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Andy Hodges

Come on, not many of you expected this in January

Eric Musselman has “it” factor which is why the Hogs are sitting at No. 12 and he knows that it doesn’t mean much if he doesn’t win in March.

When Monday’s media poll dropped with Arkansas jumping eight spots to No. 12 there was a wave of excitement for a fan base needing something.

In the coaches’ poll they are 13th.

The last time the Razorbacks were that high in a poll was 1998.

Coming on the same day the baseball team is ranked No. 1 in the country and the women’s team likely to be highly ranked later in the day, spirits are high.

Oh, and before we forget, both track teams took SEC Indoor league titles over the weekend and will be hosting the NCAA Championships in a few weeks.

But for the men, let’s not forget there was the Lunatic Fringe of the Razorbacks’ fan base back in mid-January that were ready to pack up the Muss Bus, aim it out of town and put the hammer down (sorry, couldn’t resist that).

We cautioned you then to just calm down and relax because there were a lot of games left and the guess was Eric Musselman would have it straightened out pretty quick.

It’s called coaching and that’s why college sports sells the coaches, who are the most consistent face of any sport at any school. Players come and go, but coaches either win or the face of the program changes … quickly these days.

The Hogs may be the hottest basketball programs in the SEC and maybe the country.

Last week they ran away late from sixth-ranked (eighth in today’s poll) Alabama, then rallied from a halftime deficit to sail past LSU in a second half that wasn’t as close as the final 83-75 score indicated.

Musselman knows how to coach and there is a segment of folks that race to be first on social media to declare the program is in shambles and changes have to be made.

One sports radio talking head even brought up the idea over the weekend that Musselman might be headed to another job in Minnesota where he spent part of his youth with his dad coaching there.

Maybe it’s good speculation, but there hasn’t been any indication Musselman is looking to go anywhere else.

The knee-jerk reaction is he really wants to be back in the NBA or in the Big Ten or anywhere other than Fayetteville. Okay, Eddie Sutton crawled to Kentucky back in 1985 but no other coach has left for another job.

That’s a combination of a different Northwest Arkansas and higher expectations. Having the financial resources helps keep good coaches in Fayetteville … as long as they are winning games and staying off Harleys on the Elkins highway.

As of now there is zero evidence Musselman viewed Arkansas a stepping-stone to something else. With Sutton there was always the feeling it wasn’t big enough.

Nolan Richardson wasn’t going anywhere even after things fell apart in 2001.

The feeling is Musselman won’t, either.

Especially considering he’s gotten the Hogs back in the national conversation with nothing approaching two normal seasons. Covid has been an issue for a year and has thrown college basketball with curve balls and changeups all year long.

How Musselman has handled it probably speaks as much to why he’s have success. He has that “it” factor. Knows it, gets it, understands it … whatever you want to call it.

But for now he has the Hogs No. 12 in the country.

And he knows it won’t mean a lot if he doesn’t win games this month.

 

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