"I tell you, I'm worried," Arkansas coach Eddie Sutton says, trying to look worried. "Look at those early games on the road. We could lose all of them and be out of the Southwest Conference race quick." He winks. "Then again, we could win all of them, too."
Last spring Sutton pulled off a recruiting rarity by signing a complete team of talented freshmen: point guard Allie Freeman, off-guard Byron Irvin, forwards Stephan Moore and Darryl Scott and 6'11" center Andrew Lang. All will see action this season. And those five join redshirt freshman Kenny Hutchinson, who will likely start at the point. That would suggest the Hogs are a year away, unless the pieces fall together early—and Sutton-coached teams have a way of doing just that.
"They're like geese," Sutton says of his newcomers. "They wake up in a new world every day." And it will be a bright, happy world if two old reliables, 6'11" center Joe Kleine, who had 18.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game last season, and 6'6" forward Charles Balentine are up to snuff for their senior years. Balentine is a consistent hard worker who'll settle down the young geese when they start flying all over the court. Sutton expects he'll improve on his numbers (7.7 points and 4.2 rebounds a game) while guarding the opposition's big scorer. More help should come from Tennessee transfer William Mills, a 6'7" swingman, who volunteered to leave the Vols after coach Don DeVoe suspended him two seasons ago for laughing after a loss to Alabama.
Even if Sutton's young geese learn to fly in formation, the Razorbacks still won't win a national championship. But they'll be honking in Hog country this season.