Hogs tip off hoops season Wednesday

With just a few days until the opening of the Razorbacks 2020-21 men’s basketball season on Nov. 25 at 6:30 p.m. against Mississippi Valley State, more and more information about this season is becoming available.

Last week Arkansas was finally able to announce its schedule and on Thursday, the tip-off times and telecast information for most of the Hogs’ non-conference games were announced.

Arkansas 2020-21 Non-conference Basketball Schedule

Nov. 25 (Wed.) — Mississippi Valley State SEC Network + (streaming) 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 28 (Sat.) — North Texas SEC Network + (streaming) 5 p.m.
Dec. 2 (Wed.) — UT Arlington SEC Network 8 p.m.
Dec. 5 (Sat.) — Lipscomb SEC Network + (streaming) TBA
Dec. 8 (Tues.) — at Tulsa TBA
Dec. 12 (Sat.) — Central Arkansas SEC Network + (streaming) 5 p.m.
Dec. 20 (Sun.) — Oral Roberts SEC Network 1 p.m.
Dec. 22 (Tues.) — Abilene Christian SEC Network + (streaming) 7 p.m.

Tipoff for the Razorbacks’ home game against Lipscomb on Dec. 5 will be determined after the SEC announces the kickoff time for the Arkansas-Alabama football game this Monday. The tipoff and TV information for the Hogs’ game at Tulsa on Dec. 8 has yet to be set.

Sills makes All-SEC

SEC basketball coaches honored junior guard Desi Sills on Thursday by voting him onto the preseason All-SEC second team. Sills doubled his freshman average last season to score 10.6 points per game, while starting 24 of 32 games.

He shot 32.9 percent from the 3-point line for the season, including a team-best 45.6 percent (31-of-68) from long range over the last 14 games.

Coming off the bench in the Hogs’ final six games, Sills scored at a higher pace than when he was starting. He set a then career-high 17 points in a win over Missouri, a career-high 21 points at Georgia and 20 points in the SEC tournament win over Vanderbilt, the day before the coronavirus shut down the college season.

76ers draft Joe, Jones inks with Houston

The 2020 NBA Draft wasn’t exactly the landmark night for former Razorbacks Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones, but it was the start of their professional careers.

Joe was the 49th player taken in the 60-selection draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. Jones was not drafted, but he did sign a free-agent contract with the Houston Rockets.

Joe went around where draft prognosticators projected. Some felt Jones could be a late second-round pick too, but it wasn’t necessarily a surprise the former Hog, whom the Associated Press named the co-SEC Player of the Year last spring, was not selected.

The way the NBA works, first-round draft picks usually make the team. Not doing so would say more about the brain-trust that drafted the player than the player himself.

However, second-round draft picks don’t have a ton more security than high-level free agents. With training camps starting next week, second-round picks and first-year free agents are going to have a tough time sticking on a roster this year without having the benefit of summer-league developmental play.

Making matters worse for guys like Joe and Jones, if they do not secure a roster slot, reports in the middle of October called into question whether the G League will have a 2020-21 season because of the coronavirus.

There was some talk of possibly expanding NBA rosters for a couple of developmental slots if the G League does not play, but, ultimately, I think the G League will have some sort of season. It’s too valuable to the NBA for developing young players and as an avenue for recovering players to work themselves in shape before returning to an NBA roster.

Joe’s long-range marksmanship is why he was drafted. His deft 3-point touch gives him a skill he can hang his hat on. Obviously, he must hone other areas of his game, but his range is NBA level. That guarantees him nothing, but it is something.

Jones developed into a fine scorer in the SEC as a junior, with a good 3-point shot and the ability to drive to the basket and draw fouls. As good as he became at doing that in the SEC, it’s doubtful he’ll be able to penetrate against bigger and quicker pros with even a similar effectiveness.

To make it in the NBA, Jones needs to develop a skill or a set of them that some NBA executive can’t help but fall in love with.

I’m not saying it can’t be done. Former Hog Patrick Beverly, a second round pick, made a pro career for himself by being a pest. The tenacious, gritty, and tough Beverly is a matchup no NBA guards likes to see. But few have that type of mindset.

Should Joe and Jones have returned for their junior and senior respectively years with the Hogs?

Maybe, but it’s hard to imagine Joe becoming a much better shooter than he already is, and just with the make up of this year’s Razorback squad in terms of talent and depth, Jones likely would not have had the same opportunity to highlight his skills as he did last season.

Whatever happens for both, it was probably time for them to start their NBA journey, no matter where it ends up taking them.