It isn't the most important moment in Hog history, but it's still one worth noting. On March 16, 1989, with a 120-101 victory over Loyola-Marymount, Nolan Richardson won his first NCAA Tournament game as coach of the Razorbacks.
One year earlier, in Nolan's third season in Fayetteville, a solid but decidedly unspectacular Arkansas team made the first NCAA Tournament appearance of the Richardson era, falling in the first round to Villanova, 82-74. Several Eddie Sutton recruits — Andrew Lang, Stephan Moore and Allie Freeman — were seniors on that '88 squad, which didn't quite have the depth and firepower to play Nolan's trademark "40 Minutes of Hell."
However, the '89 team — which featured a slew of newcomers such as Lee Mayberry, Todd Day, Oliver Miller, Lenzie Howell and Aryln Bowers and the remarkable senior leadership of Keith Wilson — did, and the Razorbacks captured their first Southwest Conference regular season and tournament titles in seven years. The win over Loyola-Marymount marked the program's first NCAA win since 1985.
Heading into that '89 season, such success was far from pre-ordained. First off, as we were painfully reminded this year, relying heavily on youth is often a recipe for frustration.
Secondly, Ron Huery, arguably the best player during the preceding two seasons, had spent the off-season engaged in typical college student hijinks — getting arrested on DUI and weapons charges in Memphis and running afoul of campus police by pointing a gun at a fellow student at a frat party. For all of this, he received the severe punishment of being suspended from the team's first-semester games. Later, when he was arrested on another DUI around Christmas, the suspension was extended for the remainder of the season.
However, the talent of the new guys would not be denied. The Hogs lost 93-84 in the second round of the NCAA to Louisville, but the foundation for a phenomenal run of success was in place. Just one year later, the Razorbacks would make the Final Four; five years later, as we all know, Arkansas would capture its first and, so far, only national championship.
• It Was 13 Years Ago Today. March 16, 1996, marks something of a bittersweet milestone in Hogs hoop history. It was on this date that a Razorback squad featuring freshmen Kareem Reid, Pat Bradley and Derek Hood defeated Marquette, 65-56, to secure the program's sixth trip to the Sweet 16 in seven seasons. The Hogs haven't made it that far since.
Sometimes 13 years feels longer than 13 years, doesn't it?
(more at www.razorbackexpats.com)