Razorbacks face meat of non-conference schedule in Hall of Fame Classic

The No. 13 Arkansas Razorbacks are off to a 3-0 start on the season, but Coach Eric Musselman’s third squad is basically untested, facing the likes of Mercer, Gardner-Webb, and a pesky Northern Iowa team.

But that won’t be the case for long as the Hogs open play at 8 p.m. in the Hall of Fame Classic against Kansas State (2-0) at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.

Cincinnati (4-0) and No. 14 Illinois (2-1) meet in the opening game. Tuesday night the winners will play in the championship game at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN2, while Monday’s losers will play in the consolation game at 6 p.m on ESPN News.

Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: Kansas State (Hall of Fame Classic)
When: 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22
Where: Kansas City

Next 5 games

Nov. 23 – Cincinnati or Illinois in KC, TBA (ESPN News/ESPN 2)
Nov. 28 – Penn, 3 p.m. (SEC Network)
Dec. 1 – Central Arkansas, 7 p.m. (SEC+)
Dec. 4 – UALR, 3 p.m. (SEC Network)
Dec. 7 – Charlotte, 8 p.m. (SEC Network)

A huge emphasis for the Razorbacks in recent practices has been defending the 3-point line. The Hogs are allowing opponents to shoot 43.4 percent from behind the arc to rank 342nd nationally in the category, which is frankly embarrassing to Musselman who prides himself on the Hogs’ defensive prowess as much if not more so than their ability to score.

Expect the Razorbacks to put much more effort into their 3-point defense against the Wildcats Monday.

Coached by Bruce Weber, the Wildcats haven’t faced a challenge like the Razorbacks thus far this season, upending Florida A&M, 67-57, and Nebraska, 79-64, in their first two games.

Guar Nijel Pack leads the Wildcats with a scoring average of 16.5 points. Ismael Massoud is a 6-9 forward with good skills inside, but he can also float out to the 3-point line and shoot effectively there, too. Guard Mark Smith leads the Wildcats in rebounding with 7 boards a game.

Four Razorbacks are averaging in double figures so far this season with JD Notae leading the way at 21.7 ppg., followed by Chris Lykes at 15.7 ppg., and Au’Diese Toney with 11.3 ppg.. and Connor Vanover with 10.5 ppg.

Jaylin Williams, how as been dealing with a leg issue, is tied for the lead in rebounding at 7.3 boards per game with Toney. Stanley Umude, who is averaging 8. 3 ppg., is next with 5.3 rpg average. Williams, who plays the 4 and the 5 spots, leads the Hogs in assists with 17 or 5.6 per game with Notae next with 3.7 per game.

Even though Musselman knows his Hogs will be playing back-to-back nights against stiff competition, he said his primary concern was winning Monday before moving on to Tuesday’s game.

He said it makes no sense to him to hold back Monday just because he knows the Hogs also must play on Tuesday.

“That sounds like a plan to lose two games,” Musselman quipped in his press conference Friday before the Hogs headed to Kansas City.

Monday’s game is the first of three the Hogs will play during the UA’s Thanksgiving break. The third does not come until Sunday when Penn visits Bud Walton Arena.