Thanks to the Arkansas Razorbacks winning 13 of their last 14 games, this has turned into a special season for Hog fans, especially those whom possess season tickets at Bud Walton Arena.
Recent victories over SEC-leading and then No. 1-ranked Auburn, No. 13 Tennessee, and No. 7 Kentucky has made this a season Razorback fans will remember forever.
The crowds at Walton Arena have been epic, stoking memories of the glory years of Nolan Richardson’s tenure as head coach when the Hogs won the national title in 1994 and made it back to the championship game in 1995.
Opponent: vs. LSU
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 2
Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville
Up next for the Hogs
March 5 – at Tennessee, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
March 9-13 – SEC Tournament Tampa, Fla. (SEC Network/ESPN)
Some national pundits are even mentioning the No. 14 Razorbacks (23-6, 12-4 SEC) as dark-horse candidates for the Final Four.
Razorback fans with the means and the method are anticipating next week’s trip to Tampa for the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament where the Hogs will be one of the top-four seeds. Some are even plotting further down the line, wondering if a trip to see the Razorbacks play in the NCAA Tournament is viable.
The way Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks have played since mid-January has made such planning possible, but let’s not put the cart before the horse.
As Phil Collins soulfully crooned in his 1985 hit there is still “One More Night” for Arkansas fans to celebrate their Hogs in the friendly confines of Walton Arena.
At 8 p.m. Wednesday the dreaded LSU Tigers come to town for the Razorbacks’ final home game of the season.
One More Night for Razorback fans to appreciate the play of seniors like Trey Wade, Au’Diese Toney, Chris Lykes, and ESPN National and SEC Player of the Week JD Notae. Yes, a couple of them could return for another season, but right now we don’t know if they will. Musselman indicated there would not be a “Senior Night” celebration so the Hogs can train their focus on LSU, although the seniors will receive their framed jersey.
One More Night to fill Walton Arena to the gills and go Hog wild with 20,000 like-minded hoops fans. Hopefully everyone will keep their pants up, and the “Blue Moon Over Kentucky incident” won’t be repeated.
One More Night to marvel at the defensive intensity and cohesion that turned a season going nowhere in early January into one of the best and most exciting in recent memory.
One More Night to count the charges Jaylin Williams takes in the paint.
One More Night to watch Notae and Williams and now Notae and Stanley Umude work the pick and roll to near perfection.
One last ride at BWA this season!
— #14 Arkansas Razorback Men's Basketball ? (@RazorbackMBB) February 28, 2022
One More Night to watch Toney basically erase an opponent with junkyard dog-like defensive play.
One More Night to be surprised and thrilled by the electric play of Devo Davis and Lykes, who tend to step forward when needed most.
One More Night to absorb the Walton Arena atmosphere that is truly special and unique in the world of college hoops. There are other great crowds across the NCAA landscape, but there are none better. As Musselman called it after the Kentucky game, it’s magical.
As grand as the scene is at the Basketball Palace of Mid-America when it’s rocking, Razorback fans and the Hogs alike can take nothing for granted against Will Wade’s Tigers.
LSU (20-9, 8-8) remains a dangerous basketball team, particularly with the return of Xavier Pinson, who missed Arkansas’ 65-58 upset of the Tigers in Baton Rouge on Jan. 12, to their lineup.
“Without Pinson in Game 1, it’s a completely different challenge in guarding them and in preparation,” Musselman said, who also missed the previous matchup after having surgery to repair the rotator cuff of his left shoulder.
In fact, according to the metrics of the NCAA Net rankings — which weights road and nonconference victories greater than home conference victories — the Tigers have proven more this season than the Razorbacks have.
The NCAA Net rankings have LSU ranked No. 16 as of Tuesday, while the Hogs were at No. 23. Kentucky is No. 5, Tennessee is No. 8, Auburn is No. 11, and Alabama is No. 22.
So, according to the NCAA Net, if Arkansas beats the Tigers in Walton Arena on Wednesday, it would be an upset.
That makes this game critical for the Hogs. In terms of how the NCAA Selection Committee views the Razorbacks, this game is as big as the recent showdowns against Auburn, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
A loss could leave the Razorbacks with a Jekyll-and-Hyde image in the minds of the Selection Committee, and right now seeding is exactly what the Razorbacks are playing for with the NCAA Tournament in mind.
Fans and the media love to speculate on the future, but players and coaches have to take a more myopic view. “The one-game-at-a-time” mentality isn’t just coach speech, it’s how teams must operate to be successful. For a coach and a team, the next team on the schedule has to be the biggest game.
LSU is it for the Hogs right now. They can’t be thinking ahead to that trip to Knoxville on Saturday.
“We understand how talented LSU is,” Musselman said. “Just looking at the two prior years (Musselman has been at Arkansas), it’s hard to beat a team twice. It really is. You can look at our games the last couple of years with LSU.
“Look, they didn’t have Pinson… I look at Coach Wade’s team, when they have been fully healthy, they’ve been really good and won a lot of games. With Pinson back, your game plan is completely and utterly different than it was the first game… Some of the things that were successful in the last game, we’ve got to tinker with and do it differently.
“Nobody wants to play LSU in the SEC Tournament, I can tell you that, because they have some really good pieces.”