. Neither Tate nor Smith are known for their shooting ability. This lineup would rely heavily on Sills to both attack the paint and shoot well.
Offensive Versatility suggested by FQArkansas
Desi Sills – Isaiah Joe – Moses Moody – Justin Smith – Connor Vanover
This lineup is centered around creating opportunities at the offensive end of the court. Aggressive guards, shooting bigs, and athletic forwards make for incredibly versatile opportunities. This could prove to be one of the deadlier lineups for next year’s Razorbacks.
- Aggressive Mentality: Sills and Moody are capable of creating driving lanes for themselves, in turn creating openings for others.
- Shooting: Joe and Vanover are quite the duo on the perimeter when it comes to spot up shooting.
- Finishing: Sills is a mad man when he has his eyes on the rim, and now he has the most athletic forward he’s ever played with in his college career in Justin Smith to hit with lobs at the rim.
- Defense: This lineup is capable of holding their own against any SEC opponent, but the cracks are visible. Vanover’s mobility away from the rim can turn into a liability, Joe isn’t known for stellar defense despite having a knack for taking charges, and the jury is still out on just how good Moody will be on that side of the court.
- True Point Guard: Sills is a capable ball handler and shooter, but he’s far from the truest point guard on the roster. Without Notae, Robinson, or Davis on the court this team might struggle to get into an offensive set against a stellar defensive unit.
All Razorbacks Transfer Lineup
JD Notae – Jalen Tate – Justin Smith – Vance Jackson – Connor Vanover
This lineup is mostly just for fun, but it’s not unreasonable to think that this lineup might take shape at some point in the season. It’s made up of all transfers that either signed this offseason or came last summer and had to sit out a season due to transfer rules. It’s a little crazy to think that a team comprised of transfers brand new to a team could actually be this good. They fill out every position and produce a well-rounded lineup.
- Experience: None of the players in this lineup have ever played with each other, but they’ve all experienced D1 basketball in some capacity. They each bring experience and a legit skillset to the table.
- Versatility: Notae is 6’1 and shouldn’t guard a center. Vanover is 7’3 and incapable of guarding a legit point guard. However, the other three perimeter players are between 6’6-6’9 and capable of guarding 1-5 and scoring at multiple levels. That kind of switch-ability is invaluable on both ends of the court.
- Defense: Rolling with the previous point, this lineup has length and, for the most part, mobility. They’re capable of holding their own against any offense.
- Shooting: Notae looks capable of scoring at all three levels. Vanover is known for his ability to hit from deep despite his astounding height. However, Jackson has a smooth stroke but not the same numbers to back it up. The other two transfers have been statistically below average as well to say the least.
Watching Coach Musselman tinker with different lineups and combinations is perhaps one of the things I’m most excited to watch next season. The Razorbacks have 10 new-comers currently on the roster that have never taken the court in Razorback Red. This is liable to change considering they are one scholarship over the limit and still waiting in the Draft decision of Isaiah Joe. Nevertheless, this roster is basically built from scratch with a wide range of skill sets and versatility. Watching it come together one game after another under one of the most electric coaches in the game is going to be must watch TV.