Rare is the time that I look forward to watching a recording of a 13-point Razorback defeat. However, such was the case this weekend after I caught word of Arkansas' surprisingly close loss to defending national champion UConn. And after viewing the contest, I have to say: I'm really looking forward to watching more of this Razorback team.
Considering that the Hogs are without Marshawn Powell and dress only nine scholarship players (not to mention being conditioned by nine years of road-game ineptitude under Stan Heath and John Pelphrey), I was expecting the Hogs to take a royal beating on Saturday. Instead, they treated us to an impressive display of toughness and composure.
The game was my first chance to view the heralded recruiting class that Pelphrey left the program as a parting gift. And they are impressive.
B.J. Young, of course, had an outstanding game, scoring 28 points and nailing five of his six three-point shots. He appears to be all that he was cracked up to be.
Devonta Abron was an absolute beast as well, hauling in 16 rebounds - 12 of which were of the offensive variety. In fact, the Razorbacks' performance on the offensive glass was one of the highlights of the day. They snagged 23 offensive boards, compared to the Huskies' four. That's an amazing stat under any circumstances, but it's doubly so when you consider how poorly Arkansas has rebounded on the offensive glass the past few years.
Neither Rashad Madden nor Hunter Mickelson lit up the box score, but I was impressed with them too. Madden, like every Hog without the last name of Young, didn't get many shots to fall, but I really like his ability to slash to the basket and create his own shot. Both of those qualities have been in short supply in Fayetteville in recent times. And Mickelson displayed an athleticism and fluidity not common among guys his size.
As striking as any individual performance was the energy the Hogs displayed. Almost surely taking their cure from their kinetic and ever-confident coach, the Hogs were tenacious on both ends of the court, displaying the defense we would expect from a Mike Anderson team and showing nice movement on offense.
A quick reminder of the heady days of early 2009 should remind Razorback fans of the danger of making too much of any one game. And the Hogs' lack of size and depth are certainly significant issues. But as analyst Bill Rafferty said during the waning moments of Saturday's broadcast, this Arkansas team should be "a tough out every evening."
Who knows what kind of record the Razorbacks will end up with - I leave the soothsaying around here to Rasputin. Right now, I'm just happy that we appear to have a team that will be fun to watch. I'm already ready for Saturday.