Sonny Weems' plans for 2008 still haven't changed. Losses to South Carolina and Georgia haven't affected the Arkansas senior. So never mind the 2-2 Southeastern Conference record and the Razorbacks' puzzling recent effort in Athens, Ga.
Arkansas is on pace to achieve his goals, Weems believes. And he predicts the Hogs' performance tonight at LSU will represent the unveiling of a "different team."
"We're planning on winning the (SEC) West and making it deep into the NCAA Tournament," Weems said. "I don't think (tonight) is a must-win. But deep down in our hearts, we have to have this win, and that's what we're going to do.
"We're going to go in and get it."
The emergence of a "different team" is likely the only way Arkansas leaves Baton Rouge with a victory for the first time since 2001. The last two games, the Razorbacks have looked like the same team they were a year ago until winning five straight to make the NCAAs.
No consistent fire. No persistent emotion. And most importantly, no glaring urgency.
In 2007, the Razorbacks didn't show any of those traits until former coach Stan Heath's job was threatened, until Arkansas couldn't afford to lose even one more game. The Hogs don't want to wait as long this season.
"That was one of those ultimate do-or-die things," Arkansas senior Steven Hill said. "We know that we have a ton of season left. We have 12 conference games left. But every game is vital right now. We definitely don't want to lose three straight.
"We want to learn from the past and get on a pretty good run."
The most important lesson from the 2007 SEC season? Don't underestimate any opponent. Last January and February, in road games against teams with inferior overall talent, the Razorbacks floundered. They lost at South Carolina. They fell at Auburn. And they got nipped at LSU.
The Tigers were hurting then just as bad as John Brady's team is now. LSU took a six-game losing streak into its victory over Arkansas last season in Baton Rouge. This season, the Tigers are losers of seven straight, winless in the SEC thus far. Their two top inside scoring threats are out with injuries, and Brady's rotation stretches no further than eight players.
Weems stressed a focus on "team basketball" would provide the answer for an Arkansas team desperate to claim an identity. The Razorbacks held several players-only meetings this week, emphasizing to one another that they must show urgency.
"We have to come together," Weems said. "I think it's a different mindset from here on out. The seniors want to be remembered as a great team. It's just about us getting out there and playing as a team."
Pelphrey agrees wholeheartedly with Weems' assessment. He just isn't convinced the Razorbacks are ready to commit to such a selfless brand of basketball for 40 minutes away from Fayetteville.
His seniors, Pelphrey said, must let their actions prove their intentions.
"Any success we have will be a direct result of how much toughness and ownership this senior class takes," Pelphrey said.
ARKANSAS AT LSU
WHEN: 8 p.m. TV: ESPN Classic (Cox Ch. 122)
WHERE: Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Baton Rouge, La.
RECORDS: Arkansas 13-5, 2-2 Southeastern Conference; LSU 7-11, 0-4
RADIO: KXIO-FM 106.9; KEZA-FM 107.9; KKEG-FM 92.1; KFPW-AM 1230; KQBK-FM 104.7; KHGG-AM 1580; KHGG-FM 103.1; KDYN-AM 1540; KDYN-FM 96.7; KTTG-FM 96.3
COACHES: Arkansas, John Pelphrey (13-5, 1st season; 93-72, 6 seasons); LSU, John Brady (191-137, 11th season; 280-214, 17 seasons)
SERIES: Arkansas leads 27-17 (Tied 9-9 in Baton Rouge)
LAST MEETING: Arkansas lost to LSU 71-67 on Feb. 10, 2007 in Baton Rouge
Arkansas at LSU
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