Photo Credit ArkansasRazorbacks.com
Over the summer ESPN published their way-too-early college basketball top 25 rankings. Kentucky was the highest ranked SEC team in this preseason poll at no. 8. But, Arkansas came in closely behind at no. 13. Here’s a look at ESPN’s preseason no. 2 SEC school.
Chris Lykes (Miami)
Jackson Robinson (Texas A&M)
Au’Diese Toney (Pitt)
Stanley Umude (North Dakota)
Trey Wade (Wichita St)
G JD Notae, 6’2 Sr.
G Devo Davis, 6’4 So.
G Au’Diese Toney, 6’6 Sr.
G Stanley Umude, 6’6 Gr.
F Conor Vanover, 7’3 Jr.
G Chris Lykes, 5’7 Gr.
F Jaylin Williams, 6’10 So.
F Trey Wade, 6’6 Gr.
G Khalen Robinson, 6’0 So.
G Jaxon Robinson, 6’6 So.
G Chance Moore, 6’5 Fr.
This year’s Arkansas roster will look even more unfamiliar than usual. The Razorbacks lost seven players from last year’s team and are bringing in six to replace them.
Several losses to the NBA draft and transfer pool hurt Arkansas, but they returned enough key players to have a competitive season. JD Notae is returning for his senior campaign after averaging 12.8 PPG last year. Notae has been with the Razorbacks longer than their head coach and should be a reliable leader on and off the court. Connor Vanover is the Razorbacks’ other returning upperclassman of note. Vanover is a 7’3 stretch forward that shot 32.4 percent from 3-point range last season.
Devo Davis was Arkansas’ surprise breakout player. Through his first nine games he averaged 3.67 PPG. In his 10th game Davis scored 20 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and recorded 6 assists. He averaged just under 10 points and 4.8 rebounds for the rest of the regular season. Davis took another step up in March Madness, averaging 14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2 assists over four games. He also emerged as a promising defender, picking up hard assignments in Texas Tech’s Mac McClung and Oral Robert’s Max Abrams along with Baylor’s three-headed-monster of a backcourt (Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague and Jared Butler). Should he continue to develop, Davis has an impressive sophomore season to look forward to.
Khalen Robinson and Jaylin Williams are Arkansas’ other returning sophomores. Both were 4-star recruits last year and ranked no. 63 and 88 respectively by 247Sports. Robinson only appeared in 11 games last season due to a bone fracture in his right foot that required surgery. While Robinson didn’t play a full season, he shot 41 percent from deep while healthy and may be a valuable bench scorer this year. Williams was more of a traditional big last season. While spotty, he showed flashes of potential. Williams had double-digit rebounds 4 times last year and a season-high 4 blocks in a game against LSU.
Arkansas was able to make up six departures with big pickups from the transfer market. Musselman reportedly relies heavily on analytics to find the best available transfers and the Arkansas staff seem confident in their class. The transfer class includes Stanley Umude from South Dakota, Chris Lykes from Miami, Au’Diese Toney from Pitt, Trey Wade from Wichita St, and Jaxson Robinson from Texas A&M.
Umude, Lykes and Toney project to be high-level scorers for the Razorbacks. They averaged 21.6, 15.5 and 14.4 points respectively last season. Wade, a 6’6 forward, will likely be tasked with crashing the boards as Arkansas’ top two rebounding leaders last season are not returning. All four of these transfers are upperclassmen and should be useful locker-room presences.
Robinson, the lone underclassman of the group, is more of a project. He was a 4-star recruit last year and ranked no. 67 by 247Sports. 247Sports’ Director of Basketball Scouting, Jerry Meyer, predicted Robinson as a first-round draft pick in his evaluation.
The Razorbacks lost a handful of key pieces over the summer. Most notably, Moses Moody was selected with the no. 14 pick in the NBA draft. Moody will play for the Golden State Warriors this year, a team his Arkansas coach, Eric Musselman, coached back in 2002.
Moody was the biggest name to leave Starkville, but not the only one. Arkansas lost two big names to the transfer pool: Desi Sills and Ethan Henderson. Both are names to get familiar with as they transferred to SEC schools (Auburn and Texas A&M, respectively). The Razorbacks also lost some bench depth in Vance Jackson and Abayomi Iyiola. Jackson will be playing for East Carolina this year, his fourth team in five years of college ball. Iyiola transferred to Hofstra after only playing one-minute last season.
In addition to the NBA draft and transfer pool, Arkansas lost Jalen Tate and Justin Smith the old-fashioned way- graduation.
PROJECTION: Top 25
Ceiling: Top 10
Floor: Just outside Top 25