There will likely never be a record-setting Broadway phenomenon written about the duel between Arkansas’ JD Notae and Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe on Saturday, but like
Hamilton‘s music about the fight between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, the song of this game will be sung for years to come – in The Natural State, anyway.
Notae and Tshiebwe were at their best on Saturday. Both players scored 30 points. Tshiebwe dominated the paint while Notae scored from seemingly everywhere on the court. He drained deep threes. He hit off-balance jumpers. He threw down a one-handed dunk in traffic. It was as memorable a performance as we’ve seen from a Razorback in Bud Walton in recent years, reminiscent of the way Mason Jones would take over a game in his SEC Player of the Year season.
After Kentucky erased Arkansas’ halftime lead a few minutes into the second half, the two teams traded baskets and passed the lead back and forth for the rest of the game. There was a 5-minute stretch with nine lead changes but neither team ever led by more than a single point. Throughout the last 15 minutes of the game, the difference was always within four points until Devo Davis’ last free throw with four seconds left.
This Arkansas team is deeper than Jones’ team a couple of years ago. Despite Notae’s brilliance, the Hogs needed more to pull off their third straight win over the other three teams receiving double-byes in the SEC Tournament. Notae was actually held scoreless in the final 8:51 of the game. With the Wildcat defense putting more pressure on Notae, Arkansas was boosted by a pair of threes from Stanley Umude, and then Jaylin Williams scored 10 straight Arkansas points in the last few minutes of the game to put the Razorbacks up for good.
With that, the calendar turns to March. What does this string of high-profile wins mean for the Hogs in the NCAA Tournament? According to most of the bracketologists, Arkansas basketball actually hasn’t seen much movement over the last few weeks. Most brackets appear to have the Hogs slated in the 5/6-seed area. That loss to Hofstra in December seems to really be holding the Hogs back.*
The Razorbacks still have opportunities to boost their resume as LSU is still ridiculously ranked 7 spots higher than Arkansas in the NET computer rankings, and the showdown next Saturday in Knoxville could also mean quite a bit, and not just for seeding.
*What does Arkansas have to do to get that annual game in North Little Rock counted as a neutral site game? With game location such a huge factor in college basketball, win or lose, it would be a boost for the Razorbacks to have another neutral site game on their resume. Surely not many college basketball teams play “home” games three hours away from their main arena. This isn’t a stadium debate issue – I’m not suggesting Arkansas shouldn’t play there at all – but it would be objectively beneficial to the program to have that counted as a neutral site game.
How Razorbacks Can Become SEC Champions
With Tennessee’s win over Auburn on Saturday, Auburn’s lead in the SEC race is down to only a single game. It’s a very big if – but if Arkansas wins both of its games this week and Auburn stumbles one more time, the Razorbacks would be the SEC champions. There aren’t many things left that Arkansas basketball hasn’t accomplished since the ’90s, but the remaining things are big ones, and an SEC regular-season title is one of them. However, Auburn’s two games this week are against Mississippi State and South Carolina, so it’s still a long shot….but it is possible.
Ever since this team struggled for a few weeks in December and January, it’s been easy to let that cloud our perception of them. Even as the team started collecting wins back in January and early February, it felt like they couldn’t be that good. It seemed foolish to even compare them to last year’s Elite Eight team that earned a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament, finished second in the SEC and had an NBA lottery pick.
But the numbers are speaking for themselves. It may be a long shot for Arkansas to match last year’s 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but this team is now playing every bit as well as last year’s team did, and this year’s team has more top-level wins on its resume. Once the team started winning in January with its bigger starting lineup, players seem to have bought in, and different players have been stepping up in different games.
It’s not just the JD and Jaylin show anymore. Stanley Umude is shooting over 40% from three in SEC play and has scored in double figures in four of the last five games. Davis is 8-for-15 from three since the Auburn game. The Hogs are getting valuable minutes and big games from everyone in the rotation. It’s a complete team.
