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Andy Hodges

Musselman: ‘It’s nonsense’ for basketball to not have uniform rules for all levels

Arkansas coach Eric Musselman had a good point Wednesday afternoon.

“College basketball keeps doing the same thing,” he he told Phil Elson, Matt Jenkins and Matt Travis (Halftime) on ESPN Arkansas. “So now, all of a sudden, the NBA and the G-League have become in some people’s eyes as competition for college basketball.”

With the announcement of the G-League Special League it allows players to make the leap straight to the professional level without getting lost in the shuffle of trying to play in the NBA.

“Obviously the money is astronomical with some of the salaries they’re getting,” Musselman said. “My thought process is we need to sell our game to all the great high school players. We have to be adaptable

“We need more rules like the NBA because that’s where these players want to get to.”

Talking like that may cause some folks to faint. Men’s college basketball has always been a little different with two halves while nearly everything else has four quarters like women’s basketball and high school.

Women’s college basketball even lets you take the ball at half court after a dead ball late in halves.

“When I go watch coach (Mike) Neighbors’ team play they have four quarters, the NBA has four quarters,” Musselman said. “Why does college basketball not have four quarters? I wish all of us could get as close as possible.”

Part of the problem is high school basketball nationwide that has a knack for making it up a little different from state to state.

“Even the high schools are reluctant to change,” he said. “The more uniform we can be the easier it is to attract fans and not confuse them. We should all have the same rules.”

There is a disconnect within the overall sport of basketball which requires almost a complete set of rules books every time you go to a different level.

“It’s crazy,” Musselman said. “The people that are making the rules are not talking to people that have played both rules. You can’t go talk to a college coach that’s been coaching at an institution for 25 years and ask him about advancing the ball.

“I can already tell you what they’re going to say. You need to go to talk the coaches who have coached under both umbrellas. Go ask coach Neighbors what he likes best. Go talk to coaches who have coached both college and the NBA.”

Getting the ball at midcourt late in games would completely change what a lot of coaches have done with strategy and they don’t like change.

“It gives the offense a better chance to score,” Musselman said. “The defense now has to guard closer to the rim and there’s more strategy than inbounding the ball with four seconds to go and then going the length of the floor.

“It really just turns into luck as opposed to being able to get your team in a huddle, diagram something with two or three different options. It’s nonsense we don’t have a uniform set of rules.”

Hopefully he won’t hold his breath waiting on that.

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Andy Hodges

Are regional matchups like Hogs-Memphis becoming more likely now?

There aren’t a lot of benefits for college athletics right now with far more questions than answers but the economic hit may force schools like Arkansas and others to start scheduling by geography.

My view is there would be more fan interest in playing schools like Memphis or even the community college in Jonesboro than bringing in the likes of Nevada or Charleston Wherever.

It’s not just my opinion, but CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander had the same thoughts Wednesday morning with Tye Richardson and Tommy Craft (The Morning Rush) on ESPN Arkansas.

“We will see (geographic rivalries) well established a year or two from now,” Norlander said. “The financial impact of all this will be realized in ’21, ’22 and ’23. When it comes to who you can play, geography might end up having a real impact on that.”

The guess here is the current coronavirus crisis is going to change a lot of college athletics and that might not be all that bad.

With Penny Hardaway and Eric Musselman having a cordial relationship, it really doesn’t make sense to NOT play in that sport. Exactly why the Razorbacks don’t play Memphis every year in basketball and football has been a head-scratcher.

It won’t be surprising to see that happen.

“Given what Penny has said since he’s taken the gig he just doesn’t seem like a coach who’s scared of that kind of stuff and not worried about any previous politics with that,” Norlander said.

The coaches can get the ball rolling, but it’s going to take Hunter Yurachek to just lay out the numbers and increased fan interest for the games to actually happen.

“This applies to college football as much as college basketball,” Norlander said. “It is such a good thing for the health and interest of the sport when you have natural geographic rivals that aren’t in the same conference that are willing to play each other — ideally — annually, but short of that at least frequently.

