top of page

Inside Eric Musselman's unique ability to build a basketball program

By: Jacob Davis (@JacobScottDavis)

There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and Arkansas having great success from transfers.

While at Nevada, Eric Musselman figured out how to turnaround a program quickly. The Wolf Pack were trending down in the college basketball landscape with three consecutive losing seasons. That includes a 9-22 mark the year prior to Musselman taking over.

After overhauling the roster and adding a total of six transfers in two years, Musselman won the Mountain West Conference. That earned them their first berth to the NCAA Tournament since the 2006-07 season.

The Martin twins, Cody and Caleb Martin, were future NBA draft picks and helped their team to its first Sweet 16 appearance in 14 seasons.

Due to transfers, Musselman was becoming a hot commodity in the coaching ranks, eventually leaving for Arkansas a season later.

With the help of transfers like Justin Smith, Jalen Tate and JD Notae the Razorbacks made their first Elite Eight since 1995 which ended in a close loss to Baylor. Of course, the transfers had a lot of help from the fourth-ranked recruiting class that season which included familiar names like Davonte Davis, Jaylin Williams and Moses Moody, but the upperclassmen helped set the tone.

Their seven losses in 2020-21 were fewest in a season since 1997-98. And their 13 conference wins were the most since the 2014-15 squad that earned a five seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Again, after Smith and Tate departed for professional opportunities, it was time for Musselman to once again flip his roster with transfers. That recruiting cycle only saw one incoming freshman that year in Chance Moore. However, Arkansas brought in Chris Lykes (Miami), Stanley Umude (South Dakota), Au’Diese Toney (Pitt), Trey Wade (Wichita State), Kamani Johnson (Little Rock) and Jaxson Robinson (Texas A&M).

All but one transfer saw extensive playing time last season. Even though the Razorbacks hit a rough patch early in conference play, they rebounded to another 13-win conference campaign and another Elite Eight appearance against Duke.

Like the old saying went, Larry Johnson telling Nolan Richardson, "Coach, you got to get some men, man.”

Musselman took that loss to the Blue Devils personally and upgraded his frontcourt protection.

Arkansas added Makhel and Makhi Mitchell from Rhode Island via Maryland who were both highly recruited but on their second school in two years.

They also brought in a pair of skilled offensive players in Trevon Brazile (Missouri) and Jalen Graham (Arizona State) then called it a day.

Those four added with Johnson gave Arkansas some fellows with dogfight in them. It was a group that will battle on the glass and fight in the paint to score. After being harassed all night against Duke it seemed Arkansas was ready for another sprint to a Sweet 16.

Arkansas added a few other transfers for this season including Ricky Council, who’s been very effective through two games in the NCAA Tournament. The former Shocker has averaged 19.5 points during the tournament and a red hot 21-for-23 from the free throw line.

Council has been steady for Arkansas all year. He is an effective slasher, reminiscent of Jaylen Barford but streaky from three like an Anthlon Bell.

According to US Betting Report, Council has been the fourth best transfer this season based on win shares.

The recent increase in transfers continues to influence college basketball at its highest levels. Musselman knows that and an older, more experienced roster is more likely to succeed during March Madness.

Among the 1,123 Division I men’s basketball players that opted to make use of the transfer portal in 2022 and landed on another team for this season, 26 of them ended up playing at least 300 minutes for one of the final 16 teams this year.

With that in mind, sought out to determine which of these 26 rotation transfers left in the Sweet 16 most impacted their team’s season.

Although this team seems to be Davonte Davis led, Council’s influence is heavy and welcomed as Arkansas continues to March through the field of 68.

The Razorbacks return to the hardwood on Thursday looking for another upset. This time they meet four-seed UConn for a trip to their third straight Elite Eight.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page