Much like last year’s team, the Razorbacks’ defensive effort is what’s keeping them in games even when the offense is struggling. Despite Tschiebwe’s dominance in the paint, Arkansas was able to make it tough for the rest of the Wildcats, even with guards TyTy Washington and Sahvir Wheeler returning from injury. Musselman hasn’t been shy about touting the Razorbacks’ defense. Arkansas’ effort has been a significant part of the clips that the team has released on social media. Musseleman’s even making it part of his wardrobe.
There’s still a couple of weeks before Selection Sunday with some high-profile games to be played, but the February gauntlet is over, and the Razorbacks have come out shining.
More on Arkansas’ Filleting of Kentucky Basketball
By Tommy Foltz
Let’s not mince words here. This is a damn good basketball team. Hogs 75-73 over yet another ranked opponent, the much-reviled Kentucky Bluebloods. SERIOUSLY? About a week ago, I mentioned a play J.D. Notae made that was reminiscent of something Michael Jordan would have done. On Saturday, he made so many Jordan-like plays there are too many to count.
He’s in range when he steps off the bus. He’s strong enough, tough enough and confident enough to take right to some of the best athletes in the country if not the world. Yes, he had 30 points on the largest stage we’ve played on this year. But, guess what? He also had 8 ASSISTS!!!!!
The man was absolutely on fiyah!!! He didn’t just make an overall statement for the entire game, but his thunder-punch dunk down the right side of the key left no doubt that he’s going to find a way to beat you no matter who you are.
Oscar Tshiebwe=Flat-Out Monster
ONE ANSWER:Their answer was Oscar Tshiebwe who seems to be a mixture of Bigfoot and Chewbacca in size, speed and bulk. He had 30 points and 18 boards. I love Jaylin Williams and he also had a huge game, but make no mistake, Tshiebwe is a monster who deserves any and all accolades he’s about to receive. JWILL YOU PLEASE STAY FOR ANOTHER YEAR?
Now that I’ve removed my hand from holding my nose as I just gave a Kentucky player serious props, let’s talk about OUR big guy. Today’s 16 points and 12 rebounds is his 6th double-double in a row and 11th for the season. And, he did it against that monster I just described. In league play, he’s scored 216 points (13.5 per game) and has pulled 166 boards (10.38 per game). As good as that is, it gets better.
For our latest, go here:
There are generally 4 “big” men in the league who really matter. The aforementioned Yeti of Kentucky, Colin Cumberbatch-bun Castleton (Florida) and Walker Kessler (Auburn). All four are very good and all have their own strengths. All 3 non-Hogs have played against JWill and they’ve all played well. However, none of them have come away with a win against JWILL’s team this year. Obviously, that means that JWILL has not lost to any of them.
HERE’S THE DEAL: We had more than just J.D. and JWILL contribute today. Everyone played well, including the crowd. And, after several more bouts of the OhmyGod strain of the Coronamiss-at-the-rim virus were identified we vaccinated and boosted ourselves with crowd-roaring dunks, which tends to increase the odds that the ball will actually fall through the cylinder.
We are 3/5ths of the way through what some called the toughest last 5 games of the season in the country and we’re unbeaten in that stretch so far. I’m not really sure what the ceiling is for this team at this point. Every time we think we’ve reached it, we raise it a little more. This is a team that, it simply cannot be denied at this point, could go deep into March.
But we’re not getting any help from the NET rankings.We entered the game with a NET rating at #23 and as of right this minute, we DROPPED to #24. But, there’s still a lot of basketball to be played today. Despite winning 13 of the past 14 with 4 wins and 0 losses against teams who, at this moment, have NET rankings of #3, #9, #10 and #18 we are still being punished for losing to Hofstra back in December.
Winston Churchill once said that “Democracy is the worst form of government known to man, except for all other forms of government.” The same can be said about the NET. It’s broken. Period.This Hog team is NOT. Period.
GO HOGS!!! ARKANSAS FOREVER!!!