Arkansas loses two senior stars, but trending up with solid recruiting class

Arkansas should be primed for another run to the NCAA tournament after Mike Anderson bolstered his team with a top-20 recruiting class. Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY Sports

We continue our recruit and return series with the Arkansas Razorbacks, whose season ended Sunday with a loss to North Carolina in the South Region. Here is a look at what the 2017-18 season could hold:

Possible 2017-18 starting five:

G: Jaylen Barford

G: Anton Beard

G: Daryl Macon

F: Dustin Thomas

C: Trey Thompson

Who is lost: Mike Anderson relied heavily on the inside-outside duo of Dusty Hannahs and Moses Kingsley the past couple seasons, and now both are gone. Kingsley’s numbers took a significant hit as a senior, after he had one of the most productive seasons of any big man in the country as a junior. He was still a double-double threat every night who could dominate down low. Hannahs played two seasons at Arkansas after transferring from Texas Tech, and he provided perimeter balance to Kingsley down low. He was a very good outside shooter who could get hot in a hurry. Their production won’t be easy to replace. In-state product Manuale Watkins is also departing after performing as a solid role player the past three seasons.

Who is added: Anderson got his work done early in 2017 by reeling in three in-state prospects en route to a top-20 class. The jewel of the class is ESPN 100 center Dan Gafford, one of the top 10 centers in the country. He can score around the basket effectively and is an excellent offensive rebounder. Expect Gafford to push for a starting job very quickly. Fellow ESPN 100 prospect Khalil Garland decommitted from Memphis shortly after Josh Pastner left for Georgia Tech, and he decided to stay home and play for Anderson. Garland is very good in transition and loves to slash to the basket and finish at the rim. The trio is rounded out by four-star forward Darious Hall, who is long and athletic and will fit perfectly with the Razorbacks. These three players will help shore up the frontcourt immediately.

What it means for next season: The guard duo of Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford will shoulder most of the offensive load next season after averaging in double-figures this past campaign. Barford is a former junior-college transfer who came on strong late in SEC play and showed why he was one of the most sought-after junior-college prospects in the 2016 class. He’s better off the dribble and can get to the rim. Macon shot 40 percent from 3-point range and had a 30-point effort against Ole Miss in February. He can also distribute effectively and gets to the free throw line. Former ESPN 100 prospect Anton Beard isn’t a scorer like Hannahs, but he could step into the lineup next season as more of a pure point guard who can shoot. Up front, both Dustin Thomas and Trey Thompson saw expanded late-season roles and could start alongside each other. The freshmen, especially Gafford, will push them early, though.

Trending: Up. This one is a tough call. Losing Hannahs and Kingsley won’t be easy to overcome, but Anderson is bringing in a highly touted recruiting class and welcomes back Barford and Macon. Arkansas should be able to get back to the NCAA Tournament.