“For Memphis and Arkansas there’s almost no reason not to do it.”

He’s got a point there that some have wondered about for awhile. If nothing else, the Hogs have struggled mightily against lesser teams the last few years in football.

Musselman is upgrading the schedule in basketball by taking his team to neutral-site matchups, leaving a chance for home matchups that could boost some of that attendance that falls a bit in November and December.

Even going to Memphis for a game every other year would probably create a hot ticket for a road game in an NBA facility in a downtown where Razorback fans usually find a way to have a good time.

“Why wouldn’t you?” Norlander said. “At this point Memphis and Arkansas are essentially on even footing. Playing each other would benefit both programs, the fan bases would be into it.

“Both coaches certainly seem to see the game in a lot of ways that would help it. It would be terrific.”

Quite possibly it could get both programs some solid early-season exposure on a broader scale.

“Is a Memphis-Arkansas game going to bring in wide national appeal?” Norlander said. “Not necessarily, but it’s not going to be a thing where only people in the region care.

“If you tell me Arkansas Memphis, we look up in two years from now and they’re playing a game, both of these teams have made the NCAA Tournament, both of these teams are bringing in five-star recruits and have really strong classes, yes that becomes a game on a given day.

“Say they play on the first Saturday in December and both teams are in the tournament, that becomes a game — almost certainly — that’s a top three game that day. It would be one of the top games that day.”

It’s something Norlander feels the sport needs.

“We need more coaches, athletic directors and their schools to be willing to do that.” he said. “It inherently helps the sport. Sometimes ego gets in the way. Missouri and Kansas are doing it in football and basketball. I would love to see it.”

That may be a big boost after this shutdown business as they start to sort things out. The guess here is expenses are going to be scrutinized more closely … at least for a few years.

Which may force some of these schools to do what they should have been doing for awhile.

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Hogs Men's Basketball

Musselman on Zoom after announcement of two-game series with OU

It was announced Wednesday morning that Arkansas and Oklahoma would be playing for at least two years in Tulsa and Eric Musselman talked about it in Zoom conference.

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Hogs Men's Basketball

Hogs, OU set series to be played at Tulsa’s BOK Center starting this year

FAYETTEVILLE — Border rivals Arkansas and Oklahoma announced a multi-year, men’s basketball series to be played in consecutive years at the BOK Center in Tulsa with the first game in the series set for December 12.

Located midway between the Arkansas (116 miles) and Oklahoma (125 miles) campuses, the BOK Center offers a central location that caters to alumni and fan bases from both universities.

Tickets for the matchup will be divided at midcourt to create a unique 50-50 atmosphere for fans from each school.

“I have tremendous respect for (Oklahoma) head coach Lon Kruger and the Sooner basketball program,” said Arkansas coach Eric Musselman. “We are also appreciative of the city of Tulsa and the BOK Center. This is a great game for both programs and Tulsa is the perfect neutral-site location.

“Not only will it be exciting for the region, this is the type of game that will draw national exposure. We feel like this will be a great experience for both our student-athletes and fans, while the environment versus a premier program from one of the top power conferences will help us in SEC play and beyond.”

The second game of the series is set for Dec. 11, 2021, also in the BOK Center, with the possibility of two additional games in December of 2022 and 2023.

Ticket information and official branding for the series will be announced at a later date.

“Our series with the University of Oklahoma will bring together two storied basketball programs and two passionate fan bases from bordering states to create a compelling regional rivalry,” said Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek. “This series, with games being contested at a neutral location less than two hours from our respective campuses, will positively enhance the exposure of college basketball in our region.”

The Arkansas and Oklahoma series includes 28 games dating back to the 1938-39 season. Arkansas owns a 16-12 advantage in the series, including a 5-0 record when the teams play on a neutral court. The teams have never met in Tulsa.

The last time the two squads played was Nov. 23, 2017 when the Razorbacks defeated the Sooners 92-83 in Portland, Ore., at the Phil Knight Invitational.

Prior to that, the teams played six consecutive years from 2007-08 to 2012-13, three contests in Fayetteville and three in Norman.

