This weekend, Arkansas vs. Auburn is the most-important game of the Arkansas season.
Just like last week against Ole Miss was, just like two weeks from now Florida will be, just like LSU will be the week after that.
Arkansas can go one of three ways down the stretch with its five remaining games. What occurs in that stretch will determine exactly where this program is on its return to glory.
Of course, it’s easy to say. Could be said about any team. But it feels especially important at Arkansas. Coach Bret Bielema is in year four of the rebuild. He has increased his win total with the Razorbacks each year. He can again this year with just three more regular-season wins. Arkansas sits at 5-2, in good shape, but with a tough road to hoe ahead.
Say Arkansas keeps up what it’s done. Good season, not quite elite. That would likely yield the three wins, what with two more games at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and a pair of teams the Hogs have more talent than at the end.
What if Arkansas does what it’s done the last two years under Bielema? They’ve been rock solid in the back half of seasons last year and the year before. Four wins, even five, isn’t out of the question, and suddenly the Razorbacks have nine or 10 wins, the common threshold to make national prominence, to make folks on the outside look in and say, “Well, well what do we have here?”
The final possibility, and perhaps the unlikeliest (but still conceivable), is a collapse. If Arkansas wins no more games — and as of a week ago, ESPN’s Football Power Index’s numbers suggested it might not — or even just one, that puts the team at five or six wins. Five would be a failure. Six is a disappointment.
What that means remains to be seen in the long run. In the short, however, it means a victory against Auburn brings Arkansas that much closer to big-time national recognition.
Mike Anderson is definitely NOT the 12th-best hoops coach in SEC
OK, you’ll have to pardon me here. I need to go on a little tangent.
I love my guy Kyle Tucker. He’s a colleague here at SEC Country and, for my money, the best writer we have on staff. But I have a bit of a bone to pick with him.
Tucker wrote a piece Wednesday in which he ranked all 14 SEC basketball coaches. I won’t break them all down, but for the Breakfast’s purposes, I’m going to take issue with Mike Anderson checking at No. 12.
@KyleTucker_AJC Mike Anderson is way too low. Has beaten Cal multiple times, including on the road. Finished 9, 7, 5, 2, 8th in league.
— Cameron M (@ScottishKiltMan) October 19, 2016
Anderson has underachieved at Arkansas a bit — I mean, we’re talking about a guy who is technically on a warm seat if the Razorbacks don’t make the NCAA Tournament. One NCAA Tournament appearance in five seasons isn’t the stuff Hogs fans thought they were getting when he made his return “home.” But we’re also talking about a guy who took Missouri and UAB to Elite Eights and nearly had the Razorbacks in the Sweet 16 two years ago. Tucker makes the argument those don’t matter as much now, which is fair, but then later makes arguments for Frank Martin at South Carolina and his taking Kansas State deep in the NCAA Tournament.
I’m also not sure how Avery Johnson, who has coached one (one!) college basketball season, is ahead of Anderson. Nor do I understand Bryce Drew, who did excellent things at Valparaiso, but c’mon, it’s Valpo.
Mike Anderson isn’t first, obviously. Nor is he second or third. I don’t even have him fourth, if we take into consideration entire histories. Middle of the pack. That’s where Anderson belongs. And I get the sense he’ll be higher than that come April when the season is done.
But, hey, I’ve been called an Anderson apologist, so who knows?
Love you, anyway, Kyle.
Moses, lead them to the promised land
Arkansas senior big man Moses Kingsley was named preseason SEC Basketball Player of the Year on Wednesday. Kingsley averaged 15.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game last year as arguably the league’s most-improved player. The NBA tempted him in the offseason, as well.
The honor is not a shock. He is, almost hands down, the best nonfreshman in the league. Only Georgia’s JJ Frazier (whom I put on my first-team ballot with Kingsley) can compare. In fact, they were the only two upperclassmen on the SEC’s first team.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 19, 2016
Arkansas natives KeVaughn Allen of Florida and Malik Monk of Kentucky were named to the second team.
Hogs tabbed … fifth?
Kingsley wasn’t a shock, but where Arkansas landed was a bit. To me, anyway.
The Razorbacks checked in as the projected No. 5 team in the SEC when the media poll was released Tuesday. I had them as second, though I could hear arguments for third. Maybe fourth. Not fifth.
The only way Arkansas finishes fifth is if neither Jaylen Barford or Daryl Macon, the two top junior college transfers in the country, fail to meet even modest expectations. While that’s possible, it’s unlikely. With Kingsley and Dusty Hannahs on the perimeter, Arkansas has the best nonfreshman duo in the league and the best inside-outside combination.
See the whole poll here.
Arkansas defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. fell out of Pro Football Focus’ top 32 prospects for next year’s NFL Draft. Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson is still in.
Quarterback Austin Allen was named to the Maxwell Award midseason watch list, it was announced Wednesday. Allen leads the SEC in passing yards and touchdowns in his first year as starter. The Maxwell Award is a lot like the Heisman Trophy — it’s given to the best player in college football.
Bielema, too, was named to a midseason award list. Bielema was one of seven SEC coaches placed on the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award Watch List.
I’ve long been a proponent of calling Toby Baker, Arkansas’ punter, the best player on the team. The guy is so good, he’s drawing legit, nonsarcastic cheers from the fans now. Our Jason Kersey talked to him about it.
Intriguing take on the Auburn-Arkansas line (which is now nine points in the Tigers’ favor) from gambling expert Danny Sheridan. It seems high to most of us — as talked about here — but Sheridan, who is much smarter than those of us in such things, says be wary. May be fool’s gold. Good stuff from WholeHogSports’ Clay Henry.
The folks at Auburn are anticipating a dynamic Dan Enos offense on Saturday, writes our Justin Ferguson.
Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas
Have you ever seen White Men Can’t Jump? Hopefully, the answer is yes. Anyway, there is a scene in it when the character named Raymond, fresh off the basketball court after taking a bet, walks down the street, puts on a mask and tries to rob a convenience store in his own neighborhood still in his gym clothes.
Raymond wasn’t as dumb as this guy here, as written in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
A 19-year-old decided he wanted a motorcycle real, real bad. So much so, in fact, he figured he’d rob a bank in Eureka Springs to get it. As he left, he took a taxi back to Bentonville (which is about a 45-minute drive) to met the man who would sell him this ride. When our teenaged Jesse James wannabe arrived, he discovered the man selling him the motorcycle was …
A cop. Still in uniform. Did that stop our ballsy youngster? No, sir. The offender didn’t sweat it. In fact, he talked the officer down an additional $300. He bought the bike for $2,900 and paid $150 for the cab ride.
How much did he steal? The perfect amount, apparently, at $3,350.
By the way, the officer received a phone call about the bank robbery seconds after the transaction and tracked the suspect down in his patrol car shortly after the purchaser left the scene.