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.
Following the game against UNC Greensboro, the schedule starts to become more daunting. With SEC play on the horizon, the Oklahoma Sooners stand in the way on a neutral court.
vs. Oklahoma (BOK Center) – Dec. 10
Vengeance might be on Coach Muss’ mind when Arkansas returns to the BOK Center in Tulsa. The 88-66 loss to the Sooners sparked the inevitable fear that the offense might lack production for the Razorbacks a year ago.
That was a gut-wrenching day for Hog fans, but things are looking much more appealing this time around. As for Oklahoma and head coach Porter Moser, the win didn’t lead to a blistering run. Finishing 19-16 overall, non-conference success, or lack thereof, would lead to just a 7-11 Big 12 record. The Sooners did beat Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament, which was arguably their biggest win of the season.
69.1 points per game
47.6% field goals and 34.7% 3-pointers
74.7% free throws
+1.2 rebound margin
-1.2 turnover margin
43.9% field goals and 31.8% 3-pointers
13.6 turnovers forced per game
The leading scorer for the Sooners was guard Umoja Gibson, but the multifaceted player has since graduated. Tanner Groves does however come back and proves to be just as good as last season. Averaging 11.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest, the bearded big man causes fits out near the three-point line.
Outside of Groves, the Sooners return just four players with production from a season ago. Forward Jalen Hill comes back after being fifth on the team in scoring. With 9.1 points, he was also the leading rebounder, grabbing 5.9 boards per game.
Three freshmen, two of which are four-star athletes, were huge additions for OU. Otega Oweh and Milos Uzan are both guards who have a chance to make an early impact. Odds are that they will certainly provide depth.
Lots of lost guard play will allow them to ease into action, although they will have new and solid competition. The Sooners’ transfer haul was certainly a solid one. As with the freshmen, three transfers also were reeled in.
A guy who will likely start at guard, Nevada transfer Grant Sherfield is an all-around impact player. There’s a reason he was a hot name once he hit the portal. Last season in the Mountain West, Sherfield racked up 19.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game. To his name, Sherfield is a two-time all-conference guard as well.
Fellow scoring threat Joe Bamisile comes in with impressive stats, also. He compiled 16.3 points, five rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game during a surprise coming-out party for George Washington last year.
The third transfer is Oklahoma native and former Wofford forward Sam Godwin. A guy who will provide solid depth, he averaged 6.3 points on 66% shooting and 3.1 rebounds per game for the Terriers last season.
Game Difficulty – 7/10
Considering most Arkansas fans don’t believe last year’s game should be analyzed further, we won’t go that far. The result doesn’t mean much in the end when both teams combine to bring back just seven productive players from last season. With the brothers-Groves holding down the paint, their athletic prowess doesn’t necessarily scare coaches’ desire to test the interior.
The fear lies upon the great guard play that the Sooners bring to the table. Even in the loss of Jordan Goldwire and Gibson, it looks to be a reload situation.
The difference is that Arkansas can match up with certainty this time around. Neutral-site games have not been kind to the Hogs and that curse likely won’t change.
The sequel battle of superstar coaches awaits the BOK in which Arkansas should hold a slight edge. If OU can upset Villanova prior to this game, look out for the Sooners. No matter how both teams come into the game, it should be fun.
Featured image courtesy of Oklahoma athletics