Favorite

Portis must carry Hogs 

Arkansas basketball is such a weird, aggravating thing. I don't know if the karmic tradeoff for one blissful year of "40 Minutes of Hell" was two ensuing decades of purgatory, but it sure seems that way.

The Hogs have been the archetype of inconsistency since the 1994 national championship, and to be honest, it began immediately. You'll recall that the national champions were the presumptive favorites the following year as well, because they returned all five starters and just about every pivotal role player, too. So what happened? The Hogs did surge all the way back to the title game, losing to UCLA in a still-shocking rout, but it was a far bumpier road, and it started from the opener when John Calipari's UMass squad throttled the Razorbacks in an early road test.

Calipari's still a nemesis 20 years later, and he's getting the last laugh even if the general public, Pope Francis perhaps included, is suspicious of his methods. Kentucky isn't just getting the five-star guys year in and year out, but the Wildcats are now blessed with the thing that they didn't have in the later years of Tubby Smith's tenure and in Billy Gillispie's utterly forgettable and brief stretch at Lexington: quality depth. Last week, dependable post Alex Poythress went down for the year with an ACL tear; Calipari put on his usual smarmy sheen about how greatly they'll miss him (they won't), and Kentucky stayed right in its cushy No. 1 position by destroying North Carolina.

That was Saturday at Rupp Arena. The joint was mostly full. Carolina, as traditional a power as there is, looked lost.

Saturday at Bud Walton Arena, Arkansas dispatched Dayton by the same 14-point margin that Kentucky disposed of the Tar Heels, amid a different setting. The arena was something around half-full at best, which is frankly inexcusable on a Saturday against a fairly high-caliber foe with football's regular season now in the rearview. There's an appreciable level of hype for this team despite two bad road losses in recent days, so where are the students?

At any rate, Bobby Portis is clearly the most gifted in-state product to don the cardinal and white since Joe Johnson, but he seems more inclined to embrace a leadership role than Johnson did. This year, his baby face has been often seen with more of a determined glare or scowl. He's taller, a little thicker, and playing with more composure than he did in a steady freshman campaign. In every facet, the Little Rock Hall product looks like he's taken to heart the role he's being charged with carrying out, and as a result, Arkansas seems likely to advance farther this season if he stays that course and remains healthy.

In other words, he's belying his years, which is exactly what has made Kentucky so good. Never do the Wildcats, despite being laden with teenagers, permit their alleged inexperience to show. On occasion they'll play sloppy or not be in sync, but that's largely attributable to a lesser foe playing at its highest possible plane. Take, for instance, Columbia, which frustrated Kentucky for a good 35 minutes before the Wildcats eked out a 10-point win.

That game was analogous, perhaps, to the Hogs' prior bout with Clemson, save for the fact that Arkansas thoroughly and irrevocably gagged that one in the waning minutes. Again, Mike Anderson hasn't been the cure-all for the team's long-standing road issues. The Hogs are a clean 6-0 in their own yard, even if the place won't get loud until sometime in January, and they do play with a different brand of spirit when the painted porcine floor is beneath their sneakers. That's perfectly fine when you consider that scheduling tilts the home/away slate in favor of the former, but at some point the Hogs must establish toughness on foreign lands.

Portis seems like the conduit through which this could flow. He's agile and multifaceted on the floor, and engaging and personable off it. Production is one thing, but being able to put your stamp on the program in this day and age of short-term stays is pretty difficult to do unless you have that panache. While there are still some deficiencies to his game — he's notoriously shy about putting his back to the basket much of the time — he's still easily the best player the program has had in a long while, and his home-state ties make him even more likely to thrive in the mold of a Corliss Williamson, who earned the "Big Nasty" moniker for a reason.

If Arkansas hopes to return to the NCAA Tournament and make meaningful progress in the spring slate of SEC games, he's got to carry that torch. There's no shortage of irony in the program being dependent on someone born 10 months after the Hogs stormed the floor in Charlotte while President Clinton proudly looked on.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of Bobby Portis, Mike Anderson

  • Hawgball prospects

    March 30, 2017
    The sting of the "Grifters in Greenville" incident having finally dissipated somewhat, I am prepared to assess Razorback basketball anew. /more/
  • Tourney time

    March 16, 2017
    Selection Sunday hasn't been a meaningful day very often in recent years for Arkansas. Over the span of a decade, the Hogs knew they were safely within the expanded 68-team field only three times. /more/
  • Hogs going dancing

    March 9, 2017
    Even in a week where a modest winning streak went by the wayside at Gainesville, Arkansas authored one more earnest surge toward an NCAA Tournament berth that not long ago seemed beyond its grasp. /more/
  • Razorbacks rolling

    March 2, 2017
    Tread cautiously, Hog fans — this kind of success as we head toward March, in two sports, feels a little ominous, doesn't it? /more/
  • Not worthy

    February 16, 2017
    There's something to be said for an Arkansas basketball team that spends two-and-a-half games looking like quitters before rising off the mat. /more/
  • Another disaster

    February 9, 2017
    I swear, y'all, I am trying like hell to come up with a new angle on this tragicomic mess called Arkansas basketball. But every week presents the same dichotomy, and the past few days just qualifies as flat-out bewildering. /more/
  • Skeptical about Anderson

    February 2, 2017
    Consider yourselves lucky, Hog fans. Most teams that manage to play about five quality minutes out of 80 in a two-game week don't end up fortunate enough to forge a split like Arkansas did in its latest two road games. /more/
  • Critical stretch

    January 19, 2017
    The minute you take a shine to an Arkansas Razorback team is almost assuredly the same minute you have your sanity tested. /more/
  • Solidly second tier

    January 12, 2017
    It only makes sense that in this numbing era of Razorback slip-and-falls, the Hogs could really put vaunted Kentucky to the test at Rupp Arena for a good 30 minutes of action ... and end up losing by 26 points. /more/
  • 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/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • Five big questions for Arkansas football

    Among them: Can Austin Allen get a better handle on the job and rein in his emotions?
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • Basketball prospects

    While it is a little difficult to prognosticate on anything pertaining to college basketball anymore, short of the blue bloods getting bluer every recruiting season, what has happened to Arkansas since it finished off an accomplished 2016-17 campaign is probably as subtly bewildering as any offseason machinations you'll see.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Summer hopes

    Bret Bielema is not, regardless of your possible venom toward him or the catastrophic way the 2016 season wrapped, going anywhere.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated itsĀ 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • Five big questions for Arkansas football

    Among them: Can Austin Allen get a better handle on the job and rein in his emotions?
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • Basketball prospects

    While it is a little difficult to prognosticate on anything pertaining to college basketball anymore, short of the blue bloods getting bluer every recruiting season, what has happened to Arkansas since it finished off an accomplished 2016-17 campaign is probably as subtly bewildering as any offseason machinations you'll see.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Summer hopes

    Bret Bielema is not, regardless of your possible venom toward him or the catastrophic way the 2016 season wrapped, going anywhere.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • 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

  • Re: On "Beyond Scared Straight"

    • I need to find a scared straight program for my 14 yr old daughter here…

    • on July 20, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation