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Arkansas basketball: Impact of Razorbacks hiring John Calipari

Oakland v Kentucky
Oakland v Kentucky / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

Arkansas landed one of the best college basketball coaches to be the next leader of its program Sunday evening when it was announced that John Calipari would be the next men's basketball coach after previous Head Coach Eric Musselman accepted the same job at Southern Cal. Calipari was still winning at Kentucky but wasn’t having the postseason success that Big Blue Nation had come to expect. The talent was there, but the results weren’t, so it wasn't a complete surprise that he decided to give it a shot at a different school.

What does the hiring of Coach Cal mean for Arkansas? Well for starters the Razorbacks are getting one of the best coaches in college basketball. In 32 seasons he has won 855 games, appeared in six Final Fours, and won one championship. That kind of success doesn’t happen by accident.

Calipari is one of the best recruiters in the nation. Nearly every year he brings in a freshman class that ranks towards the top in the country. Arkansas should expect similar recruiting. I don’t know if he will pull in as great of recruiting classes as he did at Kentucky, basketball is just bigger there, but I have no doubt he will continue to have success building competitive rosters. He might have to turn to the transfer portal a little more than he is used to, but there aren’t many players who would turn down an opportunity to be coached by Calipari.

Teams coached by Calipari are usually known for strong offenses and solid defenses. This year’s Kentucky defense was an outlier, but over the last five seasons, the Wildcats averaged 77.5 points per game while giving up 70.1. During that same five-year stretch, Arkansas averaged 77.0 points and allowed 71.3. Very similar numbers from both schools. If this is any indication of how the Calipari tenure will go at Arkansas, then I think Razorback fans will be happy with the hire.

I think the biggest thing, especially for Calipari, is that there will be more tempered expectations for what success looks like. At Kentucky, it was Final Four or Bust. Basketball is the school's biggest sport and the expectations show that. At Arkansas, exceptions will be high but as it is at most SEC schools the main focus is on football. This should provide Calipari a little grace and some time to get his system and players into place.

Next. Candidates to replace John Calipari at Kentucky. Candidates to replace John Calipari at Kentucky. dark

I don’t know what success looks like right away at Arkansas. It's still too early to speculate since there will most likely be a ton of roster movement for Arkansas over the next few weeks. But one thing is for certain, Razorback fans should be excited about this hire. A Calipari-led team has only ended the season with a losing record twice in 32 seasons. Winning is in his blood, and any team led by Coach Calipari will be positioned to win. Eric Musselman had Arkansas basketball moving in the right direction, and I have no doubt John Calipari will be able to build on that momentum.