November 1, 2014

Long-Term Approach

It was hard to watch.

After starting the season off so well, winning 17 straight games in Bud Walton Arena, and exceeding most fans expectations, Mike Anderson’s first act not only “ran out of gas” down the stretch, but had to be pushed across the finish line last week in New Orleans.

After beating ranked teams Michigan and Vanderbilt in late January, the young Hogs found themselves 16-6 and in the conversation for an NCAA tourney bid.  Losing eight of their last ten, though, including a 70-54 finale to LSU, has to leave a bad taste in their mouths for the long offseason.

So what happened?

The statewide call-in shows were quick to light up last Thursday afternoon with “Zeros” (defined as ‘fans’ with zero patience and zero IQs) calling in.  While most didn’t completely jump off the bandwagon, many questioned if Anderson knows what he’s doing.

One genius even claimed Anderson’s system, “might have worked in the weak Big 12, but that style won’t fly in the athletic SEC.”  The “weak” Big 12 got six of their teams (60 percent) into the NCAA tournament, including Anderson’s former Missouri team which secured a #2 seed.  The SEC managed only four.

So much for the SEC’s “single division” theory, I guess — but that’s another post for another day.

The collapse down the stretch goes back to two simple things — lack of numbers and lack of a veterans to provide leadership.  Say it however you want to…there’s only so much rubber on that tire, and we were void of any older players who had been through the SEC wars.

Brandon Mitchell saw the leadership void, and by all accounts tried to fill it.  But it was too late.  The physical wall that the short-handed team hit in early February was stark and obvious to all.  Anderson downplayed it, but you could see it — they were spent.

I, for one, was glad that he kept trying to play at a pace that even his own team couldn’t keep up with this season.  This group will reap the rewards of that mindset next year and in years to come.

The decision to keep playing at the frenetic pace was definitely a long-term approach.  While a short-term abandonment of the style might have yielded a more rested team — and maybe a few more victories — that’s not what was best and Anderson knew it.  They took their lumps now, rather than down the road.  A full roster and a year in the weight room will solve the rest.

Good things are ahead for this bunch if they stick together and put in the work.  Mike knows the way.

  • http://www.sethgunderson.com sdg

    If you ask me, there should have been zero zeros calling in. That’s a bit absurd.

    Coach Pelphrey left the cupboard pretty bare — two contributors left, then Powell got hurt. In watching games this season, I thought to myself, “wow, how long have Wade, Scott and Nobles been around?” Answer, not very long — because each of them have played a TON since showing up in Pel’s revolving door roster.

    CMA had 9 scholarship players — 4 freshmen, 2 sophomores, 1 junior, 2 seniors. Six are underclassmen.
    If CMA can keep consistency on the roster, then we’ll definitely get better each season.

    Anyone care to guess CMA’s first MU record? 18-12 (7-9 in Conference play).

    He’s a proven coach and will get Arkansas results — these kids just need a little more time in the system, some experience and like this post points out, some leadership. It’ll come.

    The only thing that worries me about CMA’s, and Nolan’s, system is the lack of big man recruitment — the tallest kid we have on “the list” over the next three seasons (so far) is 6’8″. I think we’re going to need some bodies in the paint — Hunter will get better, but he’ll need help.

    I’m still 100% behind CMA. He’s righting the ship.

    • OwassoHog

      Same ole song but 3rd time around it gets old… except that Stan left it stacked but for just one remaining year. Oh… wasn’t it John that signed all of these players (minus a football/basketball player)? When did these 2 players leave? I remember one was post John… maybe both. Consistency… hasn’t that been a factor for what… 10 years now?

      As for 18-12 wasn’t that John’s record last year too… except, wasn’t he 8-8 in the conference play?

      I’m not saying that Mike isn’t “righting the ship”… but if he is it hasn’t turned much yet!

      • sdg

        Rebuilding a program does get old, doesn’t it? Blech. I have to believe that this time will be quite different with CMA at the held.

        Yes, Pelphrey signed most of the players currently on the roster – save the three freshmen that logged significant PT. Now, Pel recruited the players, but they all signed on to play for CMA. As for the two that left — Rotnei Clarke and Glenn Bryant.

        When those left the program, Arkansas’ leading returning players that averaged 20+ minutes a game were Julysses Nobles (24.8) and Marshawn Powell (22.4). Two players. And one of them was hurt for all but two games of the season.

        CMA and his players were dealt a crummy card coming into the season, let alone losing Powell after two games. These young kids are good — but they weren’t the Fab 5 from Michigan-good.

        Rebuilding sucks. We’re all tired of it. Pelphrey went 18-13 (7-9) last year. And while CMA’s 18-14 (6-10) isn’t statistically “as good” as last season, he did it with one player who contributed 20+ minutes last year and 3 green freshman. Not to mention a 17-game home winning streak to boot.

        I’m not about to go crazy and say Arkansas is two recruiting classes away from winning the SEC, let alone a National Championship — but I do think he can achieve those goals much quicker than Pelphrey and Heath could.

