Oct. 29 Alabama
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Mike Anderson (102-64 Arkansas, sixth year; 302-162, 15th year)
2015-16 record (SEC finish): 16-16 (9-9)
2015-16 postseason: None
2016-17 media predicted finish: 5
DC’s predicted finish: 4
He’s outta here (senior unless otherwise noted): G Jabril Durham (6.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg), G Anthlon Bell (15.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg), C Willy Kouassi (2.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg), G Jimmy Whitt (6.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg, transferred to SMU), G Lorenzo Jenkins (3.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, transferred to Colorado State), F Keaton Miles (2.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg), G Jake Mosiman (0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg), G DaShaun Stark (DNP, transferred to William Woods), G Tristan Simmons (0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, quit basketball)
He’s here (freshman unless otherwise noted): F Arlando Cook (Jr., transferred from Connor State College, eligible this year), G Jaylen Barford (Jr., transferred from Motlow State Community College, eligible this year), G Daryl Macon (Jr., transferred from Holmes Community College, eligible this year), F Adrio Bailey, F Brachen Hazen, G RJ Glasper, G C.J. Jones
Top returners: 6-3 G Dusty Hannahs (16.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg), 6-10 F Moses Kingsley (15.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg), 6-0 G Anton Beard (7.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
That sigh of relief you heard was from all across Arkansas, when Moses Kingsley considered the NBA but decided to come back to school for his senior year. Suddenly, the Razorbacks were probably a top-six finisher in the SEC and potentially an NCAA tournament team, instead of a likely second straight year (and eight out of nine) without the NCAAs.
To be clear, Arkansas may still miss the tournament since the SEC continues to fight its reputation and there’s no clear answer to who’s going to finish in the top-four (outside of Kentucky). But the Hogs have an outstanding high-low combo in Dusty Hannahs and Kingsley, and Kingsley was voted preseason SEC Player of the Year. Those two alone could be enough to get Arkansas to the dance.
It’s probably too soon to be talking “hot seat” in relation to Mike Anderson, because he did win 27 games in 2014-15 and break the NCAA tournament drought. But it’s still a program that only missed three tournaments from 1977-2001, has been to only four since, and no coach is advised to make that streak any longer.
Anderson hopes to have a clean season off the court (the Razorbacks were discipline-gutted during the previous offseason) and restocked the cupboard with three JUCO transfers. He’ll also get Dustin Thomas after he sat out last year following a transfer from Colorado. With those four added to Hannahs, Kingsley and Anton Beard (three of the SEC’s top 11 scorers last year), the Razorbacks will have some veteran players for four freshmen to lean on.
Kingsley waited his turn under Bobby Portis and blossomed from a guy that didn’t play much into a first-team all-conference player. He’ll get some help in the post from 6-foot-9 Trey Thompson.
Hannahs will get his points in a variety of ways, but the Hogs need some of their other guards to immediately stake claims to starting roles. Hanging back and stroking 3s (Arkansas was the best 3-point team in the league last year) may not work a second straight season.
The beauty of basketball is you’re always two players from the Final Four. Arkansas is simply hoping for the tournament, and it has Hannahs and Kingsley.
The other two, though, could be among the group of newcomers.
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Jimmy Dykes (30-32 third year/overall)
2015-16 record (SEC finish): 12-18 (7-9)
2015-16 postseason: None
2016-17 media predicted finish: 11
DC’s predicted finish: 12
She’s outta here (senior unless otherwise noted): G Melissa Wolff (5.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg), G Kelsey Brooks (6.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg, quit basketball), F Khadijah West (1.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg, career-ending injury)
She’s here (freshman unless otherwise noted): G Jailyn Mason, C Yasmeen Ratliff, F Sydney Stout, F/C Kiara Williams, G/F Aaliyah Wilson
Top returners: 6-3 F Jessica Jackson (16.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg), 5-10 G Devin Cosper (9.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg), 5-8 G Jordan Danberry (6.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
It’s easy to look back and say that the magic Jimmy Dykes had in his first year – guiding Arkansas to the NCAA tournament despite everybody and their brother questioning why he got the job – ran out in Year 2. While it obviously wasn’t the same level of success, it wasn’t magic running out – it was a team rebuilding.
The Razorbacks were the youngest team in the SEC last year and they suffered the requisite growing pains. They’ll still be young this year – they have three seniors after Kelsey Brooks (graduated, pursuing job opportunities) and Khadijah West (career-ending knee surgery) didn’t/couldn’t play their final seasons – but Jessica Jackson, one of the seniors, is one of the best players in the league.
Around Jackson, Arkansas has seniors Tatiyana Smith and Alecia Cooley, plus Devin Cosper. Then there are 10 freshmen or sophomores.
Five-star guard Aaliyah Wilson leads the newbies while sophomore Jordan Danberry was the most productive of last year’s freshmen. With Jackson anchoring the post, Arkansas is hoping to give her one more NCAA tournament, and the schedule may be conducive to it.
The Hogs don’t have a tremendous non-conference schedule and their SEC slate doesn’t have a stretch of three to four games that looks like a losing streak. It won’t be easy to keep their heads above water in the SEC, but they have recent history and a strong conference reputation going for them – even going 7-9 in the league may be enough for the NCAAs to come Hog-calling.
Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState