The Little Rock Trojans defeated the Purdue Boilermakers 85-83 in double overtime on Thursday. Arkansans from all over tuned into the thriller, prompting a single question: is it okay for Arkansas Razorback fans to be cheering for Little Rock?
March Madness is most definitely here. Upsets, thrillers, and last second finishes filled up our Thursday games and busted even our most precious brackets.
Throughout the season, us Razorback fans have been cheering for a team that has performed mediocre at best. While we scratched our heads and yelled at players that I will not name to make a basket, there has been a team smack dab in the middle of our state that will just not stop winning.
In just three months during the offseason, the UALR Trojans, or Little Rock Trojans for that matter, took us all by surprise by signing ten new players to their roster under a newly hired Chris Beard. The almost unorthodox signings turned out to be the best thing that could happen. Immediately, the talent that Beard and his staff picked up was apparent.
The Trojans kicked off the regular season with a 10-0 start until eventually losing to Texas Tech on the road. This jump start now was getting the city of Little Rock’s attention, giving them the now popular name Little Rock’s Team.
Finishing the regular season with a 29-4 record for the Trojans was as impressive as it was jaw-dropping. Because 29-4 was not just an impressive record, it was darn near the best. The No. 1 ranked Kansas Jayhawks are the only other team with as good of a record as the Trojans. This was a team with a 13-18 record just a year before. That fact alone makes Chris Beard seem more than just a man. Because he made a team that you not only want to watch, he made a team that you want to root for.
After strolling through the Sun Belt Tournament, Little Rock was selected as the 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament, facing off against the (almost literally) skyscraping Purdue Boilermakers. While the nickname is amongst the worst ever recorded in history, Purdue was a tough team to face. Their defense, led by three seven foot tall men down low, would challenge Little Rock like never before.
Challenge Little Rock they did. The eight point favorite Purdue got off to a hot start after a back and forth second half. With five minutes left in the game, the Boilermakers led by 14 points. All they needed to do was put the dagger in the Trojans’ historic season.
But that’s not what happened.
Little Rock started mounting an epic comeback. After being held below 33% shooting for the majority of the game, the Trojans started consistently hitting shots. Before we knew it, the Trojans were within three points of tying it.
What happened next was truly extraordinary.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 17, 2016
Josh Hagin’s long range three sent the game into overtime, stunning both Purdue and the state of Arkansas. After an uneventful first overtime, the two teams were sent into a second OT tied at 75. The Trojans began the second overtime hot, pulling out to an early 80-75 lead. However, the game got tight in the final minute. With a 84-83 lead near the end of the second overtime, Purdue’s trip and missed shot gave Little Rock a rebound. Hagins was fouled, sending him up to the free throw line with 1.3 seconds left.
Arkansas Little Rock locker room celebration. pic.twitter.com/dyt4jZIMq7
— Michael Shamburger (@mshamburger1) March 17, 2016
Now we move on to the matter at hand: living as an Arkansas Razorback fanatic.
Life as an Arkansas Razorback fan can be a rough going process, especially in the realm of basketball. The trouble with it is that we’re never a true powerhouse. In the past decade, our ability to have consistent seasons and do well in tournaments has been nonexistent to a point where we can’t even get fans in our arena. Sure, we have our spurts of solid play and exciting wins. But does it ever add up to anything valuable?
One thing Razorback fans like me hate to hear (especially during football season) is another in-state school claiming that they can beat us.
Even though the majority of the time it is untrue on every level (or at least I like to think it is), I know that Arkansas matching up with an in-state school will never happen. But the 2016 basketball season is changing that outlook for me. Because for the first time in my life, I am not sure if the Razorbacks would even stand a chance against another Arkansas university. The Little Rock Trojans are so talented and mature as a whole that their chances against the Hogs would be pretty great if played on a neutral court. I’ll leave that statement out in the open for now, so please don’t eat me if you disagree.
But one thing we can all agree on is that the Little Rock Trojans are a great team, as well as a great team in Arkansas. We don’t live in a divided state where there is a love/hate rivalry like Auburn and Alabama or Texas and A&M. It’s okay to root for them because they aren’t affiliated with us.
As of right now, they are the only basketball team in Arkansas that’s actually winning games. We can love our Arkansas Razorbacks with all our might, but when it comes to the court Little Rock is the better team. That is something that we have to learn to accept. Again don’t eat me.
In all honesty, I’m actually sort of jealous of Little Rock. I’m jealous that they have a fantastic ballclub that they put together in just one year, while here in Fayetteville we’ve been trying for multiple years to do what the Trojans are doing. I am also jealous that they have Chris Beard as a head coach, but that topic is for another time.
When it comes down to it, we have to root for our roots. Little Rock is the heart of Arkansas, and the only representation of our state in the NCAA Tournament. With the Razorbacks not earning all of our live in the 2016 season, we can afford to spread it a little with the Trojans. No, we’re not cheating on our Razorbacks. The Hogs will always be there with us, but for right now it’s okay for our razorback red blood to darken a little bit into a bold maroon.
You may think that the Trojans have only morphed into Little Rock’s Team. But in reality, they are morphing into Arkansas’ Team.
— Little Rock MBB (@LittleRockMBB) March 18, 2016
The Trojans face off against the Iowa State Cyclones Saturday at 5:10 CT on TNT. Little Rock will be looking to keep their cinderella story alive to prove that they are indeed as good as their record shows. After their thrilling win over Purdue, I will be keeping my eyes glued to the screen to cheer on the Trojans. I suggest you do the same.
Thinking of rebranding. Next year we will be Fayetteville. #UALR
— Fake Jeff Long (@FakeADJeffLong) March 17, 2016
Worst game-winning shot attempt ever? (After he traveled anyway) https://t.co/vjPFREIaVd
— TheLead (@theleadsports) March 18, 2016
— SB Nation (@SBNation) March 18, 2016