FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Two seasons ended prematurely for Arkansas basketball this year, but both programs have reason to be optimistic.
Tom Collen and the Arkansas women’s basketball team rebounded from an 0-4 start in SEC play to reel off eight straight wins, and beat Tennessee in Knoxville en route to the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2003.
“We wish we could have made one more basket and still been playing in the Sweet 16,” Collen said of his team’s 61-59 loss to defending national champion Texas A&M in the second round. “It would have been just a great, great thing for this program, but the things we accomplished over the course of this year are almost too many to mention.”
It was like a tale of two season for Collen, from the lowest of lows, to the NCAAs.
“The 0-4 start, and the story behind that, seems so long ago to me now, after rattling off eight straight and beating Tennessee and winning a first round SEC game, and winning in the NCAA Tournament.”
The success Arkansas had in the postseason has already paid off on the recruiting trail.
“So many of those kids wanted some validation that Arkansas was capable of going in that direction,” Collen said, referring to playing for a national championship. “The feeling I’m getting back from most of these young women is just that.”
On the men’s side, there was no postseason tournament for Mike Anderson’s squad, but still, things are looking up.
“The run we had at home, you could see there were glimpses where we did some good things,” Anderson said. “[We] didn’t do as well as we thought we would on the road, but that’s the process that we talk about.”
Anderson hopes to take his team overseas during the 2012-13 preseason to give his young team some more experience. Until then, there is one definite quality he’s looking for.
“We have to get some toughness,” he said. “I think that’s something that we lack, especially going down the stretch. Some things you don’t teach, you have to recruit it.”