Don’t look now but there’s a team in the Top 20 that no one seems to be talking about. This team has a player who should make a case for second or third team All-American while his team is quietly on a seven-game winning streak after losing back-to-back contests.
That team? The Arkansas Razorbacks from what many people believe is a weak SEC conference. The player? Sophomore forward Bobby Portis, who was just named CBS’ National Player of the Week and SEC Player of the Week.
What did Portis do that was so special? Portis, a 6’11”, 242-pound sophomore from Little Rock, Ark., averaged 26.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 steals in leading Arkansas to wins over Georgia and Vanderbilt. In the win against Vanderbilt he posted his third double-double with a season-high 32 points and 11 rebounds.
Portis told CBS’ Gary Parrish he returned to Arkansas to hopefully help the Razorbacks make a splash on the national scene and more importantly make their first NCAA Tournament since 2008. His other goal was to have people stop talking about just Florida and Kentucky when it comes to SEC basketball.
So far, so good for Portis and the Razorbacks. They are currently 13-2 on the season, with the two losses coming in back-to-back games. After losing at Iowa State by 18, Arkansas fell to lowly Clemson on the road by three in overtime. It seemed like same old story when it came to a team looking to challenge the big boys in the SEC.
But, something happened after that Clemson game. An impressive 14-point victory over Dayton – who by the way is looking like they can wreak havoc come March again – started a string of impressive performances for Arkansas.
The Razorbacks did what they were supposed to and blew out weak teams before conference play. They were challenged in their first SEC game, having to head to Georgia on the road. Falling down by seven at halftime, Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson got redemption for his road woes thanks to his two best players.
While Portis racks up the awards and recognition across the country, junior Michael Qualls is playing the perfect Robin to Portis’ Batman. Qualls, most notably known for his tip-in dunk at the buzzer to beat Kentucky last season, is quietly averaging 16 points and five rebounds per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and a respectable 38 percent from deep.
Arkansas has a chance to make its mark in the SEC this season thanks to its remaining schedule. The Razorbacks only have to play Florida, Kentucky and LSU once, while getting Mississippi State, Missouri and Tennessee twice. If Arkansas can defeat Kentucky in Rupp Arena for a second straight year, there’s no reason to think the Razorbacks won’t win the regular season title.
It just comes down to Bobby Portis. It’s something he’s been looking for since he was young, being brought up in Little Rock. Now, it’s time for the nation to take notice.