Arkansas, SEC Experience Return Of The Mack

In his weekly column for Hawgs Illustrated on the eve of Arkansas' first NCAA Tournament appearance after a seven-year abscence, Dudley E. Dawson writes about where the Razorback basketball program is today and where it might be headed with the addition of some new players to the roster next season. This story is free and courtesy of the NWA Chevy Dealers. Click the banner to learn more.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With a nod to one of the best songs ever recorded in my humble opinion, both Arkansas and the SEC have experienced a Return Of The Mack this season.

In other words, the league’s basketball teams have gotten up off the floor and gotten their confidence back just like singer Mark Morrison described in his 1997 platinum hit.

That song - which had revived popularity when used in the HBO series Entourage - was inexplicably kept from No. 1 by teenage girls and their love for Hanson’s atrocious MMMBOP.

After getting an MMMBOP-like three teams in the Big Dance the past couple of seasons, the SEC has five this season - a number that would certainly have been six if Texas A&M’s Danuel House had not have suffered an injury late.

“The SEC is a very, very good basketball league,” Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said Wednesday. “It’s not just Kentucky, it’s not just Arkansas, it’s not just Florida. We got some tremendous coaches and some of the schools are just getting their programs where they wanted to be.

“It’s year four for me and it took a lot of patience with myself and I’m sure from our administration, but it takes time if you are going to do it the right way,” Anderson added.

“I didn’t want it to be just a one-year flash in the pan,” Anderson continued. “You want a program that is going to be there for a long, long, time.”

It doesn’t hurt at all than national narrative that Ole Miss took down national media darling BYU 94-90 Tuesday night in one of the NCAA Tournament’s First Four games.

The Rebels - a team that Razorback fans know can score in bunches - put up 62 second-half points and thus earned a trip to Jacksonville.

Ole Miss arrived at 3:45 a.m. in Jacksonville on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning to join Arkansas and six other squads.

“It’s good to see that what our (SEC) teams did in the conference and non-conference, we are now taking it into the post-season,” Anderson said.

Xavier head coach Chris Mack - whose team will play Ole Miss - praised the SEC on Wednesday afternoon.

The Rebels will be the fourth SEC team that Xavier has faced the season along with wins over Alabama and Missouri and a loss to Auburn in overtime.

“I think each coach and each program has its own stamp,” Mack said. “But I think the caliber of athlete, the size of athlete that you face in the SEC, especially in the front court, is as good as there is in college basketball.

“…Each team has their own unique stamp, whether it’s an ameoba-type zone, whether it’s full court pressing at Arkansas,” Mack added.

No. 1 Kentucky - the league’s standard bearer - is 34-0 and six games away from its quest for a 40-0 national championship season.

No. 21 Arkansas (26-8) is coming off arguably its best season in 20 years - and is set to face Wofford (28-6) Thursday night at 8:50 p.m. CST in the NCAA Tournament at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

The Razorbacks - back after a seven-year absence from the Big Dance - established themselves as the second best program in the league with runner-up finishes in both the regular season and post-season tournament.

Arkansas appears poised to make a even bigger statement next season as all indications at this moment are that Razorback sophomore star Bobby Ports and junior guard Michael Qualls will return next season and thus the basis for a super team.

I get why some people don’t buy that and that’s fine, but that’s my assessment right now after talking to the right people who should know.

Seniors Rashad Madden and Alandise Harris will both be out the door, but a new influx of energy will be coming through the entrance of Bud Walton Arena and the new Basketball Performance Center.

That will be in the form of two top 55 players nationally in Columbia, Mo., Hickman guard Jimmy Whitt (6-4, 170) and Huntington, W.V., Prep forward Ted Kapita (6-9, 240).

Whitt - sporting an amazing afro - averaged 32 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals per game this season and is dynamic offensive and defensive player.

Having seen him play numerous times in high school and AAU ball, I am certain that he simply has a higher ceiling both offensively and defensively than any guard currently on campus.

Kapita has battled a hip injury all season, appearing in just five games, but is expected to be back for the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament on April 2-4.

This is a young man with a 7-2 wingspan from the Congo who averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds as a junior at Melbourne, Fla., Florida Air Academy.

He then established himself as a top 50 player nationally with a standout spring and summer AAU season and a dominant performance at the LeBron James Skill Academy.

He is a strong and physical presence down low and loves to rebound, yet is also an exceptional athlete that runs the floor like a deer and can knock down the 15-footer.

Kapita’s shining moment last summer was pouring in 36 points, grabbing 16 rebounds, blocking 4 shots and getting 3 steaks while going 15-of-22 from the field for Pan American at the Nike Global Challenge.

One must also not forget that the Razorbacks will add a pure shooter to next season’s roster in 6-4, 210-pound sharpshooter Dusty Hannahs, who has been redshirting this season after transferring from Texas Tech.

Hannahs, the son of former major league baseball pitcher Gerald Hannahs, averaged 7.7 points and shot 37 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore at Texas Tech.

He also shot 92.3 percent from the free line during his last season with the Red Raiders.

“We don’t plan on this being just a one-year deal,” Anderson said. “We are planning to dance every year from here on out.”

Bobby Portis blocks a shot at Tennessee.

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