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SEC Baseball 2011 Preview: Arkansas Razorbacks

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RECORD LAST YEAR: 43-21
The Razorbacks were in the SEC West race late, finally losing the title to Auburn and ending up second in the division. A quick trip to the SEC tournament ended in quick defeat; the Hogs then won the Fayetteville Regional before being swept in the Tempe Super-Regional.
KEY LOSS: Brett Eibner
It's bad enough for Arkansas to lose one of their best offensive players -- Eibner had an 1.164 OPS while slamming 22 home runs in 216 at-bats -- that's a team high in home runs in the second-fewest ABs among Arkansas' regular starters. The small number of trips to the plate might have something to do with what else Arkansas loses -- a decent pitcher who went 3-5 but had a 4.34 ERA and struck out 56 while walking 11 in 58 innings.
KEY RETURN: Collin Kuhn
Kuhn hit .336/.434/.622 last year and blasted 16 home runs, by far the highest total among any returning player. Kuhn also swiped 17 bases in 19 attempts. Nine of those came in SEC play, second only to Eibner among all Razorbacks.
TOUGHEST NON-CONFERENCE SERIES: OKLAHOMA (3/29)
It's not really a "series," per se, since Arkansas and Oklahoma are only playing one game at Baum Stadium. But it's still a game against a team that is likely to be one of the better in the nation this year, and so it's good enough to count as the best on an otherwise mediocre slate.
TOUGHEST SEC SERIES: at AUBURN (3/18-20)
A relatively inexperienced teams goes to the reigning SEC West champions and a possibility to repeat in the first league series of the year. With the series against LSU and Florida being played in Fayetteville and later on, this is easily the biggest test of the season.
GOING TO HOOVER? Possible
Arkansas is losing a lot -- five starting position players and 10 pitchers. When some of those losses are players like Eibner and ace Drew Smyly, it's hard to see the Hogs being among the better teams in the conference this year. Then again, the best eight get in, and Arkansas was a very good team last year.
NCAAs? Better-than-slight chance
The Hogs are going to face some long odds to get through the league schedule without taking on too much water -- there are also trips to Columbia and Athens, where you can't expect the Dawgs to stay down for too long. That said, if they can just get to Hoover and make some noise there, the odds look a lot better to get to the NCAA field. But all that changes if things go bad early.