The Hogs have dug themselves into a huge hole with yet another road loss Saturday against LSU, and the only way they can start to dig out of it is by winning at Georgia. The Hogs look like they have no strategy, no will to win, no coordination and most of all no confidence when they play on the road, where they have accrued an abysmal record of 0-6 on the year. The officials missed 5 obvious calls on my count (and the commentators agreed) against LSU, but that will never be an excuse for a loss for me, but I’m not saying it wasn’t a factor either. This game against the Bulldogs is an absolute must-win, because it is easily the most winnable of their remaining roadies. After Georgia, Arkansas’ remaining road games are at Tennessee, at Auburn, and at Mississippi State in the season finale.
Of the many glaring problems the Hogs face on the road is a complete lack of confidence. You expect that out of a young team, and they have shown signs of improvement since the start of the year. They still look timid, even when the crowd isn’t a major factor like it was in Baton Rouge (Attendance 9,352 – about 75% capacity). They always shoot horribly but somehow hang around games long enough to give themselves a chance. Unfortunately, that aforementioned lack of confidence results in horribly timed turnovers, missed free throws and meltdowns on defense when they need a big stop.
That being said, the Razorbacks still do have a chance to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. With a 16-7 record, they’re going to have to win out at home (6 games), and win at least two on the road (4 games). The reason I say this is because they lack many signature wins. Other than wins at home against MSU, Michigan, and Vanderbilt, they haven’t proven they can beat an NCAA Tournament caliber team. They’re going to have to greatly impress the selection committee by getting at least 21 or 22 wins, plus a win in the SEC Tournament. The Razorbacks’ home games are no cupcakes either, as they still host highly ranked Florida and an Alabama team they already lost to. When it comes to the proverbial “bubble” this year, Arkansas’ would be one of the first to pop if they get stuck on 20 wins.
The bottom line is, if they don’t figure it out very soon (like... now), they’ll be watching March Madness from their couches in Fayetteville. One major factor is the return of Marvell “X-Factor” Waithe from a hamstring injury. That added depth and length will cause even more havoc on the defensive end of the floor. But someone will have to step up to be “the guy” on the offensive end of the floor. There are only a few guys on the team capable of doing so: BJ Young, Mardracus Wade, Rickey Scott, and Julysses Nobles (sometimes). If they continue to be passive, miss free throws, turn the ball over, and all the other bad things they’ve done on the road, they will end the year 0-10 on the road. If not, they are capable of making a push towards March. It has to start now.
Georgia shoots a miserable 38.8% from the field and scores about 60 points per game, while Arkansas shoots 43.6% and scores 74 points a game. There's an obvious disparity in the style of play. While the Hogs try to run you to death, Georgia would prefer rocking you to sleep then killing you while you’re vulnerable. The Razorbacks should be a lot hungrier for a "W" than the ‘Dogs today, and I expect them to put themselves in a good position to win today.