There’s an old saying in Arkansas: Thank God for Mississippi. This expression originated not because of some sort of George Clooney-inspired response in the Razorback State’s time of need, but rather because if it weren’t for Mississippi, Arkansas would be, all things considered, the shittiest state in the country. Almost across the board, Arkansas ranks 49th in every statistical category that matters: education, per capita income, culture, doctors per capita, literacy, quality of life in general, etc. Bringing it up the rear in all said areas is the Godsent Mississippi, the only established territory keeping the Hot Water State from being the annual doormat in all things competency and efficiency-related.
But back in the mid-to-early 90’s, Arkansas actually had legitimate (albeit brief) reason to puff out its chest: Bill Clinton was President of the United States, the state’s education was up, their infant mortality rate was down, and, most importantly, Nolan Richardson’s Razorbacks were absolute hell on the basketball court. A few things that all the younger Cat fans may not know about those 90’s-era Arkansas squads:
– The Razorbacks went to three Final Fours under Nolan Richardson, losing to Duke in the 1990 Final Four, beating Duke for the 1994 National Championship, and losing to UCLA in the 1995 National Title game.
– Arkansas joined the SEC in 1991 and pretty much dominated the West for their first few years of conference play. They won the SEC regular season in ’92 and’94.
– Nolan Richardson was named National Coach of the Year in 1994.
– Corliss Williamson, probably the best player in school history, won back-to-back SEC Player of the Year awards (’94 & ’95), and was a two-time All-American.
– Arkansas, at the behest of (the now semi-defunct) Converse, was pitted against Kentucky in the annual battle for the Ugliest Uniform in College Basketball.
Things aren’t as swell for the Razorbacks nowadays. Arkansas is currently 8-10 (1-2 SEC), and has losses to such State U powerhouses as Appalachian State, Morgan State, and East Tennessee State, all of which make the Hogs sound far worse than they actually are. Disciplinary suspensions have destroyed the Razorbacks’ season, and may very well cost Coach John Pelphrey his job when it’s all said and done.
In the meantime, Arkansas fans will long for the days of Scotty Thurman’s rainbow 3-pointers, Richardson’s 40-Minutes of Hell defense, and the tailbone-shattering undercuts (at the expense of Grant Hill) that willed them to back-to-back National Title games over a decade ago. Those were the days. For Arkansas, at least. And unfortunately, it seems like that’s all they’re going to have get excited about for the very near future. Whoo Pig Sooey!