This is it, Arkansas — the moment of truth, the NCAA Tournament
With your bacon, have some Hogs for Breakfast. It’s SEC Country’s weekday column and roundup on all things Arkansas. Opinion, numbers, inane babble and more! And now with ironic exclamation points. There is no place like it on the Web. Today, we talk the Razorbacks’ first-round game against Seton Hall in NCAA Tournament.
Gameday in Greenville.
This small city in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains hasn’t seen an NCAA Tournament game in more than a decade. Arkansas and Seton Hall will cut the proverbial ribbon on festivities to snap that funk Friday at 1:37 p.m. local time.
Expect a quieter atmosphere on television. Neither team is local. Neither team sent a ton of media, nor fans. In a sub-regional that includes South Carolina (103 miles away), North Carolina (238 miles away) and Duke (241 miles away), Arkansas-Seton Hall is the only game without any local flavor.
That could mean less pressure. In a game between teams separated by just one seed, everyone expects a close final score. The coaches suggested as much Thursday.
In a few short hours, we’ll all find out together.
Footloose and fancy-free
The five Razorbacks players who met with the media on Thursday were their usual selves. They carry an attitude of confidence, almost to the point of cockiness, but with just enough goofiness to make them a rather likable bunch.
This Arkansas team has been that way all season. The attitude helped them get to 25 wins, so why change now? Manny Watkins and Dusty Hannahs, the two biggest chop busters on the team, kept at each other again Friday. The mood was lightened. Their coach followed and was asked about it.
He chuckled the laugh of a man who wanted to say more than he ultimately would, but knew he ought not.
“Well, the first game, it kind of scares a coach because you don’t know how they’re going to come out,” Anderson said. “But this group has been pretty good. Coming off the SEC Tournament, hopefully that gives these guys an idea what it’s going to be like to play in a setting like this here.”
Seton Hall carried an exact opposite demeanor.
The Pirates were laser-focused in the practice that followed their media availability. They ran drills and full-intensity half-court and full-court settings. It appeared Seton Hall treated the accessible practice, open to media and the public, like a real, full-go training session.
Seton Hall was embarrassed last season, losing in the first round as a 6 seed. The players and coach Kevin Willard treated Thursday like a group determined not to let that happen again.
— Chris McManus (@ChrisSHUhoops) March 16, 2017
They went hard all practice long. Count on more of the same Friday.
Oh, baseball has a big day, too
The Diamond Hogs are sitting pretty through nonconference play. Arkansas has the fourth-best record in the SEC.
But the Razorbacks’ postseason hopes hinge almost entirely on what they do during conference play, which starts Friday at Baum Stadium.
Arkansas hosts Mississippi State, the school from which the Hogs picked up new pitching coach Wes Johnson. And while basketball will get the most attention, at least Friday, an Arkansas baseball win would be significant in its own right. Arkansas won just two of its 10 SEC series last season and finished last in the SEC. The Razorbacks were picked fifth in the SEC West this season.
Whether the basketball Hogs win or lose Friday daytime, flip over to SEC Network at night (6 p.m.) and watch the Diamond Hogs versus the Bulldogs.
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Skip Breakfast? C’mon. It’s too important. Catch up with previous versions here.