Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Hogs have time to shake their hiccups
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn argues a call with the home plate umpire during the Razorbacks' 3-1 loss to Arizona State on Saturday in Surprise, Ariz.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas Razorbacks fans still horrified by their national preseason 10th-ranked football team crashing to 4-8 no doubt despair about their overrated baseball team.
“Overrated” currently applies to the team, ranked No. 1 in the preseason by three college baseball polls but now 7-5 and coming off four consecutive losses in the Coca-Cola Classic at Surprise, Ariz.
Comparisons on the fans’ lasting depths of despair should end right there.
Just one football loss the likes of losing to 30-point underdog Louisiana-Monroe dismantles dreams two Saturdays into September.
In college baseball’s 56-game regular season, five non-conference losses by early March mean nothing.
Razorbacks fans who fondly recall Coach Dave Van Horn’s College World Series teams of 2009 and 2012 in Omaha, Neb., tend to forget they wallowed at 14-15 and 16-14 in the SEC.
The 2009 Hogs ended the SEC regular-season embarrassed. Ole Miss swept them 7-5, 9-3 and 16-3 at Baum Stadium.
They had to beat Florida twice at the SEC Tournament to merit consideration for an NCAA regionals at-large bid.
Last year’s Hogs went two and out of the SEC Tournament and sweated receiving an NCAA at-large bid they ultimately extended all the way to Omaha.
There is no sugarcoating it when it comes to this 7-5 start, but the Hogs baseball team is months away from potentially falling to the depths that Arkansas’ football team fell to last fall.
Baseball America’s pollsters, who still ranked them among the elite at No. 16 this week, obviously believe the Hogs will right the ship.
ON TRACK WITH RANKINGS
Arkansas Coach Chris Bucknam’s team has coped admirably this entire season with its No. 1 ranking in men’s indoor track and field.
They decisively outpointed Florida and Texas A&M, ranked second and third nationally, to win the SEC indoor championship at Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Track Center. Lance Harter’s women’s team, ranked No. 4 nationally at the time and now ranked third, outpointed top-ranked LSU to win the SEC women’s indoor title.
The NCAA Indoor Championships will be held Friday and Saturday at the same Randal Tyson track facility, but it will be a different field matching just the elite qualifiers from teams coast to coast rather than the pure test of depth one sees at a conference meet. Arkansas should end up battling defending NCAA champion Florida for the men’s title again, with the women’s battle coming down to LSU, Kansas, Arkansas, Oregon and Texas A&M.
Both Arkansas coaches love their teams’ accomplishments but say it’s apples and oranges comparing conference to nationals.
With just the distance medley relay as a qualified entrant above 400 meters, Harter said his women won’t derive the distance points that helped them slip past LSU at the SEC meet.
Bucknam’s men have national numbers, 19 potential scoring opportunities, but the coach warns to count on the unexpected.
“Our kids have been in the business long enough to know that this meet has its own life to it, that it’s different than the SEC meet and our regular-season meets, mainly because of all the different individuals qualified from different teams,” Bucknam said. “Nobody is talking about the rankings. We are just doing our business.”
Sports, Pages 14 on 03/06/2013