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Eric Musselman is not Nolan Richardson.

Nor is he Eddie Sutton, who was at the Kentucky-Arkansas game Saturday afternoon.

Eric Musselman is Eric Musselman. Like Richardson and Sutton he believes defense wins championships, but he's his own man with his own team.

He has defined and redefined roles this season.

Going into this current season no one really knew what to expect, although expectations were not high after player losses, especially Daniel Gafford to the NBA Draft.

Gafford, 6-10, averaged 16.9 points and 8.7 rebounds last season. He also blocked 65 shots.

The Razorbacks very well might be undefeated if he had returned for his junior year, but he made the right decision for himself.

Gafford is with the Chicago Bulls but out for a couple of weeks after dislocating his thumb.

However, the University of Arkansas Razorbacks may be the surprise team of the SEC, at least up to this point.

They are currently 3-2 in SEC play and in a four-way tie for fourth.

Their losses were to first-place LSU (5-0 in SEC play) and Kentucky which is tied with Florida for second place at 4-1.

In Baton Rouge, the Razorbacks were outrebounded 53-24 and lost by a bucket, 79 -77.

Against the Wildcats on Saturday in Bud Walton Arena, they were outrebounded 47-24 and lost 73-66.

Those are respectable losses and their 14-3 overall record has them ranked No. 32 in the NCAA's Net Rankings, which replaced the RPI last year.

No. 32 would most likely be good enough to make the NCAA Tournament, and there was probably only one person dreaming of that going into this season: Musselman.

There are no gimmes on the schedule either.

The Hogs go to The Hump -- Mississippi State -- on Wednesday and the Bulldogs are on a two-game winning streak including a 91-59 win over Georgia last Saturday.

Then they come home to a sold-out Bud Walton for the Big 12/SEC Challenge against TCU.

That's followed by a home game against South Carolina who gave Kentucky its only SEC loss.

To finish the regular season they have six road games and five at home, of which two are sold out.

The rematch with the MSU Bulldogs and hosting Missouri are sold out.

The three that are not sold out should be because they could be great basketball games.

Arkansas hosts Auburn, Tennessee and LSU with tickets available.

Auburn is currently 15-2 overall. Tennessee is always tough with Rick Barnes as the coach, and LSU has already beat the Hogs.

These Razorbacks feed off their home crowd like teams did under Richardson and Sutton.

Kentucky played a style of defense that gave Arkansas fits, but the Razorbacks kept clawing, and every time the crowd got loud they fought a little harder.

This team is worth the price of admission, too.

From the tip-off to the final buzzer they are going to scrap and play hard-nosed defense.

They forced the tempo, stall with steals and create havoc in the middle with strips.

They aren't tall enough to grab a lot of loose balls in the paint, but they get their hands on a lot of rebounds and send them flying.

There are 14 games before the SEC Tournament and everyone of them counts.

This team has won at Georgia Tech and Indiana, so they can be expected to be ready to play at Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M.

No doubt they would like to expect support at home.

On Saturday, Bud Walton was the loudest it had been since the first two seasons it was open, especially when John Calipari got ejected.

This season may be better than everyone but Musselman suspected.

Sports on 01/21/2020

Print Headline: WALLY HALL: Musselman's Hogs make things interesting

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