Bottomline: Balado now has a team with as much talent as anyone in the Sun Belt. He has perimeter shooting, rebounds, big game experience and leadership on the floor. He doesn’t have a “back to the basket” big, but he’s not that concerned. In fact, I haven’t seen him this stoked for some time.

In essence, we’ve exchanged proven commodities for assets with tantalizing promise. The entertainment value associated with “tantalizing promise” is the elixir of season ticket pitches and offseason content like this. But tantalizing promise is also the mana of transforming a good football team into something special. Thus far, new Red Wolves head football coach Butch Jones has sipped deeply from this chalice.

Arkansas State has won six of its last eight, including two against Sun Belt West contender Georgia Southern behind masterful pitching performances that yielded all of two earned runs. Among the losses, an epic 12-15 defeat at Ole Miss, indicating that the Red Wolves bats are more than capable of producing mid-week runs against a ranked SEC opponent. Arkansas State has never been hotter in 2021, and it will need every degree of that heat in Fayetteville on Tuesday.

Remember what the great George Costanza tells us: It’s not a lie if you believe it. Everybody thinks Rowdy Roddy Piper was a great wrestler, but have you ever seen him win a wrestling match? Nope. Moxie was his greatness, and it can be the Sun Belt’s too.

Whoever or whatever is at fault, it’s now Butch Jones’ problem to fix. But let’s be real. It’s not Jones’ job (nor was it Anderson’s) to get guys into the NFL. The job is to win games (oh yeah, and to make better men or something). But you have to believe that Jones’ focus on detail and drive to smash his critics’ teeth will result in better Combine evals and Pro Day scores.