Ready or not, Razorback basketball is here. The Hogs kick off the 2009-10 regular-season tomorrow night in Bud Walton Arena against Alcorn State. You surely don't need reminding that the last year and a half has not been the greatest of times for the program. But with troubled times come intriguing questions. And for insightful answers, we have turned to ArkansasSports360's Chris Bahn.
In a bold and revolutionary move, we are running part of the Q&A below and the rest on AS360 (feel the synergy!). So after reading Chris' three responses below, head on over to AS360 to read about Pelphrey and Co.'s attitude heading into the season and which returning player is best positioned for bigger and better things. Many thanks to Chris for his time!.
The addition of quarterback Brandon Mitchell is intriguing, especially since at one point he verbally committed to play basketball at LSU. What's the likelihood of him making a significant contribution to this year's team?
It all depends on how you measure "significant" but I think there is a 100-percent likelihood that Mitchell contributes to this team. He appears to have good hands and court presence. He's skilled enough to play the two-guard or the small forward and at 6-foot-4 that gives the Razorbacks much-needed size on the perimeter. Mitchell's 8 points in 8 minutes in the final exhibition game was impressive, even if it was against LeMoyne-Owen. This is a guy that committed to LSU for basketball as a sophomore, so Mitchell has some skill as a player. And by all accounts he's a good kid and good student. When you're starting the season with five guys on suspension, you can't enough too many good kids.
How much of a hot seat is John Pelphrey on this year?
John has the full support of athletic department and university administrators. I think they understand that the situation he inherited was less than ideal. Arkansas is hamstrung a bit by the Academic Progress Rate and must pay special attention to when and if a malcontent is dismissed or there could be scholarship loss down the road. John also inherited an unbalanced team and a class that featured six seniors. To fill the loss of those six guys, he had to move quickly and take some risks on players, several of which aren't still around. Those factors have guys like chancellor David Gearhart and athletic director Jeff Long behind Pelphrey.
What will be interesting is if Joe Six Pack and Wealthy Courtside Seat Guy are behind Pelphrey. Attendance was sparse for the first two exhibition games and of all the things a coach can survive fan apathy and loss of revenue are the toughest to navigate. I'm not saying Razorback fans are there yet, but it's something to keep an eye on as the season gets going.
What's your prediction for this year's team?
Fortunately, the Razorbacks have some winnable non-conference games, even short-handed. I think they'll be 11-4 heading into the Southeastern Conference portion of the schedule. Arkansas should be improved once at full strength, but the SEC will be improved too. I suspect there will be modest improvement for a 5-11 league record. That puts the Razorbacks at 16-15 overall and probably gets them into the NIT, provided the attendance at Walton Arena holds up to a respectable level. Making the NIT isn't great, but it's progress.
Head on over to ArkansasSports360 for the rest of the Q&A.