The basketball season is upon us, as Arkansas will host Mercer to open its 2021-22 slate. Before the ball is tipped, though, HawgBeat hoops expect Jackson Collier wanted to reveal a few bold predictions for the year.
The Razorbacks will go undefeated in non-conference play.
Last season’ Arkansas lone loss in non-conference play was at Oklahoma State in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. This season’s schedule looks to be tougher, but the Razorbacks also have a better roster.
With marquee matchups against Oklahoma and West Virginia and a potential showdown with Illinois in the Hall of Fame Classic, Arkansas will play against teams with a great deal of recent success. Regardless, I like Arkansas’ talent and ability to match up with each non-conference team to get the win.
(READ NEXT: Predicting Arkansas’ 2021-22 non-conference slate)
Arkansas will shoot 35% or better from 3-point range.
The Razorbacks shot 33.2% from beyond the arc last season, which ranked 202nd nationally. The team was full of decent-to-good outside shooters and only one or two very good outside shooters.
Even then, the team had its moments, shooting over 35% from downtown in eight conference games. Unfortunately, the team also had its bad moments. They shot below 30% from three in 14 games, including nine conference games.
This year’s roster looks a little different, with better size and more scoring ability from top-to-bottom, as well as a top shooter returning from injury (KK Robinson) and another good shooter with more leeway to let if fly (Jaylin Williams).
On top of those two, JD Notae is back and looks to shoot at a higher clip than last season, transfers Stanley Umude and Jaxson Robinson look to bolster the three-point percentage, and Au’Diese Toney is a high-level spot-up shooter.
All signs point to being a better shooting team by a large margin. For reference, shooting exactly 35.0% from three last season would’ve put Arkansas at 114th nationally in three-point percentage, up almost 100 spots from where they finished.
The Razorbacks will have a top-10 scoring offense.
This might not be too bold considering Arkansas finished 11th in scoring offense last season, averaging 81.4 points. However, it should be noted that Arkansas lost 52.7 of those points either in the portal, to graduation, or to the NBA.
Based on the pieces the coaching staff has added, there should be no drop off in scoring production, but there is definitely potential for an increased scoring output.
Stanley Umude was one of the best scorers in college basketball last season, averaging 21.6 points a game last season. Additionally, Au’Diese Toney averaged 14.4 and Chris Lykes averaged 15.5 before injury. Those three alone combined for 51.5 points, almost completely making up for last year’s lost scoring output.
Of course, it would be illogical to just plug in those players’ stats from previous schools and expect them to meet that exact number again, but with the system Musselman runs, the players returning taking steps forward and the pure scoring ability of these replacements for lost productivity, it can be expected that Arkansas scores more than their great offensive production last season.
Arkansas will not lose at home.
The Razorbacks went 15-1 in Bud Walton Arena last season, with the lone loss being to Missouri. The Tigers will return to Fayetteville on Jan. 12 and from there, the home slate gets even stronger.
West Virginia, Mississippi State, Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky and LSU all come to Fayetteville this year. With Bud Walton Arena being a season sellout to support a preseason No. 16 team, each of these games should be full and rowdy.
Fans of the program have thirsted for basketball to perform at this level for years and, now that the team has proven successful, Bud Walton will be the most dangerous place to play in the country.
Arkansas will make the Elite Eight again.
At the end of the day, the NCAA Tournament is a crapshoot. Success in the postseason is based on a lot of things – how good a team is, matchups, injuries, peaking at the right time, etc. – so just being a good team isn’t always enough.
Arkansas benefitted from some favorable matchups last season, but this team is also better as a whole than last year’s. They won big games to end the regular season to earn a high enough seed to have a better route on paper. There’s no reason that won’t happen again considering the preseason ranking.
Perception does matter in tournament seeding, as well as team success. If Arkansas is as successful as expected, it could earn a 2-seed and be well on its way to another Elite Eight – or beyond – this season.
Source: Yahoo Sports