November normally marks the downhill slide for football, as teams begin to separate themselves from the pack and we see just who is the top dog in college football. But there’s also something else that happens in November… 40 MINUTES OF HELL! … Well, actually referred to as The Fastest 40 Minutes of Basketball. But still, you know what I’m talking about; Arkansas Razorback Basketball. This Thursday at Bud Walton Arena, the Razorbacks start their exhibition portion of the season with a contest against Great American Conference representative, Southwestern Oklahoma State, out of Weatherford, Oklahoma.
The Razorbacks look to continue the successful campaign from the 2014-15 season. Last year, the Razorbacks finished with a record of 27-9, 13-5 in the SEC. The Hogs lost in the SEC Championship game against Kentucky 78-63, then went into the NCAA Tournament as a 5 seed in the West and drew a tough opening round matchup against Wofford. After the 56-53 victory over Wofford, the Razorbacks’ season was finished after losing to North Carolina 87-78. Regardless of the early exit in the tournament, last year was the type of season Mike Anderson needed.
Coming into this season, the expectations were high for the Razorbacks, despite losing first round draft pick and SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis, Michael Qualls, Rashad Madden, and Alandise Harris. 3 of those 4 were our top scorers and rebounders from last year. And then, everything changed.
Those expectations for lowered dramatically after the disciplinary trouble that included standout freshman guard Anton Beard, a great 6th man in Jacorey Williams, and redshirt transfer Dustin Thomas. In an excerpt from FoxSports, “Beard was an All-SEC freshman team selection last season after starting 16 games and averaging 5.7 points and 1.5 assists per game. Williams is a three-year letterman and started seven games as a junior, averaging 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds. Thomas transferred to Arkansas in May after playing two years at Colorado.” Expectations were lowered even more after the academic situation that surrounded highly regarded recruit Ted Kapita, who is unable to join the Razorbacks for the 2015 season. That’s definitely a low blow to the Razorback Basketball Program. But on the bright side, Anton Beard is currently listed on the 14 man roster for the 2015-16 season.
Mar 18, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Mike Anderson gestures during practice before the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Jacksonville Veteran Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
The roster will showcase some returning faces you will remember, as well as newcomers who are sure to get some time on the floor. The Razorbacks potentially return Beard, along with 3 point shooter Anthlon Bell, forward Moses Kingsley, and senior guard Jabril Durham. Some of those newcomers include Willy Kouassi, 6-10 center looking to fill the void of Bobby Portis, guards Jimmy Whitt, Lorenzo Jenkins, and Trey Thompson. Overall, the Razorbacks have 4 seniors, two of which are redshirt seniors, 6 juniors, 2 sophomores, and 2 freshman. Only time will tell if the Razorbacks can compete in a conference that is getting better each and every year in basketball. I don’t want to sound too negative about Mike Anderson and the Razorbacks for 2015, but after the offseason they’ve had, I think it’s safe to say its a rebuilding year.
The Razorbacks start their exhibition portion of the season this Thursday against SW-Oklahoma State, and then another exhibition game on November 10th against Delta State. The official season opener for the Razorbacks comes 3 days later on the 13th, as the Razorbacks host Akron at Bud Walton Arena. Some notable non-conference games to keep an eye on is the NIT Season Tipoff that features Arkansas, Villanova, Stanford, and Georgia. Arkansas will play two out of those four teams in Brooklyn, New York at the home of the Brooklyn Nets. The Razorbacks have two tough road contests against quality opponents; first, at Wake Forest on December 4th. Then on December 30th as they take on the Dayton Flyers in Dayton, Ohio. That will be the last non-conference game before the Razorbacks begin SEC play, where they travel to College Station to take on Texas A&M for the first SEC game of the year. (Click here to see the full schedule)
The Razorbacks certainly have their worked cut out for them this year. These first two exhibition games serve as stepping stones for the players, to understand the offense and defense, and work out all the kinks before the season officially begins. I believe wholeheartedly that Mike Anderson is the right man to take on this challenge this season. Like always, Razorbackers.com will have you covered with the best Razorback Basketball coverage!
Woo Pig Sooie!