FAYETTEVILLE — The Razorbacks’ greatest basketball teams starred in triplicate.
Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer and Marvin Delph for Eddie Sutton’s 1978 Final Four Razorbacks.
Lee Mayberry, Todd Day and Oliver Miller for Nolan Richardson’s 1990 Final Four Razorbacks.
Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman and Corey Beck for Richardson’s 1994 national champion and 1995 national runner-up.
The LSU Tigers hosting Arkansas tonight star one up on them by Razorbacks Coach Eric Musselman’s count.
Whether Coach Will Wade’s Tigers, 8-2 overall/3-1 in the SEC hosting Arkansas, 10-2, 2-2, at 6 p.m. on ESPN2 at the Maravich Center in Baton Rogue, La. have the complementary players and coaching to ascend where those Arkansas teams ascended has a long and skeptical road to prove, but LSU’s offensive star power certainly impresses Arkansas’ coach.
“This team has four stars,” Musselman said. “They really do. Four players that can really, really score the ball. Four guys that can single handedly takeover games.”
Junior forward Darius Days,, sophomore forward Trendon Watford and sophomore guard Javonte Smart, all considered likely 2020 NBA draft choices but opting to return to LSU, respectively average 13.8, 17.8 and 15.4 points.
“Yeah I was thinking,” Musselman said. “That since we 0-for-2 (Razorbacks 2019-2020 star underclassmen Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe both now play in the NBA) they went 3-for-3.”
Returning stars all. Yet none of the above leads LSU’s scoring.
Freshman phenom guard Cameron Thomas leads LSU averaging 22.3 points.
“Obviously Cameron Thomas is as good a scorer as we have in our league at the off guard spot,” Musselman said. “Can get his shot off whenever he wants. I mean, look at his free throw shooting…”
Thomas connects 62 of 68 free throws for 92 percent. As a team the Tigers have hit 78 percent of their freebies.
Thomas only played four minutes because of an ankle injury during last Saturday’s LSU leading start to finish 75-61 SEC success at Ole Miss. He did not practice Monday and is deemed “questionable” though he did tell Wade the injury was less severe than a couple of ankle injuries suffered during practices.
That’s enough for Musselman counting on Thomas playing tonight.
“When we work our prep we will 1000 percent include Cameron Thomas,” Musselman said. “We’re not thinking he’s not going to play. We’re not buying that. I watched it on tape. We’re assuming that he’s going to play.”
For all the Tigers’ offensive talent, Wade keeps it productively simple.
“They just go out there and they play ball,” Musselman said. “Not a lot of overtly complicated sets, but they have a power forward who’s a natural 3-man that they play at the 4/5 in (6-9)) Watford who’s kind of a point forward. Javonte Smart, so experienced at the point guard position and a guy that can really, really score the ball. Darius Days, all you have to do is watch our game at LSU last year to know how talented he is.”
Days logged a 16 points/16 rebounds double-double when LSU edged Arkansas, 79-77 last season in Baton Rouge while Watford scored 21 with eight boards.
They don’t just play offense.
“Obviously, one of the strengths of LSU is their ability to get steals,” Musselman said. “They’re averaging 9.5 steals per game, which is No. 12 in the country.”
An impressive crew but one likely entering the game impressed with Arkansas.
After all, those Georgia Bulldogs that LSU required down to the wire overtime to subdue, 94-92 two games ago in Baton Rouge, the Razorbacks last Saturday routed, 99-69 in Fayetteville.
Arkansas freshman guards Moses Moody and Davonte Davis led the scoring with 25 and 20 points but six other Hogs filled their roles in extraordinary fashion.
“I thought it was as good as a game as we’ve had conference wise since I’ve been here,” Musselman said.