Razorback soap opera always interesting on some level

Fans are a fickle bunch whose concerns flit too and fro. Razorback fans are no different.

A week ago, Hog fans were concerned with finding the perfect replacement for Arkansas basketball coach Mike Anderson. However, after the Hogs played the Kentucky Wildcats off their feet at Rupp Arena last Tuesday in a 70-66 loss and knocked off Ole Miss, 74-73, in a rousing victory on the same day as the University of Arkansas celebrated the 25th anniversary of the program’s lone national title, cooler heads have prevailed.

Next up for the Razorbacks

Who: at Vanderbilt
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 6
Where: Nashville, Tennessee
Watch: SEC Network

Remaining schedule

March 9 – Alabama
March 13-17 – SEC Tournament

The complaints have softened some. All Razorbacks fans really want is to support their beloved Hogs and enjoy a team in which they can take pride. The way Anderson’s Razorbacks played last week reached that mark for most. Now, concerns flow to other areas.

Sunday and Monday, some fans were more concerned the UA hadn’t honored former Razorback basketball coach Nolan Richardson by either naming the Walton Arena court after him or erecting a statue of him outside the venerable walls of Walton Arena.

Others were more concerned that the announced ticket-scanned attendance at the Arkansas-Ole Miss basketball game seemed to be several thousand below the actual attendance. The scanned attendance was 9,942, while the actual tickets sold was 17,320. Based on the eye and sound test, longtime fans and professionals who cover and work the games speculated that 13,000 to 14,000 actually attended the game.

However, late in the day Monday, most Razorback thoughts turned to the gridiron when word spread that former Texas A&M quarterback Nick Starkel (6-3, 215) had decided to play his final two years of football with Chad Morris’ Razorbacks after he is graduated from A&M this summer.

The plan is for Starkel to be on campus in July and for him to immediately challenge fellow graduate transfer Ben Hicks, who transferred to Arkansas from SMU in January and is already in the midst of spring practice with the Razorbacks.

Whether Hicks, Starkel, or one of the other Razorbacks nail down the starting job in August, Morris and his staff has recruited the Hogs into a much better situation at quarterback in Year 2 than they were stuck with in their inaugural season on the hill. Fans now can hope that will pay off in more victories on the field.

A bit lower on Razorbacks fans radar but no less important is the hot start Dave Van Horn’s Diamond Hogs have gotten off to this year. The Razorback baseball team is 9-1 so far with their only blemish being a 10th-inning, 6-4 loss at USC after the Hogs took the series from the Trojans by winning the first two games.

While comparisons like this are an indicator of nothing in the long run, the Razorbacks’ College World Series runner-up squad was 8-2 on this date last year.

The Hogs made their way into the top 10 of the USA Today Coaches Poll, though Arkansas remains at No. 15 in the Baseball America Poll, which is the poll the Fayetteville Flyer recognizes in its articles.

The Razorbacks are also in No. 15 in D1 Baseball’s poll which ranked 11 SEC squads in its Top 25. It’s the first time 11 teams from the SEC or any conference have been ranked in the same baseball poll.

D1 ranks the SEC thusly, No. 1 Vanderbilt, No. 5 Florida, No. 7 Mississippi State, No. 9 Georgia, No. 10 Ole Miss, No. 13 LSU, No. 15 Arkansas, No. 19 Auburn, No. 20 Texas A&M, N0. 24 South Carolina, and No. 25 Tennessee.

The Razorbacks canceled their Tuesday game with North Carolina-Charlotte because of wind chill factors forecasted to be well below freezing, but the Hogs and the 49ers (6-5) will play at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Following the Hogs always has and probably always will have more twists than any daytime soap opera, and that’s the latest on “How the Hogs Turn.”

Last Saturday’s victory over Ole Miss was a huge one for the Hoop Hogs to say the least.

Nothing could sully celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Razorbacks 1993-94 national title. That victory over Duke, and that season in general will remain special to all Razorbacks fans who experienced it in any way for the rest of their lives. However, it would have been a downer if the Razorbacks had not pulled out that victory.

Wasn’t it special that that Arkansas point guard Jalen Harris, who failed to execute in the final minute against Kentucky, came back a game later to make the critical go-ahead points as well as force the steal that Gabe Osabuohien made to lock up the game.

The victory snapped an ugly six-game losing streak, giving the Hogs positive vibes going into the last week of the regular season.

The win and the celebration underscored the value of having Anderson as the Razorbacks’ head coach. His connection to Nolan and to what was the apex of Razorback basketball history remains a value to the program. Everyone needs to appreciate that, particularly concerning a man who has served in his role with the utmost class and dignity.

The Razorbacks (15-14, 6-10 SEC) are back on the road at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to face Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym. As bad as Arkansas’ season has seemed, the Commodores have suffered through much worse. Vanderbilt is 9-20 overall this season, but 0-16 in SEC play. However, the Commodores nearly pulled off the victory against Arkansas on Feb. 5 in Walton Arena.

Keyshawn Embery-Simpson had to hit a three-pointer with 14 second left in the game to give the Hogs a 67-66 lead. After a steal by Harris, Mason Jones sank two free throws to put the final touches on the win that would be the Razorbacks’ last one until last Saturday’s over Ole Miss.

Vanderbilt’s record might indicate that Arkansas will win, but little has come easy for the Razorbacks this season, and last Saturday’s victory probably isn’t going to change that.

Winning at Memorial Gym — with its placement of the the team’s benches on opposing baselines rather than along the same sideline — has been difficult for the some of the Hogs’ better teams over the years much less a team that has struggled with consistency like this squad has.

The Commodores are stuck playing in the SEC Tournament’s first round on March 13 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. A Vanderbilt victory Wednesday would likely pull the Hogs into that same mire.

Like Vandy, the Razorbacks are playing for pride at this point in the season. A victory over the Commodores Wednesday means the Razorbacks would finish no worse than .500 on the regular season, and would give the a shot at having a winning regular season if they could also beat Alabama at 5 p.m. Saturday at Walton Arena in the regular-season finale.

If the Razorbacks could win both games this week, the Hogs would finish the season with a winning record, and they would have an outside chance of playing their way into a NIT bid in the SEC Tournament.

The only shot Arkansas has of making the NCAA Tournament is to win the SEC’s automatic bid by winning the SEC Tournament.

While the goal is always to make the NCAA Tournament, playing in the NIT wouldn’t be a bad consolation for such a young team that will return every player but Daniel Gafford, whom most feel will enter this summer’s NBA Draft.

A couple of extra games in the NIT would be good for the Hogs’ returning players if they are able to string together several wins over the next two weeks.