FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Arkansas men’s basketball team is picked to finish in the middle of the SEC standings this year.
The league’s preseason predictions and All-SEC selections were announced Wednesday morning. Arkansas was picked to finish sixth in the 14-team league. Just ahead in fifth was Missouri and just behind in seventh was Vanderbilt.
Arkansas’ slotting is a downgrade of where coach Mike Anderson’s team was predicted and where they finished last year. The Razorbacks ended the regular season third in the SEC with a 23-8, 12-6 record. They made the SEC Tournament championship game, falling to Kentucky. Arkansas was then an 8-seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it beat Seton Hall in the first round then pushed eventual national champion North Carolina until the final minutes before losing in the second round.
The Razorbacks did not have anyone among the 12 players named to the preseason All-SEC teams. Guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon are the most likely candidates to make it after the season is over. Barford and Macon, now both seniors, put their names into the NBA Draft but removed them before the deadline in order to return to Arkansas. They were the second- and third-leading scorers on last year’s team.
Part of the reason for the projected drop is what the Razorbacks lost. Gone are double-digit scorers Moses Kingsley and Dusty Hannahs. Gone is “glue guy,” as Anderson called him, Manny Watkins. Anton Beard, also a guard, joins Macon and Barford as experienced players, but the next-highest scorer back is 6-foot-7 forward Dustin Thomas at just 5.3 points.
National magazines had Arkansas predicted between fifth and 10th. If Arkansas were to finish sixth, it would almost definitely put the Razorbacks squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The SEC landed five teams in the NCAA Tournament last season. The year before it was only three. In 2015, it was five. The league has not had more than five in over a decade.
An Arkansas trip in 2017-2018 would be its third in four years. All under Anderson, who is entering his seventh season as head coach.
Predicted order of finish
3. Texas A&M
10. Ole Miss
11. South Carolina
12. Mississippi State
Kevaughn Allen, G – Florida
Yante Maten, F – Georgia
MIchael Porter Jr., F – Missouri
Hamdiou Diallo, G – Kentucky
Robert Williams, F – Texas A&M
SEC Player of the Year:
Maten, Porter, Williams (tied)