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Know the Enemy: Arkansas Razorbacks

March 16 – Groundbreaking

Arkansas coach Eric Musselman returned to college basketball in 2012-13 after spending more than a dozen years in the NBA, including two seasons as head coach of the Golden State Warriors and one with the Sacramento Kings. But it wasn’t until he was back at the helm of Nevada in the 2015-16 season that Musselman became the unofficial king of the transfer portal. His best Wolf Pack teams were built on transfers, and he brought that philosophy to Arkansas, where he meshed transfers and five-star recruits for 93 wins in four seasons to date.

players to watch

Arkansas’ top scorer isn’t one of its three five-star freshmen. That title goes to Wichita State transfer Ricky Council IV. The 6-foot-6, 205-pound guard, who was on Illinois’ radar this past offseason, averages 15.9 points and 2.3 assists. Both are career highs, and he’s averaging 3.4 rebounds per game. The Durham, NC native’s offensive efficiency mirrors that of his team as a whole. Council shoots 44.5 percent overall, but with a 51.6 percent mark on twos and a 27.2 percent result on threes.

Pro prospects

These five-star newbies — and Council — might not take long to Fayetteville, Ark. The two absolutely dead for Arkansas are freshmen guards Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black. The former missed 19 games this season with a knee injury but could still become the first collegiate player picked in the 2023 NBA draft, behind Victor Wembenyama, Scoot Henderson and Amen and Ausar Thompson. Black won’t be the second likely lottery pick for the Razorbacks for much longer. Council and third five-star Jordan Walsh are likely second-round picks.

Best win

It’s kind of a skinny booty. Outside of the Maui Invitational — victories over a busted Louisville team and San Diego State, and a loss to Creighton — softly defined Arkansas’ non-conference list. Even against the top of the SEC the success was not too great, the Razorbacks started with 3:7 against the top five teams in the league. That leaves their best win less than four months ago (the Aztecs in Hawaii) either a home win on Jan. 21 against Texas A&M or a win in Kentucky on Feb. 7. Take the latter, that was an 88-73 win with five players in double figures.

The story goes on

Worst Loss

This is easier since it’s the only Quad III loss for Arkansas this season. While the Razorbacks beat LSU by 20 points at home, a 60-57 loss in Baton Rouge, La. on December 28 was their worst offensive performance of the season. It was Arkansas’ second-lowest score in a single game, but from an efficiency standpoint, it was worse than the 56-point performance in the Feb. 15 away loss at Texas A&M. The Razorbacks shot just 4 of 25 from three-point range in the loss to LSU and basically failed to reach the free throw line, attempting 10 and making only five.

Important stats to know

There aren’t many teams that have been less efficient behind the three-point line than Arkansas this season. Illinois, of course, is one of them. The Razorbacks check in at No. 288 nationally and are making 32.06 percent of their three-pointers this season. The Illini are in 324th place with 30.96 percent. The difference is in how often the teams start from across the arc. Just under 42 percent of Illinois field goal attempts are three-pointers. Arkansas’ total field goals include only 28 percent three-pointers, which ranks the Razorbacks 346th out of 363 Division I teams nationally.