And exhibition games against non-Division I opponents at that. But we here at RazorbackExpats have been pretty impressed with the basketball Hogs so far and can't wait for the real season to start this Friday. A while back, we weren't sure we'd be feeling this way.
Some things we're excited about:
• New players. It's always exciting when a large recruiting class arrives in Fayetteville. Some of our favorite seasons — 88-89 (when MayDay and the Big O were freshmen) and 92-93 (when Corliss and Scotty came to town) — featured Hog teams with lots of newcomers. Will this season provide similarly good memories?
• Rotnei Clark. In the two exhibition games, the freshman guard has averaged 18.5 points a contest, shot 63 percent from the field and 60 percent from behind the three-point line (in fact, he's only attempted one non-three-point field goal), and made all eight of his free throws. Hot damn.
• Michael Washington. The 6'9" junior forward has shown flashes of great promise during his first two seasons in Fayetteville. In his second year under the demanding Pelphrey, perhaps he's ready to put it all together. The Hogs, who are awfully thin (and short) in the frontcourt, desperately need him to. He supposedly arrived on campus this fall in great shape, and he averaged 20.5 points a game during the exhibition season. He also averaged 8.5 rebounds a game and shot 61 percent from the field. Skepticism is warranted because of the level of competition, but still - so far, so good.
• Courtney Fortson. For undisclosed reasons, Fortson only played in the Hogs' second exhibition game. But he did nothing to dispel the growing excitement around this talented point guard, scoring 11 points and dishing out 10 assists. Fortson and Clark could become a pretty lethal combination.
• The schedule. It isn't always the case, but the Hogs have a pretty interesting non-conference schedule. This month will bring road trips to Missouri State and South Alabama. Those aren't the sexiest opponents, but they are solid programs. Add in the Hogs' inexperience, and these are bound to be tough games. And the end of the non-conference schedule features home games against Oklahoma and Texas. Not too shabby.
• John Pelphrey. He did a solid job last year, particularly at the end, but the team - full of Stan Heath recruits - was too often dull as dirt to watch. We're excited to see what the Boss Hog will do with more of his players.
Who knows - a month from now we may be singing a very different tune, but right now, Friday night can't come soon enough.(more at www.razorbackexpats.com)