Hoop Hogs take center stage with busy month of March

JD Notae was named to The Sporting News All-American squad as a third-team selection.

Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com

There are no busier months in college athletics than March.

Of course, March Madness is the focus with the conference tournaments this week and the NCAA Tournament opening play next week, but that is just a chunk of the iceberg.

The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track Championships are always held the same week as the the major conference basketball tournaments, and Arkansas’ No. 1-ranked men and No. 2-ranked women will be chasing national titles this week in Birmingham, Ala.

Razorback baseball and softball seasons are well underway and riding the flow of Northwest Arkansas’ rollercoaster weather patterns.

Arkansas is holding its football Pro Day at the Walker Pavilion indoor-workout complex today (Wednesday) with more than a dozen Hogs undergoing testing and drills that they hope will enhance their NFL Draft status.

The UA released this list of athletes who will test their skills for scouts: DB Montaric Brown,
WR Treylon Burks, OL Myron Cunningham, LB Deon Edwards, RB T.J. Hammonds, TE Blake Kern, LB Grant Morgan, WR Tyson Morris, DL John Ridgeway, LS Jordan Silver, DL Markel Utsey, WR De’Vion Warren, and DL Tre Williams.

The football Hogs are less than a week away from beginning spring practice for the upcoming season when the Razorbacks will play what many believe to be the most-challenging football schedule the program has ever faced.

Sam Pittman meets with the media Thursday to update everyone on the progress of the football program going into his third season as the Hogs’ head coach.

While the Razorbacks return the bulk of their key contributors on offense, defensive coordinator Barry Odom and his staff must rebuild the defense, which lost key performers in its front seven as well as All-SEC cornerback Montaric Brown.

Eric Musselman’s basketball Hogs don’t play until Friday afternoon in the SEC Tournament, held at Tampa, Fla. this year.

Many pundits don’t feel the Razorbacks have much to gain or lose in this week’s tournament. Ranked No. 15 in this week’s AP Poll and No. 20 in Monday’s update of the NCAA Net Rankings, the Hogs figure to be no worse than a fifth seed in the NCAA Tournament even if they drop their opening game Friday and no better than a third seed even if they were to win the SEC Tournament. So such opinions have a point.

However, I don’t think Muss is the type of coach that would take his team to a tournament just to make an appearance. He’ll prep the Hogs to win Friday whether they face LSU or Missouri for the third time or Ole Miss for the second. He’ll also push his squad to win Saturday and Sunday, too.

Load management came into vogue after Musselman matriculated from the NBA to the college game.

Both regular-season matchups were tough games against LSU, and if the Tigers advance as they should, Friday’s game will be a battle whether Au’Diese Toney recovers from an ankle injury suffered against LSU on March 2 or not.

If the Hogs make it to Saturday, Auburn is their likely opponent, and evidently the Tigers feel a bit embarrassed by the way the Razorbacks defeated them in overtime at Walton Arena.

The Hogs and their fans did party at Auburn’s expense, and it was fun.

It would be great to see the Razorbacks whip them again, but the Tigers are one of the most talented and deepest teams in the nation.

Should Arkansas beat Auburn again, Kentucky would be the probable opponent on Sunday. If there is a team in the SEC that’s more talented and perhaps deeper than Auburn, it is John Calipari’s Wildcats.

Say what you will, I can’t think of anything much better to watch in March than the Razorbacks playing three of the SEC’s most talented basketball squads over a three-day period. The Hogs shouldn’t hold anything back this weekend believing that it can be held in reserve for the Big Dance. It just doesn’t work that way.

Even mature college teams — like the Razorbacks are — can’t flirt with the idea of not playing their best every time out or it will bite them in the butt. Muss sold this team on making incremental improvement game by game back in January. I don’t think he will change his message for this weekend.

With the close of the regular season, several SEC awards have been announced this week and two Hogs have received multiple honors.

JD Notae, who was named a third-team All-American by “The Sporting News” on Monday, and Jaylin Williams nabbed first-team All-SEC honors Tuesday as voted by the SEC coaches. Notae was one of three unanimous members of the AP All-SEC first team, while Williams made the AP’s second team. Williams also made the Coaches SEC All-Defensive Team.

