By Kevin McPherson

LITTLE ROCK — It was a roller-coaster season for the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2022-23, one that did not live up to preseason expectations that came with a top-rated recruiting class and national Top 10 rankings, yet despite a crushing loss in their final game of the campaign the Hoop Hogs survived-and-advanced in notching their third consecutive NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance.

Arkansas (22-14) as the 8-seed suffered an 88-65 loss to 4-seed Uconn in the Sweet 16 on Thursday, March 23, in Las Vegas, Nev., after defeating No. 1-seed and defending national champion Kansas (72-71) on Saturday, March 18, in the Round of 32 and 9-seed Illinois (73-63) on Thursday, March 16, in the first round with both first-weekend games played in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Razorbacks just missed on three consecutive NCAAT Elite Eight berths as the ’20-21 and ’21-22 teams each made their way to regional finals, and a third in ’22-23 would have established a school record for most Elite Eight runs in consecutive seasons.

Despite the final blowout loss and missing on another Elite Eight, it was a historic NCAAT for a Hogs team that underachieved in the regular season while finishing two games below .500 in SEC play.

By beating defending national champion and top-seed Kansas, Arkansas defeated 1-seeds in back-to-back NCAATs (last season it was a Hogs’ win against overall No. 1 Gonzaga in a Sweet 16 matchup) in becoming only the fourth team in NCAAT history to defeat No. 1 seeds in their own region in back-to-back seasons (Duke 1988-90, UCLA ’06-07, Butler ’10-11). And only once before had Arkansas knocked off a defending national champion in the NCAAT — it was U.S. Reed’s famous buzzer-beating half-court shot in the second round that lifted the Hogs to a 74-73 win over Louisville in ’80-81.

Arkansas went 8-3 spanning the past three NCAATs, and the back-to-back-to-back Sweet 16 berths marked only the second time in school history that the program enjoyed three consecutive NCAAT regional semifinals appearances (Naismith Hall of Fame coach Nolan Richardson had Hog teams advance to four straight Sweet 16’s — included two Final Fours / national-title game berths and a championship — spanning ’93-96).

The ’22-23 Hogs were 3-2 in postseason play and 6-11 in Quad-1 matchups on the season (includes postseason play) as the team finished 7-3 in neutral-site games (including a 4-3 record in Q1 games), 13-3 in home games (including a 1-2 record in Q1 games), and 2-8 in road games (including a 1-6 record in Q1 games).

There were plenty of memorable individual and team performances in the Hogs’ ’22-23 Dance, including heroic efforts from junior guards Davonte “Devo” Davis and Ricky Council IV in Arkansas’ two NCAAT wins; an evolution for freshmen combo forward Jordan Walsh as a two-way, offensive/defensive force; offensive rebounding clinics put on by departing senior forward Kamani Johnson in his final three games; gutsy efforts by star freshman guard Anthony Black who played valiantly through a foot injury in what were likely his last games as a Razorbacks as he is expected to enter the 2023 NBA Draft soon with first-round lottery pick projections; and team growth as it related to consistent rebounding, turnover, and free throw shooting improvement compared to the team’s regular season.

With its 2-1 finish in the ’22-23 NCAAT, Arkansas is 50-35 all-time in the NCAAT.

Fourth-year head coach Eric Musselman is 8-3 in the NCAAT and 95-42 overall at Arkansas, with the latter including a 45-33 mark in SEC games. His Razorback resume includes two Elite Eights and a Sweet 16.

Arkansas’ three NCAAT games plus our Selection Sunday / NCAAT preview with details including Musselman and player quotes (linked Hogville game articles) …

* UConn 88, Arkansas 65 (

* Arkansas 72, Kansas 71 (

* Arkansas 73, Illinois 63 (

* Arkansas Razorbacks NCAAT preview / Selection Sunday (

SEC Tournament

Once again and true to form, Arkansas went 1-1 in the SEC Tournament as the 10-seed, defeating 7-seed Auburn, 76-73, in the second round on Thursday, March 9, before losing to 2-seed Texas A&M, 67-61, on Friday, March 10, with both games played in Nashville, Tenn.

It was the third consecutive season the Razorbacks went 1-1 in the SECT.

After Arkansas blew a double-digit lead against Auburn, freshman guard Nick Smith, Jr., and junior guard Davonte “Devo” Davis were the heroes in the closing seconds as Smith’s baseline jumper put the Hogs back in front, 74-73, and on the ensuing defensive possession Davis got a steal, was fouled, and made both free throws for the final thre-point winning margin, 76-73.

