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Arkansas Baseball Could Secure Status More Special than “National Champion”

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In the big three team sports, the Razorbacks have produced only two national champions: the 1964 national football championship squad and Nolan Richardson‘s 1994 basketball team.

Both of those teams were great, and forever beloved in the annals of Razorback sports — but neither of them came close to being the greatest team in college football or college basketball.

Frank Broyles’ 1964 Arkansas football team went undefeated, but one reason it’s out of contention for “greatest ever” is that it played in a pre-integration era. The level of competition in those segregated times doesn’t compare to what it would become in the following decades when both blacks and whites could compete with each other.

Then, while Richardson’s 1994 Hogs are usually well-respected nationally, they never crack the Top 5 all-time teams lists. For good reason, too, given they weren’t end-to-end dominant in the way the very best all-time teams were.

2021 Arkansas Baseball

This 2021 Arkansas baseball team is a different story, however.

They have played a murderer’s row of a schedule, filled with top 20 teams like Nebraska, whom they knocked off Monday night in a thrilling elimination game that perhaps cemented ace reliever Kevin Kopps as the greatest Razorback baseball player of all time.

Arkansas Baseball Kevin Kopps

Arkansas beat Nebraska at home to advance to the Super Regional in Fayetteville this weekend against NC State.

But the biggest reason the Hogs are putting together a historically unprecedented run is their success on the road or in a neutral setting while playing in the toughest conference in the nation.

Here are some of the team’s most impressive stats:

  • The Hogs are 22-5 against Top 25 teams in the RPI and D1 Baseball. (By comparison, before the NCAA Tournament, only three other teams had 10 or more wins against the RPI Top 25.)
  • A mere five of those 22 wins happened in Fayetteville
  • The Hogs are 29-8 against the RPI top 50
  • The Hogs had winning records this season against 10 of the other 15 regional hosts in the NCAA Tournament.

As if those stats weren’t impressive enough, here are some more humdingers provided by the NCAA itself:

  • The 2021 Arkansas baseball has been consecutively ranked No. 1 for the second-longest duration in NCAA college baseball history
  • These Hogs are in the Top 25 in 15 categories encompassing batting, pitching and fielding
  • These Razorbacks are No. 1 all-time in “Quality 1 level” wins, which means they have been playing a helluva lot of tough competition (Arkansas is No. 1 in strength of schedule)

Arkansas 2021 vs Vanderbilt 2019

A strong current contender for the best team ever is the 2019 Vanderbilt squad that went 23-7 in the SEC regular season and 52-10 through the Regional round in the NCAA Tournament before going on to win the College World Series.

Arkansas, meanwhile, is 49-11 overall and 22-8 in the conference at the same juncture in the postseason.

However, those Commodores went only 3-2 in games versus Top 10 teams through the same point in the season. This Arkansas team has 17 such Top 10 wins if you’re looking at the ranking at the time of the game — or 13 if considering the opponents’ current rankings.

That’s a 15-2 or 12-1 record in those games.

That kind of strength of schedule will also hold true when compared to pretty much any past champion.

Arkansas needs to win seven more games to secure the national championship. If the Hogs do that, there shouldn’t even be an argument about which team is the greatest in the history of the college game.

Photos courtesy of Razorback Communications

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Little Rock native Evin Demirel is the author of African-American Athletes in Arkansas: Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks and Other Forgotten Stories. Follow him on Twitter @evindemirel.

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