Jaxson Robinson Possibility Makes UA-UK Decision Look Even More Stupid

John Calipari, Jaxson Robinson, Mark Pope, Arkansas basketball, Kentucky basketball, Arkansas vs Kentucky
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / Nick Wenger / Kentucky Athletics

When it comes to preferential treatment, Razorback fans are used to seeing Alabama schools get the long end of the stick.

In the last few years alone, a handful of incidents have served as painful reminders of geography. In case anybody forget, the SEC home office is indeed located in Birmingham, Ala. and populated by graduates of Alabama and Auburn.

Let’s flip through some yearbooks, shall we? In 2021, the Crimson Tide’s Herb Jones was chosen as SEC Player of the Year although Arkansas basketball star Moses Moody had a stronger case.

A few months later, SEC referees blatantly called the early part of an Alabama-Arkansas football game in favor of the former, to the point where Razorback reporter Otis Kirk lamented the officiating crew wasn’t “even trying to to hide the crap.”

The most egregious example of this, of course, was the missed fumble call on then Auburn quarterback Bo Nix that cost Arkansas an entire game in 2020.

That miscall was so bad that SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey himself later apologized for it.

Funny how history repeats itself. Soon, Sankey will need to offer a second apology to Arkansas if nothing is done to fix yet another mistake.

Arkansas and Kentucky Basketball Get the Shaft

On Monday, fans learned which SEC team would play which conference opponents in the 2024-2025 basketball season. Each team gets three home-and-home series with other programs, with Arkansas getting assigned two games apiece with Missouri, LSU and Texas and Kentucky getting the same with Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Alabama. Rupp Arena will host the lone UA-UK game.

In a normal year, under normal circumstances, this would be perfectly acceptable.

The thinking is that each team gets two permanent home-and-home opponents as well as an opponent that changes year to year. If Eric Musselman was still coaching Arkansas, sure, let Alabama be Kentucky’s rotating opponent. Bama, after all, is enjoying its cute basketball moment in the sun and should get a treat for that. Trying to fan the flames of Texas vs Arkansas since the Longhorns will be in the SEC also makes sense… under typical circumstances.

The current situation, however, is anything but normal.

John Calipari, the biggest name in college basketball, left Kentucky to coach SEC rival Arkansas. And he’s pretty much taking the kitchen sink with him.

If there was ever time to avoid scheduling just a single Arkansas vs Kentucky basketball game and make sure the squads play twice in a year, this is it.

“Are y’all stupid?,” Natty Sports’ John Nabors asked pointedly of the SEC office after seeing Monday’s announcement. “To not have these two teams play twice is baffling to me. We know what the SEC is driven by, right? Money, ratings, all of that.”

Does the SEC office really think Alabama’s Nate Oats and his loaded squad can compete when it comes to attracting viewers with John Calipari and his loaded squad? No. Oats isn’t the one regularly on national TV because seemingly a quarter of the NBA’s stars played under him:

There is no bigger personal “brand” than Calipari in college sports. His presence is worth millions of dollars more to SEC than any other head coach in the conference.

Perhaps the powers that be at the SEC see the inevitable downward slide that the Alabama football program must suffer now that Nick Saban has retired and wanted to throw a bone to the athletic department as a gesture of goodwill.

Recently, however, another reason emerged that makes this decision look even more dumb in retrospect – the prospect of Jaxson Robinson’s return to Arkansas.

Jaxson Robinson Inching Closer to Return to Razorbacks?

Robinson’s road to college basketball semi-stardom has been a long and winding one.

The 6’7″ Oklahoma native started off at Texas A&M before spending his sophomore season in Fayetteville, where he flashed potential as an ace shooter but could never consistently crack the rotation under Musselman.

In the last two years playing under Mark Pope at BYU, however, Robinson got plenty of minutes and increased his production across the board, to the point where he’s producing highlights like in the clip below and considered a legit pro prospect:

In fact, he’s attending the NBA Combine this week. While Jaxson Robinson’s shooting from beyond the arc (35.4% at BYU as a senior) could help him become a second round NBA Draft pick, he might slide far enough down the board to where it makes financial sense for him to return for a fifth year of college.

“I thought he was good defensively,” BYU basketball analyst Mark Durrant said, “but there’s not a lot of aggression in his defense, not a lot of aggression in his putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim.”

“I was conflicted about Jaxson because one thing I liked about him was he was just so cool and unflappable,” Currant added. “But there’s one thing I kind of wished he had a little more energy, a little more fire and get mad and get fired up at times.”

“I worry about how those will translate. You can’t get away with being soft when all those guys are so big and strong. You’ve got to bring it, you’ve got to match that, so that could hurt him.”

Kentucky Basketball Apparently Doesn’t Make the Cut

Given the improvement the 21-year-old Robinson still needs to make in these areas, seeing him return to college for a final season would be no surprise.

The surprise is that following his old coach to Kentucky may not be one of his top options.

It’s widely assumed that Mark Pope taking over the Wildcats program would make it a top transfer destination for Robinson, but that isn’t necessarily the case according to Kentucky basketball reporter Jacob Polacheck.

On Monday, Polachek shared on the Kentucky Sports Radio message board that one of his sources said that Arkansas seems like the main competitor to Kansas for Robinson’s signature if he returns to college basketball. Polachek added that he’s skeptical of this info and it could have been leaked “as an attempt to drive up the NIL price,” but returning to Arkansas would make sense on a few fronts for Robinson.

Since his goal should be to learn to drive more effectively to the basket as a three-point ace, who better to learn from than the man who coached Devin Booker among others? Plus, Arkansas does needs more potent outside shooting to create spacing for rim attacks by Johnell Davis, Boogie Fland, Adiou Thiero and Karter Knox. Finally, it’s likely that he would make more NIL money at Arkansas than anywhere else.

Whether Jaxson Robinson ends up at Arkansas or Kentucky, adding him into the mix would make the UA-UK game even more interesting given his ties to the Razorbacks and Mark Pope.

His reunion with either would make it all the more of a travesty that the Wildcats and Razorbacks will play only once.

Time to Step Up, Greg Sankey

In his most recent podcast, college basketball analyst Aaron Torres points out that the SEC office might have decided on this 2024-25 schedule before Calipari left for Arkansas in early April.

If that’s the case, Sankey or someone under him should have stepped up to course correct.

“Somebody’s just got to raise their hand in the back and say ‘Guys, I know Alabama’s going to be good. I know Texas and Arkansas would be interesting as [former] Southwest Conference rivals and all, but we got Calipari versus Kentucky. How are we not getting that game twice?”

The solution is very simple: Punt Alabama-Kentucky and Arkansas-Texas down the road for another year to make room for a second Hogs vs Wildcats game or don’t be in a such a hurry to start the two permanent opponents arrangement. Getting to see only a single game of Vanderbilt vs Kentucky or Missouri vs Arkansas will offend absolutely nobody next season.

“You want the biggest games, the biggest brands, the biggest opponents,” Torres added. Doubling up on the surefire highest-rated game of the year seemed to be such a no-brainer, until the folks in Birmingham fumbled the ball.


See the latest on Arkansas basketball here:

“Greg Sankey, shame on ya…” More from Aaron Torres starting at 3:55 below:

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Jeff Goodman and Rob Dauster debate if the Arkansas or Kentucky basketball roster is better:

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Mark Pope briefly talks about Robinson’s time at Arkansas below:

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