There’s a lot to unfold at the start of any new college hoops season, but rare is the occasion that a team returns less than 15% of their scoring from a year ago and only two scholarship players. Believe it or not, that’s exactly the situation Razorback head coach Eric Musselman finds himself in now. He’s turned over the roster, welcoming 10 new faces comprised of sit-one transfers, graduate transfers, and a highly touted freshman class. Welcome to a new era of Razorback basketball.
With so many new players available, it only makes sense that we start from the ground floor with these predictions, right? First of all, who’s even going to play? Most teams yield some level of uncertainty with this question, but none more so than Razorback basketball in 2020.
Musselman is the type of coach that likes to adapt to his players strengths and adjust on the fly, leading us to believe that no starting lineup will be safe for the entire duration of the season. Instead, we broke it down based on a few key starting lineups we expect to see at some point before March.
Day One Starters
Jalen Tate – JD Notae – Moses Moody – Vance Jackson – Justin Smith
A roster overhaul of epic proportions provides an unavoidable question: what level of chemistry and experience will this Razorback team play with? This day-one lineup is the best option to nullify any questions about lack of experience. It includes all three grad-transfers, a sit-one transfer with two years of experience under his belt, and perhaps the most NBA ready player on the roster despite being only a freshman.
Tate is a tall guard that provides a stable force offensively and a go-to defender on the other side of the ball. He’s a great plug-and-play option for any lineup with some level uncertainty. Notae and Moody are two of the top candidates to lead the team in scoring this year, giving this lineup an instant scoring punch.
Jackson does nothing but amplify the offensive versatility. At 6’9 he is one of the best three-point shooters on the team and has ball handling and passing ability, the perfect versatile combination for a collegiate forward. Smith, the Indiana grad-transfer, has the potential to be one of the best athletes in Razorback basketball history. His athleticism is awe-inspiring, and it allows him to sore for rebounds, put backs, and momentum-swinging slams. This is the “safe bet” for Musselman’s first game of year two.
KK Robinson – JD Notae – Moses Moody – Justin Smith/Vance Jackson – Jaylin Williams
This lineup is very similar to the opening night starters, except for a few key positions. Instead of the long, versatile, and experienced Tate, the Hogs insert KK Robinson into the starting five to get more of a true point guard on the court. On the other end of the lineup, Musselman can choose between Smith or Jackson at the four depending on who has the hotter hand, and then slide true freshman Jaylin Williams into the starting center role.
Robinson is the truest point guard on the roster and showed flashes of untapped potential during the Razorback red/white game. He has great ball handling, scoring, and passing ability. Robinson’s vision and IQ are through the roof. His ability to facilitate is unmatched on this team, and his defense is an important aspect of his game that can’t be overlooked. He’s one of the smaller guards on the roster, but his IQ carries over into all aspects of his game to combine with his quick, aggressive nature.
Williams on the other hand will prove to be a much more stabilizing factor. He didn’t show out as much as others during the red/white exhibition, but he didn’t necessarily have to. The 6’10 big man is a tenacious rebounder, an improving shooter, and most impressively a calm, cool, and collected passer. He shouldn’t be handling the ball on the perimeter, but from the low or high post, he is more than capable of finding open cutters and shooters, much like Tim Duncan used to do back in his day.
Big Situational Starters
KK Robinson – Moses Moody – Vance Jackson – Justin Smith – Connor Vanover
This lineup maintains the versatility, scoring, and defense provided by the swingmen trio of Moody, Jackson, and Smith. All three can shoot from distance and bring a variety of different skills to any lineup; Moody can score from anywhere, Jackson is a 6’9 sharp shooter, and Smith projects to be a beast above the rim. KK Robinson makes another appearance in this lineup, holding true with our prediction that he will be the truest point guard on the roster.
The purpose of this Razorback situational lineup is to deal with a high scoring or oversized opponent. Though Robinson stands at only 6’0, six inches shorter than everyone else in this group, his defensive instincts keep him eligible for a defensive-minded lineup. He’s also the ideal candidate to pair with Moody when creating driving lanes and drive-and-kick opportunities for the stationary shooting big men on the court in this scenario.
The biggest change here comes from the biggest player on the court, Connor Vanover. Vanover has become an instant fan favorite, and for good reason. The 7’3 shooter is a unicorn of sorts and should prove to be an excellent addition on both sides of the ball. His shooting ability is rare for someone of his stature, and he averages upwards of one block per game over his collegiate career.
Razorback Stat Leaders
We recently posted a thread of Twitter polls on @OTHArkansas asking our followers who they thought would lead this Razorback team in six major stat categories. The results are as follows:
Now it’s time for our predictions.
