In the strange world we live in, Missouri football dominates the discussion in Columbia these days. Meanwhile, former Hog assistant coach and current Missouri head coach Mike Anderson has his team flying under the radar as they roll into Fayetteville for a mid-week Big 12 vs. SEC clash.
Anderson, now 23-15 at Missouri, has his Tigers at 5-1 with quality wins already over Central Michigan and Maryland. Mizzou’s lone loss came at the hands of then tenth-ranked Michigan State (86-83) in the semifinals of the CBE Classic. With marquee opponents Purdue, Illinois and Mississippi State still looming on the Tigers schedule, the tussle with Arkansas is an important one for both teams.
Famous for the running and trapping style of play that he learned from Nolan Richardson, Anderson has his team scoring 85 points a game, while enjoying a turnover margin of plus 9.8. The fact that the Tigers are forcing 20 turnovers and 10.8 steals per game is not good news for the Razorbacks. The Hogs have been way too generous so far this season, committing 19.6 turnovers per game with a turnover margin of minus 2.8.
The Tigers are led by a familiar face to Hog basketball fans — DeMarre Carroll, a 6-8 forward who transferred from Vanderbilt last year (and is also Anderson’s nephew). Carroll averaged 10.9 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Commodores in 2005-06, and is putting up big numbers so far this season (16.4, 7.2). He was also voted by Big 12 coaches as the pre-season Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
Missouri has played nine players for an average of 14-29 minutes each. Forward Leo Lyons (6-9, 13.2 pts) along with guards Stefhon Hannah (6-1, 13.2 pts) and Keon Lawrence (6-2, 11.4 pts) also sport double-figure scoring stats so far this season.
Coach Anderson, along with former Razorback player and current Missouri assistant coach T.J. Cleveland, will no doubt get a warm welcome back to Bud Walton Arena. An integral part for 17 years as an Arkansas assistant, Mike probably should have gotten his shot to be the head coach here when Nolan crashed and burned in 2002. But his ties to Richardson made that an impossibility. Most Arkansas fans still like Mike, however, and have cheered for his UAB and Mizzou teams since his departure.
But what everyone wants to know is, “Will Nolan make an appearance to support his long-time assistant?” Well, earlier this month Nolan said he wouldn’t be going to the game. But is it still possible that the man Nolan dubbed, “the white-haired devil” will be sitting on press row watching Richardson cheer for Mizzou in the ‘House That Nolan Built?’
Either way, it should be fun to watch tonight. The game will be televised by ARSN and tip-off is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. from Bud Walton Arena.