The Hogs once again blew a double-digit lead in a loss, and it was the second time they do so against the A&M in ’22-23, as the Aggies secured the 67-61 comeback victory before picking up another win and a berth in the SECT championship game.

Arkansas’ two SECT games plus our Arkansas SECT preview with details plus Musselman quotes (linked Hogville game articles) …

* Texas A&M 67, Arkansas 61 (

* Arkansas 76, Auburn 73 (

* Arkansas SEC Tournament preview (

Preseason and regular season

Arkansas went unbeaten in its 4-game European exhibition tour in August, 1-1 in its October exhibition season, 11-2 in non-conference play including a 2-1 / third-place finish in the Maui Invitational in Hawaii in November, and 8-10 in SEC regular-season play.

The best stretch of games for the Hogs — they finished the regular season 19-12 overall and 8-10 for 10th place in the SEC — came in the middle of league play when Arkansas won five consecutive SEC games capped by the team’s best win of the regular season, an 88-73 road win over Kentucky in early February.

The team struggled all season with injuries, the inexperience of 11 newcomers, turnovers, poor free throw shooting, poor three-point shooting, excessive fouling, inconsistency on defense, and losing its grip on double-digit leads. But the Hogs were effective at attacking the rim and paint to score, and defensively they were good at getting steals, blocking shots, and running teams off the three-point-line as they once again finished ranked in the Top 20 in D1 in‘s adjusted defensive efficiency.

Linked are Hogville’s game articles for all of Arkansas’ 42 games = 3 NCAAT, 2 SECT, 31 regular-season, plus 6 exhibition matchups (4 in Europe in August and 2 in October):

Hogville’s 2022-23 Arkansas Razorbacks postseason individual awards

Most Valuable Player: Freshman 6-7 guard Anthony Black, who earned postseason All SEC second-team and All Freshman team honors. Much like former Arkansas star and current NBA rookie Jaylin Williams was a season ago, Black was often the team’s fixer as he kept things in order at both ends of the floor. The unflappable rookie lead guard was as good as advertised, and more. Based on his body of work prior to arriving in Arkansas, it came as no surprise that Black led or was in the top two on the team in per-game minutes (34.8, led the team), scoring (12.8 points, second on the team); rebounds (5.1, second on the team / minimum 10 games); assists (3.9 per game, led the team and fifth in the SEC); and steals (2.1, led the team and third in the SEC). A unique defender because of his size and athleticism, Black was third on the team in total blocks (22) which easily led all backcourt players. He shot 45.3% shooting from the field, including 30.1% from 3, and 70.5% from the free throw line. Black is the ONLY Razorback, ever, to record 450-plus points, 180-plus rebounds, and 140-plus assists in a season (data courtesy of Black’s back-to-back 26-point games in the Maui Invitational in late November got the attention of college basketball national pundits as he led all scorers in the event (22.3 points per game) while being the only Razorback to earn all-tournament honors. It also earned him SEC Freshman of the Week recognition. Black started all 36 games for Arkansas and scored in double figures in 24 of those outings. Black backed up his 2023 NBA Draft first-round lottery pick projections.

Most Outstanding Offensive Player: Junior 6-6 guard Ricky Council IV. A second-team All SEC performer according to the league’s coaches and the Associated Press, Council was the team’s leading scorer bascially from start to finish at 16.1 points per game, which ranked fifth in the SEC. His 581 points on the season were the second-most in program history for a first-year Hog. He hit 43.3% from the field, including 27.0% from 3, and 79.4% from the free throw line as the team’s best at the line in both volume and efficiency. Council had 11 games of scoring 20 or more points — including a season-high 27 points in a 74-61 comeback home win over Troy on Nov. 28 — and he scored in double-figures in all but five games. Council was second on the team in minutes per game at 34.1 while coming in third in both assists at 2.3 and steals at 1.1 to go with 3.6 rebounds. Council demonstrated highlight-reel dunking as part of an elite drive-and-finish-at-the-rim game (best at Arkansas since 2020 SEC Player of the Year Mason Jones) to go with some success as a mid-range shooter, and though three-point shooting was not a strength of his game he did step up at times to knock down some clutch shots from distance. Council has received some top 30-45 NBA draft projections in 2023 if he chooses to leave school early.

