Head coach Tom Collen is excited about his team heading into the 2013-14 season. Collen brings in a very highly touted recruiting class, and several players returning from last season’s NIT team that finished 20-13.
The Razorbacks will be led by veterans Calli Berna and Keira Peak after losing a pair of key pieces in Sarah Watkins and Quistelle Williams to graduation. Several newcomers will also see significant playing time, especially freshman and Jacksonville native Jessica Jackson. Jackson was rated the No. 7 recruit in the class of 2013. Khadijah West, Bria Pitts, Kelsey Brooks and McKenzie Adams round out an impressive recruiting class for Collen.
Key Nonconference games
Nov. 13 - Oral Roberts – The Golden Eagles finished with the best overall record in the Southland Conference in 2012-13 at 18-13. ORU finished last season with a first round loss in the NCAA Tournament to Tennessee, but had won 10 of its last 12 heading into the big dance. Senior Kevi Luper, at 16.1 points per game, is the Golden Eagles top returning scorer heading into the season. Winner: Arkansas.
Dec. 4 - Kansas – The Jayhawks found their way into the top 25 at the end of the 2012-13 season after a 20-14 season and a seventh place finish in the Big 12. The Jayhawks will be without last season’s top scorer and rebounder Carolyn Davis. But Kansas more than made up for Davis’ loss by signing four 3-star recruits in her place. Winner: Kansas.
Non-conference record prediction: 10-2
Jan. 2 - South Carolina – Hoping to build on a 25-8 season in 2012-13, South Carolina was slotted as the preseason No. 23 team in the nation by USA Today. The Gamecocks return top scorer and rebounder from a season ago in Aleighsa Welch. Welch will be looked upon as the leader for head coach Dawn Staley. South Carolina also adds 6-foot, 4-inch freshman forward Alaina Coates with this year’s recruiting class. Winner: South Carolina.
Jan. 5 - at Missouri – The Tigers return top scorer and rebounder Bri Kulas this season after averaging 13.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest in 2012-13, but lose several experienced players. 4-star guard Sierra Michaelis highlights the Missouri recruiting class for this year. Winner: Arkansas.
Jan. 9 - at Florida – The Gators lose two of the top three scorers from a season ago, but retain team leaders in seniors Jaterra Bonds and Lily Svete. The Gators will look to take the next step after being bounced in the NIT semifinals and finishing 22-15. Winner: Florida.
Jan. 12 - Mississippi State – Finished 12th out of 14 teams in conference last season and a disappointing 13-17. The Bulldogs are on the up-and-up, however, signing three top 60 recruits for their 2013 class. With this recruiting class and the top scorer and rebounder returning from last season, MSU should be an improved team. Winner: Arkansas.
Jan. 16 - at Georgia – Will be one of the top teams in the SEC again. Georgia finished an impressive 28-7 last season, advancing to the Elite 8 before losing to California. The Bulldogs lose their top two scorers from last season, but will survive thanks to an elite recruiting class. Khaalidah Miller and Shacobia Barbee should lead the team to another NCAA Tournament appearance. Winner: Georgia.
Jan. 19 - Ole Miss – Led by three upperclassmen in Tia Faleru, Valencia McFarland and Diara Moore, the Rebels will be one of the more experienced teams in the SEC this season. With last season’s top three scorers returning, Ole Miss should improve on last year’s 9-20 record. Winner: Arkansas.
Jan. 26 - at Kentucky – Voted as the nation’s No. 7 team in the preseason, Kentucky returns three of its top four players from a 30-6 season in 2012-13. DeNesha Stallworth, Jennifer O’Neill and Bria Goss will lead yet another strong Wildcat team. Expect Kentucky to be one of the SEC’s elite again. Winner: Kentucky.
Jan. 30 - at Tennessee – Led by Meighan Simmons’ 16.8 points per contest last season, Tennessee finished with the regular season conference title and a trip to the Elite 8. Expect the Volunteers to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The Volunteers are the preseason No. 4 team in America. Winner: Tennessee.
Feb. 2 - Auburn – Led by upperclassmen Hasina Muhammad and Tyrese Tanner, Auburn brings back a strong leadership presence after an average 19-15 season last year. The Tigers lose a couple of starters from last season, and may struggle to find consistency outside of Muhammad and Tanner. Winner: Arkansas.
Feb. 6 - Florida – Not sure homecourt can help the Razorbacks in this one. This may be the Razorbacks best chance at a home upset and a big home win, but isn’t likely. Winner: Florida.
Feb. 9 - at South Carolina – By this point in the season, the Gamecocks could be one of the top teams in the league and a much better team than Arkansas. South Carolina’s superior talent gets them out of Bud Walton with a win. Winner: South Carolina.
Feb. 13 - Alabama – The Crimson Tide return its top two scorers from a season ago in Daisha Simmons and Shafontaye Myers. With their scoring abilities along with freshman Oceana Hamilton, Alabama could be a surprise team this season. Winner: Arkansas.
Feb. 20 - Vanderbilt – Seniors Christina Foggie and All-SEC selection Jasmine Lister return from a 21-12 season in 2012-13. The Commodores lose their top scorer and rebounder from last season, but key experience returns in hopes of taking the next step. Winner: Arkansas.
Feb. 23 - at LSU – The Tigers return senior and top scorer Theresa Plaisance from last season. Plaisance will be aided by Danielle Ballard, who averaged 12 points per game as a freshman. LSU is the preseason No. 17 team in the nation by USA Today. The Tigers could pose a threat to Tennessee and Kentucky’s run at an SEC title. Winner: LSU.
Feb. 27 - at Texas A&M – Selected as the No. 12 team in the preseason by USA Today and picked to finish fourth in the SEC this year, Texas A&M will rely a lot on sophomore guard Courtney Walker, who averaged 10.4 points per game last season. The Aggies do have experience on their side with only two freshmen on the roster. Winner: Texas A&M.
Mar. 2 - Missouri – The inexperience of the Tiger guards could hurt Missouri on the road in the conference finale. Arkansas limits Tiger forward Bri Kulas and end the regular season on a positive note. Winner: Arkansas.
Conference record prediction: 7-9
Overall record prediction: 17-11