|Scotty Thurman’s clutch three-pointer with the shot clock winding down and 51 seconds left in the game gave Arkansas a 73-70 lead in the 76-72 victory over Duke in the 1994 NCAA championship game.|
Championships were a tradition at Arkansas long before the Razorbacks earned the national title in 1994. The ’94 championship was the grandest of them all, but the NCAA trophy isn’t exactly the only one on the shelf in the fabulous Bud Walton Arena museum.
In fact, Arkansas has made six trips to the NCAA Final Four. The Razorbacks have earned 29 bids to the NCAA Tournament.
In conference play, Arkansas has won 24 league championships with 22 coming in the Southwest Conference between 1926 and 1991. In fact, the Hogs won the Southeastern Conference crown in 1992, their first year in the league, after winning three straight SWC titles. The Hogs have also won seven league tournament crowns.
Since joining the SEC, Arkansas has been a dominant member. The Razorbacks won overall titles in 1992 and 1994, and Western Division titles in 1992, ’93, ’94 and ’95, and then won the tournament crown in 2000.
Arkansas has a long-standing tradition of winning in basketball. It started in the 1920s and has carried through to this time. Even though Arkansas didn’t begin playing basketball until 1924, the Hogs won more SWC championships than any other school.
It didn’t take long for the Hogs to have an impact on the SWC. Two years after starting the program, Arkansas won its first league crown. It was the first of five in a row. Francis Schmidt, Arkansas’ first basketball coach, guided the Hogs to the 1926, ’27, ’28 and ’29 titles. Chuck Bassett was the coach of the 1930 championship squad.
Wear Schoonover, Arkansas’ first football All-American, captained the 1930 club. He earned All-SWC honors three times. In fact, the Razorbacks dominated the all-conference squads of the late 1920s. In 1928, Arkansas had four of the five All-SWC selections when Glen Rose, Tom Pickell, Gene Lambert Sr. and Schoonover were named all-league. Rose was also the first Razorback to earn All-America honors (1928), followed a year later by Pickell and Lambert.
The Hogs were loaded with all-conference talent during that time. Rose was a three-time All-SWC pick, as was Pickell.
Lambert and Rolla Adams made it twice, as did Milan Creighton.
From 1926 through 1929, Arkansas was a combined 60-5.
When Schmidt left Arkansas as coach, he went to league rival TCU and was tough to beat until the Razorbacks hired Rose as head coach.
He began another glorious run with a co-championship in 1935. The Hogs won SWC titles in ’36, ’38, ’41 and ’42. The 1936 Razorbacks almost represented the United States in the Olympics, winning four games in an Olympic playoff before losing to a team of all-stars from California in the semifinals of the tournament.
Jim Lee Howell, Ike Poole, Taft Moody, Don Lockard, Jack Robbins, Howard Hickey and Johnny Adams were the stars of their day. Adams was an All-American in 1941. He was Arkansas’ fifth All-American but the last one UA would have until Ron Brewer made it in 1977.
From 1945 to 1950, Arkansas had four second-place finishes and shared the 1949 title. The Razorbacks then went through a mild recession before claiming a co-championship in 1958. By winning a playoff game against SMU, Arkansas qualified for the NCAA Tournament. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. Oklahoma State, which featured Eddie Sutton as a player, downed the Hogs by 25, 65-40, and Oscar Robertson exploded for 58 points as the Hogs were drilled by Cincinnati, 97-62, in a consolation game.
As unpleasant as the tournament experience was, Arkansas would have loved to gone back, but it didn’t happen for 19 years. Not even Rose, who led the Hogs to the ’58 title in his second stint as coach, could return Arkansas to glory. He retired following the 1966 season, but neither of his two successors, Duddy Waller or Lanny Van Eman, put a contender on the floor.
Van Eman did, however, bring excitement to the game. His teams regularly scored in the 80s and 90s at a time when the traditional powers played games in the 60s. Van Eman recruited Martin Terry from junior college and Terry set school single-season scoring records that still stand. He averaged 28.3 points per game as a senior. Even though he played only two seasons, Terry still ranks among Arkansas’ top 10 all-time scorers.
Unfortunately, Van Eman’s teams usually gave up more points than they scored. Twice in 1971, Arkansas scored 100 or more points and lost.
Van Eman’s second club managed to win 16 games, but only five came in SWC play. Arkansas and Baylor, which paired for a thrilling 111-110 Baylor victory the year before, put on another wild show with the Razorbacks winning, 131-109, in Fayetteville, setting a league record for points scored by two teams in a conference game.