Most Outstanding Defensive Player AND Postseason MVP: Junior 6-4 guard Davonte “Devo” Davis. In a nutshell, Devo was a menace as a relentless on-ball defensive hawk. He did an excellent job as a disruptor forcing ball-handlers off course, and he was sneaky in help situations as he attacked the blind side of unsuspecting ball-handlers to poach steals or jam up the offensive flow. An SEC All Defensive team honoree, Davis has a knack for not only coming up with 50/50 balls amid the chaos of plays breaking down, but he’s also able to turn those live-ball situations into transition scoring opportunities. Splitting time as a starter and sixth man in non-conference play before holding down a starting role once league play began, Davis was fourth on the team in per-game scoring (10.9 points), second in assists (2.5) and steals (1.4), third in  minutes (33.1), and fourth in rebounds (4.4). Davis had 16 multiple-steal games. He raised his three-point shooting volume and efficiency to career bests of 1.3 made triples per game at a respectable 34.6%, and he shot 41.5% overall from the field and 71.9% from the free throw line. He recorded two double-doubles in scoring/rebounding, and he had a third game of recording double-digit rebounds. He scored in double-figures 19 times, including his season-high 25 points (21 scored in the second half) in a warrior poet effort in the Hogs’ 72-71 win over No. 1 seed Kansas in the NCAAT Round of 32. Davis’ steal that led to a Council layup in the closing minutes against Illinois stood out as the play of the game in that win, and Davis’ steal and subsequent 2-of-2 free throw effort in the closing seconds iced a three-point win over Auburn in the SECT.

Most Improved Player: Freshman 6-7 combo forward Jordan Walsh. With the early-December loss of versatile forward Trevon Brazile (knee) for the season, Walsh as a flexible 3/4-combo was the only frontliner for the Hogs who would mix in face-up and interior production on offense as he also evolved his two-way impact (offense and defense) throughout the season, culminating in him being the Hogs’ X-factor in postseason play. His constant hounding and effective disruption against Kansas’ first-team All American and Big 12 Player of the Year Jalen Wilson and Illinois versatile Coleman Hawkins were significant in helping the Hogs survive-and-advance in the first two rounds of the NCAAT. As one of three heralded 5-star prospects coming into the season, Walsh finished the season with 22 starts in his 36 games played and per-game averages of 7.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in 24.4 minutes per outing while shooting 43.3% from the field, including 27.8% from 3, and 71.2% from the free throw line. Walsh had big production in the Hogs’ biggest wins — 10 points, 3 rebounds, and s steals against Kansas in the NCAAT; 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block against Auburn in the SECT; 13 points (4-of-4 field goals, including 1-of-1 from 3, and 4-of-4 free throws) at Kentucky; 12 points and 7 rebounds against Texas A&M at home; 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block against Oklahoma at a neutral site; and career-high 18 points (7-of-7 field goals, including 1-of-1 from 3, and 3-of-4 free throws), 4 steals, and 3 rebounds against Bradely at a neutral site.

Honorable Mention: Freshman 6-5 guard Nick Smith, Jr. and sophomore 6-10 forward Trevon Brazile. Smith (missed 19 games due to right knee management) played in a total of 17 games with 12 of those coming after a two-month absence. A two-time SEC Freshman of the Week honoree, Smith averaged 12.5 points, 1.7 assists, and 1.6 assists in 25.8 minutes per game while shooting 37.6% from the field, including 33.8% from 3, and 74.0% from the free throw line. He scored 20 or more points five times, including his career-high 26 points in a home win over Georgia. Smith also had game-saving performances in wins over Auburn in the SECT (he hit the game-winning shot) and North Carolina-Greensboro, and his 21-point effort was key in the Hogs’ revenge-win over Oklahoma in December in Tulsa. Smith never quite got in a rhythm or groove as he was effectively working through mid-season form once the team advanced to the postseason. Brazile appeared in the team’s first eight contests before suffering his season-ending knee injury in the early stages of the UNC-Greensboro matchup in early December. A unique talent at 6-10 with a 7-4 wingspan and elite athleticism, the Missouri transfer was a matchup nightmare because of his ability to impact the game inside and out at both ends of the floor. Referred to as one of the top five players in the SEC by Musselman, Brazile finished his season averaging 11.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 assist, and 1.0 steal in 27.1 minutes per game while shooting 48.1% from the field, including 37.9% from 3, and 67.7% from the free throw line. He had two double-doubles and three games of scoring 20 or more points, including his 20-point, 9-rebound, 2-steal outing in Arkansas’ 78-74 overtime win over San Diego State in Novermber in Maui. Both Smith and Brazile were on the court together at full strength only once — in a 99-58 home win over San Jose State on Dec. 3 — as they combined for 39 points. With both in the lineup the Hogs had arguably one of the best 4 or 5 rosters in college basketball, and it was easily a Final Four-worthy lineup for Arkansas.

