FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas’ losing streak can officially be called a skid, the negative connotation of such a word befitting the current state of affairs around the Razorbacks basketball team.

FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas’ losing streak can officially be called a skid, the negative connotation of such a word befitting the current state of affairs around the Razorbacks basketball team.

Losers of three straight games, coach Mike Anderson’s team has gone from the league’s second-highest tier, behind only Southeastern Conference leader Texas A&M, to fighting to stay out of the second-lowest. A fourth straight defeat would see Arkansas above only the dregs of the fray, the one-win teams of Alabama, Mississippi State and Missouri. It is possible, if unlikely, the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs come out of that morass with two wins apiece by the time Arkansas hosts Texas A&M on Wednesday night. That would leave the Razorbacks, after a loss to the Aggies, just a single game ahead of the SEC riffraff.

In fairness, it would also be about where most thought when the season began, anyway. Arkansas was picked 11th out of the 14 teams in the SEC. A less-than-stellar nonconference portion of the schedule had some thinking perhaps lower. A glimmering start (after the opener against the Aggies, that is), had some thinking perhaps higher. As usual, the truth lies in the middle.

Arkansas is neither as bad as its current stretch suggests or good as the one before it made it appear. Consider, the three opponents Arkansas chewed up - Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Missouri - are a combined 5-14 nearing the halfway mark of the SEC season. The three the Razorbacks have fallen to most recently are 14-7. Normalization was bound to occur.

"I just think our inexperience really comes to the forefront at the wrong time," Anderson said. "Hopefully, those are some lessons learned so we can move forward. We want to play winning basketball. We don’t want to just be playing good basketball. We want to play winning basketball. To me, you’ve got to be able to execute going down the stretch."

Texas A&M presents another question, one neither LSU, Kentucky or Georgia did. Wednesday night’s game is the first return-game of the Arkansas season. Is it bad timing, considering Texas A&M’s 92-69 smacking in the teams’ first meeting and Arkansas’ current state of gloom? Or is it good, an already-seen opponent now on the Razorbacks home floor?

Texas A&M is the clear class of the league through nearly 20 games. The Aggies are pegged as a No. 2-seed in March’s NCAA Tournament by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. They’re ranked No. 5 in the latest Associatd Press poll. There are seven players averaging seven-or-more points per game and four with four or more rebounds each outing. And Arkansas never looked like it belonged in the first meeting between the two teams.

It went largely unnoticed in the first meeting January 2 - thanks to Liberty Bowl taking place at the same time - but Texas A&M didn’t just beat Arkansas by 23 points, it completely dismantled the Razorbacks. Jalen Jones scored a game-high 28 points and was one of five Texas A&M players in double figures. The Aggies made 11 3-pointers - still an Arkansas weakness, defending the 3 - and led by 21 at halftime. The game was never close.

The game was also the only one in which Arkansas never truly had a chance. Thursday’s loss to Kentucky was unappealing and the Razorbacks’ worst performance since, but even then it took Kentucky a half-hour to put the game away. And that’s been the catch with Arkansas, another reason they’re completely mediocre, neither good nor bad.

Arkansas has a record of 0-6 in games decided by four points or less. It’s both a product of how close and how far away the team currently stands. Good enough to hang around, not good enough for a killer instinct.

A sense of anger may begin to brew if Arkansas loses to the Aggies again. But look at the schedule that follows: Texas Tech, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn. Of all those teams, only Florida has a winning conference record. There are stimulants and restoratives around the bend.

It would be just the latest swing of the Arkansas basketball pendulum.

"You can say you’re frustrated. You can say a lot of different things but I’m like this here - if you knock me down today you’re going to have hell tomorrow because you’re going to have to deal with me. I’m going to figure a way out. And that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to figure a way out."

Today’s Ticket

No. 5 Texas A&M (17-2, 7-0 in SEC) at Arkansas (9-10, 3-4)

When: 6 p.m.

Where: Bud Walton Arena


Radio: Razorback Sports Network

Line: N/A

Coaches: Texas A&M - Billy Kennedy (88-63 in fifth season); Arkansas - Mike Anderson (95-58 in fifth season)

Projected lineups: Texas A&M - G Alex Caruso (6-5, Sr., 7.6 ppg), G Danuel House (6-7, Sr., 15.3 ppg), G Anthony Collins (6-1, Sr., 5.2 ppg), G/F Jalen Jones (6-7, Sr., 17.5 ppg), F Tavario Miller (6-7, Sr., 2.3 ppg); Arkansas - G Jabril Durham (6-1, Sr., 6.3 ppg), G Anthlon Bell (6-3, Sr., 16.6 ppg), G Dusty Hannahs (6-3, Jr., 16.6 ppg), F Keaton Miles (6-7, Sr., 3.8 ppg), F Moses Kingsley (6-10, Jr., 16.4 ppg)