Hogs seek more than a token appearance in NCAA Tournament, Diamond Hogs hope to stop slide in SEC opener

Saying Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman is a high-energy guy is an understatement. The head Hog is a workaholic’s workaholic, and he likes to do things fast but also thoroughly.

By now everyone in the state has heard about him having to clean his gym clothes in his hotel room sink with shampoo because his alternating pair of gym shorts and T-shirt was lost by the managers in Nashville.

Can’t you just imagine Musselman working his frustrations out, scrubbing those workout shorts in his bathroom sink. He’ll be lucky if there is any material left.

Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: vs. Colgate Raiders
When: 11:45 a.m. Friday, March 19
Where: NCAA Tournament – Indianapolis, Ind.
Current Record: 22-6

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What is hard for me to imagine is what a multitasker like Musselman is doing with slow internet service in the NCAA bubble and limited meeting room space outside of practice and meal time.

It has got to be frustrating for a coach who has embraced technology for everything it is worth in coaching and prepping his team.

Musselman is prepping the Razorbacks (22-6) for the biggest game of their lives. Even with all the grad-transfers and transfers in his program, only point guard Jalen Tate is a veteran of NCAA Tournament play at Northern Kentucky.

The rest of third-seeded Hogs, who are playing in the South Region, have yet to experience the Big Dance, something every Razorback has dreamed of playing in since they were kids.

Arkansas freshman guard Moses Moody attempted to play off Friday’s 11:45 a.m. opening-round game contest against No. 14 seed Colgate (14-1) as just another game. He may feel that way now, but when the ball is thrown up Friday, every Razorback and every Raider will feel the butterflies.

It’s only natural, despite pandemic conditions.

The NCAA Tournament is a big deal to every college basketball player no matter how cool or nonchalant they attempt to act. The Big Dance is where legends are made and dreams come true for the squads that survive and advance.

The Razorbacks should advance. Colgate only played Patriot League games this season and their impressive 14-1 record came against just 5 teams — Loyola, Bucknell, Army, Boston, and Holy Cross — playing each of them three times.

The Raiders shoot it great from the perimeter (38.5 percent) and share the ball (17.6 assists per game), but it’s difficult to properly evaluate this team, considering Colgate didn’t play a non-conference schedule and had such a redundant league schedule.

The Hogs can’t afford to take the high-scoring Raiders lightly, but the Razorbacks have run a different type of gauntlet in SEC play, a much more difficult one.

Those who have picked against the Hogs for this game may have keyed in on how sluggish the Razorbacks have appeared at times in their last four games. It has been noticeable. However, the excitement around the NCAA Tournament should rev up the Razorbacks’ engines.

The Razorbacks’ depth and talent should carry them past the Raiders if the Hogs play well, and there is no reason to believe they won’t.

Honestly, though, I do worry about the Razorbacks past their opening-round game. I think it will be much easier for Arkansas to run with Colgate than it will be for them to adjust to a grind-it-out game with either No. 6 seed Texas Tech (17-10) or No. 11 seed Utah State (20-8).

I don’t like the matchup with the Red Raiders if it comes to fruition. The Razorbacks have had difficulty with Big 12 teams in the recent past, and a battle of wills with the Red Raiders looks more difficult than a second-round matchup should be for a No. 3 seed.

That said, wouldn’t a coaching showdown between Chris Beard, who was many Hog fans’ favorite choice for the Razorback job two years ago, and Musselman be interesting.

Razorback first baseman Brady Slavens / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com

Next up for Razorback baseball

Opponent: vs. Alabama
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 19
Where: Fayetteville
TV: SEC Network+

Upcoming games

Saturday, March 20 – Alabama (6:30 p.m. SEC+)
Sunday, March 21 – Alabama (2 p.m. SEC Network)

The No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks look to shake off a two-game losing streak this weekend when they open SEC play against the No. 19 Alabama Crimson Tide in three-game series, starting Friday at 6:30 p.m at Baum-Walker Stadium.

The Hogs lost a 2-0 decision at Louisiana Tech on Sunday and followed it up with a tough home loss, 8-5, to Oklahoma on Tuesday.

Arkansas struggled at the plate in both contests, and Razorbacks skipper Dave Van Horn called upon 10 pitchers Tuesday in an effort to get a handle on the Sooners, whose potent hitting lineup worked Arkansas over in front of the home crowd.

Only Razorback first baseman Brady Slavens had a good night at the plate with a 3-for-4, one home-run, and 4-RBI performance. The rest of the lineup found it hard to put the ball in play against the Sooners.

The Razorbacks will seek to turn their fortunes around against the Crimson Tide. Peyton Pallete is scheduled to start on the mound Friday with Zebulon Vermillion getting the call Saturday and Lael Lockhart on Sunday.