Show Me My Opponent, 2020-21: Arkansas

Hogs hogs hogs hogs hogs. Hogs!

As disappointing as Tennessee’s Saturday was, you could make the case Arkansas had an equally disappointing outing. The Razorbacks entered their second SEC game 9-0, having beaten Auburn by double-digits on the road earlier in the week, and drew a Missouri team Tennessee had just demolished days prior. It was all setting up for Arkansas to make their case as, at worst, the second-best team in the SEC.

Then the game started, Arkansas could barely buy a bucket despite being dominant in terms of shot volume, Missouri hit just enough shots to stay in front the whole way, and a golden opportunity for Eric Musselman’s team was blown, 81-68. Now, the SEC race is as muddled as it can possibly be (as long as you still assume Tennessee is the favorite, of course). As many as five teams have a legitimate shot to be the 2 seed, which means a team like Arkansas will probably finish anywhere from 2nd to 6th in the conference and it’ll be entirely dependent on how many close games they can steal. I’m excited to see how that goes; hopefully Tennessee stays above the fray.

Five things to know about the Arkansas Razorbacks:

  • They have played just one KenPom Top 50 team; that was Missouri, who they lost to.
  • Like last year, Arkansas ran roughshod over a very weak non-conference schedule, with the toughest opponent either being #102 North Texas (69-54 win) or #113 Abilene Christian (85-72 win). There’s nothing wrong with demolishing bad teams, of course, and that’s generally a good sign. But considering Arkansas did the same thing last year only to crap out in SEC play, it’s worth holding out.
  • Arkansas only has one player in their rotation who was on the team last year: Desi Sills.
  • Four freshmen play for Arkansas, as do five transfers. Literally the rotation is 90% new, which both speaks volumes about the fact Musselman has them in the KenPom Top 40 and also makes me wonder if that’s a sustainable system at all. (He did something very similar with his final two teams at Nevada.)
  • Arkansas and Tennessee are two of just three teams in America to rank in the top 25 in both offensive TO% and OREB%. (Iowa is the third.)

Below is a game information section, which should relieve some pressure from various beat writers’ mentions:

  • THE OPPONENT: Arkansas (9-1, 1-1).
  • THE TIME: 7 PM ET.
  • THE CHANNEL: ESPN2.
  • THE SPREAD: Tennessee -7.

Click below to skip ahead to a certain section:

NEXT PAGE: (withholding comment about famous Arkansas alumni)

Show Me My Opponent: Arkansas (#2)

Man, whatever. It happened. Who cares.

This Tennessee team was never going to be as good as the top 20 KenPom ranking it received in preseason. It was never going to be on the level some thought it may be after the blowout win over Washington. There was no point in time in which I thought Tennessee would be any better than, like, a 7-9 seed. A lot of this is based on the roster Rick Barnes constructed, but whatever.

I’m sort of done talking about this season, to be honest. It is what it is, and next season is going to be much, much better. Rick Barnes is not Mike White, and I really have confidence that he is not going to blow a top 10 roster in the same fashion. Watching Florida has been a serious chore this year, though that’s for Saturday’s preview to discuss. Anyway, we are here, here is Arkansas.

For two months, this Arkansas team was the story of the SEC. A 12-1 start with wins over Georgia Tech and Indiana wasn’t perfect, obviously, but this looked like a group destined for an 8/9 seed in March, which would have been serious improvement over the 2018-19 NIT squad. For year one of Eric Musselman’s tenure to end like that…well, everyone would’ve been thrilled. This squad isn’t deep at all, and there’s tons of flaws, but you can’t ever fault their effort.

Unfortunately, #grit doesn’t always win out. In fact, #grit has taken lots of Ls lately. Arkansas is 5-9 since that 12-1 start, with the best win being a road squeaker over Alabama. They’ve fallen out of the NCAA Tournament field entirely, now being listed on Bracket Matrix as one of the First Four Out. (Oh, to be in such a luxurious position! It must feel nice.) Nothing is trending right for Arkansas – welcome to the club! – and all the goodwill of November and December feels lost. Did I mention that Tennessee and Arkansas fans should be best friends at this point?

NEXT PAGE: Musselman’s approval rating is still very high, though

Show Me My Opponent: Arkansas (#1)

Here is what I wrote about Arkansas basketball in January 2019:

“This stupid friggin’ team again. Prior to last year’s blessed 84-66 SEC Tournament destruction of the swine, Tennessee had lost six straight games to Arkansas. You will remember some of these fairly well: losing a second-half lead to Arkansas in Fayetteville in the last days of 2017, losing a second-half lead to Arkansas in Knoxville in the first days of 2017, losing a (three-point) second-half lead to Arkansas in Knoxville in 2016, losing a second-half lead to Arkansas in Fayetteville in 2016. You get the point.

This team never dies, as much as you want them to. I have watched Tennessee lose NINE DAMN GAMES to this team by five points or less in my lifetime, six of them from the Bruce era onward. The Vols are 4-4 against Arkansas when they’re ranked and the Hogs aren’t. Arkansas has not been a serious national threat since I was in kindergarten and haven’t even been a serious regional threat for more than a few years out of the last 20, but they always beat Tennessee, and God am I sick of it.”

All that changed is Tennessee demolished Arkansas, the Hogs have a new coach, and they look similarly frustrating. Onward.

NEXT PAGE: I’ll admit it: I only hated the Hog Call because I could never figure out how long you hold the “WOO” part of it. I get it I think