This is only the fourth time two Arkansas players have made the coaches All-SEC team since Arkansas joined the league in 1991-92 when Todd Day and Lee Mayberry received the honor that season. Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman did it twice in 1994 and 1995. No Hog duo has accomplished the honor since.

Notae ranked second in the SEC in both overall scoring (18.87 ppg) and scoring in league games (19.71 ppg). He additionally ranked second in the SEC – 20th in the NCAA – in steals per game (2.17 avg.). Also, despite missing the SEC opener due to illness, Notae’s 335 points scored in SEC games is the fourth-best, single-season total in program history.

Notae is the only player in the SEC to rank among the league’s top 15 in scoring (2nd), steals (2nd), assists (12th) and defensive rebounds (15th).

Williams ranked seventh in the NCAA (second in the SEC) in defensive rebounding (8.06), 22nd in the NCAA (second in the SEC) in total rebounds (9.6). and 22nd in the NCAA (second in the SEC) in double-doubles (12). Williams set Razorback records for most rebounds in SEC games (183) and best rebounding average in SEC game (10.35). He’s the only Hog to average double-digit rebounds for an SEC season.

Williams defensive numbers were just as strong. He ranked seventh in the SEC in blocked shots (1.16 avg.), 20th in steals (1.39 avg.) and taking a school-record 48 charges. Williams helped Arkansas rank second in SEC games in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense and defensive rebounds per game.

Up Next for Arkansas Razorback Basketball

Opponent: LSU, Ole Miss or Missouri
When: 1 p.m. Friday (approximately)
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla.

SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament, Tampa, Fla.


Game 1 – Missouri vs. Ole Miss, 5 p.m. (SEC Network)
Game 2 – Vanderbilt vs. Georgia, 7 p.m. (SEC Network)


Game 3 – Florida vs. Texas A&M 11 a.m. (SEC Network)
Game 4 – LSU vs. Game 1 Winner 2 p.m. (SEC Network)
Game 5 – South Carolina vs. Mississippi State 5 p.m. (SEC Network)
Game 6 – Alabama vs. Game 2 Winner 7 p.m. (SEC Network)


Game 7 – Auburn vs. Game 3 Winner (ESPN)
Game 8 – Arkansas vs. Game 4 Winner (ESPN)
Game 9 – Tennessee vs. Game 5 Winner (SEC Network)
Game 10 – Kentucky vs. Game 6 Winner (SEC Network)


Game 11 – Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner, Noon (ESPN)
Game 12 – Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner, 2 p.m. (ESPN)


Game 13 – Game 11 Winner vs. Game 12 Winner, Noon (ESPN)

Next up for the Diamond Hogs

Opponent: Illinois-Chicago (double-header)
Game 1: 3 p.m. Thursday, March 10
Game 2: 45 minutes after Game 1
Where: Baum-Walker Stadium
Radio: 92.1 FM or AM 1590 (more)

Upcoming Games

March 12 -Illinois-Chicago, 2 p.m. (SEC+)
March 13 -Illinois-Chicago, 12:30 p.m. (SEC+)

Weather has Diamond Hogs’ schedule up in the air

Old Man Winter is holding the No. 7 Arkansas Razorbacks baseball team hostage for the moment.

The Razorbacks (7-3) are scheduled to play Illinois-Chicago in a four-game series Thursday through Sunday, but a forecast calling for the possibility of 1 to 3 inches of snow in Fayetteville on Friday has Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn making plans to adjust.

Van Horn indicated at the Swatter’s Club on Monday that the Hogs might play a doubleheader against Illinois-Chicago on Thursday and a single game on Sunday, depending on the weather.

The thought is that snow on Friday would likely leave the field at Baum-Walker Stadium unplayable on Saturday. Illinois-Chicago’s travel plans would not allow a doubleheader to be played on Sunday.

So, stay tuned for updates.

UPDATE: The university confirmed on Wednesday that a double-header will be played on Thursday. As for now, the Saturday and Sunday games are still scheduled.