SEC Basketball Needs Arkansas to Be Nationally Relevant Again
Fox Sports’ Tim Brando says there’s a “lot of pressure on Arkansas” to make the SEC better. He’s right.
By Bart Pohlman
On Monday’s edition of Sports Talk, Fox Sports play-by-play man Tim Brando joined the show for some college basketball talk, and the discussion quickly pivoted to Arkansas.
In the course of the conversation, Brando made an interesting point about the Hogs as it relates to the SEC.
“I think everyone knows that for the SEC to get well and for its image to improve, there’s a lot of pressure on the Arkansas program to become relevant again, and every year,” Brando said.
This isn’t necessarily a new thought. We’ve heard different analysts say the same thing about SEC basketball—that it’s going to take Arkansas getting back to national relevance for this league to be good again.
But, why is there so much pressure on Arkansas?
The answer really isn’t all that complicated: Because no other program in the SEC not named Kentucky has the potential Arkansas does.
This is a Razorback program that’s been to six Final Fours and won one national championship. Sure, Florida had the back-to-back championships, but that program was more about Billy Donovan. The Gators went to four Final Fours under Donovan alone, but only had one appearance prior to his arrival.
Arkansas has the pedigree, no doubt. But the Razorbacks also have the facilities. How many college hoops programs have an on-campus 19,200-seat dedicated basketball arena? Three: North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas. Add in Kentucky, Louisville and NC State (whose arenas are off campus), and you’ve got six schools with arenas that big. But it’s not about the arena being that big—it’s that when Arkansas basketball is rolling, Bud Walton Arena is jam-packed and rocking. Add in the new basketball practice facility, and the Hogs’ venues are among the best in all of college basketball.
The championship pedigree and facilities are important, but there’s one other thing that separates Arkansas from most college hoops programs: a rabid fan base.
When they want to be, Arkansas basketball fans are right up there with the best in the country. And they are begging for something to cheer about again. You can call Hog fans a lot of different things, but they always show up for the big moments, and there used to be a ton of them for Razorback basketball.
That’s why Mike Anderson is held to a bit of a different standard. Arkansas fans are so hungry for success on the hard court, and have been down for so long, that anything other than consistent NCAA Tournament appearances isn’t going to cut it.
That’s why there’s pressure on Anderson. And it’s the same reason there’s pressure on Arkansas—the SEC needs the Razorbacks to be a perennial NCAA Tournament team. The league needs the Hogs to reclaim their place alongside Kentucky at the top of the SEC.
The other programs in the SEC don’t have the ability to be consistently great. Arkansas does. And for the league to be great again, it needs the Razorbacks to recapture the magic that turned the 1990s into Hog Heaven.
You can check out the full interview with Tim Brando below: