Life is hard for a sports team in Arkansas not represented by a Razorback. When the team in Fayetteville is good, they instantly receive our collective undivided attention, when they are bad the state pretends that particular men’s sport doesn’t exist. If you fall into that trap this year with men’s basketball it really is unfortunate, because the UALR men’s team is playing the best ball in the entire state.
For those of you not paying attention and instead drowning your sorrows on the fact that, yes, the Razorback basketball program is really that bad, UALR is pretty good. A weekend win over Tulsa takes the men’s program to 5-0 and the best start in well over 15 years, as far as I can easily dig up stats, but most likely since the Newell era.
It doesn’t come against chump teams either like the two wins from the squad on the hill. Tulsa, who UALR beat over the weekend, previously took down the #8 Wichita team. San Diego St had previously beaten #14 Cal and narrowly lost to #16 Utah before losing to UALR.
We have quietly followed the Trojans for years. I’ve wondered every time that I step foot in the Jack Stephens Center, which really is one of the nicest small venues in the country, why more fans are not regularly at the games. Even recently in the 2011 season when UALR won the conference championship and went to the tournament, most games there were still over half the seats vacant.
This season people had a right to be skeptical. A first year head coach paired with a first time athletic director. The Trojans have come out and given the people of Little Rock every reason to buy into the “Little Rock’s Team” marketing ploy earlier this year.
This team deserves to be embraced by the community, and not as a bandwagon approach. Some of the best sports in this state is played just down University Ave. Season tickets will cost you about the same as a couple of tickets + gas to drive to the hill. No they are not an SEC team, but most dominant basketball teams are not.
UALR has a real chance with new coaching and administration to turn into a top-tier mid-major basketball program with a little support from the fans. Look at programs like Wichita St, Gonzaga, VCU, Butler, and many other consistent tournament teams. Their profile looks very similar to that of UALR, the only difference is a supportive fan base.
This season, most likely, UALR is going to win with or without you. They will play the very best basketball in the state in front of a hollow arena just like they have for the past several years before with the women’s program there. But Little Rock is begging to be a sports town. It has all the makings of a great sports town. Think of all the amazing talent that departs from this area every single year that you watch play on TV every single week.
That could be Little Rock, if only we would embrace it.