Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for the Hawgs Sports Network. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas and previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was the 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Hogs celebrate, quickly turn the page to Gonzaga
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman (center) celebrates with his family after the Razorbacks' 53-48 victory over New Mexico State at the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Like many people who follow or are associated with his basketball team, Arkansas coach Eric Musselman did not get much rest after his group advanced to the Sweet 16 on Saturday.
Arkansas defeated No. 12 seed New Mexico State 53-48 to move on to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season.
More from WholeHogSports: Time, TV details set for Sweet 16
Musselman, speaking to reporters at the Razorbacks’ team hotel prior to leaving New York on Sunday, said his head finally hit the pillow around 4:30 a.m. Roughly an hour later he was out of bed and in the fitness center.
But before his hour of rest, Musselman and the coaching staff got a jumpstart on preparations for No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga. In the team’s banquet hall, where it had breakfast and got a first look at the Bulldogs, large sheets of paper that included a written depth chart and key statistics were attached to the wall.
The programs will meet for the second time on Thursday at Chase Center in San Francisco, home of the Golden State Warriors.
“We had a good time when we got back to the hotel with some of our fans and obviously the players,” Musselman said. “We ate and started in on some Gonzaga film and carried that over into today’s breakfast, as well.
“I think right now everybody is in the same framework, so to speak. Once you get in the tournament, I don’t think that the players and the coaches necessarily look at seedings or anything like that. I think you look at the next opponent ahead and you try to figure out what’s the best plan to try to put your team in position to be successful.”
Musselman said he has a number of friends who have coached in the West Coast Conference or faced Gonzaga, so there is familiarity with the program. And he estimated he has taken in “most of” the Bulldogs’ games this season, tuning in to the late-night broadcasts on ESPN.
“Respect everybody, but fear no one” will be the Razorbacks’ mantra this week.
“Gonzaga is a great team,” Musselman said. “We kind of felt like when we were at Nevada that Gonzaga and Nevada were the two best teams (out West), although we were both mid-majors. We felt like we were better than the Pac-12.
“Scheduling-wise, it never worked out. It was tried, but didn't work out. So, here we go."
In addition to an early scout on Gonzaga, Musselman talked to the Razorbacks about cross-country travel, including how fairly rapid change in time zones can impact the body and mind.
The Bulldogs’ first two games in the NCAA Tournament against Georgia State and Memphis were played in Portland, Ore., roughly a five-hour drive from the school’s campus in Spokane, Wash.
“(Gonzaga is) in the Pacific time zone. All their games, because of being in the conference that they’re in, they’ve been in that time zone, so they don’t have much travel,” Musselman said. “They don’t have any time zone stuff. We’re going from Central to Eastern to now Pacific.
“That affects grown pro players in any sport when you go from New York to California. It’s a huge adjustment.”
Musselman also joked about the uniqueness of returning to the Bay Area to coach in the arena of the franchise that fired him in the early 2000s. He led the Warriors to 37 and 38 wins in two seasons before taking an assistant coach position with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2004.
“It's pretty cool to be able to go back there,” he said. “I'm excited. It's always about the players. It's never about the staff.
"But I'd be lying if I didn't say that if there's one place we could go back to, it would be there."
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.