What a season!
For the first time in 25 years the Arkansas Razorbacks basketball team put the state on its back and made a run all the way to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight. Yes, they fell to the top-seeded Baylor Bears in a game where they had a shot at the Final Four, but there are so many positives we have to juxtapose with our disappointment.
In a season where expectations were low (predicted to finish sixth in the conference) and so much production needed to be replaced (Mason Jones & Isaiah Joe carried an obscene amount of the scoring and playmaking load last year) we saw a very young team make incredible strides, eventually starting three freshman in its final game against an upperclassman laden team. We got to see grad transfers flourish in their lone season here--I'll never forget some of those Justin Smith dunks or Jalen Tate's gutsy tourney performances--and we were fortunate enough to see a master class in coaching, preparation and in-game adjustments. They all battled to the bitter end.
Though he didn't finish his season as he would have liked, we owe Moses Moody a debt of gratitude, as well. I led the social media pitchfork brigade against his tournament performance, which was subpar, but the young man could have gone anywhere in the country for his one season and he chose Arkansas. He had already moved out of state to play at a prep school, so it would have been easy for him to stay away and never really feel the wrath Archie Goodwin and Malik Monk and KeVaughn Allen felt when they left. But he chose to come represent Razorback Nation, and he very likely held together a HUGE recruiting class that included two other starters in Jaylin Williams and a young man who is well on his way to becoming my favorite Hog EVER in Davonte Davis. We may have forgotten that Devo was committed to Oklahoma State until late in the process! How different is our tournament without that guy?!
I got to take the once-in-a-lifetime River Valley Satellite Road to Indy (shoutout to Ridgewood Brothers BBQ and The Old Bank Sports Grill as well) and due to the magic of social media and so many conversations with you all after returning, it felt like you did too.
That's the beauty of this run, we all felt connected to a great team again. So yes, we were upset that it had to come to an end.
But unless someone is just blatantly rude to a player or saying something objectively untrue, let them vent and get over their frustration. They'll come around and appreciate what they've been blessed with this season. It's natural to be agitated when competition doesn't end your way. We're upset because it matters to us. Deep down it's because we care. We care because the Hogs are BACK!