First, the good news: the Lady Razorbacks defeated the Tennessee Lady Vols 72-71 tonight. The victory marked the Lady 'Backs' first win ever in Knoxville and their first victory against UT since December 1996.
As for their male counterparts, the news wasn't so good. The Alabama Crimson Tide, playing for the fourth straight game without leading scorers JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, overcame a 12-point first-half deficit to win 79-68, sending the reeling Razorbacks to their second straight loss in Bud Walton and their fifth loss in their last six games.
Last-season collapses have been an unfortunately frequent occurrence for the Razorbacks in recent years. Stan Heath's 2005 team, which at one point during that season seemed like a halfway strong contender for an NCAA bid, lost five of its last six games in such ugly fashion that Frank Broyles went all Dr. Kevorkian on the team and pulled by the plug on the season by declining an NIT bid. John Pelphrey's 2009 squad followed shocking victories over two Top 10 teams - Texas and Oklahoma - with an equally shocking three-month-long skid: those Hogs lost 15 of their final 17 games. Hey - anybody can have a bad three months.
One year later, another Pelphrey squad frittered away a decent chance at an NCAA appearance by losing seven of its last eight games and in 2011, the Razorbacks fittingly closed out the John Pelphrey era with four losses in their final six games.
There's still time, I suppose, for these Razorbacks to pull out of their nosedive and re-secure the NIT bid that one has to assume has now slipped from their fingers. But I don't really see it happening. Believe me, I would love to be proven wrong. These guys have worked hard, and until recently, had performed much better than probably most of us would have predicted after Marshawn Powell's injury (and maybe even before it). But their lack of depth and size has exerted its gravitational pull. They looked exhausted. The lack of a consistent offensive force to complement B.J. Young isn't helping either.
Yes, these Hogs have come crashing back to Earth. I don't think they'll be taking flight again until next fall at the earliest.