Overcoming playing down to the cupcakes 

It's at least anecdotal evidence that Arkansas basketball is on a meaningful upswing, in this columnist's opinion, that a 29-point demolition of a MEAC school is your low point to date.

Even in two losses to California and Gonzaga, the Hogs showed quite a bit of potency for a team trying to cobble together a semblance of chemistry in Chaminade's crackerbox gym. When they listlessly plodded through the first half against Savannah State last week and carried a two-point lead to the locker room, though, this was that moment that had become queasily familiar over recent years.

It isn't that Mike Anderson's teams have scuffled badly during non-conference games over his three seasons, but there have been some nervous junctures. In 2011-12, the Hogs were bedeviled until the end by Utah Valley and Southeastern Louisiana; last winter, they were unsteady in the season opener against Sam Houston State and then struggled to put away Robert Morris, two wins that each came by a five-point margin.

For context's sake, Arkansas bombed SELA this year by a healthy 46 points, so it was already established that these guys are a quite a bit more dutiful and focused. Savannah State took full advantage of Michael Qualls' first-half sitdown — I guess we've got an inadvertent Pearls' jinx going here, since we had just sung his praises here last week —and employed a methodical pace. It worked. Only Rashad Madden's deft touch and smart shot selection gave Arkansas that slim 27-25 lead it had at the break.

That last sentence ought to tell you something. Yes, THAT Rashad Madden, the same one who was a favorite whipping boy for fans the past two seasons, was lighting it up from the very same territory that nipped at his Achilles heel for two solid seasons. Madden has shaken off all that, displayed confidence and maturation at both ends, and transfigured his game from liability to asset nicely. Before you dismiss his 21-point output as a byproduct of the competition, be reminded that the junior guard had only two double-digit scoring games all last year, and is now up to five such performances in nine games this season.

With Madden's confidence brimming and Qualls playing at a high level (both of their early season discipline issues notwithstanding and hopefully aberrations), there's something very odd afoot: Arkansas has two electric and athletic two-guards who are stroking it from the perimeter and penetrating like mad. That doesn't even include Anthlon Bell, who is in the midst of a major funk but is certainly capable of springing loose at any moment, and Mardracus Wade, who as a friend recently put it, has been practically buried beneath the bench due to ineffectiveness and lost confidence.

The consensus going into this campaign was that Arkansas would again struggle to make shots from outside. One-third into the schedule, we simply aren't seeing that. It's unreasonable to expect this squad to keep pumping in threes at a 39 percent clip, but imagine for a moment that any scaling back there is offset by the advancement of frontcourt players like Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley, and suddenly there's a pang of enthusiasm that hasn't been there for quite some time.

When BJ Young and Marshawn Powell were here last year, the Hogs had two gloriously talented players whose motivations ebbed and flowed. The flashes were too sporadic, though, and Arkansas was again stuck at home in the postseason for the fifth straight year. But the more pressing issue a season ago was that guys like Madden, Wade and Hunter Mickelson simply regressed when the circumstances demanded that they excel. Mickelson is gone and Wade seems resigned to his fate, but this has been the kind of start the Hogs needed, with even great things happening in the two defeats.

Anytime a team wakes up like the Hogs did against Savannah State, posting a 45-18 second half to end up blowing out the hapless Tigers, there's something working. Portis, showing an awful lot of prescience for an 18-year-old, flatly said the Hogs played down to the level of their competition for a half. The fact that their youngest player recognizes this and finds it intolerable now is one hell of a nice sign.


Speaking of...

  • Belk bowling, b-ball

    December 8, 2016
    Before Pearls breaks its brief silent treatment about Razorback basketball's latest bid to shake off listless irrelevance, we'll spend a word or two on the Belk Bowl, where the football team draws a Dec. 29 matchup with Virginia Tech in Charlotte. /more/
  • 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/
  • 31 flavors of Hog

    March 10, 2016
    The Arkansas Razorbacks' 31 games of basketball in 2015-16 have paralleled, appropriately enough, Baskin-Robbins' 31 flavors. /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/
  • Too early to tell

    December 17, 2015
    College basketball is such a strange, amorphous thing right now, what with the annual defection of totally unproven commodities to the NBA, but even in that context it was going to be difficult to project Arkansas's 2015-16 season. /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/
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • Belk bowling, b-ball

    Before Pearls breaks its brief silent treatment about Razorback basketball's latest bid to shake off listless irrelevance, we'll spend a word or two on the Belk Bowl, where the football team draws a Dec. 29 matchup with Virginia Tech in Charlotte.
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Woeful

    On Thanksgiving night, Bret Bielema could settle into his bed knowing that after a rather miserable 2013 inauguration, he had slipped comfortably into his job and the results were bearing some small but edible fruits for this ravenous fan base. He was only 25-24, but 18-10 with two bowl wins over his last 28 contests, a smattering of takedowns of ranked teams, and a stabilized roster that showed off the staff's endeavors to enlist and develop a caliber of player that would lead to better days ahead in a rugged conference.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Williams shines

    Alternating wins and losses has been the pattern behavior of Arkansas's 2016 season as it draws to its terminus. So after the Hogs gave their most listless and disappointing home effort in a good while against LSU, why wouldn't they just explode all over the cowbell-clanging din in Starkville the next time out?
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »


  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

  • Re: Resurrection, reflection

    • http://hairtransplantncr.com/ hair transplant in delhi hair transplant ncr hair transplant cost hair transplant cost in…

    • on December 8, 2016

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