Dec. 16, 2004
Over the years I've had some fun giving my Cupcake City award to the school with the most cupcakes (that is, easy opponents) on its schedule.
When I was coaching at the University of Detroit in the 1970s, I probably would have given myself the award and laughed about it. I've given it for years ... and coaches like Bill Frieder, John Thompson, Mark Gottfried, Cliff Ellis and others have gotten a kick out of it.
This year's winner is Arkansas, which stands at 6-1 heading into Thursday night's game against one of those cupcakes, Tennessee State. The only loss so far for the Razorbacks and coach Stan Heath is a 72-60 setback to top-ranked Illinois.
The brilliant research staff at ESPN dissected and analyzed all of the schedules. Look at this list of teams on Arkansas' schedule:
Winthrop (72-49 win)
Troy (89-54 win)
Gardner-Webb (79-63 win)
Prairie View A&M
Yes, Arkansas does play a competitive SEC schedule, but this list shouldn't give too many shudders to Razorback fans, who have a lot to look forward to this season. Coach Heath has put together some solid young talent. Look for guys like Jonathon Modica, Ronnie Brewer, Eric Ferguson and Co. to really please the fans.
And this is meant as no offense to these Arkansas opponents. Smaller schools realize they're getting a payday when big-time programs schedule them. It gives the smaller schools visibility, and a Shock City upset does occur once in a while.
Nobody is trying to downgrade those young kids facing Arkansas. They play hard, but the personnel is limited compared to the highly visible schools.
Gardner-Webb used this as motivation in December 2001 to beat Colorado State. Coach Rick Scruggs, whose team recently blew out a pretty good East Carolina squad, sent me some cupcakes after the win over the Rams. By the way, they were really good, baby!
The question, is how good are the Hogs? Will they learn from their test against the Illini? That was like calculus compared to the rest of their preconference schedule.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.