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.
On Sunday, we looked at San Jose State. The shift is on for the next group of Spartans — UNC Greensboro.
vs. UNC Greensboro – Dec. 6
The second of back-to-back contests against schools with the Spartans nickname pits Arkansas against UNC Greensboro. Normally a solid program in the Southern Conference, UNC Greensboro had what could be a considered a down year last season.
Compiling a 17-15 overall record, the Spartans could never quite put it together. Only one game of note was played against an SEC opponent. Tennessee shredded the Spartans’ armor and only allowed 36 points in an easy Volunteers win. In conference play, they would gather a 9-9 record to continue their middle-of-the-road type season.
65.1 points per game
43.1% field goals and 34.2% 3-pointers
72.1% free throws
+5.2 rebound margin
-1.1 turnover margin
65 points per game
41.9% field goals and 35% 3-pointers
11.9 turnovers forced per game
Another team with just one player averaging double-digits in scoring, De’Monte Buckingham is no longer a Spartan. Despite the loss, they bring back more than enough scoring production.
It starts with returning big man Bas Leyte, who averaged 9.5 points and six rebounds per game. Born in the Netherlands, he has developed into a reliable modern forward for the Spartans. Alongside Leyte, they return six players with big contributions from last season.
In that mix are twins Keyshaun and Kobe Langley. The senior guards combined to average 16.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. For the season, the duo added 87 steals, and 72 three-point baskets.
Only two freshmen are listed on the roster and neither were ranked by the 247Sports Composite. One transfer addition comes in from Virginia Commonwealth. Forward Mikeal Brown-Jones averaged 2.3 points and 2.1 rebounds per game as a freshman. He brings great athletic ability and defensive skills to the table and fits the mold of a classic UNC Greensboro forward.
Akrum Ahemed is the second. He comes in averaging 5.9 points and 2.2 rebounds per game as a taller guard.
The third one to mention was a solid get for head coach Mike Jones. Keondre Kennedy, from UMBC, racked up 14.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. Working his way into the scheme, he could be a guy or THE guy to watch.
Game Difficulty – 3/10
The loss of star Buckingham leaves a lot to replace for the Spartans. As the team leader in points, rebounds, and minutes played, he also shot better than 40% from three. Defense was never a glowing issue on the stat sheet, so gaining offensive status will be key. Talent-wise, there are lots of guys on the roster who could cause trouble.
The Langley twins are speedy guards who are not afraid to shoot and really get after the ball. Leyte is a key matchup down low. Kennedy was a standout for UMBC last season.
There are some truly talented pieces on this roster. Coach Jones will be given an early test at Miami, which will be a great gauge of UNC Greensboro’s improvement from last year. This contest for Arkansas could be a test or one to not cause stress at all.
Coach Musselman will always come prepared. Looking ahead to the rematch vs. Oklahoma could spell danger, so the Razorbacks must take these Spartans seriously.
Featured image courtesy of UNC Greensboro athletics