Preceding that series, the programs met in four consecutive seasons spanning 1998-99 to 2001-02 in home-and-home series.

While the teams’ history with one another is somewhat limited, the programs’ coaching staffs are very familiar with each other.

First, Musselman was an assistant under Kruger for two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks (2000-02).

Second, current Razorback associate coach Chris Crutchfield served on Kruger’s staff with the Sooners for eight years (2011-19) — the last three as associate head coach — prior to coming to the Razorbacks.

Arkansas basketball in Tulsa

• Arkansas has never played in Tulsa’s BOK Center.

• The last time Arkansas played in Tulsa was Nov. 30, 2003, an 81-74 victory over the Golden Hurricane at the Donald W. Reynolds Center.

• Arkansas is 9-15 all-time versus the Golden Hurricane in Tulsa.

• Arkansas is 1-2 all-time versus Oral Roberts in Tulsa.

• Arkansas faced Oklahoma State once in Tulsa (Mabee Center) on Dec. 9, 2000, a game the Cowboys won 74-73.

Information from Razorback Sports Communications is included in this story.

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Andy Hodges

What Musselman learned from great football coaches has helped preparations

Eric Musselman learned something when he was a younster from maybe the greatest football coach of all time that has obviously made a huge impact with the early success he’s had in basketball.

Paul Brown is the only coach in history to win championships at the high school, college and professional level. He invented an awful lot of what you see in the game today (face masks, radio in the quarterbacks’ helmets, using game film, quizzes for players on the playbook, practice squads and the draw play).

He also founded two professional football teams in the same state and won titles in two different leagues.

And Musselman got something when his dad, Bill, was coaching in the old American Basketball Association (think red, white and blue basketballs).

“One day I came home from school and there was a guy sitting at our dinner table by the name of Paul Brown,” Musselman told Derek Ruscin and Zach Arns in their show on ESPN Arkansas on Wednesday afternoon. “My dad had asked him to come over because Paul Brown was retired and living in San Diego.”

The meeting was for a very specific reason.

“My dad had a meeting with Paul Brown about your very first team meeting,” Musselman said. “I remember coach Paul Brown saying in the first three minutes your team is going to determine if they’re going to buy into you. That little lesson has stuck with me.”

In hindsight if you remember the video of former coach Chad Morris’ first meeting with his team the lesson Musselman learned at a young age held true.

It obviously makes a difference and it was a big part of why he turned to football when he was fired by Golden State in 2004.

“I was lucky enough the Oakland Raiders let me come into their building,” Musselman said. “Michael Lombardi, who was the GM at the time, allowed me to have an office there. I would go in and watch NBA film then I would go watch some of the Raiders practices. I sat in on the NFL Draft with Michael Lombardi and learned as much as I could.”

Then he went to watch Jon Gruden at Tampa Bay.

“I spent time there on the practice field trying to watch some of the things they did,” Musselman said. “A lot of things we do from a game prep on game night is actually stolen from a lot of the stuff Jon Gruden did in his two-minute offense or Red Zone offense and stuff.”

The football angle was something else passed down from his dad, who was known in basketball as a coach who’s teams were always prepared.

“My dad originally played college football and his first job was as a football coach, not a basketball coach,” Musselman said. “I’ve tried to study as many football coaches as I possibly can because of the organizational skills of a football coach.”

And Bill Musselman took some of that football organization into the basketball world.

But Eric has spent time around some basketball coaches noted for being into the minute details.

“I’ve been around so many great coaches,” he said Wednesday. “I worked for Chuck Daly who was an incredible preparation guy. I worked for Hubie Brown and he’s the most meticulous guy I’ve worked for. Mike Fratello overly detailed and Doc Rivers. I’ve been around some great coaches to learn from.”

And that list included maybe the greatest football coach of all time.

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Andy Hodges

Musselman puts together 2020 class that is highest ranked in a long time

The final piece to Eric Musselman’s first real recruiting class came in Monday when KK Robinson got his paperwork in, giving Arkansas a No. 6-rated class in the composite rankings.

