It’s been relatively smooth sailing for the No. 9 Arkansas Razorbacks through three games, but coach Eric Musselman’s Hogs should be tested this week with three games in three days in the Maui (Hawaii) Invitational.
The Hog face Louisville in their first game at 4 p.m. Monday on ESPN2. They will play either No. 23 Texas Tech or Creighton on Tuesday and another game Wednesday with an as of yet undetermined tipoff.
The Razorbacks will face one of the teams from their opposing bracket — No. 17 Arizona State, No. 17 San Diego State, Ohio State or Cincinnati — Wednesday based on the outcome of the first two days of play.
Musselman was tight-lipped on whether freshman guard Nick Smith Jr., will play this week, but he did confirm the 6-5 guard who has missed all of the Hogs’ games with a knee injury did make the trip. If Smith does see the floor this week, it would probably be in short stretches at first as he works his way into game shape.
The Hogs, who have played outstanding defense in their first three games, are sure to be tested in the invitational if not by Louisville, which is off to an unexpectedly slow 0-3 start, then in subsequent games. The Hogs could play two Top 25 rated opponents, depending on the outcome of the matchups.
It will be interesting to see how the Razorbacks handle invitational play as well as playing on a neutral floor against more talented opponents than they have seen in their first three games.
Razorback Men’s Basketball
Opponent: Louisville (Maui Invitational)
When: 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21
Where: Lahaina, Hawaii
Next 5 games
Nov. 22 – Texas Tech or Creighton (Maui Invitational)
Nov. 23 – TBD (Maui Invitational)
Nov. 28 — Troy
Dec. 3 – San Jose State
Dec. 6 – UNC Greensboro
Arkansas isn’t the best outside or free-throw shooting team at 27% and 64% respectively, but their field-goal percentage is solid at 47% thanks to their high volume of shots in and around the paint.
The Razorbacks will make their bones on defense. The Hogs are holding teams to just 34.4% shooting from the field, are forcing 21.2 turnovers, while making 12.7 turnovers a game.
However, the Hogs should face more talented squads in Maui, and the mettle of the squad with 11 newcomers should be tested the most in the invitational since Texas drubbed the Hogs, 90-60, in an exhibition game at Austin in late October.
The last two seasons we’ve seen Musselman test his players and their roles in their pre-conference schedule before settling in on a more fixed rotation by mid to late January. The results have yielded back-to-back Elite Eight squads.
It should be fun to see what his latest squad of ultra-talented freshmen and transfers along with a couple of holdovers can accomplish in the Maui Invitational and the rest of the season.