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The season of hope 

There's something a tad unseemly in how fascinated we are by the way John Pelphrey cracks the whip. 'Tis the season for heads to roll, seeing as we're up against the likes of Texas Southern and North Carolina Central. Miss a class, why don't ya, and end up sitting out of this week's rote drubbing or embarrassing loss. Mind, I'm all for disciplinarianism; let's just hope those hardassed tactics translate to the court. So far we look a little rough around the edges.

“Yessir and may I have another,” says Stefan Welsh and the rest of this fresh young crew, “but do allow me a contested shot from 30 feet with plenty of time on the possession clock.”

Anybody willing to draw substantive conclusions from the stats of the previous two games would be overlooking serious issues in population and sample-size. Still, it's fun to hope. The stringy West Memphis freshman Jason Henry responded well to multi-game suspension, blowing up in the Texas Southern game with 19 points. Challenged by Pel to improve his basic point guard play, Courtney Fortson delivered 11 assists. Rotnei Clarke has been living up to his hype as the next legitimate three-point threat to don a Hog jersey.

As of this writing, we've yet to stomp the North Carolina Central Eagles. I'll have watched the game with suspicious eyes by the time you read this. The hapless Eagles make Texas Southern look threatening.

Next week finds Arkansas hosting the Jim Thorpe Classic (so-named for the proto-Bo Jackson all-sport phenom), a round robin tournament filled out by Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks and Austin Peay Governors — two perfectly fine small-conference teams with at least winning records. The tournament atmosphere should give us plenty of time to focus on fundamentals with competent competition, but one shouldn't look for any barn-burners. We'll have one more home warm-up with Northwestern State before Oklahoma comes to town. Blake Griffin's got some pretty scandalous pictures floating around the web (do yourself a Google), but I don't think it's gonna affect his game any.

 

People keep playing up all controversy latent in the NCAA Championship game between the Sooners and Gators in lame attempts to further discredit the BCS system. Texas may have beaten Oklahoma in Dallas, but “neutral field” is a fake category and anyone who watched that game saw how close it was. I'd pick the Sooners hands-down in a rematch. This year's bowl results are no more controversial than usual, and if the president-elect wants to waste precious time lobbying for a “fairer” system, then maybe some of us were a tad hasty with our votes.

Like Coach Petrino, I'd rather not convert to a playoff system. Four weeks of grueling competition that culminates in very late January is no solution. Students who are also athletes need that time to prepare for the ensuing semester. Maybe Obama has the time to work out a better solution, but I'd rather call on the individual conferences to get their acts together regarding conference championships before turning his attention from the economy and world affairs and health care and the future presidential puppy.

 

Speaking of ye old pigskin, Petrino heads into the off season with defense on his mind. As both Alabama and Florida have proven, you can't rise to the top of the SEC without a lean, mean, rock-solid defense. Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson survived this season despite of fielding an underweight, inherited squad with the depth of a spoon. Next year, he'll prove his mettle with JuCo transfers and the standout freshmen and red-shirts from this past campaign. Latest news is we picked up a disciplinary castoff from Baton Rouge. Here's to second chances! Here's hoping we have better luck stopping the run! Give our cornerbacks necks that swivel and eyes that find the ball!

 

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