Arkansas athletics: Dream list of opponents for first ever ACC-SEC basketball Challenge in 2023, potential new permanent opponents in SEC for football, basketball, baseball

Image Courtesy: The New York Times

The SEC will have to alter their college basketball schedule entering the 2023-2024 season. The annual January event, the Big 12/SEC Challenge ended after the Big 12 and SEC signed deals with different television networks in addition to the ACC/Big Ten Challenge ceasing for the same reason. With the ACC and SEC being signed with ESPN, the network created a new ACC/SEC Challenge, to be played the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday following Thanksgiving. If you want to check out the details of the new challenge they are here and the end of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge here. Without a break in the conference schedule for the SEC with their out of conference schedule being in November and not January, this prompts the SEC to make changes to the basketball schedule with the upcoming additions of Oklahoma and Texas to the league. The placement of the challenge in November vastly improves the strength of nonconference schedules for all SEC squads with the strength of both the ACC and the way the SEC has improved their basketball over the last decade but on the opposite side, the Big 12 has been the superior basketball conference of late compared to the ACC. But, in this post, I want to discuss Arkansas’ dream list of opponents for the first installment of the ACC/SEC Challenge:

Since winning their only national championship over Duke in Charlotte in 1994, Arkansas fell to the Blue Devils in San Francisco in the 2022 West Regional Final, in just their second opportunity to make it back to the Final Four since the 1990’s. With new head coach Jon Scheyer, Duke is poised to continue its run as one of college basketball’s great powers. While Kentucky may get Duke in the first season of the ACC-SEC Challenge, Arkansas can hope for an Elite 8 rematch with the Blue Devils in the next few seasons.

2.North Carolina
North Carolina has beaten the hogs two times in the NCAA Tournament in the last decade. In 2015, the fourth seeded Tar Heels eliminated the fifth seeded Razorbacks in the Round of 32. In 2017, eighth seeded Arkansas lost multiple leads to eventual national champion North Carolina. In a questionably officiated game, Arkansas could have made the Sweet 16 with former coach Mike Anderson. A potential grudge match for the Muss Bus in either Chapel Hill or Fayetteville would make for a great game on TV in late November between two great basketball brands.

After that, recent NCAA tournament mainstays Virginia, Miami, and Virginia Tech make sense as potential match-ups following Thanksgiving in the schedule.

Future permanent opponents: Football
In football, the expectation is that Texas, Ole Miss, and Missouri will be the three permanent opponents for the Razorbacks according to Sports Illustrated reporter Ross Dellenger. Historically, Texas has been a great rival. Ole Miss has been a terrific rivalry for Arkansas over the last decade with the “Hunter Heave” game in 2015, the Santos Ramirez hit in 2016, the 31-7 comeback in Oxford in 2017, and the KJ Jefferson-Matt Corral duals in 2020 and 2021 make the Rebels an obvious choice. When Texas A&M and Missouri entered the conference in 2012, Arkansas was assigned Missouri as their Thanksgiving rivalry, instead of LSU who now faces A&M every last Saturday of November. Readers of this blog already know my disdain about SEC moving rivalries around but because of Missouri’s confidence in the recent match ups, it is the obvious option as one of Arkansas’ permanent rivals. LSU, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M are other rivals I could see the SEC put as permanent foes for the hogs on the gridiron. It will be interesting to see how the program progresses without playing Alabama every season in football.

Future permanent opponents: Basketball
In basketball, Arkansas will play two permanent SEC opponents home and away when Texas and Oklahoma join the league. They will rotate another opponent home and away plus six home and six away games for the rest of the SEC opponents. Currently, Arkansas’ three permanent opponents in the league are Missouri, LSU, and Texas A&M. While the SEC does not love the Missouri-Arkansas basketball game as much as the football game, I believe Missouri will be a permanent rival. Texas will likely be the other permanent basketball opponent for the Razorbacks. LSU, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma have delivered great games on the basketball court as well but do not be surprised but Kentucky is the big brand that could match up with the hogs every season.

Future permanent opponents: Baseball
Moving forward, SEC baseball will feature two series against two permanent opponents and single series with the other twelve conference members. The conference will eliminate divisions in the sport as well. Texas and Ole Miss make the most sense as permanent opponents for the Razorbacks in baseball. With former Arkansas baseball assistant Tony Vitello leading a great Tennessee program now, the rivalry between the Razorbacks and the Vols could also be plausible. With the Razorback’s success on the diamond, Oklahoma, Mississippi State, LSU, and Texas A&M also make sense as the hogs permanent foes.

By Carter Huff

Please enjoy all of my content :) <3-Carter.

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