Eric Musselman, Arkansas Razorbacks

Losing some very talented players to the NBA, Eric Musselman has brought in a lot of young talent to boost the Arkansas Razorbacks.

CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the 2022-23 season. Each day we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Coming in ranked number 6 are the Arkansas Razorbacks.

The Arkansas Razorbacks and head coach Eric Musselman have made history by bringing in three 5-star recruits and the second-best recruiting class in the nation. These three freshmen are all in the top 20 in the country and will likely all be in the NBA next year.

With six players from the 2021-22 roster going pro, two of these players went to the NBA in, Jaylin Williams and Stanley Umude. The team also lost four other players to the transfer portal, but even so, the Arkansas Razorbacks are coming back with a vengeance.

Coach Musselman went after some talent in the portal bringing in five new players that add depth and talent. The only returning player of note is Davonte Davis, but even he looks to be a bench piece as a potential sixth-man candidate.

To those who have not, click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams heading into the 2022-23 college basketball season.

Head Coach: Eric Musselman (9th season overall, 5th season with Arkansas)

2021-2022 Record: 28-9 (13-5)

2022 Postseason Finish: NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Exit

Notable Departures: Au’Diese Toney (Pro/Lakeland Magic), Chance Moore (Transfer/Missouri State), Chris Lykes (Pro/Horsens IC), Connor Vanover (Transfer/Oral Roberts), Jaxson Robinson (Transfer/BYU), Jaylin Williams (NBA/Thunder), JD Notae (Pro/Greek League), Khalen Robinson (Transfer/Texas A&M), Stanley Umude (NBA/Detroit), Trey Wade (Pro/Polish League)

Projected Rotation:

PG: Nick Smith (6-5, 185, Fr.)

247Sports Composite #3 overall ranked recruit

SG: Anthony Black (6-7, 185, Fr.)

247Sports Composite #18 overall ranked recruit

SF: Jordan Walsh(6-7, 190, Fr.)

247Sports Composite #19 overall ranked recruit

PF: Trevon Brazile (6-9, 215, So.)

2021-22 stats:  6.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 53.4 FG%, 33.3 3P% (Missouri)

C: Jalen Graham (6-9, 220, Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 9.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists (Arizona State)

6: Davonte Davis (6-3, 180, Jr.)

2021-22 stats: 8.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists

7: Ricky Council (6-6, 205, Jr.)

2021-22 stats: 12.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.1 steals (Wichita State)

8: Makhel Mitchell (6-10, 245, Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 10.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.4 blocks, 50.2 FG% (Rhode Island)

9: Makhi Mitchell (6-9, 230, Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 9.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.4 blocks (Rhode Island)

10: Joseph Pinion (6-6, 180, Fr.)

247Sports Composite #102 overall ranked recruit

11: Kamani Johnson (6-7, 215, Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 2.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 62.1 FG%

12: Derrian Ford (6-3, 190, Fr.)

247Sports Composite #74 overall ranked recruit

Team MVP: Anthony Black

One of the things that makes Anthony Black is his ball-handling skills. He is listed as a point guard on 247Sports and stands 6-7. He was a three-sport athlete in high school as well, which speaks to his versatility.

Black was listed as the 8th best prospect in the class of 2022 per ESPN but was number 18th for 247Sports Composite. He had a lot of other offers, including TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M (he’s from Texas). He does so many things well, and if it translates to the college game, he will be a force immediately.

Black has good floor positioning, creates shots, can drive, and has a strong finish. However, his ball-handling and basketball IQ are the most impressive. He finds his teammates, doesn’t force it, and has the ability not only to sell a play but also bail out his teammates. Black can bounce and has a nose for the ball.

Black is a hustler. He will push limits and make his defender think as he can do so much from pulling up, lay-ups, dunking, or shooting the three ball. His downside is that he is a little light. Putting on some muscle will significantly benefit him as he can already finish a shot and drive through people.

One of the most impressive things is Black’s understanding of his body, and he knows how to move and place it for shots. Black is an asset offensively, but more impressive is his rebounding and ability to slip in lanes and come up with big steals for points on the other end. He will be a fun player to watch for a year as he likely heads to the NBA following this year.

Make-or-Break-Player: Nick Smith Jr.

The highest-ranked freshman of the three 5-star players for the Arkansas Razorbacks is Nick Smith Jr. He has seemingly become one of the most noted players and is already looking at many potential awards. Nick Smith Jr. has received preseason awards, including First Team All-SEC and CBS Preseason Freshman of the Year.
With this weight on his back, he has much to live up to. He will likely be looked to as an immediate leader. While he has the ability, seeing if he can transition from high school to Division-I basketball will be the actual test. Smith has the ability, and it will be on display in the first few games, but I am curious to see how he does against length and players of similar skill sets and talent.
With this talent-loaded roster and the experience of Davis and Council, Smith Jr. has a lot to compete with. Coach Musselman trusts in him and he has the ability, but he hopes he can withstand the pressure.
The real question is if he is going to be a point guard or if he will be the shooting guard. His ability to score is a massive asset, but if he is cold or off, will he be willing to showcase the talent around him. Smith Jr. will have to grow out of “me” and into “we” to succeed and trust his teammates to boost his profile. In any case, this team will be enjoyable to watch on both ends of the floor. The meshing of the team and Kennedy’s scoring ability seemed to become more fluid last year. The worry is that this won’t keep up, as it was a significant jump in 3-point shooting percentage.

Analytic to Know: 316th in 3-point percentage in 2021-22

With one of the lowest 3-point percentages at 30.4% on the season. The Arkansas Razorbacks were successful despite not having the best shooters from deep. This year looks to be very different. The talent Musselman has brought in can shoot the deep ball. All players have an improved three-point shooting percentage outside the big men. All the proper steps are being taken to improve, and part of why this team is ranked so high for CBB Review. All the other statistics are favorable, and if this team can improve its shooting efficiency, most teams will struggle to stop the offense.

Team Outlook

With some overseas games and exhibition games, the Arkansas Razorbacks officially start their season with exciting tests against North Dakota State, Fordham, and South Dakota State. The team travels to Maui, where the team will have the opportunity to play some very talented teams, starting against Louisville Cardinals. They have the chance to play Arizona, Cincinnati, Creighton, Ohio State, San Diego State, and Texas Tech. This tournament offers the most considerable resume boost outside Baylor, OU, Ole Miss, Missouri, and LSU.

The rest of the challenging games would be played in the conference. Musselman has set a decent schedule and should land them in the tournament (pending win/loss).

Projected Conference Finish: 2nd in the SEC

Projected Postseason Finish: NCAA Tournament Round of Elite 8 Exit

Ceiling: NCAA Tournament Champions