After the 1974 Hogs won just 10 games, Frank Broyles, newly appointed athletic director as well as an already established football coach, decided it was time to make a commitment to basketball. He turned things around by hiring Sutton.
Sutton caught the state’s attention in his first season when the Razorbacks finished 17-9 and second in the SWC. By the time his second team finished its 19-9 campaign, construction workers were already renovating Barnhill Arena, a facility constructed in 1957.
The 1976 Hogs also featured the nucleus of what was to become one of the greatest teams in history. Brewer and Marvin Delph were sophomores. Sidney Moncrief was a freshman and he quietly led the nation in field goal percentage (.665, 149-224), and Sutton knew he had something special.
With half of Barnhill’s facelift completed before the 1977 season, a new wave of excitement swept through the entire state of Arkansas.
The Razorbacks blitzed through the SWC unbeaten, winning their first league title in 19 years. Brewer, Moncrief and Delph were the toast of the Ozarks. Arkansas finished 26-2 but lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament when Moncrief fouled out, allowing Wake Forest to come from behind for a victory.
Expectations were high in 1978 and the Hogs didn’t disappoint. For a week, the Razorbacks were even ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. A loss at Houston after two victories earlier in the week dropped the Hogs from their position at the top.
Arkansas shared the SWC title with Texas, but was upset by Houston, again on a last-second shot at the SWC Tournament. Stunned, the Razorbacks returned home unsure of whether or not they would receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Hogs got in and victories over Weber State and No. 2 UCLA thrust Arkansas into the regional finals. Brewer hit a long jumper with less than a minute to play and Jim Counce scored on a layup at the end to seal a 61-58 victory over Cal-Fullerton, sending the Hogs to the Final Four.
No. 1-ranked Kentucky ended Arkansas’ dreams of a national title with a semifinal victory, but Brewer hit another of his patented buzzer shots in the third-place game, giving Arkansas a thrilling 71-69 victory over Notre Dame.
With All-American Brewer and the sleek-shooting Delph gone, Moncrief and Steve Schall were left to lead the 1979 Hogs. It was almost a repeat performance of 1978.
Moncrief was brilliant. He simply refused to allow his team to lose. After a brief midseason slump, Arkansas won 14 straight games, including two at the SWC Tournament and two in the NCAA Tournament. A victory over Louisville sent Arkansas into the Midwest Regional finals against No. 1-ranked Indiana State and superstar Larry Bird.
Arkansas could not stop Bird, but ISU could not contain Moncrief. In one of the greatest games in UA history, the Hogs suffered a 73-71 setback when a last-second Sycamore shot bounced twice and fell in. Arkansas finished 25-5 and the Moncrief era was history.
Sutton won three more SWC titles and left behind a legacy when his teams won 20 or more games nine years in a row. Arkansas played in the NCAA Tournament in each of those nine seasons, but never came close to returning to the Final Four. The Razorbacks even featured a team that had three future first-round NBA draft choices when Scott Hastings, Darrell Walker and Alvin Robertson played together. Joe Kleine, another future NBA product, redshirted that year (1982).
When Sutton left for Kentucky, Broyles turned a completely different direction when he hired Nolan Richardson. Richardson’s teams were noted for defense, just as Sutton’s were, but it was a different style of defense. Richardson’s defense usually turned quickly to offense and his teams at Tulsa had led the nation in scoring.
Inheriting a group of players recruited to play at a slower pace, Richardson had to bite the bullet as his first season resulted in a 12-16 finish. Then he started recruiting. His second team won 19 games and his third was 21-9. His 1989 squad won Arkansas’ first SWC title since 1982 and breezed through the league tournament. Arkansas set school scoring records and downed Loyola-Marymount in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before bowing to Louisville.
By then, Richardson’s style and players already had converted Razorback fans. Barnhill Arena was hopping every time the Hogs played. It wouldn’t have taken a Final Four appearance for the state to go nuts, but when the Razorbacks reached the 1990 Final Four, the state went crazy.
The Hogs were SWC champs again and dominated the SWC Tournament for the second consecutive year. Triumphs over Princeton, Dayton, North Carolina and Texas sent the Razorbacks into the Final Four. A loss to Duke in the semifinals ended the season at 30-5.
