Who makes Arkansas' all-time starting 5? Start with the glory years
Editor’s note: SDS is selecting an all-time starting 5 for every SEC team, all part of our expanded coverage of March Madness.
The glory days of Arkansas hoops were some of the most memorable that we’ve seen from any college basketball program in the last 30 years. Nolan Richardson’s “40 minutes of hell” made the Razorbacks a must-see attraction that even made then-U.S. President Bill Clinton a diehard fan. A national title and a runner-up season marked one of the best 2-year stretches in college basketball history.
So it should come as no surprise that 3 of the 5 players selected for Arkansas’ all-time starting 5 came from the peak of that era.
But since firing Richardson, the Hogs missed the NCAA Tournament in more years than they made it. National glory has been hard to come by in the last couple decades and the former Southwest Conference power struggled to sustain consistent success.
Having said that, the Razorbacks still have quite the all-time starting 5:
PG: Sidney Moncrief (1975-79)
“Sid The Squid” earned a place on this for his college accolades, but he might have had the best total career of any Razorback. By the time Moncrief’s college career was over, he racked up plenty of accolades. He left as the school’s all-time leading scorer (Todd Day bested that mark in 1992) and was a 3-time All-American.
But while Moncrief’s scoring earned him a place in the Arkansas record books, it was his leadership and defense that took the program to new heights. As one of the “Triplets” with Marvin Delph and Ron Brewer, Moncrief led the Razorbacks to 3 SWC titles (regular season) and a Final Four berth in 1978. It was the school’s first Final Four appearance in 33 years.
Moncrief then went on to become one of the best defenders in NBA history (he was a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year winner) and he was a 5-time NBA All-Star. What’s the most impressive accomplishment of Moncrief, though?
He and Corliss Williamson are the only Razorbacks to get their jerseys retired. No. 32 will forever belong to Moncrief.
SG: Todd Day (1988-92)
It’s no coincidence that Day’s arrival in Fayetteville coincided with 3 consecutive sweeps of the SWC regular season and conference tournament titles. The former McDonald’s All-American played a big part in that. After averaging 13 points per game as a true freshman, the 6-6 Memphis native blossomed into one of the premier players in SWC history.
Day broke the scoring record held by the aforementioned Moncrief, and even more impressive, he was a 3-time All-American. He and Moncrief were the only Razorbacks to accomplish that feat. Day also earned SWC Player of the Year honors.
Like Moncrief, Day was part of some of the best years of Arkansas basketball. All four of his teams at least made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, including the 1990 squad that made it to the program’s first Final Four since the Moncrief era. That team was a No. 4 seed, too.
Day didn’t have the NBA career that others on this list did, but in terms of a pure scorer, he was as good as it gets.
F: Corliss Williamson (1992-95)
The end of Day’s time in Fayetteville had to be a little easier to stomach knowing that a budding superstar in Williamson was on the way. All the guy did in high school was earn Gatorade National Player of the Year honors. Twice.
Needless to say, “Big Nasty” managed to live up to that crazy hype. With Richardson at the helm, Williamson was part of the golden era of Arkansas hoops. His 3 seasons in Fayetteville had everything. The Hogs won 2 SEC titles, a national title (1994), and nearly went back-to-back in 1995 but fell to UCLA in the title game.
Individually, Williamson did about everything Richardson could have hoped for. He earned first-team All-SEC honors all 3 seasons, he was a 2-time SEC Player of the Year and he was a 2-time All-American. It’s not surprising that Williamson joined Moncrief as the only Razorbacks to have their numbers retired.
One could easily make a case that Williamson, who probably would have been the school’s all-time leading scorer had he stayed all 4 years, was the best player in program history.
F: Bobby Portis (2013-15)
This wasn’t an easy selection. I hate to use recency bias, but Portis got the edge over Pat Bradley and Joe Johnson because of his second and final season in Fayetteville. As a sophomore, Portis earned SEC Player of the Year honors, which made him the first Arkansas player to do that since Williamson two decades earlier.
In addition to that, Portis put Arkansas on his back and brought the team to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 7 years. The double-double machine averaged 17.5 points and 8.9 points per game, which was why he became an obvious candidate to leave early for the NBA.
The former first-round pick is in the middle of his best NBA season yet averaging 13.2 points and 6.5 pounds per game for the Chicago Bulls. It’s easy to forget that he just turned 23. It’s interesting to think about what a player like Portis could’ve done in college with an extra year or two in Fayetteville.
Portis is the only 2-year player who made this starting 5, but considering how mediocre Arkansas has been since Williamson left Fayetteville, the 6-11 forward was easily the best individual player since then.
C: Oliver Miller (1988-92)
Miller was, um, not your typical center. He was built more like an offensive lineman than a center. But before his weight problems hindered his NBA career, Miller was a force at Arkansas.
Once upon a time, he was even the SWC Player of the Year in 1991 and an AP All-American in 1991 and 1992. Alongside classmate Day, Miller was the man in the middle for some of Richardson’s best teams. In 4 seasons, Miller’s teams never lost more than 8 games (they went 125-24), and they won 3 outright SWC titles. The versatile big man also blocked 345 shots and shot 64 percent from the floor in his career, which are both program records.
Miller was enshrined as an Allstate SEC legend in 2017, which further cemented his place as one of the Arkansas greats. He and Day were arguably the best duo in program history.
And in the NBA, Miller was always an entertaining watch: