Those are the same two teams as last season, but the script has seemingly been flipped with former basement dweller Arkansas (12-11, 5-3) now leading the division and 2009 champion LSU (9-14, 0-3) having evacuated the penthouse.
"I wouldn't say it's flipped," Razorback head coach John Pelphrey said at his Monday press conference. "I would say that we had a good week (with three wins). Maybe it's a little longer than that. But four games ago now, we (had) won one more game than them. Let's don't get confused here. We can talk about hopefully at the end of the season and we can say it's flipped.
"There's a lot of basketball to be played in a short period of time," Pelphrey added. "LSU is still very, very capable of playing well and having an outstanding second half of the sec season as well. I suspect that they'll do that."
Pelphrey is very guarded about his team leading the division after the first half of conference action.
In fact, he offered up LSU as the toughest game his team will have had this season even if the Tigers have lost nine straight and 12 of 13.
Questioned about labeling it the toughest game yet, Pelphrey responded this way.
"Most people that would say that probably aren't coaches," Pelphrey said. "So just with where we are today, that's to take nothing away from Kentucky, nothing away from their environment, I doubt anybody really expected us to do much in that game in the first place. The expectations are obviously a little bit different right now. It's the next game on our schedule. So that's why it's the toughest."
Indeed there are raised expectations that a four-game winning streak and residence in the SEC West lead bring to a squad.
"I'm not really too consumed with anybody else's expectations," Pelphrey said. "At one point in time we were 8-11. At one point in time we were 1-3. Today we're 5-3 and halfway through our conference schedule. We're in first place. So it's a little bit different.
"Things we can't do is not show up to practice and work hard, staying humble and hungry and realizing no matter who shows up to play in this building, or where we have to go on the road, we could lose," Pelphrey continued. "If we don't understand that, all we have to do is go back and look at some of our scores."
O o o
After leading his team to a couple of wins last week and running the team's winning streak to four straight overall, University of Arkansas sophomore point guard Courtney Fortson got a little love from the SEC office on Monday.
Fortson was named the league's player of the week after averaging 20.2 points, 6.1 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals in victories over Georgia (72-68) and Auburn (82-79 in overtime).
The week before he had 33 of his career-high 35 against Mississippi State on a Thursday and 10 points in a win at Ole Miss.
"He had a really good week," Razorback head coach John Pelphrey said. "Obviously he's played well since he's been back. He's scored it. He's helped us win. He has gotten to the free throw line a large number of times and converted a very good percentage of those and he rebounds, too."
What amazes teammate Rotnei Clarke is how indestructible his teammate seems.
"He is a tremendous competitor," Clarke said. "It kind of shocks me sometimes. I'm basically living in the training room and you never see him in the training room at all. He is a fierce, tough competitor and he never seems like his tired or worn down. That's how he is in practice, too."
Pelphrey says Fortson is going to need to take advantage of both the training and weight rooms as he goes along in his career.
"From a playing standpoint he's always ready to go," Pelphrey said. "He's not taking any days off. He's not taking any reps off in practice. He's been blessed with a strong sturdy body and tremendous conditioning. He's going to learn that if he stays in this thing much longer - this thing being basketball - he's going to have to learn to like the weight room more. He's going to learn to understand the value of the training room. He doesn't understand it. He's still very immature from that standpoint.
"He doesn't understand that he's got one body," Pelphrey continued. "He thinks it's going to last forever. He's going to need some new tires sooner or later. They're going to wear out. He's going to have to have the weight room to prolong his career if he gets a chance to play past this. Your body, you have to take care of it. Like a lot of young kids he doesn't understand that totally yet."
Washington expected to play
Arkansas senior center Michael Washington should be ready for Wednesday game with LSU – which starts at 7 p.m.
Washington missed the final 8-plus minutes of Saturday's 82-79 win over visiting Auburn after getting hit in the shin.
"Obviously the feedback is that he's fine with regards to the injury," Pelphrey said.
Pelphrey noted that he will keep a watchful eye out to see if Washington needs a breather.
"We'll get guys in early," Pelphrey said. "If we see he can't go, we'll get them in early. Obviously we pay attention to him being fatigued or whatever early. We'll continue to sub early. Or if he's playing well, keep him out there."
Cox on scholarship
Arkansas has given walk on Stephen Cox a scholarship for the spring semester.
He played 16 minutes in the win over Auburn on Saturday.
"We kind of talked about it, but nothing was ever set in stone," Cox said. "…He (Pelphrey) thought I had earned the right to be on scholarship."