        The process takes time. Arkansas isn’t a program like Kentucky, Duke or Kansas where the talent just rolls in. CMA, and Nolan, have to take what they get and mold the kids into a team.

        I think the ship has turned. The sails just need to be hoisted to catch the wind.

        • OwassoHog

          sdg, you may be right about that… was thinking that all of them signed with John. Facts sometimes gets a little fuzzy at my age! ;-) Also on the conference portion too… looks like I forgot that Florida A&M wasn’t a conference victory since it was played in the heart of the conference season. :-( yet another my bad.

          As I said… doesn’t look like much has changed with our results of the last year vs. last 10… but maybe you are right… it’s the sails that have been reposition which will result in much more progress. At least we can hope!

      • daniel

        LOL….your a “zero”.

  • Kyle

    This is exactly why I don’t listen to local radio. The people who call in around this state are complete idiots and the radio stations don’t have the balls to call them out or hang up on them.

    What makes this system so good is the ability to rotate players in on a consistent basis to keep fresh legs on the floor. That’s near impossible to do when you have 8 scholarship players and multiple injuries.

    To the people of Arkansas who are impatient idiots, the Texas Longhorns or LSU tigers would gladly like you to jump on their ship. True hog fans only!!

    • TheWalrus

      I’ve been guilty of this in the past but I believe I have turned it around. This is one thing that I despise about not only Hawg fans but Sports fans in general. No sports teams can be held responsible for giving a fan a bad day. People, we need to start taking responsibility for our own messes. The Hawgs and Coach Anderson are doing everything they can to win. IT TAKES TIME and just a mention of LUCK to go with great talent. Your world shouldn’t revolve around a sports team. Be enthusiastic and give support but don’t think they are the only part of life that can make you happy. That’s plumb foolish. The only person that can make you happy is you.

  • T-towner

    Sunshine, a good summation. Only Sutton was able to come in a produce immediately and that was due to Van Eman being a darned good recruiter. The cupboard was full for him. For anyone to say that CMA had a loaded gun this season is seriously wrong. I say CMA overacheived big time!

    • Joe

      Really??? How? But before you answer this… remember this seems to be a theme over the last several coaches…

  • http://www.facebook.com/Manwithnodawg Allen Jones

    Really TRUE,,I see a real future here!,,Give Anderson some time to recruit and train his troops and the sky is the limit!!! Given what happened this season I think he did a crackerjack job indeed!!

    • Joe

      Again? Be specific… and NOT something that has been used in the last 9 years?

      BTW – I’m not saying that he hasn’t… I just can’t find much difference in this first year vs. many of these over the last 10 years. Also, I’m not saying that it won’t turn… but after 1 year, I’m not seeing anything that makes me believe that we are getting anything different.

      If fact, if you got back and look at the initial discussions around Mike coming back, one would expect a 20 win season… or at least some sort of post season play. We got neither… just being realistic here folks.

      I realize that we played lots of freshmen, had a key injury, short bench, players leave, etc… but that song was already played. So I’m not going to sing it for Mike either.

      Will we do better next year… I believe so… but how much depends upon a number of factors – including getting good big men that will crash the boards.

      • soupdhog

        Read Sdg’s post above….that tells you all you need to know. To summarize:

        Pel had basically the same record as Mike and he did it with 2 All-SEC caliber players plus a few more athletes. Mike had Nobles, Wade, and 3 freshmen that could contribute. And established a new home win streak record with a few Top-25 wins.

        I’d say Mike’s first year is a pretty dang good one.

  • https://www.facebook.com/vsullins Van Sullins

    Numbers, leadership, and experience, and size. We just seemed wiped out at the end of the season. But I’m not here to hark on the Razorbacks. They will get there. I have confidence. Assuming players stick together long enough in the system to become a team or having someone good enough to replace players that leave.

  • http://therazorbackblogger.com/ GonzoHog

    I know the Missouri Tiger team is coached by Frank Haith now, but that team was built by Mike Anderson.
    They have 7 seniors leading the way and the brackatology experts are claiming that a strong opposing front line could be the only thing standing in their way of a NC.

    6-8, 240 lb. Ricardo Ratliff is their biggest and best post player. Sound familiar?

  • Jonesboro Hog

    I believe the players and Mike Anderson will stick together to form a A+team. This is something we would had never seen with Pel’s team. Do to constant suspensions for every player we never seen the whole team come off the bench rotating forming a team. Pelphrey was a great person but I’m fully behind CMA. Great things for the program coming soon.

  • Joe

    Calling on the RazorBloggers to do a complete analysis of our last 3 coaches… wins, loses, recruits – stayed, left early, wins/loses – home, away, and conference, # of suspensions, etc. post season status too. I would look into this but unfortunately have 2 corporate office relocations to due over the next 5 weeks.

    I think it would be very valuable to get some stats going so that we can watch over the next 2-3 years and see how Mike measures up. Personally, I think it will come out on top… my question is by how much. Would 22-8 (conf 10-6) be enough? Who knows… or does he need to go 23-7 and 10-6? Thoughts?

    I think too many folks expected more in the first year but are now backtracking with praise. Let’s see some real progress folks!