A Closer Look at Eric Musselman's Flip of the Arkansas Roster
Eight changes since long-time Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson was fired in March has the Razorbacks roster looking a lot different heading into the 2019-20 season. New Head Hog Eric Musselman hit the transfer portal hard and, despite not landing a big man who can immediately contribute this coming season, it's hard to argue that the roster isn't in better shape now than it was four months ago.
Take a closer look at what the roster lost, what it gained and the main takeaways from this big off-season roster flip:
Losses Since End of 2018-19 Season
Daniel Gafford - 25.5 mpg, 14.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 63.5 fg%, 59.1 ft%
Keyshawn Embery-Simpson - 14.6 mpg, 4.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 34.6 fg%, 27.1 3%, 69.2 ft%
Jonathan Holmes - 1.6 mpg, < 1 ppg
Khalil Garland - Did not play
Ibby Ali - Did not play
Justice Hill - Did not play
Additions Since Musselman's Hire in April
Jeantal Cylla - 25.6 mpg, 10.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 40.3 fg%, 31.2 3%, 78.5 ft%
Jimmy Whitt - 28.4 mpg, 9.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.8 apg, 46.4 fg%, 24.6 3%, 62.8 ft%
JD Notae - 30.2 mpg, 15.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.7 apg, 41.8 fg%, 35.2 3%, 71.6 ft%
Connor Vanover - 17.5 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 3 rpg, 46.9 fg%, 35.5 3%, 66.7 ft%
One Extra Scholarship - Though we can't put a name or stats on it yet, this extra scholarship is going to be big (probably for the 2020 class).
Takeaways on the Flip
One main criticism of the roster flip has been that there wasn't a big man addition, but Musselman did try hard to fill the size (and production) void left behind by Daniel Gafford. He "showed interest" in at least five transfer players over 6-foot-9, brought arguably the best option of them all, Kerry Blackshear Jr., in for an official visit, and signed Cal 7-foot-3 center Connor Vanover who has to sit one season before contributing. At this time of the year, there's only so many options left, and if you were paying attention, he reached out to them all.
Of the changes to the roster that Musselman had some control over, I argue none were negative changes and all were positive.
Ibby Ali looked like a project type prospect for Mike Anderson and Arkansas fans won't know if it was a worthwhile project until he contributes at Tulane. For Ali's scholarship, Musselman added immediately eligible Jeantal Cylla who started all but one game at UNC-Wilmington last season and was FAU's leading scorer as a freshman.
Justice Hill was a beloved commit for a couple years but again, he left the team before showing what he could contribute at this level, so it's hard to argue with any quantifiable points that losing Hill was a hit to the roster. For Hill's scholarship, Musselman added a second grad transfer in Jimmy Whitt. The former Razorback averaged more than 10 points per game in two seasons at SMU.
It's unclear whether or not Anderson made it known to Jonathan Holmes that his scholarship would only be for one season but I don't think any fan who wants to win more games could argue Musselman keeping him on scholarship would've been the best use of the team's limited resources.
Another smart roster management move by Musselman was finally taking Khalil Garland off athletic scholarship and adding him to the coaching staff as a student assistant.
For Holmes and Garland, who were each good for less than a point per game, Musselman added two sure future contributors in sit-one transfers Vanover and Jacksonville's JD Notae.
All those moves and Musselman is still left with a surplus of one scholarship, which he could use on another transfer if there's a good enough option available, or roll over and use for a stud in the 2020 class. The new head hog has offered 27 2020 prospects and 23 of them are 4-stars or better according to Rivals. Doesn't take a math wiz to deduce Musselman's odds of landing three or more 4-stars are "very high."
The biggest question mark this off-season was whether Musselman could find a player (or players) to replace Gafford's production and I think he's done that, while also adding key pieces who will contribute in the future.
For those with concerns over the Hogs not landing some other top transfers like Isaiah Moss who was briefly committed before flipping to Kansas, expect that to get easier and easier for Musselman as he shows off his product starting next season.
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