The average Arkansas fan might look at the non-conference men’s basketball schedule in one of two ways.
One point of view is to have the five-star freshmen dangle like sugar plums and not have any worry about what lies ahead. The other, denies that any team should even step on the same court as the Razorbacks, because why play the game?
Both ways, while less stressful, are no fun. Join us as we break down each Arkansas hoops non-conference opponent and what to expect out of each game.
The early parts of the season will be important for head coach Eric Musselman to figure out his rotation and for younger players to get acclimated to the college game. In what we’ll be a multi-part series, we’ll be giving a look at every Arkansas non-conference foe for the upcoming season.
We looked at Troy on Saturday; the next opponent for Arkansas is the San Jose State Spartans.
vs. San Jose State – Dec. 3
New head coach Tim Miles, to put it simply, inherited a disaster. Mustering what he could, he led the Spartans to an 8-23 record last season. What was an OK showing in non-conference became nightmare material with a 1-17 conference record.
That lone win came against an equally awful New Mexico team. Through all the despair, guard Omari Moore stood out as the star. The team’s leading scorer, he averaged 13.2 points and was second in rebounds with 5.5 per game.
The good news for the Spartans? He’s back for more this season. The bad news? There will need to be more than a bucket and mop to clean up from last season.
64.3 points per game
42.7% field goals and 35.2% 3-pointers
65.8% free throws (331st nationally)
-5.1 rebound margin
-2.6 turnover margin
72.3 points per game
46.6% field goals and 35.5% 3-pointers
10.6 turnovers forced per game
San Jose State comes in as the only team Arkansas will play that was outscored in both halves last season. Six players from last season return while Coach Miles brings in six freshmen to match. Two transfer big men arrived to add to an already lengthy Spartan team.
Sage Tolbert comes by way of Temple after averaging 6.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game last season. He played more early on in his career, but an injury in 2020 has held him back slightly.
The other, Robert Vaihola, comes in with little experience. A freshman last year, he averaged 1.5 points on 17 shots for the season and averaged just two rebounds per game in the Mountain West for Fresno State.
The aforementioned Moore is the key to success as a near all-conference player. He even has a triple-double to his name, so consider him dangerous. Even before the season begins, he stands out as the guy Musselman will look to eliminate.
Another player who stands out — quite literally — is 7-foot-0 forward Ibrahima Diallo. A former Ohio State player, he came to San Jose for a better opportunity. He conquered his quest, averaging 7.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last season. As a solid athlete, he could bring a subtle challenge to match up with at times and has for conference opponents.
Game Difficulty – 1/10
The record last season speaks for itself. No team should waltz into Fayetteville with the Spartans’ standing and hang with the Razorbacks. That being said, there are things to like about what the Spartans have.
While production seemed limited, they return a lot of what was there. Bringing in six freshmen should ramp up much-needed internal competition for everybody. The only definite starters should be Moore and Diallo, so let’s watch what unfolds.
With eight players standing 6-7 or taller, San Jose State will be among the biggest teams Arkansas will face. San Jose State will need to prove it can compete outside of just measurables, but an easy slate leads up to Arkansas for the Spartans.
Munching down on cupcakes won’t exactly prepare them for a trip to the rowdy Bud Walton Arena. Although, with such a poor record coming in, most teams may qualify as challenging. There should be no question about whether the Razorbacks will win this one. The question should be by how much.
Featured image courtesy of San Jose State athletics