Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Musselman: Jackrabbits will be good test for Hogs
Arkansas players huddle on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, against North Dakota State during the second half of the Razorbacks’ 76-58 win in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — There has been plenty of November Madness less than two full weeks into the college basketball season.
Among the mayhem:
• Four teams in The Associated Press preseason top 25 poll have lost to unranked opponents.
• Three Southwestern Athletic Conference members beat Pac-12 teams with Grambling State winning at home against Colorado, Texas Southern over Arizona State and Prairie View A&M taking down Washington State.
• Perennial NCAA Tournament team Florida State is 0-3 with all of its losses to mid- or low-major programs.
• California-Davis beat California for the first time in 34 tries.
The No. 9 Arkansas Razorbacks (2-0) hope to avoid becoming the latest upset victim of the November Madness when they play South Dakota State (2-1) at 7 tonight in the 500th men’s game in Walton Arena.
Having a number in front of a team’s name doesn’t seem to mean as much with Colorado beating No. 11 Tennessee 78-66 along with Northwestern (La.) State beating No. 15 TCU 64-63, Temple beating No. 16 Villanova 68-64 and California-Irvine beating No. 21 Oregon 69-56.
Florida State lost to Stetson, Central Florida and Troy.
Louisville, which plays Arkansas in the Maui Invitational on Monday, is 0-3 with losses to Bellarmine, Wright State and Appalachian State.
In addition to Tennessee, SEC teams that also have lost include Florida International beating Florida 76-74 and Southern Mississippi beating Vanderbilt 60-48. Future SEC member Oklahoma lost to Sam Houston State 52-51.
Florida Gulf Coast beat USC and Boise State beat Washington State to hand the Pac-12 two more losses. Maine beat Boston College.
“Look, the way that college athletics is in basketball, baseball, football, anybody can beat anybody,” University of Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said. “We see it on a daily basis.
“The transfer [portal] has changed this dramatically. I mean, I look at South Dakota State’s team and look at the pieces that they have back.”
The Jackrabbits lost their top three scorers from last season’s 30-5 team that went 18-0 in the Summit League with Douglas Wilson graduating, Baylor Scheierman transferring to Creighton and Noah Friedel transferring to James Madison.
But four players return who started at least 14 games last season when South Dakota State lost to Providence 66-57 in a first-round NCAA Tournament game. Also back is senior forward Luke Appel, the Summit League’s Sixth Man of the Year.
“These guys played on a 30-win team,” Musselman said. “They know how to win. They know how to win on the road.
“We’ve got six freshmen and 11 new players, so we have to play at a high level where you can win games like this. It doesn’t just happen.
“And we scheduled South Dakota State because we believe that they can win their conference.”
Among the returnees with starting experience for the Jackrabbits are senior forward Matt Dentlinger, sophomore guard Zeke Mayo, senior guard Alex Arians and junior guard Alex Arians.
Dentlinger is averaging 16.7 points and 4.7 rebounds.
“Dentlinger is a guy off to a great start for them,” Musselman said. “He was part of the rotation last year and has now elevated his game as opportunity came.”
Arians is averaging 10.0 points, Mayo 9.3 and Easley 7.7
“Arians, he’s a lefty, he’s got great toughness,” Musselman said. “He can make open threes. He’s got a pull-up game off the bounce mid-range.
“Mayo is can create his own shot. He’s got deep, deep, deep range. Easley at the small forward spot can really shoot the ball.”
The Jackrabbits beat St. Bonaventure 66-62 on Tuesday night in Sioux Falls, S.D., led by Dentlinger’s 16 points.
Appel, who missed the first two games this season because of an injury, played against St. Bonaventure and had nine points in 12 minutes off the bench.
After the game, South Dakota was scheduled to fly via charter to Fayetteville to play a second game in a 24-hour span.
“South Dakota State, you’re talking about a team that won 30 games last year,” Musselman said. “There’s not a lot of people that want to play them.
“It’s hard for us right now to schedule games and it’s hard for South Dakota State to schedule games, so the date worked out really well for us.”
When Hofstra beat Arkansas 89-81 last season in North Little Rock, the Pride flew commercial flights and had travel issues because of weather and didn’t arrive until a few hours before tipoff.
“Like last year, we saw Hofstra fly into Little Rock the day of the game,” Musselman said. “But it didn’t really affect Hofstra too much. That was probably a game that we felt they were as ready to play against us as anybody that we played all last season.”
Freshman forward Kyle Williams is averaging 10.3 points for the Jackrabbits.
“Kyle is an excellent, excellent freshman,” Musselman said. “A high-level player. Their staff did a great job of recruiting a player that can be put in a starting lineup and can produce early in his career.”
Eric Henderson has a 70-23 record in his fourth season as South Dakota State’s coach.
“South Dakota State is not a well-coached team, they’re an excellent-coached basketball team,” Musselman said.
The Jackrabbits played their first two games on the road and lost at Akron 81-80 in overtime and won 68-61 at Boise State when Dentlinger hit a layup with 1.3 seconds left.
“South Dakota State, they expose every defense,” Musselman said. “When you have such a proficient offensive system with players that really, really fit your scheme like South Dakota State, we just hope that we’re not exposed in areas.”
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