What Hog fans witnessed on Saturday afternoon was an unexpected drumming of Florida at the hands of an angry Razorback men’s basketball squad. Through the first eight minutes the Gators and Razorbacks were playing in a back and forth affair until something clicked for the Razorbacks.
Yes, Colin Castleton was a huge missing piece for Florida. He is their leading scorer and rebounder. Not only that, but Castleton was also the heart and soul of their team and will be deeply missed for the remainder of this season after suffering a broken hand earlier this week.
This was a game Arkansas definitely needed to win if they wanted to stay near the bubble of the NCAA Tournament. Losing to Mississippi State did hurt some but wasn’t as big of a loss at most made it out to be. After being so close to upsetting the second best team in the SEC in Texas A&M, Arkansas was confident in their new 1994 throwback uniforms and a sold out crowd who were all wearing red and ready to roar their team to victory.
This team is built inside
It’s not always fun to watch this basketball team due to their lack of offensive sophistication but you have to give them credit to score in the paint. The Razorbacks scored the most points in the paint in a game that didn’t go to overtime since 2014.
With Makhi, Makhel Mitchell, Jalen Graham as post threats then adding Jordan Walsh as an elite slasher plus Anthony Black and Ricky Council IV as a big bodied guards willing to go into traffic makes their squad dangerous come tournament time. Especially when legs start to give out and opponents aren’t willing to drive but settle for jump shots instead will favor Arkansas.
Graham may not offer as much defensively however he is the most effective offensive post player 10 feet from the basket and closer. For the month of February he is 26-30 shooting from the field. Basketball is about matchups and Musselman worked the mismatch perfectly.
.@RazorbackMBB had 52 points in the paint vs. Florida today, its most in an SEC game in the Musselman era. Most since 54 in an OT loss to LSU on 1/12/2019.— HogStats.com (@HogStats) February 18, 2023
52 = most by #Arkansas in a regulation-length SEC game since at least 2013-14.
The SEC is as deep as ever and...
Not every loss that Arkansas has suffered during SEC play was a bad loss necessarily. Five of their seven conference losses were to teams ranked in the top 50 of the NCAA NET rankings. The LSU loss was one the Hogs likely wish the could get back but no one knew the Tigers would be THIS bad especially with the undefeated start to their season.
The Vanderbilt loss isn’t nearly as bad because the ‘Dores have improved dramatically since the start of SEC play. With Mississippi State pulling off a minor upset of Arkansas in Bud Walton most fans wrote it off as a bad loss but I don’t think that’s the case. The SEC is deeper than most expected this season and all teams can be competitive when they want to be.
Arkansas has four games remaining and three of those will be played against teams ranked 33rd or higher in the NET. The Hogs have a chance to close out the season as was expected in the preseason. Right now, they’re being forecasted as a 10-seed on most bracketology projections and no one will want to play an Arkansas team almost at full strength in March.
Current NET rankings has Arkansas 19th in the NCAA, 3rd in SEC pic.twitter.com/uvqMndMg9G— Jacob Davis (@JacobScottDavis) February 19, 2023
Nick Smith Jr. is finding his groove more as the season progresses but his team will need way more during their road trips to Alabama and Tennessee. He wasn’t as efficient on Saturday against Florida going 4-12 from the field and finishing with 10 points against the Gators.
That stat line shooting wise reminds me of the alpha scorer, JD Notae. A guy that was a volume shooter and elite scorer. Someone you could depend on to get your team out of a slump offensively. How many times over Notae’s two years on the court did he have the freedom to shoot whenever he pleased? That was every single night and Musselman trusted Notae to take care of his team. The same can be thought of with Smith and with his fresh legs will be counted on as the regular season and conference tournament plays out.
Arkansas’ players are finding their roles with Smith returning to the lineup. Too much pressure was put on Ricky Council IV to carry the load especially when Trevon Brazile went down with an ACL tear. The transfer from Wichita State leads the Razorbacks in scoring but hasn’t been a consistent scorer to pose a threat every night.
Devo Davis’ rise during SEC play was a welcome surprise. Since the calendar flipped to 2023, the Jacksonville, Ark. native scored 10+ points in 12 of 15 games emerging as the much needed leader of the squad. Usually, Davis performs best during March but he stepped up when Arkansas needed him most.
The surging Hogs will return to Nolan Richardson Court at Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday to host Georgia. SEC Network will have the broadcast beginning at 8 PM.