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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Even Saban has nice things to say about Pittman

by Wally Hall | November 17, 2021 at 2:42 a.m.

Nick Saban volunteered nice words about Sam Pittman.

He had to. What could anyone possibly say bad about Pittman, who seems to have all friends and no enemies in the coaching ranks, although he and Bret Bielema probably won't share a beach house anytime soon.

Saban is the undisputed king of college football. He has a few loyal dedicated friends and the rest of the world he doesn't worry about.

The Crimson Tide are favored against Arkansas on Saturday and should be. Their only loss was to Texas A&M, and while the Razorbacks beat the Aggies, Bama and Arkansas have both beaten LSU and Mississippi State. Alabama also beat Ole Miss by three touchdowns.

The Tide are the defending national champs and King of the Hill until they are dethroned. The Razorbacks are an up-and-coming heavyweight contender.

. . .

Getting to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight last March was almost exhilarating for Arkansas Razorback fans.

It was like the glory days from 1990-1996, when the Razorbacks were the team no one wanted to play during March Madness.

Apparently it is paying dividends for Eric Musselman, who has a keen eye and awareness about recruiting.

He just signed five players who will be true freshmen next season.

Musselman is as good as anyone at finding talent in the transfer portal. But Monday he basically said that is being over-recruited right now, so he turned his attention to guys who will help him continue to put the program back in the top 10.

Granted, not all five will see their senior season and at least one might be one and done, but signing talented freshmen is how Kentucky and Duke have stayed so powerful the past decade.

Musselman also kept a close eye on home grown talent and signed three blue chippers.

Nick Smith from North Little Rock, Derrian Ford from Magnolia and Joseph Pinion from Morrilton have what it takes to help Musselman take another step forward.

Barry Dunning (Mobile, Ala.) and Jordan Walsh (Link Year Prep in Branson) were recruited by all the powerhouses.

Smith and Walsh are 5-star players and the other three are 4-stars, although all three were very close to getting that extra recruiting star.

. . .

Still on basketball, the Hogs are 2-0 and while they haven't blown anyone out, they started 9-0 last season and it is basically the same as last year.

Musselman is still working on his rotation.

Every coach in the country is right now.

They have one more game before they travel to Kansas City for the Hall of Fame Classic, where the competition will be more challenging.

Their first two games in December are against Central Arkansas and Arkansas-Little Rock, both in Walton Arena and both slated to be fun.

UCA is coached by Anthony Boone, from Helena, who had his basketball number retired at Ole Miss. There is not a better role model in college basketball than Boone.

UALR, of course, is coached by former Razorback Darrell Walker, who is friends with Musselman, and one of the most fierce competitors you'll ever meet.

A week later, the Razorbacks travel to Tulsa to face Oklahoma, who is now coached by Porter Moser. Moser coached UALR for three seasons and was 54-34 before going to Illinois State and eventually Loyola Chicago, which he led to the Final Four.

When Oklahoma and Texas join the SEC that will add two former UALR coaches to the SEC coaching ranks. Texas' Chris Beard was 30-5 in one season with the Trojans, leading them to a NCAA win.

All of that to say, the Razorbacks will be more battled tested this season in January than last season.


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