Injuries may force Musselman to dig deep into lineup for Fordham

Arkansas guard Ricky Council IV, left, and North Dakota State guard Tajavis Miller, right, dive after the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

Stability is something all coaches value, but often the coach who can best roll with the punches is the most successful.

We’ve certainly seen Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman roll with the punches his three previous seasons with the Razorbacks, and we’re already seeing that adaptability come into play in the first week of this season.

Just like the injury bug bit Sam Pittman’s football Razorbacks throughout this season, it’s gnawing on the basketball Hogs’ hides as well. Top signee Nick Smith Jr. missed Monday’s season opener with a knee injury, and he’s out for Friday’s contest, too, with no firm timetable for him to make his regular-season debut.

Musselman said three other Razorbacks’ practice time would be inhibited by injuries leading up to the Hogs’ 7 p.m. Friday contest with Fordham that can be streamed on ESPN+.

Fellow touted freshman Anthony Black has an ankle injury as does transfer sophomore forward Trevon Brazile. Ricky Council IV has an elbow issue.

Council, a junior transfer from Wichita State, led the Hogs in scoring with 22 Monday night in a 76-58 blowout of North Dakota State. Brazile had a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Black only scored 3, but stuffed his stat line with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and a blocked shot.

Razorback Men’s Basketball

Opponent: Fordham
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11
Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville

Next 5 games

Nov. 16 — South Dakota State
Nov. 21 – Louisville (Maui Classic)
Nov. 22 – Texas Tech or Creighton (Maui Classic)
Nov. 23 – TBD (Maui Classic)
Nov. 28 — Troy

So we could see an adjusted starting lineup against a sharp-shooting Fordham, depending on who is healthy enough to play.

With 11 new players in the program, Musselman is still feeling this squad out, and he might be for awhile. If you remember, it was well into January and SEC play the past two seasons before Musselman found the right mix of players who each made runs to the Elite Eight in 2021 and 2022.

So patience is a virtue for Hog fans as the No. 10 Razorbacks look to find the chemistry that will work the best for this season.

Arkansas was relatively sharp defensively against the Bison, but the Rams will stretch the Razorbacks defensively with their shooting prowess. The Razorbacks should win the game, but as we saw with the football Hogs last week against Liberty, “should” doesn’t mean a lot against an opponent looking to make a name for themselves by upsetting a ranked team.

After the Fordham contest, the Hogs host South Dakota State at 7 p.m. next Wednesday before turning their attention to their three-game appearance in the Maui Invitational on Nov. 21-23. The Hogs play Louisville at 4 p.m. on Nov. 21 and get either Creighton or Texas Tech the following day. The Hogs will play an undetermined opponent on Nov. 23 in Hawaii, as well.

By the time the Razorbacks return to the mainland for a Nov. 28 game with Troy at Walton Arena, Musselman should have a better finger on the pulse of this squad, composed of transfers, freshmen, and two returners in Kamani Johnson and Devo Davis. One hopes Smith will have several games under his belt by that time, too.