Musselman hints at 'polite' phone call with Arkansas State
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FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas was loading bags onto the bus that would take it to the airport Friday afternoon when word came down that its game at Texas A&M the next day had been postponed.
The Aggies were still dealing with COVID-19 issues that also caused them to postpone their first matchup with the Razorbacks that was scheduled for Feb. 6 at Bud Walton Arena.
With two games gone from the schedule and only one potential makeup date, a mad scramble to find a replacement game ensued - to no avail.
“We tried as hard as we could, but realistically to get somebody to play you (that Saturday), probably not going to happen in 24 hours,” head coach Eric Musselman said. “We tried, though. We tried very politely, too.
“We didn’t try to do anything other than just make some phone calls, that was all we did. That was it. We just made phone calls in a nice, polite manner.”
One of the teams Arkansas reportedly reached out to about playing was Arkansas State, which had a pair of games against Texas State - scheduled for Friday and Saturday - postponed because of winter weather at both campuses.
It was eventually announced Friday afternoon, a couple hours after news broke about Arkansas’ postponement, that the Red Wolves would host the Bobcats for a single game Monday night.
Although it still didn’t have a game Saturday, Arkansas State turned down the offer to play Arkansas in the regular season for the first time since 1948.
A couple of months ago, sources told HawgBeat that the Razorbacks also reached out to the Red Wolves about rescheduling their matchup with UAPB on Dec. 9, when Arkansas was looking for a replacement for its non-conference game against Tulsa. They declined then, as well.
When asked about the possibility of playing Arkansas last weekend, Arkansas State head coach Mike Balado gave a somewhat aggressive answer to KAIT8, a local television station in Jonesboro. That likely prompted Musselman to make the “polite” comment Monday afternoon.
“When you play games, they have to benefit both teams,” Balado said. “We’re not going to get bullied into playing a game just because it benefits one team. We don’t do that. We’re not nobody’s little brother. We’re going to play basketball when it’s a benefit to us and the other team.”
The Red Wolves are 10-9 overall and 7-5 in conference play thanks to a four-game winning streak. Although they are just two games behind Texas State for first place in the Sun Belt’s West Division, they are No. 233 in the NET rankings.
That would make it a Quadrant 4 game for the Razorbacks, who are 17-5 overall and 9-4 in conference play thanks to a seven-game SEC winning streak. They are No. 20 in the latest AP Poll and tied for second in the SEC standings.
“It’s not very smart for our team when we’re in the hunt of playing for a No. 1 seed,” Balado told KAIT8. “I’m not quite sure if they’re in the hunt for the No. 1 seed. I don’t really pay attention to their record, but we’re in the hunt, so we have to worry about our players and our health and safety about the conference season, so it’s about us, not about them.”
Such a game is possible thanks to UA athletics director Hunter Yurachek’s recent loosening of the school’s decades-long policy against playing in-state programs in any sport.
The Razorbacks hosted Little Rock for an exhibition game before last season and hosted Central Arkansas for a regular-season non-conference game on Dec. 12 this season. They are also set to play all four Division I in-state schools in baseball this year and announced a 2025 football game against Arkansas State earlier this month.
Balado said he has reached out to Arkansas about scheduling a non-conference game on Nov. 13 next season.
“They do have that date open, so it is on the table,” Balado told KAIT8. “So I’m hoping they come back with something that we can go ahead and start playing next year on Nov. 13 because we have that date open, they have that date open. We’ve got plenty of time to prepare, so let’s go ahead and sign the contract.”