Hoop Hogs, Diamond Hogs set for challenging weekends

As the old saying goes, the more a team wins, the bigger each game gets.

That’s certainly true for the Arkansas Razorback basketball team, which plays the Georgia Bulldogs at 5 p.m. Saturday in Athens. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.

It might seem odd to describe a game between the 11th-place Razorbacks (18-10, 6-9 SEC) and the 13th-place Bulldogs (13-15, 4-11 SEC) as big, but for a team like Arkansas that is clinging to the NCAA Tournament bubble by the hair of their chinny chin chin, no game can be taken for granted.

Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: at Georgia
When: 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29
Where: Athens, Ga.
TV: SEC Network
Current Record: 18-10 (SEC 6-9)

Remaining schedule

March 4 – LSU
March 7 – at Texas A&M

The Hogs have won two games in a row since the return of guard Isaiah Joe from knee surgery, but the Razorbacks had lost their previous five games. They need every victory they can get their hooves on if they hope to have a chance of making the NCAA Tournament.

The Razorbacks are only in consideration for a bid because of their hot 12-1 start before conference play and the vast improvement they have shown once Joe returned to the starting lineup. If the Razorbacks continue to play well with Joe back on the floor, his injury during the Hogs’ five-game skid without him could give the Razorbacks the benefit of the doubt when the NCAA Selection Committee awards bids on March 15.

So, the Razorbacks need to pack as many victories as they can on their resume in the final week and a half of the regular season and in the SEC Tournament, which begins March 11 in Nashville.

The Bulldogs are coming off a 94-90 loss in overtime at South Carolina on Wednesday night, and are no doubt looking forward to returning home for a game against the Hogs.

Georgia is led by SEC Play of the Year candidate Anthony Edwards, a 6-6, 225-pound force, who is averaging 19.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for Georgia. It’s little doubt that Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman will sic Jimmy Whitt Jr., the Razorbacks third-leading scorer and best defender, on Edwards, but he will be giving up three inches of height and 25 to 30 pounds of muscle.

The Razorbacks hope to counter with their one-two punch of Joe, who averages 16.5 points on the season, but 21 points in his two games since returning, and Mason Jones, who leads the SEC in scoring at 21.1 ppg. When they are in the groove, the Razorbacks become very difficult to handle.

Both shoot well from the outside, but either can drive to the basket. Jones is especially adept at drawing contact and fouls near the rim, and his 82 percent free-throw shooting percentage makes him a threat whenever he’s around the rim.

The Razorbacks arguably played one of their best games of the season last Wednesday when they defeated Tennessee, 86-69, at Walton Arena. For one of the few times this season, the Hogs started fast and did not have to fight from behind in an attempt to win the game.

The Hogs would do well to get a quick start against the Bulldogs on Saturday to keep the home crowd out of the game early. For the most part, the Razorbacks have played about as well on the road this season as they have at home, but there is no doubt that the home crowd helped them get on their two-game winning streak.

Like other recent Razorback teams, the Hogs basically begin one-and-done play before the end of the regular season. A loss in any one of their last three games at Georgia on Saturday, against LSU at home on Wednesday, or at Texas A&M on March 7 might be enough to keep them out of the Big Dance.

The Hogs’ only choice is to keep winning and see where that takes them.

Diamond Hogs to be tested in Houston

Arkansas baseball’s Robert Moore was named Perfect Game National Player of the Week / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com

The Arkansas baseball team is off to a 7-0 start, befitting at team now ranked in the top-10 by all the major services. The College Coaches Poll has the Hogs at No. 5, D1 Baseball ranks them at No. 6, while Baseball America pegs the Razorbacks at No. 9 after their four-game sweep of Gonzaga last weekend.

That said, all the pollsters and Razorback fans, too, will have a better idea of exactly where this Arkansas team stands after this weekend’s appearances in the 20th Shriners Classic at Minute Made Park in Houston where the Razorbacks will face a mini Big 12 slate of No. 22 Oklahoma (7-2) at 3 p.m. Friday, Texas (9-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday, and Baylor (5-2) at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said the Razorbacks would start right-hander Connor Noland (2-0, 1.42 ERA) against Oklahoma’s Cade Cavalli (1-1, 2.31) on Friday. Left-hander Patrick Wicklander (2-0, 0.0) gets the start Saturday with Kole Rammage (1-0, 2.84) getting the nod on Sunday against Baylor.

The classic format gives the Razorbacks a chance to play against SEC-caliber talent and to see three different ball clubs, making it more advantageous than facing a single opponent in a three-game home or away series. The Hogs also get the opportunity of playing in a MLB ballpark.

Fans who have Direct TV, Dish Network or AT&T UVerse can pick up the game through AT&T SportsNet.

AT&T Sports Net is not carried by Cox Cable in Northwest Arkansas, according to the AT&T Sports Net website and a number of search attempts on my part.

Streaming options include MLB.Com, Astros.com, the Houston Astros’ twitter page, Facebook page, and Youtube channel on the Internet. Streaming network Fubo TV also carries the AT&T Network. Some of the streaming platforms have free 7-day trial periods if you have never subscribed to their network.

The Arkansas Radio Network will also be broadcasting the games.