Favorite

Dark days in Hog-land 

A week ago, right here, Pearls dipped its toe into the prognostication waters ever so lightly, projecting a couple of modest year-end benchmarks for a Razorback basketball team that was in another swoon. I suggested that the team would take not one, but two games in Nashville, then march into the NIT with heads high.

Another big hack, and another pronounced whiff on my part. Gotta stop trying.

Arkansas gagged again on another team's floor, and was solely responsible for its own pitiful showing. For as mediocre as Vanderbilt has been all season, it is a Division I college basketball team, and by extension it can generally hit 20-footers if afforded chances to do so. The Hogs had three moribund performances against the sub-.500 Commodores this year, winning the first by 23 points only because Vandy was historically inept in its own right. In the SEC tournament, with enough at stake to justify 40 minutes of passion, the Razorbacks summoned...about 3½. And they found it far too late in the proceedings for it to matter.

The insult of another quick exit from the conference tournament was followed by an uncomfortable three-day stretch where Vandy unexpectedly smashed Kentucky, thereby exacerbating the frustration of the Hogs' loss, and Ole Miss ended up winning the crown and getting "rewarded" with a No. 12 seed. This was a year where Arkansas, had it bothered to show up for a handful of weekend road tilts, would have likely found itself in the field.

Instead, the Hogs were passed over for the NIT (or they may have rebuffed an invite), and at this point a season that had encouraging moments now looks more like the kind of campaign that John Pelphrey oversaw his last three years: smoldering wreckage with likely casualties ahead. The next few weeks will be filled with rumors of defecting players, and already there are rumblings to that effect concerning a couple of players who grossly underperformed. Even though there are no seniors on this roster, it is likely that this team won't look quite the same next year.

Mike Anderson's two years deep into a seven-year deal, and it's not as if Year Three has the appearance of being make or break just yet, but the reality is that Anderson's first team likely overachieved and his second one fell way short of the bar. Marshawn Powell returned from a bad knee injury to have a mostly effective junior season, and the Hogs added some vitality with four raw newcomers, but the end result was one more win and a lot more aggravation. Because of the sour finish, there's a contemptuous pall over the program that everyone hoped was a bygone circumstance.

But it's very real, and there's a sense of panic in the fan base. What if Anderson wasn't up for this? Worse yet, if he can't correct it, could anyone? Bud Walton Arena, for what it's worth, did get some of its cachet back as the Hogs marched to an 18-1 record at home this year and wiped out the entire SEC slate there for the first time in 15 years. That's easily the most positive development in a season that just went into the gutter, but it also makes the complete lack of a postseason less tolerable. Teams that win 18 games at home ostensibly should be no worse than a mid-level entry into the field of 68 (or 96 or whatever the hell the tourney makeup is now). The conference's fading quality rating over recent years has left the door splayed wide for some hungry team to get fed up, stick its foot in the breach, and just bolt right back into national prominence.

Arkansas isn't just stubbing its toe; it's dropping a dumbbell on its foot. Were this a decade-long stretch of uninterrupted, gross futility, it wouldn't be as troubling, but the Hogs have done a few things right from time to time under all three of Nolan Richardson's successors. All the successes were generally modest, but substantial enough to justify a heightened sense of optimism about the state of affairs. Every time the needle has moved favorably, though, it flips violently backward. We've been left with this pervading sense that the jewel's just not gonna shine again, no matter who tries to polish it.

Favorite

Speaking of Mike Anderson

  • What coaches do lives after them

    March 28, 2016
    News that UALR was going to lose its first-year basketball coaching phenom Chris Beard to UNLV got me thinking about the potential ups and downs of coaching changes. /more/
  • Basketball Hogs in review

    March 17, 2016
    They were every bit of 16-16, 9-9. Average. /more/
  • A roller coaster for Hogs

    February 25, 2016
    You'd think that two nights in Bud Walton Arena against the undisputed dregs of the SEC would be gratifying, a return to normalcy of sorts, even for a pretty mediocre bunch coming off two horrible road losses. /more/
  • Down and out in Mississippi

    February 18, 2016
    Call it "Mississippi Burned." Arkansas took a spin through the Magnolia State, and it ended up being one of the harshest road trips in recent memory, even for a basketball team that's had its share of struggles abroad. /more/
  • Razorbacks up, down and up again

