This article originally appeared on January 3, 2014 on The Arkansas Traveler website, uatrav.com.
The Razorbacks are no longer underdogs in the Southeastern Conference, as they are expected to finish in the top half of the conference and make the NCAA Tournament in March.
For the first time in Mike Anderson’s tenure as head coach, Arkansas won’t be able to sneak up on teams like Florida, Kentucky and Missouri.
During the 2011-12 season, Anderson’s first at Arkansas, the Razorbacks shocked No. 15 Mississippi State and No. 20 Michigan at Bud Walton Arena. They also beat Vanderbilt, which finished the season ranked No. 19.
Last season, the Razorbacks pulled off a few more upsets. Arkansas had home victories over Missouri and Kentucky, as well as over No. 2 Florida.
However, these type of wins won’t come as a surprise this season. Instead, the Razorbacks must focus on not allowing other teams to upset them. Arkansas is now one of the “favorites” in the SEC.
Teams like Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina, which are picked to finish near the bottom of the SEC, will go after the Razorbacks like it is their Super Bowl.
These teams have already proven they can hang with anyone. Even the Crimson Tide, who at 5-7 own the worst record in the SEC, almost beat No. 11 Wichita State and No. 6 Duke, losing by only five and 10 points, respectively.
The Gamecocks have a signature win, as well, while the Tigers own a pair of quality wins over ACC opponents. Playing in a tournament in Hawaii, South Carolina defeated previously unbeaten St. Mary’s 78-71. Auburn’s two key wins were over Clemson and Boston College in a span of four days.
If the Razorbacks are going to make the NCAA tournament, they not only have to beat the top teams in the SEC, but also the underdogs, which have shown they can play well against tough competition.
This is the 21st of a series of short articles about the Arkansas basketball team. Each day leading up to SEC play, I will post an entry about something basketball related that starts with the next letter of the alphabet. Here are links to the previous entries, as well as the dates for the last five…
V – Jan. 4
W – Jan. 5
X – Jan. 6
Y – Jan. 7
Z – Jan. 8