What to watch for in the Red-White game


FAYETTEVILLE — Sunday afternoon offers the first look at the Arkansas men’s basketball team since going 4-0 on an overseas tour of Italy and Spain in August.

The Razorbacks, entering the fourth year of the Eric Musselman era, will host their annual Red-White game at Barnhill Arena at 2 p.m. For a coaching staff still evaluating their roster ahead of a pair of preseason exhibitions against Rogers (Okla.) on Oct. 24 and Texas on Oct. 29, the scrimmage could provide some clarity going forward.

Here are some things to look out for in-game:

Any separation between great men

Four players – Makhi and Makhel Mitchell, Jalen Graham, Kamani Johnson – are locked in a battle for playing time as the Razorbacks prepare to play outside of the competition in the coming weeks.

What happens on Sunday will not be the end of everything, everything will be when determining the roles and the minutes played. But the scrimmage is another body of work and will give Arkansas staff a better understanding of the greats that come to life and produce in a game setting.

At this point in the preseason, Musselman said he’s seen “different things on different days” from all four players. It’s clear he’s looking for a name or two to emerge as soon as possible to help generate some grassroots rotation at the start of the season.

Consistency of effort and performance is essential.

Johnson, the only player in the squad to average more than 3 points and 3 rebounds in Europe, was among the Razorbacks’ top three players overseas. He led the team to the rebound by quite a margin and served as a catalyst in terms of inner toughness.

He is considered the best loose ball launcher among the greats and provides great value as an offensive rebounder. Johnson last season grabbed 18.3% of available offensive rebounds while on the floor, according to CBB Analytics.

Makhi Mitchell has the ability to play 4s and 5s. Musselman noted that he exhibited solid footwork when he switched to a faster player, and that mobility and strength around the edge at both ends can be a plus. Makhel Mitchell prefers to play in the lane and is the more physical twin.

Graham flashes a finer game and finds comfort in the 12-14 foot range offensively. He rebounded well on Arkansas’ first exposure to Europe, but slowed on the glass afterwards, and he wasn’t particularly effective with his field goal attempts.

“It’s going to come down to little things like not turning the ball over, understanding second, third and fourth options, how do they fit into our coaching culture that we do every day,” Musselman said. “A lot of the things we do are really new to a lot of our players and the pace we want to play.

“There was still a learning curve with a lot of them.”

Nick Smith and Anthony Black

In a seven-week stretch leading up to this week, the Arkansas staff had Black and Smith face off against each other on both ends in practices as they initiated offense for their respective groups.

And lately, the talented guards have been running side-by-side and building noticeable chemistry, Musselman said. They will start Sunday’s game with the red team.

If the lists get mixed up and they defend at some point, it will be an interesting game to follow in the game. Black, at 6-7, has great length to start the pace of sets, and it can be ultra disruptive on the perimeter, forcing ball handlers to launch the offense high off the ground.

Smith, best known as a three-tier top scorer, is a stingy defender in his own right.

Offensively, his elite first-step quickness will test even the best defenders on the ball. And once in the lane, Smith can completely compromise a defense and then exercise his best judgment as to the most effective route to get a score for his team.

Black is somewhat of a work in progress in terms of perimeter scoring, but, like Smith, he has a knack for getting into the teeth of defenses and reaching – and over – the rim, using a set of quality floats or by spitting the ball. to an open teammate beyond the arc.

With Black and Smith on the same side, expect exhilarating passes that lead to quick scoring, high-quality looks on the perimeter and great intensity on the defensive end. They are two players who should play a lot of minutes together this season.

Efforts to increase their synergy are a good choice.

Jordan Walch

Performance-wise, Walsh probably didn’t get the overseas tour he envisioned.

Walsh, who could potentially be an X factor for the Razorbacks due to his length, athleticism and versatility at 6-7, finished eighth on the team in scoring over four games in Europe. He knocked down just 9 of 29 field goal attempts, including 1 of 8 at three.

Since returning to campus, he has focused on greater efficiency around the rim and developed his perimeter game.

“Coach made me do a lot of extra finishing drills because in Europe I was pumping a lot in doubles when I was going to the rim,” Walsh said. “I was trying to avoid contact when I should have been attacking contact and going through people. That was something I had to work on.

“It was kind of like a change of mindset just to prepare for college.”

Although there were some offensive struggles in the exhibitions, Walsh was among the team leaders in interceptions. He is an aggressive defender by nature and has a tendency to play at times.

I expect a mature approach from Walsh on both ends on Sunday. He said earlier this week that he’s not sure what his role for the Razorbacks will be this season just yet, but if he plays into himself consistently in the preseason, his minutes and his place in the rotation should not be in question. come on November 7th.

“I’m the type of guy that’s going to do whatever it takes to get the W, so whatever the coach wants me to do is what I’m going to do,” Walsh said. “If he wants me to shoot three, play defense, get the ball downfield, post, whatever it is, I’m going to fill that spot.

“Anything he needs I’ll be able to do, that’s for sure.”

Perimeter shooting

Outside of Smith, the Razorbacks haven’t shot three-pointers well on the road, and Musselman noted earlier this week that the team’s shot numbers have remained largely flat – not optimally – since the start of training this summer.

Smith has made 9 of 23 perimeter looks in Europe, but no other Arkansas player has made more than two threes in the four exhibitions. Ricky Council was 2 of 6 and 5 other players knocked down 1 each.

Tracking the three-point numbers will be intriguing as the Razorbacks have capable threats from deep in Trevon Brazile, Walsh and even Council and junior guard Davonte Davis. In Europe, Brazile didn’t have to turn to his jumper often given the lack of obstacles in his way to the rim.

I’m also looking forward to seeing if his shooting motion, which usually starts at or below his waist, has been changed or sped up at all. If he knocks down all three with any consistency, he will cause problems for opposing defenses as he looks more than comfortable putting the ball on the ground multiple times as well when attacking the rim.

Black and Barry Dunning, a 4-star from Mobile, Ala., are two other players to watch beyond the arc. There’s definite potential in Black’s jumper, and it could be a weapon over time.

His teammates said in late September that Dunning had impressed from deep.

But with a wide variety of players who have solid to strong plays off the dribble, I don’t foresee Arkansas being a high-volume three-point attempt team. But the result of that penetration could be lots of clean outside looks if passes are on time and on target.

More than meets the eye, be aware of the quality of attempts beyond the arc on Sunday.

red list

Anthony Black

Tip Ricky

Nick Smith

Jalen Graham

Jordan Walch

Makhi Mitchell

Cade Arbogast

Lawson Blake


Trevon Brazil

davonte davis

Joseph Pignon

Barry Dunning

Kamani Johnson

Makhel Mitchell

Derrian Ford

Lists are subject to change


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