LITTLE ROCK — Teasing the halftime stats, the producer in the North Carolina studio said a lot without giving up any numbers.
Intrigued by Baltimore-Denver and unable to see Arkansas-Vanderbilt, I didn’t check on basketball for the first hour. At that point, the Razorback radio audience was told that Marshawn Powell had outscored Vanderbilt. Powell is a capable scorer, but there is a limit in 20 minutes so it was clear the Commodores had missed more than they made. Rick Schaeffer informed that suffocating defense had produced a 21-11 lead.
During a timeout in the 28-28 game at Denver, I learned Arkansas led 46-22 with eight minutes to go.
I don’t know what Arkansas looked like in its Southeastern Conference home opener and I don’t care. The only thing that matters is that Arkansas defended home court and is 1-1 in the league.
Kentucky lost at home on Saturday. So did Georgia, LSU, and South Carolina. This year, in this league, any W is a good one.
Comparing scores makes less sense in college basketball than in any other sport and the first week of league play provided some prime examples. When Powell failed to score and Arkansas looked awful at College Station, some people bailed on the Razorbacks. On Saturday, in Lexington, those same Aggies beat Kentucky by 12 and they did in textbook style, with their star player front and center.
The home crowd sensed a rally until Elston Turner beat the shot clock from 25 feet for 68-63 at 3:06. Kentucky missed twice at the other end and Turner kicked the ball to Fabyon Harris in the corner for another 3 late in the shot clock. That’s the recipe for winning on the road, get a big game from a premier player and make shots in the final minutes.
Against Vandy, a two-point loser to Kentucky, Arkansas’ two best offensive players, Powell and B.J. Young, came through — something the Razorbacks need on an every-game basis. Other teams are in the same boat. Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed all six of his shots in the second half of a loss to short-handed Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs’ 2-0 start and Mississippi’s 15-point victory over then-No. 10 Missouri are equally surprising, although the Tigers were without leading scorer Laurence Bowers.
Week after week, there are going to be head-scratching scores in the SEC. Come March 9, I expect Florida to be at the top of the standings, maybe even two or three games ahead of No. 2. Despite 1-1 starts, Missouri and Kentucky should be the next two teams in the standings.
After that will be the teams that figure out a way to scratch out a victory on the road or pull an upset at home or win despite a Thursday-Saturday schedule. At 12-6 or 11-7, teams will be on the cusp of a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
A half-dozen SEC losses might sound like too many for a decent league finish, but this is the first year for an 18-game conference schedule. Last year, 12-6 tied for third in the Big 12 and for fourth in both the Big East and the Pac-12. In the Big Ten, 13-5 tied for first.
It will take the entire schedule to sort out the SEC and the complexion of the race will change with a 2-0 week by a surprise team or an 0-2 week by a favorite.
Arkansas has a chance for the former, playing Auburn Wednesday night in Fayetteville and at Ole Miss on Saturday. Down the road, there is not a week that Arkansas is guaranteed 2-0 or 0-2.
Like the premier quarterback who throws an interception and then forgets, teams that succeed will have a short memory. Fans need the same.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.