Having missed out on the NCAA Tournament the past three seasons, John Pelphrey was let go as the Arkansas Razorbacks head coach this summer. Mike Anderson left Missouri to return to Arkansas where he spent 17 years as an assistant under Nolan Richardson. With a stacked recruiting class (which strangely enough Pelphrey landed), expectations will be raised for Anderson and the Razorbacks this season.
More than likely, three freshmen will start for Anderson right off the bat. With the backcourt losing three key contributors from last year, B.J. Young and Rashad Madden will be immediate impact players. Young has good size for a point guard and is extremely dangerous in the open court and when attacking the basket. Madden is a versatile weapon who should flourish playing alongside Young. Julysses Nobles will provide the experience in what figures to be a three-guard look. Nobles is capable of running the point but also shot 42 percent from distance last year.
The third newcomer likely to start is 6-foot-10 Hunter Mickelson. He has great agility for his size but must continue to get stronger, which will help with his development as a low post player. Returning starter Marshawn Powell figures to flank Mickelson inside and was the second-leading scorer for the Razorbacks last season.
Despite all the players Arkansas loses from last year, they still have decent depth off the bench. Michael Sanchez and Marvell Waithe were both role players and are expected to be so again this year. Neither possesses great size nor skill but are serviceable in limited action. Freshman Devonte Abron is a big body inside who will try to work himself into the rotation as well.
On the wing, Rickey Scott battled injuries as freshman but is a physical guard who will need to stay healthy since the Razorbacks don't have a lot of depth in the backcourt. Mardracus Wade got solid experience in his first season in Fayetteville and will be counted on more for his defensive abilities than his scoring.
Expect Arkansas to play a more up-tempo game with Anderson bringing over his "40 minutes of hell" style of basketball. That should allow Young and Madden to flourish in the open court though the team does lack true outside shooters, which is a concern. If the freshmen are good as advertised though, the Razorbacks figure to finish in the upper half of the SEC and will compete for a spot in the tourney.
Player to Watch: B.J. Young, PG
Young is the perfect type of lead guard for Anderson's up-tempo style. He is constantly in attack mode and, due to his terrific athleticism, defenders have a miserable time trying to stay in front of him. He and Nobles should share the ball-handling responsibilities, but Young's explosiveness in the open court will allow him plenty of opportunity to push the tempo.