Hope remains as Hogs gear up for November run

As much as I enjoy Razorback football, it was kind of nice to have a break during the Hogs’ open date last Saturday.

While there is nothing I’d rather be doing than watching the Razorbacks when they are playing, being an Arkansas fan can be a bit stressful before, during, and after the game.

It’s not a bad stress, at least I don’t think it is, but I’m never truly at ease on game day. For good or ill, the passion runs deep. I think a lot of Razorbacks fans feel the same way.

So, it was nice to watch some college football last Saturday without really having any emotional skin the games.

While there is no doubt the Razorbacks needed the open date more than their fans to heal up from the nagging aches and pains of the season and to recharge their batteries, it wasn’t a bad thing for Hog fans to take a step back following Auburn’s 56-3 shellacking of Arkansas on Oct. 22.

There’s no way to sugarcoat that loss, but the Razorbacks can’t be as bad as they looked against Auburn. They won’t play that poorly again this season? They can’t, can they?

I personally don’t think so, but then again going into the ninth game of this season — which has just whisked — it’s hard to know for certain.

It seems like the media and fans have made nearly each game this season a referendum of sorts on this team and the program.

After victories over TCU early in the season and Ole Miss at the middle of the season, like many, I felt the Hogs had turned a corner and were on their way to a strong season.

However, those thoughts were dampened when Arkansas melted down against Texas A&M in what one minute was a very close game but quickly turned into a 21-point route.

Similarly, any pride the Razorbacks could take away from beating Ole Miss was ground into dust when the Tigers absolutely mauled the Hogs at Jordon-Hare Stadium.

If we’ve learned anything this season, one game — positive or negative — isn’t enough to make a conclusion about the state of this team or this program.

Going into Saturday’s 2:30 p.m., CBS-televised game with No. 10 Florida, I don’t really know what to think. Brett Bielema’s Razorbacks tend to play better football in November, going a combined 6-2 the past two seasons in the final month of the regular season.

As a glass-half-full guy, that makes me feel good about the possibilities for Saturday’s game, even though I’m well aware that Florida is the only SEC team the Razorbacks have never beaten since joining the SEC and that the Gators will be favored.

As optimistic as I like to be, that loss to Auburn and the defense’s propensity to give up big plays all season nags at me. The fact that Florida boasts statistically one of the best defenses in the SEC also chills my certainty about forecasting a Razorback victory for this weekend.

My heart tells me the Razorbacks have a good chance to whip Florida, but it’s having a hard time convincing my head to be that positive.

But, it is just Monday.

By Friday, I will have myself firmly convinced the Razorbacks not only have a great shot at beating the Gators but also a fantastic chance of running the table for a 9-3 record.

If the Razorbacks do upset Florida, those thoughts will be validated as absolute in my heart. If not, next Monday, I’ll be low, but still attempting to rev up my fan engine for the LSU game.

Hope reigns strong in the Razorback Nation, even when it seems that’s about all you’ve got to hang on to.

Poor 3-point shooting not the worst sign for Hoop Hogs?

Arkansas junior guard Jaylen Barford / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com

Shooting 1 of 18 from behind the 3-point line is never something to be excited about. That’s a frigid 5 percent; 6 percent if you round up. Any way you look at it, that’s poor shooting.

Arkansas head basketball coach Mike Anderson allowed as much Friday night following the Razorbacks’ 87-60 exhibition game victory over Central Missouri. Anderson said he was thankful the Hogs got that performance out of their system before the regular-season begins on Nov. 11 when they play host to Fort Wayne at Bud Walton Arena.

However, if you value a silver lining, the fact that the Hogs scored 87 points with only one 3-point basket could be a good sign for the forthcoming season.

How so?

Well, I’d argue that the Razorbacks have been too reliant on 3-point shooting in recent years. Anderson’s mentor Nolan Richardson was always fond of saying, “Live by the three; die by the three.”

The 3-pointer can be a great weapon, especially with a shooter like Dusty Hannahs on the squad, but opponents can clamp down on shooters, deny them the ball, and run them off the 3-point line. For whatever reasons, teams generally don’t shoot from the outside as well on the road as they do at home.

However, if a team is adept at scoring around the basket, that’s more difficult for a defense to cut off by just turning up their intensity and hustle. Whether it’s by posting up, slashing to the basket, or attacking the glass for offensive rebounds and stickbacks, teams that score around the basket are more difficult to deal with.

Plus a team that scores well inside over the long haul will get better looks at the basket, which should help the 3-point shooting. Maybe that will be the case for the Razorbacks this season.

If you’re looking for a silver lining to the woeful shooting performance, the fact that the Hogs didn’t really miss a beat while shooting so poorly from the field could be encouraging, particularly if the Razorbacks manage to shoot better from 3-point range the rest of the season.

The Hogs play their final exhibition game at 7 p.m. Friday against Emporia State at Bud Walton Arena.

Arkansas X-Country teams continue SEC dominance

For the 16th time since joining the Southeastern Conference in 1991, the Arkansas men’s and women’s cross country programs both won conference championships last Friday at Agri Park.

Led by Devin Clark, Lance Harter women’s squad placed all five scoring runners in the top 15 to win its fourth title in a row.

Chris Bucknam’s men’s squad also dominated with Alex George pacing four Razorbacks runner’s in the men’s top 10.

The Razorbacks will play host to the 2016 NCAA South Central Region Championship on Nov. 11 at Agri Park before heading to Terre Haute, Ind., for the 2016 NCAA Cross Country Championships on Nov. 19.