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Leadership helps bring Arkansas back to top half of SEC

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

It’s widely known that Arkansas has been without on-court leadership for the majority of the 2022-23 college basketball season. It seems that the Razorbacks are a snakebit program looking to carve out their niche after losing two of their best players to injury.

Their niche isn’t necessarily shooting the rock, although they have shot the ball well the past five games. That in itself correlates with the vintage midseason Eric Musselman run he implements seemingly every year he’s been in Fayetteville. Start fast in nonconference play, wander aimlessly in the wilderness during the month of January only to find themselves with one loss the past three seasons in the month of February. If you have seen this story play out it’s because you have.

Musselman doesn’t just tinker with his lineups, rotations or offensive and defensive philosophy for the first two months of the season without hearing it from fans. Yes, Arkansas fans and especially the loud minority of them want instant gratification. We live in a microwave society where we want the finished product now and not later.

Like our kids, we want to mold them into who we want them to be and that’s what Musselman is doing although it took longer than expected. Look at it this way, it’s much easier to make it back to .500 in conference this time of year compared to later. This team isn’t done yet. They’re hungry and continuing to fight. The loss of double-digit leads seem to be common without a constant offensive threat each possession. That definitely could change sooner rather than later but there must be appreciation for what is on the court right now.

The development of Davonte Davis has been extraordinary since the calendar flipped to a new season. Who would have thought that a guy that’s not been at his best until March Madness each season would become the threat to lead this Razorback team to wins in four of their last five games.

Since conference play began, Davis is averaging 13.2 points per game, shooting 22-57 (39-percent) from three and 63-138 (46-percent) from the field. Those numbers are significantly hire than what he shot before conference play and more efficient than he has been throughout his career. This Razorback team needed someone to play fearless, with confidence and motivated to carry this team to victory each night and that’s what Davis has done.

With some of their toughest road games on the horizon including Texas A&M, Alabama and Tennessee the Hogs have a shot to move back up on bracketology boards and make a statement to the selection committee that they again deserve a higher seed.

Arkansas will travel to Lexington this week to face Kentucky on Tuesday beginning at 8 PM on ESPN. This series was good as any during the 90’s which created a fierce rivalry when the Razorbacks joined the SEC. However, Arkansas is only 13-33 all-time against the Wildcats and 4-15 inside Rupp Arena. The Hogs have never won three straight games in the series but have the opportunity to do just that this week.

Here’s some extra notes about the series: