Glory days have returned to Hog basketball

Here's a prediction: With more than 20,000 Arkansas Razorback responders on hand Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats are going to have trouble hearing themselves think.

Eric Musselman's third Razorback team inspires its fans to perspire with them.

This is not the the most talented Arkansas team in history.

It is not the best team in the school's history.

It is just the grittiest team that reflects the heart and soul of what Razorback fans have come to expect.

Probably the most talented team in history was either the May-Day era when Lee Mayberry, Todd Day and Oliver Miller -- all NBA players after college -- were turning Barnhill into Barnhell on a regular basis.

Or "The Triplets." Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer and Marvin Delph were a threat to score anytime they touched the ball, while Jimmy Counce handled his role on offense and played stingy defense and Steve Schall cleaned the boards on both ends of the court.

The best team was probably the 1994 national championship team that had some talent, a ton of heart and a defense that could smother any team in the country.

It featured Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman, but it had guys like Corey Beck, Clint McDaniel and Dwight Stewart who could score anytime it was needed. There wasn't a pocket in the country Beck or McDaniel couldn't pick.

These Arkansas Razorbacks have been a pleasant surprise.

On Jan. 8, they were 0-3 in SEC play with road losses at Mississippi State and Texas A&M and a devastating loss at home to Vanderbilt.

Mississippi State was the only one of the three to enter Wednesday with a winning record in SEC play, but it is now 7-8.

Since that 0-3 start, the Razorbacks are 11-1 in conference play. They are tied for third with second place on the line this Saturday.

They are No. 23 in the nation in the NCAA NET rankings and no one wants to play them, especially in Bud Walton where the crowds are becoming legendary, compared evenly with the glory days of Barnhill Arena.

Sold out since before the season began, to get a ticket to see the Hogs and Wildcats will cost anywhere from $175 to $219 and those seats are in the upper-deck corner.

How did this happen in just 47 days?

Musselman and his staff rebuilt, re-energized and reinvented the 2022 Razorbacks.

The lineup was changed, taking Davonte "Devo" Davis out of the starting lineup. Not because he's not good enough to start, but when he comes in, it changes the game and makes opposing coaches change, sometimes getting out of their comfort zone.

The unofficial motto seems to be typical of what we have seen from Musselman, "Play hard, play defense and play harder."

No one is giving more effort in games than the Razorbacks.

And Jaylin Williams' role got tweaked.

The 6-10 sophomore has become a viable part of the offense and not just a charge-taking rebounder with great passing skills.

In those three losses, he scored a total of 25 points and averaged nine rebounds per game.

Since then he's scored 175 points and averaged more than 10 rebounds. He's had five double-doubles in the past 10 games and has taken a ton of charges.

He's added outside shooting to his arsenal, and that creates all kinds of problems for a defense.

In the days of Nolan Richardson and Eddie Sutton, basketball was as respected as football in the world of perspiring arts.

And like the days when Richardson was building a tower for trophies, the Kentucky game is once again huge.

Ears will be ringing long after the 1 p.m. tip. The Razorback responders will be in play, too.

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