Even Arkansas Coach Eddie Sutton admits "LSU is the best team left in the tournament." But Sutton hasn't booked his team on the next flight home.
Louisiana State, the highest rated team (No. 4) still in the NCAA tournament, is the obvious favorite in the Midwest semifinals at the Superdome Friday night. The Tigers (27-2) are also perhaps the most feared, because of their frightening size in the front court and wealth of experience.
The underdog status of the Razorbacks (24-7) will be more obvious after an expected 45,000 spectators arrive, most of them fans of the Tigers, whose Baton Rouge campus is 90 minutes away. Superdome officials said today that more than 31,000 advance tickets have been sold, an NCAA tournament record.
The Southwest Conference Razorbacks weren't even expected to be here. Defending NCAA champ Louisville was, but U.S. Reed's 52-foot desperation shot at the buzzer Saturday sent the Cardinals home and opened the way for Arkansas.
That Arkansas has already defeated LSU, by 10 points in the second game of the regular season, has made the Tigers even more determined to skin these Hogs.
"Dale (Brown, LSU coach) is playing this revenge thing up big," Sutton said today. "He's probably doing it for the fans' sake. But the (LSU) players can get too caught up in the emotion and go into the game too high. I've been guilty of that. We hope he's hyping them too much."
LSU will get some help this time from 6-foot-9 Greg Cook, who missed the earlier match. Of the Southeastern Conference champions' top six players, four are seniors. One of those seniors, all-America forward Durand Macklin, says he has never had more incentive to win a game.
Kansas (24-7) and Wichita State (25-6) upset seeded teams to advance to the other regional semifinal here.