Season Preview: Arkansas
Last year: 26-10, Second Round of NCAA
Key Losses: Dusty Hannahs, Moses Kingsley, Manny Watkins
Key Additions: Daniel Gafford, Khalil Garland, Darius Hall, Gabe Osabuohien
Arkansas was a couple of buckets away from knocking off eventual national champion North Carolina last year in the Round of 32. The loss of Hannahs and Kingsley has its negatives, but the Razorbacks bring back plenty of firepower from last season’s group and will be looking to make it to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments for the first time since 2007-’08.
Starting with the frontcourt, head coach Mike Anderson has a solid group of returnees who displayed flashes of potential in 2016-’17. Trey Thompson, Dustin Thomas, Arlando Cook and Adrio Bailey all saw an ample amount of ticks last year and will be relied on to lead a freshman class with great potential. 6-foot-11 Daniel Gafford, 6-foot-8 Gabe Osabuohien, and 6-foot-6 Darius Hall headline a freshman group that includes four in-state prospects that will be looking to shine their first year in Fayetteville. A top-40 player in the 2017 class, Gafford is an intimidating force in the middle as he’s known for his shot-blocking and rebounding abilities.
Leading the backcourt is seniors Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon. The 6-foot-3 Barford averaged 12 points per game last season is a relentless finisher around the rim but will need to improve his assist numbers as he averaged less than two a game last year. Macon, on the other hand, is known for his shooting ability as he shot 38% from downtown last year and put up 13 points per contest. Sophomore C.J. Jones and junior Anton Beard will also play key roles in the backcourt coming off the bench. A name to look out for is freshman Khalil Garland. A 6-foot-6 wing, Garland was the No.2 ranked player from the state of Arkansas after Gafford and is a guy who can do multiple things at either the point or shooting guard spot.
With a solid mix of newcomers and returners, Anderson’s seems like a NCAA caliber team. The freshman class is one of the most intriguing in the conference and will be one to follow in the future.
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Jaylen Barford
SG: Daryl Macon
SF: Khalil Garland
PF: Dustin Thomas
C: Trey Thompson
Photo: Arkansas Times