In case you’re wondering it’s been a couple of decades since the Razorbacks were in that category. Mike Anderson’s best ranking was No. 19 in 2013, his second class in Fayetteville.

Musselman knows how to recruit and works at it. The NBA background he and his staff have is part of it.

“Of course,” signee Jaylin Williams said on an Instagram interview with Musselman and his wife, Danyelle. “Knowing that coach Muss and coach (Corey) Williams and the other coaches all have NBA experience knowing that they know what to do to make sure I can try and get to the next level is a great feeling for a recruit or commit.”

All of that’s a big plus but it would be worthless without the unrelenting work Musselman and his staff put into recruiting.

There is SOMETHING coming out about recruiting from the Hogs these days 365 days a year. It’s not just men’s basketball, either.

Flying under the radar somewhat was women’s coach Mike Neighbors picking up the signature of the top-rated graduate transfer in the entire country when Destiny Slocum was officially announced Monday.

Musselman, though, has taken it to an entirely new level.

Robinson (Bryant) was expected to sign Saturday but his paperwork didn’t get announced until Monday and it completed a class that included Williams (Fort Smith Northside, Moses Moody (Little Rock) and Devo Davis (Jacksonville).

Robinson and Moody finished their high school path out of state at prep schools, but both made it clear the Razorbacks had the home edge.

They join some experienced guys in graduate transfers Vance Jackson and Jalen Tate.

Landing all those guys inside the state was a big deal for Musselman in just his second year.

“It’s not often you come into a state with that many guys and be able to land all of them,” Musselman said in a teleconference late Monday afternoon.

It hasn’t happened in recent years in Arkansas with some big names managing to escape out of state. The previous staff was more noted for the ones that went out of state.

Musselman is working to close the borders.

And don’t be surprised if all four freshmen end up on the floor at the same time. Musselman isn’t afraid of that.

“The same thing in the NBA,” he said Monday. “If you have really good rookies you play ’em. We’re going to play the guys that are the best and fit together. Whoever fits the best will be the guys that earn the rotation and earn the minutes.”

The bottom line to that is if they can play, they will. He made it clear he has the depth this year to probably get more guys on the floor than last season, so mistakes may land folks on the bench quicker.

None of it guarantees a single win, but there will be a lot of new faces … and they can play.

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Latest News

Listen live to Musselman’s teleconference as Robinson completes class

ESPN Arkansas will have the complete teleconference with Eric Musselman after K.K. Robinson completed Arkansas’ men’s basketball signing class by inking his paperwork Monday.

Listen Live <i class=”fas fa-volume-up”></i>

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Andy Hodges

No press conferences, but Musselman somehow finding ways to hype Hogs

There are times you watch what Eric Musselman is doing and shake your head.

Nobody in Arkansas has seen what he’s doing. A lot of the SEC hasn’t really seen anything like it.

He knows how to market the Razorbacks, probably better than anybody that’s been around the program and he knows that’s how you get players in this technology-driven world.

Especially in the current health crisis where everything is shut down and communication is being done over computers and mobile devices these day.

Not able to have a press conference?

No problem for Musselman who recorded him talking with new signee Moses Moody … then putting the whole thing up on social media.

Brilliant move.

It helps that his wife, Danyelle has a little experience in front of a camera and house full of people familiar enough with the technical aspects to get it all done.

The result was as good as a press conference and explained the delay in his signing, which had a few fans squirming despite him saying he would sign soon.

“He and his family wanted to read the entire (National Letter of Intent),” Musselman explained early. “Then Moses asked us questions. I just want the fans to understand what a serious-minded young man we’re getting.

“He actually read the thing, wanted to do it alone, wanted to ask questions. That just shows the maturity.”

Moody was able to actually talk about that.

“That’s exactly what it is, a contract,” he said. “So I just wanted to read over the document and see what I was signing. It’s such a big step. I just wanted to be 100 percent sure about certain things. I had a couple of things I didn’t understand because it’s a lot of terminology.”

The delay didn’t bother Musselman, who was apparently in constant communication with Moody and his family.

