2009-10 SEC Basketball Previews: Arkansas

Kurt WirthCorrespondent IOctober 8, 2009

In December of 2008, John Pelphrey looked like a reincarnation of Nolan Richardson. He had driven the Razorbacks of Arkansas to a 12-1 record, a Jim Thorpe Classic title, and wins over No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Texas.

Arkansas seemed ready to pounce on the SEC like it hadn't in over a decade.

And then, rather inexplicably, the squad took a nose-dive of the likes the league hasn't seen in a very, very long time. Arkansas lost 12 of its next 13 games, and finished with a 14-16 record—including a 2-14 mark in the SEC.

Off-the-court issues also seem to be a recurring theme under Pelphrey. Various legal and school-related instances resulted in the transfer of three Razorbacks this offseason, one player losing his eligibility, another leaving the team completely and yet another with an undetermined suspension.

After an impressive 23-13, 9-7 start in his first year and last year's 12-1 beginning, Pelphrey seemed to have a glorious halo around him. Less than a year later, his job seems to be at risk.

Arkansas is in complete disarray at the moment, although the roster is heavily talented but top-heavy.

The three transfers accounted for 872 minutes last season and all were solid role players. The biggest name was potential-laden Jason Henry who drew two starts a year ago.

Andre Clark and Brandon Moore also transferred out, while impressive but underused forward Marcus Monk was deemed ineligible. Serviceable backup Montrell McDonald opted to leave the team as well.

Stefan Welsh—a star guard who started 24 games and has a big-game potential—is suspended until further notice.

Replacing the many Arkansas defections this year is a set of five newcomers highlighted by four-star recruit Marshawn Powell.


Marshawn Powell 

No. 62 Overall—No. 15 PF—4 stars—6'8", 225 lbs

Powell is an excellent on-the-block big-man, and is solid on both offense and defense. Although he can't step away from the rim very much and has some learning to do, he will be a future star for the 'Backs.


Glenn Bryant 

No. 47 PF—3 stars—6'6", 190 lbs

Bryant is versatile, as his shooting can be impressive for his size. Should be a solid role player this season.


Jemal Farmer 

SF—3 stars

Farmer is a big-time shooter with size, and could make an impact as a backup for Arkansas this season.


Anthony Borden 

C—3 stars—6'10", 205 lbs

Borden can be dominant defensively at times, but struggles offensively both in practice and in attitude. Borden has some work to do before he will contribute for the 'Backs.


Julysess Nobles

PG—2 stars—6', 165 lbs

Nobles will likely never be more than a roleplayer for Arkansas, though his work ethic is solid.


What Arkansas does bring back, however, is thoroughly talented. The group includes as many as four All-SEC caliber players.


Michael Washington

6'9", 239 lb Senior F/C

(15.5ppg - 9.8rpg - 55.1% FG - 39 blk)

Washington is one of the best offensive bigmen in the conference, and perhaps the best all-around.

He ranks third among returning SEC players in field-goal percentage and even attempted 30 threes a year ago. Washington was named to the All-SEC Second-Team last year and should make the First-Team cut this year.


Courtney Fortson

5'11", 180 lb Sophomore G

(14.8ppg - 5.5rpg - 1.34 A/TO - 33 stl)

Fortson has been a dynamic player from the start, showing tons of energy and leadership potential even as a freshman. Although his shooting severely needs improvement, his defense and rebounding were both enough to place him on last year's All-SEC Freshman team.


Rotnei Clarke

6', 184 lb Sophomore SG

(12.2 ppg - 1.9 rpg - 39.3% 3PT - 93.5% FT)

Clarke is one of the very few players that I will, without hesitation, claim has a very real chance at taking SEC Player of the Year honors in his career. And this for a freshman.

Clarke is super-dynamic and is one of the best long-range shooters in the league. If he had attempted enough, he would have led the league in free-throw shooting.

He handles the ball exceptionally well and is almost certainly the best all-around shooter in the league, if not the country.

Clarke stands as the league's top returning three-point shooter at 39.3 percent last year on 211 attempts. That's some incredible shooting. Look out for this kid. He's a serious scorer.


Stefan Welsh

6'3", 185 lb Senior SG

(11.5ppg, 2.9rpg, 31 stl, 36.1% FG)

Welsh has talent and explosiveness, but isn't efficient or consistent. He tends to make poor decisions and can be selfish.

Welsh needs to work on his touch from both the charity stripe and the floor, along with decision-making, before he is a real threat for opposing teams.


Michael Sanchez 

6'8", 236 lb Sophomore PF

(5.9ppg, 4.9rpg, 72.2% FT, 44.8% FG)

Sanchez was a particularly interesting freshman last year, as there were times that he showed flashes of an ability to dominate offensively as well as on the boards.

He is very talented, but not adept defensively. If he can refine his moves around the basket and be more aggressive on defense, Sanchez could make some waves in a couple of years.


Marcus Britt 

6'3", 198lb Junior G

(3.7ppg, 1.8rpg, 2.57 A/TO, 85.0% FT)

Britt is the definition of a diamond in the rough. Although severely under-utilized, Britt brings an all-around improvement to his team.

He started just eight games but sports a 2.57 assist-to-turnover ratio: good enough for first in the conference if he had more playing time.

He also shoots 50 percent from three out of 30 shots. Britt has potential oozing out of his ears and should see a massive increase in playing time this season.

Due to the heavy offseason losses, Arkansas joins Binghamton as the only Division I school that I'm aware of that is holding open tryouts.

That's right, open tryouts at an SEC institution.


Schedule Breakdown

  • Cupcakes: Alcorn St. (H), Appalachian St. (H), South Alabama (H), Mississippi Valley St. (H), Delaware St. (H), Alabama St. (H),
    Missouri St. (H)
  • Real Games: Morgan St. (H), East Tennessee St. (H),
    Stephen F. Austin (H), UAB (H)
  • Marquee Matchups: Lousiville (N), Oklahoma (A), Baylor (N), Texas (H)
  • Opposite Division: Florida (H), Kentucky (A), Georgia (A),
    South Carolina (H), Vanderbilt (H), Tennessee (A)
  • Predicted Result: (15-16, 6-10), No postseason
  • Analysis: Considering the situation in Fayetteville, this should prove to be a difficult schedule.


What's Returning

  • Points: 84.63% (4th - SEC Avg: 73.81%)
  • Rebounds: 77.66% (5th - SEC Avg: 75.80%)

The Razorbacks are one of the most top-heavy teams in America for 2009-10. The squad's top three players are insanely talented, but the drop-off after man number four or five is massive. Despite the super trio, I see little way Arkansas can pull out a postseason berth in 2009-10.

Unfortunate for both Washington, who hasn't seen much success in his career despite his incredible skill, and for Pelphrey, whose job will be threatened because of it.