Razorbacks should be wary of Georgia

On paper, and probably on the court, the Arkansas Razorbacks are better than Georgia.

The return of Nick Smith Jr. and the comeback against Florida after two losses on the road should have the Razorbacks in the right place as the NCAA tournament race heats up.

Smith’s return from missing 13 games was pretty seamless.

Eric Musselman knew exactly what it would take Smith to work his way back into the lineup and progress is being made.

However, the Georgia Bulldogs are no slouch, and a big part of that is Michael White, their head coach.

White was primarily a four-year starter at Ole Miss for Rob Evans and spent seven years as an assistant at his alma mater before becoming a head coach at Louisiana Tech and then replacing Billy Donovan in Florida.

White, who comes from a family heavily involved in collegiate athletics, coached the Gators and then stunned the collegiate basketball world when he announced he had accepted the job as head coach at rival Georgia.

He did it to protect his children.

Some of the fanbase was ready for a change, and White probably never had a chance. He wasn’t Donovan, who became a Florida legend when he led the Gators to back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.

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Even as his encore consisted of back-to-back NIT tournaments, Donovan remained popular.

White won and qualified for all but one season (2020 was cancelled) for the NCAA tournament. He was trying to replace a legend.

Alabama went through six head coaches for over 25 years before Nick Saban was hired and the “Dig Up The Bear” bumper stickers began to disappear.

White was in Florida for seven years and had success. His institutional knowledge of collegiate athletics gave him time to know it was time for him to leave Gainesville.

White’s father, Kevin, was an athletic director at several schools, including Notre Dame and Duke. His brother Danny is an athletic director in Tennessee, brother Brian is a vice president and athletic director at Florida Atlantic, and his sister Mariah Chappell was an assistant athletic director at SMU before taking a position at Tulane Law School.

One can only imagine the range of discussions at a family reunion.

White replaced Tom Crean, who was a legend at Marquette but nowhere else. He was 47-75 overall and 15-57 in SEC play in his four seasons. He was fired after a 6-26, 1-17 season.

To say White rose to a challenge is an understatement, but overall the Bulldogs are having a turnaround season.

The Bulldogs are 16-11 overall and 6-8 in SEC with road games tonight and South Carolina games and a home game with Missouri before finishing the season at home to Florida.

In their first meeting earlier this season, the Gators won 82-75, but White showed no personal feelings.

The Bulldogs have only won one away game in SEC play, and that was at Ole Miss, where he also showed no personal feelings.

Georgia has to accept a clear defeat against Alabama on Saturday with 108:59. The Tide was coming off their first SEC loss and they got the Bulldogs in Tuscaloosa. Saban was even there.

They could also catch the Razorbacks at a bad time as their confidence should be back where it was after the 88-73 win over Kentucky at the Rupp Arena.

In the Hogs’ win against Florida, they played one of their most complete games of the season at both ends of the court.

Arkansas needs to pick up some steam tonight before heading to Alabama and Tennessee.