For at least a few hours, it felt like the disco era.
Granted, the Bud and I didn’t “exist” back then, but humor me.
With a weathered Eddie Sutton collecting cheers and a psychopath patrolling the sidelines in a blazer stolen from Frank Broyles’ drive-in closet, it didn’t matter that the screams from the sideline weren’t coming from underneath an Afro.
All that mattered was a delirious postgame crowd and a parade of burnt orange trudging into the tunnel with their eyes dipped down at the skinny boards that comprise what should be Nolan Richardson Court.
I could break down the game in too many words if I really wanted to. I could talk about downright Heathian scoring drought in the first half that could have been a death blow. I could talk about the lopsided rebounding numbers that I don’t think will be a habit or a problem come conference play.
I could stop being a pessimistic Pedro and talk about how impressed I am with Mr. Fortson and Mr. Washington for not being embarrassed by their first half performances and letting the rest of the team find a home in their knapsack for the game’s final few minutes.
But honestly, I don’t care. This is no time for X’s and O’s. I’d rather talk big picture.
After more than a decade of dormancy, the question racing through my head as I stepped back outside into a frigid Fayetteville night was simple: Have the Hogs finally arrived?
Not so much as a result of the past nine days. Two wins don’t make a program. (Apologies to the Mean Green.) Rather, as a whole.
Because this team reminds me of one that I was around to see.
They finished 22-9. They went 10-6 in conference play. Their core was made up of primarily freshmen.
And as sophomores, they won the national championship.
Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That’s not a prediction.
This team is not as talented as that team, has a vastly different identity, and the landscape of college basketball is nothing like it was 15 years ago. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned with these two monumental wins, it’s that this team can hang with anyone not wearing Carolina Blue, and has a good shot at beating anyone inside the confines of The Basketball Palace of Mid-America.
They’ve got more zeal and want-to than any team we’ve seen play in perhaps forever, and a coach that just might be able to get them back to where we all want them to be.
Next year, they’ll trade Marcus Monk for a more-developed frontcourt in Andre Clark, Brandon Moore, and Jason Henry.
The rest of the Baby ‘Backs speak for themselves.
So please, excuse my blasphemy, but Michael Sanchez, will you be the Lee Wilson/Darnell Robinson to our double-double machine Corliss?
I’m excited for this team.
If last night’s noise level serves as any indicator, so were the 19,011 other devotees in the building.
The Hogs haven’t arrived yet.
But the fans have.
And they’re waiting.
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