13-5 seems like a pretty good record for a team with a first-year coach who lost their best player to a season ending injury, and it is, but there is one glaring problem: The Hogs have shown zero playing ability outside of Bud Walton Arena. So far they’ve been completely embarrassed on the road by Oklahoma, Ole Miss, and Kentucky. They did give UConn a run for their money in Storrs, but they still lost by 13. Even when they played a game in Little Rock, where they play one game a year, they lost to Houston. All five of their losses have come outside of Bud Walton, and they haven’t won any (0-5). Moral of the story: These Razorbacks don’t travel well.
However, they have done an exquisite job on their home court, in fact they’re 13-0 (I’m not counting the Little Rock game, they always play terrible there). They beat then #16 Mississippi State and a very scrappy LSU bunch at Bud Walton. It’s like their lack of size and experience evaporates, and tenacity takes over. This Saturday, they have another big test with #19 Michigan coming into town. This is a very winnable game for the Hogs, because both teams lack a real dominant inside presence. It is expected to be the first sellout in 3 years for the Razorbacks, so clearly the fans think it’s a winnable game as well. If the Hogs can win this game and the next game at home against Auburn, the young Hogs will be beaming with confidence going into the meat of their conference schedule.
It is difficult to win on the road in college basketball, and everybody knows that, but somehow this team is going to have to find a way to win two or three of them this year. Even if they win their remaining seven home games, they’ll have 20 wins, but in order to do that they’ll have to beat Michigan, Vanderbilt, and Florida. In other words, the Hogs are going to have to win a few roadies or they won’t have a chance at the dance until next year. 20 wins probably won’t do it, especially with Mississippi State being the only real marquee win. It’s going to take a little more than that to get any love from the selection committee.
Mike Anderson has had this team making big strides, and so far they’re slightly exceeding expectations. Before the season started, the (rational) mood around the state is the Hogs would win between 16 or 18 games, and that was before Marshawn Powell tore his ACL. It looked very grim after that. With the way Freshmen BJ Young and sophomore Mardracus Wade are stepping up, people are starting to think the Hogs can make it to 19 or 20. In order for them to make the next step as a team and a program, they’re going to have to lose the home/away bipolarity. The state is behind them. There is a palpable excitement for these guys, especially towards the future. They’re young, fast, and well-coached, and if they combine them properly, this team could make a push for the NCAA tournament. Coach A is trying to make Bud Walton as feared as it was in the 90s when he was the assistant. It all starts with a win Saturday against Michigan.