This has been a roller-coaster season for the Arkansas Razorbacks so why should the last two weeks of the regular season be much different?
The Razorbacks had a four-game winning streak and home-court advantage Tuesday night when they played host to the Kentucky Wildcats, but it didn’t matter. Coach John Caplipari’s stable was loaded with young but talented players, and coach Mike Anderson’s Hogs just weren’t a match for them, falling 87-72.
Arkansas at Alabama
Date: Saturday, Feb. 24
Time: 5 p.m.
Location: Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa
Television: SEC Network
Kentucky took tthe Hogs out of their game offensively with their length, size and quickness, and while the Hogs didn’t play poorly on defense as they have at times this season, they just weren’t talented enough to put the clamps on the Wildcats, who countered every Razorback move with size and more size.
Appropriately enough, Kentucky did pretty much the same thing to Arkansas’ upcoming opponent Alabama last Saturday, creaming the Crimson Tide, 81-71.
Alabama dropped their second game in a row Wednesday night at Auburn, 90-71, so both the Crimson Tide and Hogs will be licking their wounds when they meet at 5 p.m. Saturday at Tuscaloosa, Ala.
No doubt the Crimson Tide will be glad to be home after dropping two road games in a row. Like alls good teams, Alabama gets a boost by playing at home and while the Crimson Tide aren’t as good at the Wildcats, they are long, lean and athletic like Kentucky, and coach Avery Johnson’s squad boasts arguably the best player in the conference in point guard Collen Sexton, a 6-3 freshman, who is expected to be a lottery pick in this summer’s NBA Draft.
I don’t think this a good matchup for the Hogs, but the Razorbacks have proven me wrong before.
While the “experts” on NCAA Tournament bracketing project that the Crimson Tide and the Hogs will be partaking in the Big Dance at this point, neither team’s resume can afford another loss if they want to maximize their seeding opportunities.
If the Razorbacks can steal a victory away from the Crimson Tide, it would further solidify their standing for the NCAA Tournament, and give them a better shot a double buy in the SEC Tournament, held March 7-11 in St. Louis.
Speaking of SEC Standings, the Razorbacks are 19-9 overall and 8-7 in the SEC. Five other SEC teams are mired in the middle of the conference with 8-7 marks —including Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri, and Florida. Some are calling that tied for third place, but it looks more like a six-way tie for eighth place to me behind Auburn (12-3) at No. 1 and Tennessee (10-5) at No.2.
Going in to Saturday’s games, each of the six are in the hunt for the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in the aforementioned SEC Tournament. The double bye associated with those seeds means the teams won’t play until Friday of the tournament, whose early rounds look to be exciting but a bloodbath the Razorbacks would no doubt rather avoid.
I’m guessing the Hogs will need to win two of their last three games to be in the picture to snare one of the double-bye seeds, and they may have to win three. It just depends on how the weekend’s games shake out.
Currently Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Florida would hold a head-to-head advantage over the Razorbacks in a tie-breaker situation.
This weekend’s games involving the six teams tied for third/eighth place in the SEC are Arkansas at Alabama, South Carolina at Mississippi State, Missouri at Kentucky, and Auburn at Florida.
Hog fans should root for Auburn and South Carolina for sure, and Missouri for some help on Saturday.
Gafford and the NBA
Arkansas 6-11 freshman forward Daniel Gafford will play in the NBA one day.
The question is whether it will be next season or the year after next?
The El Dorado product has caught the eyes of scouts, and he is already being predicted to be a mid to late first-round draft pick if he opts to come out this year.
Is Gafford ready for the NBA isn’t really the question. He’s not ready.
Gafford, who averages 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, does make dominant plays, but he is not consistently a dominant player.
That said, the NBA would draft him based on his potential, and with his size, length, speed, agility, desire, and intelligence, Gafford’s upside is truly through the roof. He could be a millionaire by the Fourth of the July if he chose to do so.
However, Gafford has holes in his game which would likely keep him out of the lottery picks, unless he begins to play like the second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon the next few weeks.
Gafford could go a long way in filling with another strong off season and another college season under his belt. His free-throw shooting, outside shooting, ball-handling skills, and defense are a few of the areas he could improve.
An additional year in college would also allow him to mature personally and socially before setting out into the real world. Staying another year in coach Mike Anderson’s system would not only make Gafford more ready for play on the court, but also life off the court.
If he were to work himself into being a lottery pick over the next year, their are couple of million green reasons why that could be to his advantage instantly. In the long run, Gafford’s first NBA contract will set the scale by which he will be payed throughout his NBA career.
Certainly, there is a risk of injury, but there are insurance policies especially designed to protect college athletes than are in his exact situation.
All of that said, the decision is up to Gafford and his family to make, and I hope the best for him either way.
Diamond Hogs continue play in San Diego
The No. 4 Arkansas Razorbacks baseball squad hopes to keep their four-game winning streak alive today against Cal Poly in the Tony Gwynn Classic at 3 p.m. for a game that will be televised on the Cox Sports Channel.
Blaine Knight is expected to star against Cal Poly on Friday, with Isaiah Campbell on the mound for Arkansas’ 8 p,m, Saturday game against homesteading San Diego State. Coach Dave Van Horn has yet to announce the starter for Sunday’s non game against San Diego. Cox Sports is broadcasting all three games.
Coach Dave Van Horn’s Hogs opened the season with a three-game home sweep of Bucknell last weekend and then topped Arizona, 1-0, late Wednesday night in a taut pitcher’s duel that saw Kacey Murphy throw six scoreless innings before turning the mound over to the bullpen.
Freshman left field Heston Kjerstad slapped a homer for the only run of the game in the top of the fifth inning for a 1-0 lead that stood for the rest of the game. Kjrestad is leading the team in batting average at .583 and is one of seven Hogs to have hit at least one home run. He also leads Arkansas in RBI with 12.
Carson Shaddy leads the team in homers with 2 and has 11 RBI and is batting .444. The SEC named second baseman from from Fayetteville as the SEC Player of the Week after the first weekend of the season.