    February 4, 2016
    Even at a modest 11-10, Arkansas has so much still at stake. /more/
  • The long view on the Razorbacks

    January 21, 2016
    It's strange to feel so invigorated by a team that is just a notch above .500 and has lost to the likes of Mercer, but there's a growing and obvious reflection of Mike Anderson's coaching really resonating with this crew. /more/
  • Hogs trending up, down

    December 10, 2015
    Given that Arkansas is an indisputably intriguing team — who loses to Toledo at home and then wrecks Ole Miss' charmed season seven weeks later? — the Hogs' cemented bowl destination may come as something of a letdown. The Liberty Bowl does pay well, it provides the Razorbacks a Jan. 2 afternoon kickoff in a familiar and proximately fine location, and it affords the team a better than sporting chance at finishing with eight wins. /more/
  • Bad time for Arkansas basketball to be rebuilding

    July 30, 2015
    This program went from bull market to disarray in record time, and at the worst possible time, too. /more/
  • The blueprint

    March 26, 2015
    When the final seconds of an unusually dynamic and impassioned college basketball game ticked away, and a season of restorative value for Arkansas's long-beleaguered program ended, the moment for reflection that a turbulent schedule had delayed finally came. /more/
  • The Kentucky era

    March 3, 2015
    Arkansas was probably not well equipped to defeat Kentucky over the weekend, just to be thoroughly blunt. At the outset of Saturday's much-anticipated game, the Wildcats scored on a lob dunk within the first 10 seconds, and then seemingly strangled all possible momentum away from Arkansas anytime it dared attempt creation thereof. /more/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • These Hogs won't be thin

    This may be the strongest returning receiving corps that the Razorbacks have fielded in the post-Petrino days.
    • Jul 28, 2016
  • Bielema vs. Harbaugh

    What makes Bielema likable while Harbaugh is seen as bristling is this distinction: While Harbaugh is rapidly tweeting jabs at foes and putting his chiseled chin and felonious stares in front of the cameras, Bielema seems content to be a bit more subtle, and maybe even reserved after the Hogs laid two memorable eggs against presumptive underdogs Toledo and Texas Tech last September.
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • Feels right

    David Pryor's legacy as a genial, bright Arkansas statesman is beyond reproach. His service as executive (governor from 1975 to 1979) was marked by progressiveness, and he championed tax fairness and the rights of the elderly through his impassioned, lengthy tenure in Congress.
    • Jun 30, 2016
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Blame Mike Anderson

    Arkansas basketball is by all rights worthy of being a ranked team and an NCAA Tournament lock, maybe even a second-weekend type of feel-good story, but it continues to flounder right after it soars.
    • Jan 22, 2015
  • Despite exit of Razorback stars, Liberty Bowl win bodes well for Hogs

    It wasn't flawless, but Arkansas's 45-23 dismantling of Kansas State in the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl was as thorough and dominant as the score suggested, if not more so.
    • Dec 31, 2015

Most Shared

  • Best of Arkansas 2016

    Readers elect their favorites.
  • These Hogs won't be thin

    This may be the strongest returning receiving corps that the Razorbacks have fielded in the post-Petrino days.
  • Trump-Putin 2016

    Among the thousand bizarre aspects of the presidential campaign has been the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin axis.
  • Hillary hit jobs

    It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult.

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • These Hogs won't be thin

    This may be the strongest returning receiving corps that the Razorbacks have fielded in the post-Petrino days.
    • Jul 28, 2016
  • Bielema vs. Harbaugh

    What makes Bielema likable while Harbaugh is seen as bristling is this distinction: While Harbaugh is rapidly tweeting jabs at foes and putting his chiseled chin and felonious stares in front of the cameras, Bielema seems content to be a bit more subtle, and maybe even reserved after the Hogs laid two memorable eggs against presumptive underdogs Toledo and Texas Tech last September.
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • Feels right

    David Pryor's legacy as a genial, bright Arkansas statesman is beyond reproach. His service as executive (governor from 1975 to 1979) was marked by progressiveness, and he championed tax fairness and the rights of the elderly through his impassioned, lengthy tenure in Congress.
    • Jun 30, 2016
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation