Diamond Hogs eye national seed in approach to home stretch, Hoop Hogs shift to Calipari

Isn’t it funny how some sports seasons linger and others just whisk by?

There are just four more SEC series left in this Razorback baseball season. For me, it seems like the season just started last week, but the more a team wins, the quicker the games seem to roll by.

After the Hogs’ 11-1 run-rule victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff Tuesday at North Little Rock, the No. 2 Hogs are a sterling 35-6 on the season and 14-4 in SEC play. The Hogs lead the SEC West by a game over No. 1 Texas A&M (36-5, 13-5) and trail Eastern division leader and No. 4 Kentucky (32-7, 15-3) by a game.

Yeah, the national rankings seem a bit odd based on the SEC standings, but it will all be sorted out over the next month.

The Razorbacks get their shot at the Wildcats and the Aggies, unfortunately both series are on the road.

The Hogs go to Lexington, Ky., on May 3 and to Bryan-College Station on May 16, but Razorback coach Dave Van Horn and his Hogs’ only thoughts are this weekend’s series with Florida (21-19, 8-10).

Friday’s 7 p.m. game is scheduled to be televised by the SEC Network. Saturday’s game will be on ESPN2 at noon. Sunday’s 2 p.m. finale can be streamed on the SEC Network+. It’s early, but there is a possibility of rain all three days in the forecast, which could alter the scheduled start times.

This last month of the season ought to be very exciting for the Razorbacks, which are also No. 2 in the latest RPI ratings. The Hogs’ success so far this season gives them an excellent shot at being a National Seed, which would allow Arkansas to host a Regional and a Super Regional as long as they advance.

Up next for the Razorbacks

Opponent: Florida
When: 6 p.m. Friday, April 26
Where: Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville
TV: SEC Network

Next few games:

April 27 – Florida, 12 p.m. (ESPN2)
April 28 – Florida, 2 p.m. (SEC+)
April 30-May 1 – Missouri State (SEC+)

Again, this baseball season is just breezing by when compared to the other two major sports. The Razorbacks’ football and basketball seasons just seemed to languish, creating more and more agony for Hog fans as the seasons kept rolling along.

We couldn’t be put out of our misery quick enough. The ending of those seasons was a blessing, like a breath of fresh air after being cooped up in a musty old room too long.

In football, head coach Sam Pittman hired Bobby Petrino as his offensive coordinator and the team focused on toughness in their off-season training program. From all reports, the Hogs had a very productive set of spring practices that has fans cautiously optimistic for this fall as we lurch toward summer.

Hoop Hogs shift from Musselman to Calipari

John Calipari, left, and Hunter Yurachek, Arkansas vice chancellor and director of athletics, answer questions from reporters during a press conference after the official announcement hiring Calipari as the new Arkansas head basketball coach Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

In basketball, Eric Musselman exited the program as head coach, which no doubt was a good move for him and the program after a tumultuous season.

Something soured during his final year as the Razorbacks head coach. Rumors suggest he wasn’t happy with the NIL support the program received last spring and summer, and while it certainly was not his intention, the negative energy around the program was evident with an underachieving team and a losing season.

Musselman knew he needed to push the refresh button, and he did by exiting west to take the Southern Cal head coaching job, where he is closer to his roots. Musselman did himself and Arkansas a favor by moving on and not allowing the Razorback program’s situation to deteriorate any more than it already had.

As for the Razorbacks, athletics director Hunter Yurachek made the biggest hire in the program’s history in luring longtime Kentucky coach John Calipari away from the Bluegrass State in a move that allowed all parties to move forward in what could be very positive ways.

Like all Hog onlookers, I’m eagerly waiting to see what type of roster Calipari crafts for his first season. Cal and his burgeoning Razorback staff are reportedly hosting more talent this week than any time since the heydays of Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson’s programs, when it wasn’t uncommon to have a number of future NBA players on campus at one time.

However, with all due credit to Sutton and Richardson, who both recruited at a high level but specialized at finding diamonds in the rough, Cal, like at Kentucky, has his sights set on the bluest of blue-chip recruits.

Reportedly bolstered by redoubled NIL support from the state’s most successful family businesses — which happen to be among the most successful in the nation — the Razorback basketball program has the potential to function at a level it only reached for a short time in the early to mid 1990s.

Even then Richardson liked to joke that the Hogs’ recruited Burger King All-Americans, while schools like Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Kansas recruited McDonald’s All-Americans.

John Tyson, chairman and CEO of Tyson Foods, waves to Arkansas fans as he is recognized by Hunter Yurachek, Arkansas vice chancellor and director of athletics, (left) for his roll in the hiring of John Calipari as Arkansas’ new head basketball coach Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

The upshot of getting central and northwest Arkansas boosters like the Stephens, Tysons, Hunts as well as the continued support of the Joneses of Dallas all in on Calling the Hogs will not only benefit Calipari’s program, but hopefully all of the programs as we move forward.

Fractured is too strong of a word, but since the great stadium debate of the early 2000s, the full-tilt, state-wide support that the Razorback program once enjoyed had been strained.

I may be totally off base, but it seems to me the struggles the football and basketball program faced last year because of various NIL and staffing issues as well as the bold move to hire Calipari — orchestrated by John Tyson and Yurachek — has galvanized the program’s wealthiest boosters. Their goal seems to be to make a great program even better and healthier.

The successful results that should flow forth from their investment/generosity should make Razorback fans of all stripes more enthusiastic about supporting the Hogs whether it’s through donations, ticket sales or merchandising purchases.

College athletics is a business after all, and with the support of the state and university’s wisest, wealthiest, and most talented business families, Hog fans may be in store for a Razorback Renaissance like we’ve never experienced.