Surely we can all agree on one thing this year and that’s the Arkansas’ basketball season has just been weird.
The 10th ranked Razorbacks started the season without their best player on the court in Nick Smith, Jr. Who yet again is subject to a lingering knee injury that he aggravated during the previous game against Bradley in Little Rock. At some point this season, do you shut it down and preserve his future as an NBA star. Or, do you let him completely heal this time and bring him back during SEC play and the annual Musselman run in early February-March?
There’s definitely reason to continue playing him. After all, he gives you more of a chance for a deep run in the tournament again.
Losing a budding superstar in Trevon Brazile to a knee injury during the UNC-Greensboro game was like taking another slap to the face from the basketball gods. Once again, why can Arkansas not have nice things? Do they hate our beloved Hogs? What must they do to overcome it?
The answer is simple, “just win, baby, win.”
Arkansas has arguably only played two quality opponents since their lone loss this season in Maui against Creighton. I’ve heard it a couple of times that losing to the Blue Jays is now a horrible loss considering they have dropped six in a row. Their average margin of defeat is just five points and three of those losses are to ranked teams like Arizona and Texas. Plus, quality teams like Marquette, Arizona State and BYU.
Luckily for Arkansas they have already proven to weather a couple of foundation shaking storms with Smith and Brazile. They already know who they can depend on with Ricky Council IV playing elite basketball. The first year Hog has come into his own after performing as one of the best sixth men in the country at Wichita State. As a junior, Council has played three complete games and played 35+ minutes in nine games this season showing off his Irornman stamina.
Council has surely held court most of this season and has got it done in multiple ways on not only offense but defense. He is cooking from the field at a consistent rate of 51-percent and shooting 31-percent from three. His ability to drive to the basket, inviting contact with each try, proves Council to be one of the toughest guards in the conference. The North Carolina native has great touch at the rim including elite balance to stay upright with eyes at the rim. That doesn’t even include his leaping ability to posterize his defenders.
How about the emergence of the forgotten Mickey D’s all-American, Jordan Walsh? The Texas native has scored in double figures in back-to-back games for the second time in his collegiate career. Where he has lacked on the offensive side of things early on, Walsh has excelled on the defensive side tenfold. After an elite perfomance against Bradley on Saturday where he was a perfect 7-7 from the field only missing one shot from the charity stripe Walsh will be depended on heavily to fill the shoes of Brazile. Currently, he is doing that very well maybe exceeding expectations.
Anthony Black has been a quiet leader for the Razorbacks this season. Quiet? Absolutely since it was a shocker that he averages nearly 13 points per game. Great production from your point guard offensively. He is a game changer on the defensive end, too, with his poise just 11 games into his career in college. He is able to stay with his man, rotating for help defense and stays around to fight for rebounds. Black is a x-factor type of team player. One would even call him the glue guy because the team gels much better when he is on the court.
Finally, Devo Davis cannot be forgotten about especially when it comes to his aggressive defense and charisma. No other player on this team except Kamani Johnson can match the Hawg that’s inside of them. The fight on each possession is something that only Davis can replicate. His performances in crunch time of critical games will never be forgotten. His defensive prowess continually sparks the Hogs into extended runs. His minutes, the third most of anyone on this team, are very valuable.
Davis continues to boast a 3:1 assist to turnover ratio per 40 minutes. He also fights for rebounds at four per game. There is no substitute for experience and there is absolutely no substitute for having the heart of a Razorback.
The Hogs return to the hardwood on Wednesday night for their final tuneup game before conference play begins against UNC-Ashville. The Bulldogs are 8-4 on the season but have yet faced a Power Five conference opponent. Plenty of questions abound for Arkansas ahead of this game, will they be able to weather the storms that continually try to wreck their season? So far, the Hogs keep answering. Eric Musselman has recruited so well and assembled the best roster he could have with a team that is so deep. That’s the best thing about this squad is that they will fight through adversity and continue swinging each night. They truly have been a team that will bring joy to its fans.