“I was actually glad it took an extra two days because now you learned a lot more about the process,” Musselman said. “I know you’re going to read your scouting report like that, too.”

Musselman also included the fans, who were able to ask questions as Danyelle provided the moderator part of that.

This may have been done before, but I haven’t seen it or even heard about it.

When you step back and look at the big picture, though, it’s part of why Musselman is putting together a Top 10 class that’s getting the Hogs back into the national picture.

They were ranked in the Top 25 of one of those way-too-early things and even projected as a possible Sweet 16 team based on the strength of this recruiting class and going from one of the shortest teams in college basketball to having a few players that are tall.

Height is the one thing Musselman can’t develop.

But marketing and selling his program is as he showed again Friday night.

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Podcasts

Moses Moody interview with Eric & Danyelle Musselman

ICYMI: Moses Moody talked with Eric & Danyelle Musselman on Friday night to discuss signing with Arkansas!

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Hogs Men's Basketball

Moody officially signs as Hogs’ highly-rated class nearing completion

FAYETTEVILLE — Moses Moody has signed a national letter of intent, according to an announcement from Arkansas coach Eric Musselman on Friday and a class ranked No. 6 in the nation nears completion.

The composite ranking from 247Sports.com has the Razorbacks ranked there, which is still fourth in the SEC behind Kentucky, Tennessee and LSU.

In the average rating per player, though, the Hogs rank only behind the Wildcats.

Moody, a Little Rock native attended Montverde (Fla.) Academy, is rated 38th on the ESPN Top 100 and 247Sports.com puts him as the eighth-best shooting guard in the nation.

He is also the highest-rated player to sign with Arkansas since five-star (16th nationally) Bobby Portis in 2013.

K.K. Robinson is the only commitment that hasn’t signed, having announced previously he plants to sign Saturday. He is ranked the No. 71 prospect in the country and the No. 12 point guard.

“Moses is such a complete player and fits our stylistic play so well with his versatility,” Musselman said. “He has the ability to score inside, off the bounce and from deep 3-point range. He can create shots for himself as well as create open shots for his teammates.

“He is an excellent rebounder for his position. He is a very good defender with his length and can guard a point guard, an off guard or a small forward.

“Moses has great maturity for an incoming freshman. It’s not often you can look at a freshman and feel like he has leadership qualities. He is an incredible teammate who is incredibly unselfish.”

Last November, Moody was one of 50 players in the nation named to the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s watch list for the 2020 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy, given to the top high school player.

At season’s end, Moody was tabbed MaxPreps All-American Honorable Mention, one of the top 50 players in America to be recognized along with three other of his Montverde teammates.

In addition to his ESPN ranking, 247Sports Composite tabs Moody at No. 45 nationally and Rivals has him rated as the 54th best player in the country as well as the 13th-best small forward.

Moody is the top-ranked player from the state of Arkansas by ESPN and the seventh-rated player playing in Florida by 247Sports.

This past season, Moody averaged 11.6 points 3.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 60.1 percent from the field, 46.9 percent from 3-point range and 82.1 percent from the free throw line this season.

Moody helped Montverde earn the nation’s consensus No. 1 ranking, going 25-0 in the regular season.

Moody, a two-year starter at Montverde, led Brad Beal Elite in scoring (17.7 ppg) on the 2019 Nike EYBL (Elite Youth Basketball League) circuit and was named All-EYBL honorable mention.

He was selected to be a part of Pangos All American Camp, NBPA Top 100 Camp, Team USA U17 training camp and USA Basketball Junior minicamp.

Prior to playing his final two seasons at Montverde, Moody was named to the Arkansas 7A All-State team in 2018 as he led North Little Rock to a state championship (over Isaiah Joe’s Fort Smith Northside team) and was named the tournament MVP.

He was additionally named to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette All-Underclassman team as he averaged 18.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 stats and 1.4 blocks as a sophomore.

As a freshman, Moody played on a Little Rock Parkview team (with Razorbacks student assistant Khalil Garland) that advanced to the state championship.

Information from Razorback Sports Communications is included in this story.