BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Arkansas women’s head basketball coach Mike Neighbors was not bashful at Thursday’s SEC Media Day in Birmingham in assessing how good his squad might end up being this season.
“I know this, when you start to look around the league, we could have our best team ever, but in our league who knows where that puts you,” Neighbors said. “…I don’t know where we will end up, but I am excited about our depth and maybe our ability to do some new things with some old faces.”
Arkansas was picked to finish sixth in in the SEC preseason poll behind defending national champion LSU, 2022 national champion South Carolina, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
The Razorbacks were selected ahead of Georgia, Texas A&M, Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Auburn, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Arkansas finished 24-13 overall last season, 7-9 in SEC action and just missed out on an NCAA Tournament bid.
“We talked about it a lot throughout the summer,” Neighbors said. “We met back at…my house, where we watched the selection show and did not make it to start the season. We talked about how it felt to the millimeters away were.
“We lost five games by three points or less and were told if any one of those five games had gone the other way that we were an NCAA Tournament team again.
“So putting it all in perspective, doing an autopsy and taking a really hard look at ourselves and the things that created those one possession games and trying to make sure we fixed them during the preseason. I think we have addressed all those things and moved past it.
“As much a motivation as it was to start, I think it is kind of behind us now and we are focusing on the path of where we are trying to get this year.”
Neighbors knows the league is loaded once again with talent, something he discussed with former Arkansas and Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair.
LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M have all won national championships.
“I think that’s somebody that’s been around the league enough to be a valuable resource,” Neighbors said. “I think it’s got to be in the conversation for as deep as it’s been. I said earlier, you walk into four different gyms in this league, and they’ve got a national championship banner hanging up. Four different teams, not the same team with four banners. You have four different teams who have won this thing.
“And the depth of talent — when we started picking the all-conference preseason, I ran out of space. There’s still good players that you’re not going to be listing as a preseason all-conference kid…the depth of talent is as deep as I can remember and Coach Blair can remember.”
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Athletics