The Arkansas men’s basketball team will head into year three of Mike Anderson’s regime without both of its top scorers from a season ago. It could be a blessing in disguise for the Razorbacks, however, as they will now look to play a more balanced, together and up-tempo style.
Newcomers Bobby Portis, Moses Kingsley and Houston transfer Alandise Harris will see lots of time alongside top returning scorer and rebounder Coty Clarke. The electrifying Michael Qualls can expect to have an increased role this season, while Anthlon Bell and Mardracus Wade anchor the perimeter. While the Razorbacks lack a true point guard, expect juniors Ky Madden and Rickey Scott to take on a majority of the ballhandling for Mike Anderson.
Key Nonconference games
Nov. 18 - Southern Methodist – SMU is heading into year two under coaching legend Larry Brown after a 15-17 (5-11) season in 2012-13. The Mustangs return three of their top four scorers from last season and, like the Razorbacks, like games to be at a hectic pace. Jalen Jones, the Mustangs’ top returning player, made a name for himself after averaging a team-high 14 points and seven rebounds per game. The Mustangs return their entire starting lineup from a season ago, but winning in Bud Walton Arena is a tall task. Winner: Arkansas.
Nov. 25 - California – The Golden Bears lose top scorer Alan Crabbe to the NBA following a 21-12 (12-6) season and a third round loss to Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament. Cal will rely on top returning scorer Justin Cobbs and top rebounder David Kravish for stability. 6-foot, 10-inch forward Richard Solomon has the potential to be a frontcourt threat for the Golden Bears, also. Solomon and Kravish’s size and experience could pose matchup problems for the Razorback front line. Winner: California.
Dec. 7 - Clemson – Return only one of three top scorers from a disappointing 13-18 (5-13) season in 2012-13. 6-foot, 8-inch forward KJ McDaniels and freshman sharpshooter Patrick Rooks will be looked to as the Tigers main source of offense. But as a team built on hard-nosed defense, the Tigers will struggle to win games this season if they cannot find consistent offensive production. Winner: Arkansas.
Non-conference record prediction: 11-2
Jan. 8 - at Texas A&M – The Aggies lost top scorer Elston Turner, but guards Fabyon Harris and J’Mychal Reese return from a scrappy team a season ago. The length of Arkansas’ guards should affect the smaller Aggie guards, but 6-foot, 9-inch forward Kourtney Roberson will be a factor against the Arkansas bigs on the glass. Winner: Arkansas.
Jan. 11 - Florida – McDonald’s All-American Kasey Hill and senior Patric Young highlight a very talented, and experienced Gator squad. Florida’s depth, talent and defensive intensity will likely propel them to yet another deep NCAA Tournament run. Expect Billy Donovan’s Gators to overwhelm the Hogs defensively, especially around the rim. Winner: Florida.
Jan. 14 - Kentucky – For his latest trick, John Calipari brings in what is widely regarded as the best recruiting class in college basketball history. The class includes six McDonald’s All-Americans and the two finalists for Mr. Basketball in Kentucky. Sophomores Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein add experience to go alongside the talented freshman class. Winner: Kentucky.
Jan. 18 - at Georgia – The Bulldogs lost their only offensive threat from a year ago in SEC Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but return capable big man Nemanja Djurisic and several talented guards. Arkansas will have the advantage against a less-than-stellar Bulldog frontcourt. Winner: Arkansas.
Jan. 22 - at Tennessee – Senior Jordan McRae and sophomore Jarnell Stokes highlight a Volunteer team with all the pieces to make a run at an SEC title. The duo of Stokes and McRae along with point guard Antonio Barton, a Memphis transfer, will give teams fits, including Arkansas. Winner: Tennessee.
Jan. 25 - Auburn – A team searching for answers in 2013-14 after losing leading scorer Frankie Sullivan. Guard Chris Denson and 7-footer Asauhn Dixon-Tatum headline an inexperienced group for third year coach Tony Barbee. The talent just isn’t there for the Tigers this year. Winner: Arkansas.
Jan. 28 - Missouri – After losing star guard Phil Pressey and another embarrassingly early exit in the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers will be led by guards Jabari Brown and former Auburn Tiger Earnest Ross. Missouri has the talent in the backcourt with Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson (16.5 ppg last season), but Frank Haith’s player development remains a key to their success. Winner: Arkansas.
Feb. 1 - at LSU – Led by 6-foot, 9-inch All-SEC performer Johnny O’Bryant and several talented guards, LSU has March Madness on its mind. With the penetrate-and-kick ability of Anthony Hickey, and sharpshooting of Andre Stringer, the Tigers will give any defense problems. 6-foot, 9-inch freshman forward Jarrell Martin will add to a solid LSU frontcourt. Winner: LSU.
Feb. 5 - Alabama – Talented and experienced guards Trevor Releford, Rodney Cooper and Levi Randolph return for coach Anthony Grant’s Crimson Tide squad that narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament last season. A pair of bigs signed from the JUCO ranks will compliment superb guard play for the Tide. Winner: Arkansas.
Feb. 8 - at Vanderbilt – The Commodores lost top scorer Kedren Johnson for the season to suspension, and another starter to a German professional team, but return three of four top scorers from last season. Guards Kyle Fuller, Dai-Jon Parker, and forward Rod Odom are Kevin Stallings’ go-to guys this season. Don’t expect Vandy to go dancing this season. Winner: Arkansas.
Feb. 13 - at Missouri – Arkansas has not played well in hostile road environments recently. With the budding rivalry between the teams, it will be tough to escape Colombia with a win. Winner: Missouri.
Feb. 15 - LSU – Arkansas has a knack for winning big games at home. Hogs make a statement against its rival. Winner: Arkansas.
Feb. 19 - South Carolina – Led by forward Michael Carrera, the Gamecocks look to rebound from a 14-18 (4-14) season in 2012-13. Guard Brenton Williams, at 11 points per contest last season, is the team’s top returning scorer. Two-sport athlete Bruce Ellington is also expected to make an impact. Looks to be another rebuilding year for Frank Martin in year two. Winner: Arkansas.
Feb. 22 - at Mississippi State – Little Rock, Ark., native IJ Ready highlights an average Bulldog recruiting class, and is talented enough to contribute in Rick Ray’s system immediately. MSU’s depth is better this year, but a .500 record would be considered a successful season. Winner: Arkansas.
Feb. 27 - at Kentucky – If there’s something else John Calipari does well besides recruit, it’s win in Rupp Arena. Winner: Kentucky.
Mar. 1 - Georgia – Winning in Bud Walton is a tall task, especially with the void of talent the Bulldogs have. Winner: Arkansas.
Mar. 5 - Ole Miss – After losing top forwards Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner, the Rebels will be led by the always entertaining Marshall Henderson. But an inexperienced frontline could halt the Rebels from defending their SEC title. Winner: Arkansas.
Mar. 8 - at Alabama – Great guard play and a homecourt advantage will end Arkansas’ regular season with a tough loss. Winner: Alabama.
Conference record prediction: 11-7
Overall record prediction: 22-9