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Monday Musings: Of Texas Bowls and More Basketball Road Woes

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Throwing the old folks a bone and zombified road monkeys.....

Brey Cook and the Hogs are headed to Houston.
Brey Cook and the Hogs are headed to Houston.
Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

The annual football/basketball overlap can be a strangely therapeutic thing.

In Hogdom's recent history, seems like we've needed one to serve as salve for the open wound that is the other.

Such is the case, to a degree, as we begin a week with Arkansans en masse booking hotel rooms in Houston and googling NRG Stadium, while collectively making the down hook' em sign. This Christmas season, such will serve as an unspoken greeting of salutation among Arkies.

And that is satisfying on levels perhaps not fathomable for younger generations, unlike the aftermath of Sunday's head-scratching hoops loss at Clemson.

We'll get to the Texas Bowl matchup, but what is it about empty South Atlantic gyms and mediocre teams from football schools that so seems to befuddle us? (I'm looking at you, Athens.)

Let's get Sunday's loss at Littlejohn out of the way. First, tip of the ol' Hog hat to the vocal contingent of Razorback fans which numbered 50 or so — maybe — but made more noise than the Clemson crowd did for much of the game.

The headline here — sadly, accurately — said it all. The big picture for basketball is unchanged, of course, disappointing week aside. We remain poised for a breakout year in Mike Anderson's fourth season at the helm. But if last week's performance on the road is any indication, it may not be as seamless as we hoped.

(I blame Higgins -- wink wink -- that Jekyll-and-Hyde prophet of football 'realism' and conjurer of basketball Kool Aid.)

I was willing to blow off the Iowa State debacle. The Cyclones looked the part of a good team. Ball movement, sharp passes, inside-out game. They took care of the ball, and when presented with wide open looks from 3, obligingly made them.

We shot OK ourselves, especially for the road where we normally can't hit the broad side of a Barnhill, but left our defense on the tarmac at Drake Field. Still, a couple of mini-runs whittled the lead to 11 with the ball before the dyke blew. Just wasn't our night, I reasoned.

Then came the egg that was Clemson. How else to describe losing a 6-point lead in the final minute, balls bouncing off shins and such utter carelessness? Kudos to Clemson for hanging tough and enduring — close games seem to be its calling card — but does anyone doubt the Tigers are 20-point losers at Bud Walton this season?

And when they forced OT…sigh…it's doubtful many of us felt very good about where this was headed.

Heavy sigh.

The first four minutes generally will reveal to Hog fans how a road game's gonna play out. And Sunday's opening volley told us we were in for a slow, grind-it-out, every-basket-counts kind of game. You know, the kind at which we don’t excel.

Consistently, we let the home team dictate pace, settle for 3s (often early in the possession) and seem to operate in a Benadryl-like funk.

Still, I love this team. Too much talent on the floor for us to endure anything other than occasional speed bumps. They'll get it figured out. Mathematics and the laws of probability — plus the force of our collective sheer will  — demand that they do.

A good crowd and a big win over Dayton will get the train rolling again, and while in all likelihood Clemson will go down as a bad loss come March, hopefully by then it won’t matter.

The next road game is at Georgia, by the way. Of course it is.

On to Houston ……..

The Texas Bowl announcement did come as a surprise, I'll admit. A pleasant one.

Houston and NRG Stadium (Jerry World Lite, perhaps?) sure beat Legion Field or Independence Stadium, with all due respect to North Hoover and West Bossier.

And really, Memphis is great and all, if not achingly familiar, but did we all really want to traverse 40 East? Exactly.

Plus, the assignment to Houston still represents a spot in a "Pool of 6" bowl and therefore a sign of respect for a team chosen over other 6-win squads relegated to a lower tier of bowls.

(Of course, the Texas Bowl's first choice surely was UT-A&M which would've put us in the Liberty against West Virginia. Me? I'm thankful for politics on this one.)

But the historical aspect of the Arkansas-UT series is undeniable, as well as Arkansas' history of gobbling up tickets to bowl games within reasonable distance and Hog fans' propensity to spend money and generally make their presence felt once there. I doubt the folks in Houston are too disappointed.

And the matchup with UT, of course, is an early Christmas present for those of us who've managed to elude Carousel and remember when the Texas game each October was perhaps the biggest day of the year in Arkansas. Period. (And the way Coach B has embraced the tradition of the series is appreciated more than he knows.)

I'll leave the game analysis to Adam, but we'll likely head into this one a rare favorite over Bevo.

It's The Hill vs. hill country. Little Rock vs. Round Rock. Broyles-Royal. Daly-McConaughey. (And might I suggest to the Texas Bowl folks a pre-game festivity pitting John and Matthew against each other on the bongos. Clothing optional, of course…)

Razorback Nation gearing up for a bowl game, especially with an ascending team and with great expectations for the year ahead, is a fun way to spend December.

Now, if we can just shake that hoops road monkey, which apparently is zombified and harder to kill than we thought. A double tap, perhaps, is required.

Enjoy this month, Hog fans. It's gonna be fun.