Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports
By making Arkansas and Missouri annual opponents in basketball and football, the SEC is hoping the two schools can create a true rivalry. If Saturday was an indication of things to come, it's clear all the ingredients are in place. We just need to continue stirring the pot.
Who doesn't want this to happen? Having an opponent each year guaranteed to generate excitement regardless of rankings and records is a tremendous asset to college sports, one in which Arkansas has sadly been unable to take part in far too often.
This is an excerpt from a column I wrote for Sporting Life Arkansas, which you can read in its entirety here.
It’s always thrilling to win against a quality opponent, as Arkansas did against Missouri on Saturday, especially when the game comes down to the last second, but this didn’t feel like a normal game. Arkansas hadn’t played a regular season basketball game with that type of atmosphere in a long time. There was tension. There was trash-talking. There was substantial booing of Mike Anderson and the Razorbacks because of the substantial number of Missouri fans made the trip to Fayetteville.
It was a scene unlike any I’d ever seen for a Razorback basketball game both inside and outside the arena. Rarely does Fayetteville get many opposing visitors for sports other than football. But it was clear that, while there were many Razorback fans looking for tickets outside the arena, the sell-out was due to the infiltration of Missouri fans, who stood out in their gold and black amidst the red and white like plaque on teeth. Obviously, this concept of a conference neighbor is one we’ll have to get used to.
Since it was announced that Missouri was entering the SEC, there has been an expectation, or at least a hope, that Missouri would develop into a true rivalry for Arkansas. Certainly, Arkansas fans have been able to develop a hatred for a variety of conference opponents over the last 20 years, but other SEC schools already had generations-deep rivalries going when Arkansas made the switch, so mutual hatred has been a rare commodity over the years.
The end of the game has Missouri fans fervently anticipating the return matchup in Columbia on March 5th, which is exactly how a rivalry should be. Sadly, the two schools don’t face each other in football in 2013 (the annual game could begin as soon as 2014), so we’ll have to wait another year for another basketball game to keep this going. Fortunately, unlike most other SEC programs, Arkansas and Missouri both take football and basketball seriously, so games in both sports could carry rivalry significance. If the atmosphere surrounding future games at all resembles what we saw Saturday, count me in.