So, the NCAA Tournament has begun ... and frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. At least not much of one.
Largely because of the Razorbacks' struggles over most of the past decade, my interest in college hoops has dropped to an all-time low. I didn't even fill out an office bracket this year, and I couldn't name all four No. 1 seeds if my life depended on it (fortunately, my life depends on my ability to name all 11 Monkees studio albums, so I'm good).
Things weren't always this way, of course. Throughout the 80s and 90s, I watched as much of the NCAA as possible, and Razorback tournament wins left me exhilarated and their defeats often had me reaching for the Lexapro.
It's those losses I'd like to discuss today. Below are what I feel are the five most painful defeats the Razorbacks have suffered in the NCAA since I started following them in the 1979-80 season.
1. UCLA 89, Arkansas 78, 1995 national championship game. This is, hands down, the most heartbreaking loss I've experienced as a Razorback basketball fan. No other defeat comes close. Not only did this loss deny the Hogs back-to-back national championships, but it marked the end of a glorious era, as it was the final time we saw such Arkansas greats as Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck and, of course, Dwight Stewart in Razorback uniforms.
After all they'd endured to get back to the championship game, I just knew the Razorbacks were going to win. Alas, a little part of me died that night, and I've hated Jim Harrick and Toby Bailey ever since.
2. Memphis State 82, Arkansas 80, 1992 NCAA second round. This game also marked the end of an era, the wildly successful Day-Miller-Mayberry one. I took this defeat extremely hard because I was going to college in Memphis at the time and had grown to really dislike the Tigers, especially after they had upset Arkansas in The Pyramid earlier that same season. Adding to the pain was the fact that the Hogs coughed this one up after playing picture-perfect basketball for the first 10 minutes or so of the game - I think Todd Day scored all of his 14 points in that time - and building a big first-half lead.
3. Kansas 93, Arkansas 81, 1991 Midwest Regional final. After a flawless first half, Arkansas had a 12-point lead over the Jayhawks at intermission and was seemingly on its way to a second consecutive Final Four appearance. Kansas then proceeded to outscore the Razorbacks by 24 points during the final 20 minutes. That was painful enough, but adding to the misery was the fact that insufferable studio analyst Mike Francesa declared during halftime that Kansas had the Hogs "right where they want them." To see Francesa's smug grin after the game was cruel and unusual punishment.
4. Louisville 65, Arkansas 63, 1983 Midwest Regional semifinal. After building a 16-point lead - sensing a pattern here? - the Razorbacks ended up losing on a last-second put-back by Scooter McCray. A couple of controversial late-game calls added some salt to the wound. Of course, the Hogs had defeated the Cardinals in the 1981 NCAA courtesy of a certain miracle shot, so perhaps this loss was some sort of cosmic payback. As the saying goes, payback's a bitch.
5. Kansas State 65, Arkansas 64, 1982 NCAA second round. This was the first and only Razorback NCAA Tournament game I've seen in person. I guess I've been too scared to try and go to another one. One week after winning the SWC Tournament in Dallas and looking for all the world like a serious Final Four contender, the Hogs returned to Reunion Arena only to get bounced by the unranked Wildcats. In his final game as a Hog, Scott Hastings missed a five- or 10-foot last-second shot. Heartbreaking.
But enough from me. Which Razorback NCAA Tournament defeats are the most painful to you?