Eric Musselman? More like “muscle man,” judging by the Arkansas coach’s willingness to show off his guns following the Razorbacks’ second-round upset of Kansas on Saturday in the NCAA Tournament.
Immediately following the victory, Musselman jumped up on the scorer’s table, ripped his polo off and waved it over his head as he addressed the Arkansas faithful — one of the more iconic images of the first weekend of March Madness.
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Musselman’s reaction makes sense, considering Arkansas upended the top seed in the West Region — and the defending national champion — 72-71 after Big 12 Player of the Year Jalen Wilson mistakenly banked in a free throw with three seconds remaining. That ended the Jayhawks’ hopes of becoming the first repeat champs since Florida in 2006 and 2007.
Eric Musselman showing off his… MUSCLES @RazorbackMBB pic.twitter.com/P2D7yYioOF
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 18, 2023
Here’s another angle of Musselman’s display:
Eric Musselman. ENERGY.
Down goes No. 1 Kansas at Wells Fargo Arena pic.twitter.com/5raZBi5pNl
— Seth Engle (@bigsengtweets) March 18, 2023
Following the spectacle, Mussleman — by then fully clothed — told CBS’s Allie LaForce he had “never been prouder of a team” than following this one.
“I keep telling people that we’re getting better. Not many teams can get better at this time of year. I’ve never been prouder in a team like tonight.”@RazorbackMBB Head Coach Eric Musselman and G Davonte Davis joined @ALaForce after taking down Kansas. pic.twitter.com/Uc6bFI3V0V
— March Madness Men’s Basketball TV (@MM_MBB_TV) March 18, 2023
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When asked about going shirtless, Musselman instead spoke about the excitement he had for his team advancing to the Sweet 16:
“I would love to lie and say that I felt composed, but we only led for 1:43 and this has been as challenging and up and down a season as I’ve ever been a part of,” Musselman said in his postgame news conference. “And for these guys to be rewarded for sticking with it and being able to go to Las Vegas (for the West Region semifinals) and participate with only 16 teams still standing, it’s really hard to make this tournament, it’s really hard to win a game in this tournament.
“It’s really hard to beat the defending champ who’s a No. 1 seed. We did it. I’m proud of us. Get on this plane tonight and we’ll start prepping tomorrow as soon as I think the game’s at 5:15, the team that we’ll play (Saint Mary’s or UConn), and we’ll start prepping for that tomorrow night as a staff and see what happens.”
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Musselman’s energy didn’t dissipate following his on-court celebration or interview. Addressing his team in the locker room, he screamed out, “We’re going to Vegas! Sweet 16, baby!” He later tweeted “MARCH MADNESS #SWEETSIXTEEN,” as well.
Cameras didn’t show whether Musselman eventually shook hands with Norm Roberts, Kansas’ acting coach. Roberts coached the Jayhawks in place of Bill Self, who remained out following a heart procedure.
Kansas’ exit from March Madness, coupled with Purdue’s upset to 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round, makes this just the fifth time in the history of the NCAA Tournament that multiple No. 1 seeds have missed the Sweet 16. It previously happened in 1981, 2000, 2004 and 2018.