“I think it would be good for both of us.” – Megan Herbert on possibility of UCA-UALR basketball

 The recent football successes of UA and ASU have triggered new rounds of debate whether those teams should play against each other. Still, despite recent strides made by the ASU program, it’s a hypothetical clash unlikely to happen any time soon.
 Following is another possible matchup that’s a lot closer to reality, and could be just as interesting for its colleges’ fans:

  No two women have meant more to basketball in central Arkansas in the last few years than Chastity Reed and Megan Herbert. Reed, who graduated last year, became UALR’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder while leading the Trojans to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. Herbert, a junior, could make a similar splash in UCA’s record books. The Southland Conference Player of the Year is a conference tournament title away from helping UCA crash its first March Madness.
The women’s legacies may end up looking similar on paper, but the players have hardly been more different on the court. Reed, a wing player, dazzled crowds with superior athleticism, a quick crossover and a devastating mid-range game. Herbert is just as skilled but has a much more subtle game, filled with deft high-low passing, flip shots and an almost Tim Duncanesque economy of movement.
Their personalities seem near opposites as well. Always intense, Reed jawed much of the game, as flamboyant as her New Orleans roots. Herbert’s more measured, quick to smile but slow to let her competitiveness boil over in front of fans.  Both women have made their programs extremely proud.
  It’s a shame, though, they never played each other.
The women of UALR and UCA already compete in soccer and volleyball. They should compete in basketball, too.  Herbert agrees: “They have a great program and we’re trying to get our  program where we’re highly recognized in the state, too. I think it would be good for both of us.”
  Granted, it would appear that the smaller program, UCA, has nearly everything to win in this equation while the more established program has much to lose. Until this season, the argument could be made that UALR would have diluted the strength of its competition by playing UCA, which is only in its second season as a full Division I member.   But this season, UCA is better than ever. Consider that on Sunday, the Sugar Bears were ranked as the 63rd best team in the nation, according to an RPI rating system that puts stock into strength of schedule.
UALR was ranked #170, although this number should rise soon. Still, nine of the Lady Trojans’ eleven non-conference opponents this season are now ranked #102 or below.   UCA’s new-found cachet should make it a more enticing opponent for UALR, which could strengthen its own rating more by beating the Sugar Bears than many of its current non-conference opponents.  The matchup would also summon quite a crowd, especially since UALR’s star freshman,Taylor Gault, is a Conway native.
But what if UCA wins? Couldn’t this lead to UCA swooping onto some of UALR’s recruiting turf to whisk away some future Gault?
It’s a slim possibility.  But so much more is lost by not scheduling this game. Not just extra gate revenue, or amplified media attention for one night where women’s basketball takes center stage locally. It’s the chance to help build a healthy intrastate series that strengthens both sides. Good competition helps foster more basketball culture, which only makes the pie larger for all involved. While on different scales, think Kentucky-Louisville, or Gonzaga-Eastern Washington.
UALR and UCA should push each other to the next level they both seek.
This was originally published in Sync magazine.
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