ESPN features a signature week each February as their “Rivalry Week.” Before the game Saturday that featured Arkansas and Missouri, many may have not thought of it to be a rivalry game. In the wake of the Hogs thrilling 73-71 victory, a rivalry may have just been born.
Many sports fans, including myself, often think of the classic Duke versus UNC, Boston Red Sox versus New York Yankees, and the Michigan versus Ohio State rivalries to name a few. Rivalries may not be as intense as in the past, but they are still thrilling to witness in the sports world. One common denominator in a great rivalry is always a profound dislike of the opposing team.
Bud Walton Arena was electric Saturday. 19,004 fans filled the stands, and to much surprise many specks of gold and black filled different corners of the arena. Back and forth chants for both teams could be heard all the way until the final horn.
Even though the Hogs play LSU in the final game of football season every year, Arkansas has lacked a true rival that they meet consistently in each sport.
Missouri could become the team that fills that void. Fans weren’t the only ones getting intense during the game. Moments of the game displayed some chippiness between the players. Bench warnings, double fouls, hard screens and other very intense moments were seen consistently throughout the game.
Maybe the Tigers had some fuel because head coach Mike Anderson left for the Hogs, but it was evident the teams weren’t fond of each other.
Arkansas is a team searching for some key wins down the stretch in hopes of making the NCAA Tournament. Missouri is on that same path as well. The two teams will meet again March 5, except this time the two will face in Columbia, Mo. Tiger fans left with a sour taste in their mouths Saturday, and I figure for the atmosphere to be eerily similar to what Fayetteville had.
One sequence that really stuck out during the game was a stretch where Missouri guard Phil Pressey tried to take Kikko Haydar one-on-one three possessions in a row. Two steals and one foul later, Bud Walton erupted. Arkansas showed that they weren’t going to back down to the bigger Missouri team, and they won’t in games to come.
Rivalries are always good for sports. In an article by Art Markman published on statesman.com, there is a quote that really exemplifies what a rivalry is all about: “Family traditions and sports rivalries play two important roles in our lives. They connect us to our past, and they help us to create the family that sustains us in our future.”
I understand that Arkansas and Missouri aren’t full-fledged rivals yet, but this could be a springboard into what the future holds. The Southeastern Conference is still working out some scheduling issues with the conference up to 14 teams, but I feel that the Hogs and Tigers could become very familiar foes. Rivalries can be born of anything, and the border war between Arkansas and Missouri should be one to watch.
Zack Wheeler is a writer for the Arkansas Traveler. His column appears every Tuesday. Follow the sports section on Twitter @UATravSports.