Walter - I feel your pain re SD; they have had a huge injury list! I thing I note - doing analysis for AFL Australian football - is that teams with a huge injury list often underperform when they begin to get players back from injury; this is often because the injured players return a week too early and fail to fire (or get re-injured); also the players who have been carrying the extra load for them tend to relax that week; the trend in the AFL is that these teams generally miss the spread (often by a lot) as the year goes on - but they sometimes have 1 (maybe 2) unexpected wins against unwary middle to lower ranked teams. They may fire against JAX this week, but I would like a SD expert to tell us if the recently returned players are likely to improve.
Speaking of injuries - these are good reasons for being confident on TB and DEN this week. Harry Young, Melbourne
The Razorbacks nearly lost their best player this offseason when B.J. Young tested the NBA Draft waters, but he wisely chose to return for his sophomore campaign. Young was a prized recruit and led the team in scoring, but didn't show the true point guard skills that would have guaranteed him a spot in the first round. Young's departure would have been costly, but his return serves as a huge boost for Arkansas.
Mardracus Wade and Rickey Scott are solid complements to Young in the backcourt and provide Anderson with the quickness and athleticism to use his "40 minutes of hell" style of full-court basketball. The decision of Julysses Nobles to transfer hurts the depth a bit, but Rashad Madden should be ready to see an even larger role off the bench after a decent freshman year. Freshmen Michael Qualls, Anthlon Bell, and DeQuavious Wagner will compete for minutes off the bench, while Oklahoma State transfer Fred Gulley figures to be another weapon once he becomes eligible after the first semester.
A season-ending knee injury to Marshawn Powell just two games into last season was a brutal loss for the Razorbacks as it severely limited their effectiveness inside. Powell's strength and offensive ability on the inside should mix well with the length and shot-blocking ability of developing big man Hunter Mickelson. JUCO transfer Coty Clarke and freshman Jacorey Williams don't offer a lot of size inside off the bench, which is a concern and should increase the likelihood of Anderson utilizing a four-guard lineup which fits well with his aggressive, pressing defense.
Arkansas did pick up a key transfer in Houston forward Alandise Harris, who averaged 11.5 point and 5.9 rebounds per game last year as a sophomore. The Little Rock native returns home, but must sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules, unless he is granted a waiver to play immediately - which is still reportedly a possibility. Having Harris able to suit up this season would be a major boost to the Arkansas' bench and could be the missing piece to get the team over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament picture.
Player to Watch: Marshawn Powell, PF
Powell got off to a great start last year scoring 39 points in just 43 minutes in his first two games before suffering the torn ACL. Without a true backup center on the roster, the 6-7 Powell will log some quality playing time at center as well, which means he must rely on his toughness and strength inside to help overcome his shortcomings.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/23 vs. Arizona State (Las Vegas Invitational)
11/24 vs. Wisconsin/Creighton (Las Vegas Invitational)