Always Ready Gladiator Award: Senior 6-7 forward Kamani Johnson. Also known as KaMaui, Johnson was heroic in Arkansas’ come-from-behind win over then No. 17 San Diego State in the third-place game of the Maui Invitational in late November. Johnson’s buzzer-beating putback near the rim sent the game into overtime, and the Hogs would prevail 78-74. His putback in the final minute against Kansas gave Arkansas a 67-65 lead in the Hogs’ eventual 72-71 win in the NCAAT Round of 32. Johnson — the only Hog to complete his collegiate eligibility at the conclusion of the ’22-23 campaign, was not always part of the top 7-8 rotation and did not play in the team’s first two games in Maui.  He often only saw spot duty once SEC play began, but in the NCAAT he started all three games and averaged 3.0 points, 6.7 rebounds (most were on the offensive glass), and 1.0 assist in 16.0 minutes. His 10 rebounds in the win over Kansas marked his season-high production on the glass. With Johnson, it was never about how much he played or his statistical averages — although his per-40-minute numbers were strong (7.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 1.7 steals) — but it was his energy, blue-collar attitude, physicality, playing to the strengths of his game, and leadership-by-example that made his impact so distinct and valuable.

Most intriguing Hog outside the top rotation. Freshman 6-5 wing Joseph Pinion. His ability as a volume-three shooter on a team that lacked consistency from distance, plus his small sample size of being the difference between winning and losing a couple of SEC games are worthy of recognition. Pinion (2.4 points, 44.7% field goals, including 13-of-34 from 3 for 38.2%, and 7-of-7 free throws for 100%, 5.7 minutes in 26 games played) registered his career-high of 13 points twice against league foes in Missouri and Ole Miss, with his three-point shooting and floor-spacing-gravity on offense turning both tilts in Arkansas’ favor after the team fell behind in both games. He also notched 10 points and 3 assists in 19 minutes in the team’s win over UNC-Asheville. Looking ahead, Pinion offers perimeter size and good athleticism at the wing spot.

Play of the Year … regular-season and post-season. The aforementioned buzzer-beating putback by Kamani Johnson, of course. Trailing by two points with 7.5 seconds remaining the Hogs went with a set play out of a timeout to get Anthony Black downhill off a screen driving to the basket with options to shoot or pass. His shot was off but Johnson was there for a lightning-fast point-blank putback that tied the game at 67-all as time expired in regulation, and the Hogs would go on to secure a 78-74 win in the extra period. In the postseason against Kansas with game tied 67-all and under 30 seconds to play, Ricky Council IV drove hard to the cup, was fouled, and after making his first free throw he missed the second but cleaned up the 50/50-loose-ball to secure the offensive rebound (off a timely deflection by Walsh) when he was fouled again. His 2-of-2 free throw effort with 20 seconds to play resulted in a three-point possession for the Hogs and a three-point lead, 70-67, as the team would never trail or be tied again en route to a 72-71 victory.

How Razorbacks stack up in polls, NCAA NET, analytics, and bracketology

Arkansas has been out of both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Top 25 polls since Jan. 23, which marked the first time in ’22-23 the Hogs were unranked. Arkansas was not ranked in the final AP Top 25 poll (released prior to the NCAAT), but they have a chancee to be ranked in the final USA Today Coaches Top 25 that is released at the conclusion of the NCAAT.

As of Sunday, March 12, the Razorbacks ranked No. 21 in what was the final NCAA NET rankings of the ’22-23 season that were released just prior to the announcement of the NCAAT 68-team field. 

Looking at three other advanced metrics ratings as of Saturday, March 25, the Razorbacks are: No. 16 according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI); No. 22 according to Sagarin / USA Today; and No. 22 according to ratings (includes No. 17 in adjusted defensive efficiency and No. 56 in adjusted offensive efficiency).