With the Arkansas Razorbacks regular season in the books, it’s safe to say it went a lot better than expected. Nobody predicted Hogs would go 13-5 and finish 3rd in SEC play, and SEC basketball is good this season. In fact, it’s very good. A few things developed within this Razorback team that contributed to an outstanding regular season.
After a slow start in SEC play (0-3) the Razorbacks got back on the right track with solid team defense and rebounding. From the middle of January til now, the Hogs have been playing very well. Only losing 4 games in January, February, and March by a combined total of 11 points: vs Vandy 75-74, @ Texas A&M 86-81, @ Alabama 68-67, and @ Tennessee 78-74.
Jaylin Williams had a record-breaking season rebounding. He broke two Arkansas rebounding records this season: total rebounds in SEC games at 183 and rebounds per game against SEC teams with 10.2 rebounds per game in SEC play. Williams also took 48 charges this year, an incredible stat. This clearly demonstrates how much of a team player Williams is.
JD Notae was stellar on defense this season as well. The AP All-American averaged 2.2 steals per game, tied for 1st in the SEC with Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler. Notae has blocked 20 shots as well from the point guard position. He is a very sneaky defender, allowing him to pick the pockets of unsuspecting ball-handlers.
Au’Diese Toney is also a high-level defender for Arkansas. Toney is a ball-stopper. He’s usually guarding the other team’s best player, just like Razorback assistant coach Ronnie Brewer Jr. used to do. Coach Brewer was a defensive-stopper for both the Hogs and a few NBA teams including the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz against players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Toney was also 2nd on the team in rebounding. The Hogs have hung their hat on playing grueling man-to-man defense in their last 16 games.
Notae & Williams: One-Two Punch
JD Notae was named first-team All-SEC, third-team AP All-American, and was a serious contender for SEC Player of the Year. Jaylin Williams was also named first-team All-SEC as well as making the All-SEC Defensive Team. The last time Arkansas had two players on the All-SEC First-Team in the same season was 1995 when Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman both earned the award.
Williams also became the third Razorback to ever be named to the All-SEC First-Team and All-SEC Defensive Team in the same season, joining Daniel Gafford (2019) and Lee Mayberry (1992).
A ton of credit should be awarded to Razorback head coach Eric Musselman for going all-in with JD Notae this season. Coach Musselman moved Notae to the starting point guard role after he won a National 6th Man of the Year award last season. The Razorback offense flowed through Notae all season. During the regular season, Notae netted 18.9 points a game (2nd in SEC) and got 2.2 steals a game (tied for 1st in SEC).
It can’t be overstated how important JD Notae and Jaylin Williams both are to this team. Notae fills up the stat sheet, but Williams’ impact is often felt in tangible and intangible ways, such as taking charges in key moments. This isn’t a skill the 6-10 big man recently picked up, either. In fact, when Williams played in the state championship game as a senior for Fort Smith Northside against North Little Rock, he took a charge in the lane at the end of the game that essentially sealed the win for Northside.
As impressive as this season has been for the Hogs, they’re not done yet. They are set to face Vermont in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, March 17th at 8:20 PM CT on TNT where they’ll have an opportunity for more defense, more rebounding, and more charges to take.
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