Points | Moses Moody | 15.9 PPG
We’ve already called him the most NBA-ready player on this Razorback roster, and that comes in large part thanks to his scoring ability. Moses Moody can catch fire from deep, shoot over defenders in the midrange, and finish over or around defenders in the paint. There is little to no weakness in Moody’s offensive arsenal, and for that reason we predict that he will lead the team in scoring at almost 16 PPG.
2019-20 season leader: Mason Jones | 22.0 PPG.
Rebounds | Justin Smith | 8.4 RPG
Simply standing at 7’3 makes Connor Vanover an automatic option in this category, but he is actually not our selection for rebound leader. Vanover is a major addition to this team, but we expect him to be used in more of an instant-offense bench role more than a true starting center. For that reason, we expect him to spend most of his time outside the paint on offense, and not enough time in the game on defense to lead the team in rebounds.
Instead, we’re choosing who we think will accumulate the lion’s share of minutes at center this season: Justin Smith. His 6’8 frame makes him only slightly taller than the Razorback’s starting center last season, Adrio Bailey, but make no mistake about Smith’s ability to sky for boards on both sides of the court. He possesses a 48” vertical jump and is soon to be in the conversation for most athletic Razorback player ever. While this automatically translates to gravity-defying dunks, we believe it will also lead to a team high in boards.
2019-20 season leader: Mason Jones | 5.5 RPG
Assists | KK Robinson | 4.9 APG
Coming in as a true freshman, KK Robinson is already the best true point guard on this roster. Jalen Tate has more size and experience, but Robinson’s IQ, fluidity, and court vision allow him to read and react to a defense like few SEC freshmen can. He’s also a gifted scorer and athlete, which will assist him in getting his teammates open as help defenders crash in on his dribble penetration. A freshman leading the team in assists is rare, but Robinson is up for the challenge.
2019-20 season leader: Mason Jones | 3.4 APG
Steals | Moses Moody | 1.8 SPG
In a defensive scheme like the one Musselman implemented last season, predicting this stat becomes tough. Tallying steals, of course, requires the right physical tools, but not as much as say, blocking shots. When inserted into an aggressive system, anyone playing with high IQ can pick off, or at least tip away, lazy passes.
Our pick possesses a great combination of the physical tools and IQ necessary to succeed in this system. Moses Moody is a 6’6 guard with an unreal 7’0 wingspan. His all-around IQ and instincts have already landed the true freshman high on many 2021 NBA Draft boards. His three-level scoring is the most impressive part of his game, but expect Moody to be a nuisance on both sides of the ball all season and average roughly 1.8 SPG.
2019-20 season leader: Mason Jones | 1.6 SPG
Blocks | Connor Vanover | 1.1 BPG
Though overall minutes per game hindered Vanover in our RPG prediction, history tells us that the seven-footer makes his paint presence felt in the time he is on the court. During his lone year at California, the lanky big man led the team with 1.3 BPG in 17.5 MPG, which is roughly the same as our projected MPG for Vanover next season with the Hogs. It has even been rumored that Musselman may tinker with zone defenses when Vanover is on the court to avoid him switching onto guards in ball-screen scenarios. This instantly increases his opportunities to send away shots at the rim.
2019-20 season leader: Adrio Bailey | 1.4 BPG
3P Made | JD Notae | 2.4 3PM/G
As was apparent during the Hogs’ red/white game, Notae has the green light from the coaching staff to let it fly from deep. The junior transfer put up 18 total three-point attempts in the exhibition and managed to knock down 50% of them, totaling 30 points on nine triples on the night! Even in a high paced, low stakes game, that’s an incredibly high shooting rate.
While we don’t expect this to be the norm for Notae throughout the season, he has more than proven he has the ability to catch fire at the flip of a switch. The only thing holding Notae back from taking a ridiculously high volume of three-pointers this year is the abundance of other scoring options on the Razorback’s roster. Notae is one of the best shooters on the team, but he is not the only guy capable of putting on a shooting clinic from deep; Moses Moody, Vance Jackson, Connor Vanover, and Desi Sills all also have the potential for the occasional big game from three-point range.
For that reason, we have Notae out-performing Mason Jones’s 2020 season in terms of average makes per game, but not quite on the level of Isaiah Joe who saw upwards of 10 attempts per game last season.
2019-20 season leader: Isaiah Joe | 3.6 3PM/G
Overall Season Predictions
These predictions are mine based off my own research. I understand some of them are bold, and most are candidates to be wrong.
- Overall record: 21 – 6
- Hogs win all non-conference games
- Moses Moody and KK Robinson both on All-SEC Freshman Teams
- Two Hogs minimum on All SEC Teams
- Hogs enter NCAA Tourney as a 7 seed or better
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