It nearly happened again in 1991. UA won a school-record 34 games before falling to Kansas in the Southeast Regional finals. Arkansas ended its history in the Southwest Conference by winning the final three regular season and tournament championships.
A new era was launched in 1992 and the Razorbacks didn’t miss a beat. Arkansas won the Southeastern Conference title with a 13-3 record. Included were two victories over Shaquille O’Neal-led LSU and a big win at Kentucky. The Todd Day-Lee Mayberry-Oliver Miller era ended with a 26-8 season and another trip to the NCAAs.
After winning the SEC’s Western Division in ’93 and pushing North Carolina to the limit in a Sweet 16 loss to the eventual national champions, Arkansas enjoyed its best season ever in 1994. UA won nearly everything possible. The Razorbacks were SEC champs, again sweeping LSU and winning at Kentucky, they made the school’s fifth trip to the Final Four and completed their dream season by beating Arizona and Duke to win the national title.
A year later, Arkansas was No. 1 in all the preseason polls, but the Hogs stumbled early before making a late-season run. UA repeated as Western Division champion, then downed Texas Southern, Syracuse, Memphis and Virginia to earn its sixth Final Four appearance.
A win over North Carolina in the semifinals allowed the Hogs to advance to the finals, but it was UCLA’s year as the Bruins beat Arkansas for the 1995 crown, 89-78.
|Patrick Beverley helped the Hogs earn their 29th NCAA Tournament bid last season.|
With every starter gone from the back-to-back Final Four clubs, Arkansas was expected to struggle in 1996. Richardson, however, molded together a young team and the Hogs peaked late. Seeded 12th in the NCAA East Regional, UA beat Penn State and Marquette to advance to the Sweet 16 before falling to top-ranked Massachusetts.
In 1997, Arkansas was forced to endure an NCAA inquiry, which proved fruitless, but it damaged the Hogs’ recruiting. The streak of nine straight NCAA Tournament appearances ended but the Bud Walton Arena crowds were rejuvenated by three NIT games. Fans who never had the opportunity to buy Razorback basketball tickets were able to attend and helped UA advance to the NIT semifinals in New York.
It was back to the NCAAs in 1998 as the Razorbacks, who got 10.4 points and an SEC-leading 9.8 rebounds per game from Nick Davis, won 24 games and reached the second round with a win over Nebraska.
Arkansas won its 10th straight NCAA Tournament first-round game in 1999 as Pat Bradley set school records for career three-point shooting (366-915, .400). Derek Hood recorded more double-doubles than anyone in UA history (34) and also led the league in rebounding (10.3), and Kareem Reid broke Mayberry’s career record for assists (748).
UA also had one of the most unique weeks in its basketball history. The final two home games came over a five-day span against No. 5 Kentucky and No. 2 Auburn. Never before had Arkansas played two top 10 teams at home in the same week. Arkansas beat UK, 74-70, and topped Auburn, 104-88.
Following an up-and-down season in 2000, Arkansas won four games in four days, including wins over No. 16 Kentucky, No. 10 LSU and No. 23 Auburn to win the school’s first SEC Tournament title. Brandon Dean was the MVP after averaging 15.2 points in the title run.
The 2001 club rebounded from an 0-3 league start with a six-game winning streak late in the year to earn Arkansas’ 13th NCAA Tournament appearance in 14 years and its 15th straight post-season tournament berth.
The Nolan Richardson era came to an end in 2002 when he was released from his contract. The Razorbacks dropped to 14-15, including a 13-14 mark under Richardson. Mike Anderson was 1-1 as interim head coach for the last two games of the season.
Stan Heath rebuilt the roster with recruiting classes ranked as high as No. 13 by Rivals.com in 2004 and No. 7 by Hoop Scoop in 2003. In 2005, the Razorbacks won the Paradise Jam tournament title and went 18-12.
In 2006, Heath had Arkansas back in the NCAA Tournament, going 22-10 behind honorable mention All-American Ronnie Brewer (18.4 ppg), All-SEC guard Jonathon Modica (16.1 ppg) and SEC Sixth Man of the Year Eric Ferguson (8.1 ppg).
Arkansas earned another NCAA bid in 2007. The Razorbacks won the Old Spice Classic, reached the finals of the SEC Tournament and recorded the 27th 20-win season in school history by finishing 21-14. Patrick Beverley (13.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg) was the SEC newcomer and freshman of the year, and Steven Hill (6.2 ppg, 2.8 blocks) the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.