Thursday, January 27 2022

HawgBeat hoops expert Jackson Collier asked you for questions about the Arkansas basketball team last week and you delivered. Here are his answers…

How many players are in the rotation to start the season? What about SEC play and beyond?

This was a tough question last year and even more difficult this year. Eric Musselman loves to win and he has his roster management down to a precise science. The same goes for his rotation. Obviously adjustments are made if there are injuries or anything, so I’ll take a look at a fully healthy roster, starting with non-conference play.

Starting the year, I would expect eight players in the main rotation with a ninth serving in an as-needed capacity. The starters would be something along the lines of: Jaylin Williams, Stanley Umude, Au’Diese Toney, Davonte Davis and Chris Lykes. From there, JD Notae would be the first off the bench, as expected, and then the difficult question arises of who takes the seventh and eighth spots.

For non-conference, I would expect KK Robinson and Trey Wade to hold those spots. Robinson adds another point guard to the mix and Wade adds experience, rebounding and physicality, if needed. The ninth spot would be a situational piece between Connor Vanover and Jaxson Robinson. If the team needs a wing and shooter, they’ll bring in Robinson. If they need size and scoring around the rim or outside, they’ll go Vanover.

That will likely be greatly restricted in conference play and the NCAA Tournament like we saw last season. The main rotation there was cut to six, which I think the first six I mentioned above are firmly established in their roles. From there, Robinson would get solid run as the seventh man, and the eighth spot would be the situational rotation piece between Vanover, Wade and Robinson. Of those three, I would expect Robinson to get most of the run because of his versatility and shooting ability.

Who will be the breakout star of the season?

That has to be Jaylin Williams for me. Runner-up would be Jaxson Robinson.

In the Red-White game, Williams showed that he had progressed in a major way from his freshman season. The coaching staff used him in a pick and pop role where he knocked down 40 percent of his threes and, even in a limited role, he put up 12 points and 7 rebounds. He looks to be more of a scoring threat this season, while also maintaining his defensive, rebounding and passing skills that endeared him to fans as a freshman.

Since he will have more freedom this year, and along with the fact that he’s taking a vocal leadership role on the team, it would be no surprise to see Williams make a massive leap this season and be one of the most improved players in the SEC.

How big of a leap do you see Devo Davis and Jaylin Williams making this year with their increased roles?

Already touched on Williams just a little bit, but essentially with more freedom and his increased role, he can be one of the most improved players in the conference. It is not a far stretch of the imagination to anticipate him being a 10 points and 10 rebounds per game guy this season.

Davonte Davis was another freshman who came on strong at the end of last season, particularly in the NCAA Tournament, and caught the attention of national analysts. Davis has spent the offseason working a lot on his ballhandling skills and outside shot, and both have come a long way from where he was. Most likely, Davis will have the ball in his hands much more this season, as he might be asked to be the primary ballhandler and set up the offense a good amount.

He’s already shown he can drive and score and facilitate off the bounce in that role in the Red-White game and the team’s exhibition games, and I can only expect that to continue the more comfortable he gets in his role.

Davis was named preseason second-team All-SEC by the coaches and media, but it would not shock me to see him on the first team by season’s end.

Is it best for JD Notae to come off the bench again?

It’s really hard to say because of how talented he is. He thrived in that role last year, particularly late, but Notae was a starter in the exhibition games, though Musselman made sure to state that wasn’t necessarily permanent.

Ultimately, it comes down to Lykes and Notae. Which one plays better as a starter and which one plays better off the bench? Is either one of them averse to coming off the bench? Would there be any sort of attitudes arising by sitting one and starting the other?

I think all of those are relevant questions worth considering. Notae proved last year he could be a vital part to a successful team by coming off the bench. His success was even acknowledged by the conference when the SEC named him Sixth Man of the Year. I don’t know if it is “best” to bring him off the bench again, but it certainly would not be a bad thing to have him off the bench.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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