by Nate Olson
As we take a step forward to 2020 and a new decade, Hog fans are eagerly anticipating what lies ahead. Or they’re just glad the 2019 football season is over, and Chad Morris is no longer the UA football coach.
Whatever the case, 2020 is a new beginning. Here are five predictions for the Hogs’ New Year.
1. Hog football will start the season 1-6
I know this isn’t what Hogs fans want to hear, but the 2020 schedule is brutal. Recently hired football head coach Sam Pittman may make some progress without it showing in the win column, especially with the front-loaded schedule which includes an opener with Nevada, who plays Ohio in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Friday and at Notre Dame a week later. The Fighting Irish should land near the Top 10 in the final 2019 poll and will have a chance at the preseason Top 10. Also in September, Arkansas travels to Mississippi State and Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas. The Hogs’ first win may not come until Oct. 3 when they play FCS program Charleston Southern. October starts with back-to-back home games with Alabama and LSU. Nobody in college football wants to play a schedule like that.
2. Arkansas men’s basketball will reach the NCAA Tournament
The Hogs enter SEC play with Texas A&M Saturday fresh off a road win against Indiana and a 12-1 record. In a short time, Coach Eric Musselman has shown an ability to remarkably improve each player and devise game plans that give his undersized team a chance to win. The SEC is not as good as some thought, and that opens a door for an upstart such as Arkansas. I originally predicted the Hogs would be searching for a couple of wins at the SEC Tournament to get off the NCAA Tournament bubble, but I’ve revised that and think they will be in comfortably and could be as high as a No.7 seed. Musselman should be strongly considered for SEC Coach of the Year if the Hogs continue trending upward.
3. Hogs will be back to the College World Series
I know Arkansas will miss ace pitcher Isaiah Campbell, but with All-American slugging juniors Casey Martin and Heston Kjerstad returning, the Hogs are a contender. UA legendary Coach Dave Van Horn has the program at a level where he just reloads each year. If for some reason, you haven’t jumped on this bandwagon, you need to. It’s Arkansas’ best hope to win a national title in the three major sports.
4. Arkansas women will advance to the Sweet 16
Speaking of bandwagon jumping, you may not realize it, but Coach Mike Neighbors is quickly turning the Arkansas women’s basketball team into a force to be reckoned with. After two WNIT wins last year, Arkansas is ready to crash the Big Dance. The Razorbacks are ranked No. 20 in the Top 25 poll and can make a major statement with SEC play beginning when No. 11 Texas A&M comes to Fayetteville Thursday night with former Hogs Coach Gary Blair, Neighbors’ friend and mentor, leading the charge. Arkansas also has a key road tilt against No. 4 South Carolina next week. The SEC slate is tough, but Arkansas will emerge battle tested and that will help them advance past the first weekend. That would be a major accomplishment for Neighbors, who is only in his third season.
5. No coaching searches
UA athletic director Hunter Yurachek will enjoy a calmer 2020 after having to hire new men’s basketball coach and football coach in 2019. Yuracheck may have other headaches such as another rough football season, but he won’t have to fire or hire new coaches which are a good thing. Unexpected postseason men’s basketball success could make Yurachek’s year.