Arkansas Razorbacks Advance To Elite 8 In NCAA Championship
The Arkansas Razorbacks have advanced to the Elite 8 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and will face the Baylor Bears Monday night in Indianapolis. It follows Saturday’s victory over Oral Roberts University, which was the first time the team had reached the championship since 1995.
For a preview of the game, KUAR News spoke with Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Senior Editor Rex Nelson who has also been a longtime college sports broadcaster.
KUAR’s MICHAEL HIBBLEN: First, how do you feel as the University of Arkansas heads into this next round?
REX NELSON: Well, it has been since 1995, as you said, Arkansas, of course, in 1995 went to its second consecutive national championship game, having won in 1994, and then losing to UCLA in 1995. So, it has been a long time. There's a whole generation of Arkansans that have never seen a Razorbacks team advance this far. That makes me feel old because it seems like yesterday to me, those Nolan Richardson years were so memorable. But boy, I guarantee you the ratings for CBS will be through the ceiling across the state of Arkansas late tonight, because I know how excited Arkansans are about this battle with Baylor. It's going to be a little different, though, than the Oral Roberts game. Arkansas was the favorite in the Oral Roberts game. The Hogs are the underdog tonight, Baylor is one of the number one seeds in this tournament. They come in with a 15 and 2 record. Arkansas is 25 and 6.
HIBBLEN: And these are two long time Southwest Conference rivals.
NELSON: Yeah, what is neat is that among the Elite 8 now you have three teams from the old Southwest Conference, not only Arkansas and Baylor, but also the University of Houston. Very unusual when we get used to seeing ACC teams and Big East teams advance that there are no teams, no teams from the East Coast in the Elite 8. Four of the eight teams remaining are from the Pacific Coast, in fact, and then you have two from Texas, you have Arkansas, and the only team remaining from east of the Mississippi River is the University of Michigan. So west of the Mississippi reigning this year in college basketball.
HIBBLEN: And Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman has been getting a lot of attention for his impact on the basketball program. And as we discussed Friday, is being recruited by other teams. Baylor’s Coach is Scott Drew. Both had fathers who were coaches in their own right, so that's an interesting element of tonight's matchup.
NELSON: Oh, absolutely. They both grew up in basketball families. I mean, I'm sure in both of those families it was pretty much all basketball all the time, and it's really fun to see both of them advance this far. I mean, not only quality coaches, but both of those men seem like to me really good guys. So, this will be a fun game. Like I said, a lot of tradition with Baylor through the years since both teams were members of the South West Conference and now a trip to the final four is on the line. The game doesn’t even start till about nine p.m. tonight. So I can predict, regardless of the outcome, there will be a lot of bleary eyed Arkansans Tuesday morning across the state because you're going to have a lot of people staying up past their bedtime this evening.