It's too bad Baylor awaits in the Elite Eight, since Arkansas might have a good chance at the Final Four in another region — if transported down to the Midwest, it would be very easy to make a case for the Razorbacks being the team to beat.
As it is, the way Baylor has looked in the opening weekend of the men's NCAA Tournament paints the Bears not just as the favorites in the South but maybe the best team in the bracket, period, will all due respect to still-unbeaten Gonzaga.
Not to say coach Eric Musselman's team won't have a shot: Arkansas can run, shoot and most of all defend, three qualities that in tandem have the No. 3 Razorbacks back in the tournament's second weekend for the first time since 1996.
Arkansas held Texas Tech to just 36.1% from the field, including 29.2% inside of 3-point range, and came up with several late stops in a 68-66 win to advance to the Sweet 16.
"This is why I came here. I came here to win," said senior guard Justin Smith, a graduate transfer from Indiana. "And that’s it. And to have it come through, to come through fruition, it’s a testament to all the hard work we put in. We’re just gonna keep on going and see how far we can go."
But the greatest tournament intrigue surrounding Musselman and the Razorbacks comes from another source.
The job at Indiana is open, again, and the Hoosiers are in the market for a savior, again, and — yeah, again — overtures pitched to some of the biggest names in coaching, college and otherwise, have been rebuffed.
Instead of dangling the job at current New York Knicks assistant Mike Woodson, an Indiana graduate who played for Bobby Knight, the Hoosiers should keep things simple: Don't let Musselman leave the state.
He checks the boxes.
Musselman has spent more than three decades in coaching across an alphabet soup of competition levels: the NCAA, NBA, CBA, USBL and D-League.
The past nine seasons have come on the college level, as an assistant at Arizona State and LSU and the head coach at Nevada (2015-19) and with the Razorbacks.
He's won at least 20 games in each of his six seasons as head coach and reached each of the past four tournaments, from 2016-18 with the Wolf Pack and again in his second year at Arkansas.
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