The Arkansas Razorbacks have had an extremely rough start to their season. They currently sit at 4-5 overall and hold the worst record in the SEC.
The Hogs snapped a four-game losing streak on Dec. 5 with a win over Mississippi Valley State and followed that with a win over Delaware State on Dec. 7.
The back-to-back wins were the first consecutive wins for the Hogs this season, and the Hogs hope to make a little winning streak out of their remaining non-conference games.
The Razorbacks next play Alabama State after their finals break on Dec. 16 and should be able to get back to .500 with a win. The Hogs then play two more small schools in Stephen F. Austin and Missouri Valley State. Both SFA and MVS are talented teams and could give the Hogs all they can handle.
If the Razorbacks can find a way to win those three games, they will be sitting at 7-5 overall heading into their final three non-conference games of the year. The final three non-conference games will truly show if the Hogs have been able to learn and develop from their rough 2009-2010 season start or if they will continue to stumble.
Those three games are against Baylor, UAB, and Texas. All three of these teams are playing extremely well this season, and Texas currently ranks second in the nation.
Texas will have motivation this year when they roll into Fayetteville to beat up on the Hogs. Last season the Razorbacks upset the Longhorns when the 'Horns were top-ranked and an early favorite to reach the Final Four.
This season Texas appears to be one of the top teams in the nation once again, with their eyes set on making a NCAA Tournament run. The Hogs will need to be on a roll and full of confidence if they hope for a miracle upset of the Longhorns two years in a row.
Arkansas coach John Pelphrey has had to work against tremendous odds during the early part of this season. The Hogs have had to play with a makeshift lineup but are close to being full strength for the first time all year. Early season suspensions for off-the-court incidents and player injuries have hobbled the Hogs all season so far.
The only scholarship player yet to make his return from suspension is last year's starting point guard, Courtney Fortson. Fortson had a great freshman season last year for Arkansas and was believed to be a key piece in the Hogs making improvements this season. His absence thrust current freshman Julysses Nobles into the starting point guard role.
Other newcomers playing large roles are Marshawn Powell and Jemal Farmer. Both Powell and Farmer have led the Hogs in scoring and rebounding and carried the Hogs on nights when scoring and production were not coming from anywhere else. When you take them and Nobles all together, the Hogs do have three newcomers that are playing extremely well for the struggling Hogs.
The Hogs were all set to return all five starters from a year ago and hoped to make strides from a disappointing 2008-2009 season. However, the suspensions and injuries have left the Hogs with only Michael Washington and Rotnei Clarke consistently playing so far from the returning starting five.
Stefan Welsh is back playing and working his way back into more playing time, and he could eventually make starts again for the Hogs after serving his suspension. Michael Sanchez has returned and is playing sparingly while he continues to struggle with his foot troubles.
Fortson is back practicing, but as mentioned he has yet to lace them up for a game. His suspension is indefinite, but it appears he will play this season.
The Hogs' attendance is down to record lows. Bud Walton Arena is a 20,000-person capacity facility, but the announced attendance has been under 7,000 nearly every home game. For the Hogs to get fans back in the seats, they need to get this win streak going.
The final three non-conference games and SEC play will be far tougher than the stretch of games the Hogs have played so far this season. However, the odds the Hogs have been up against being shorthanded could prove to be a learning experience. If the Hogs make a turnaround and a miraculous run in SEC play, it will come as an amazement to nearly all observers.
Right now the only choice the Hogs have is to keep on fighting and try to grow and accomplish more. If the Hogs find a way to win more, they could make this a successful season and a memorable one.
Everyone loves a comeback story, but most importantly, everyone loves a winner.