Favorite

The road to recovery 

You can hardly characterize an unsteady six-point win over a .500 team as a season saver, but when Arkansas dutifully clawed its way out of a 17-point first-half hole against Auburn over the weekend, it was sufficiently cathartic nonetheless.

Almost a full year had elapsed since the Hogs last won a game outside of Washington County, after all. The Tigers may be the league's resident doormat over the past few seasons, and Arkansas's pedestrian accomplishment may have no bearing on whether this team nudges its way into the NIT, but a road win for this program is special and profoundly meaningful, and not simply because of the way this basketball campaign has unfolded.

Stan Heath was 82-71 in five seasons at Arkansas but his undoing was a 7-33 showing in conference road games. John Pelphrey's four-year mark in such contests was 6-26. The Razorbacks have not had a winning conference road record since 1994-95, the season that culminated with the latter of the national championship game appearances and, quite frankly, represented the last genuine moment of Arkansas's fleeting run as a national titan.

Mike Anderson will have a four- or five-season run, at most, if he cannot do better than one or two road victories per year. If you bother to sniff any of the sour grapes that jilted Missouri fans have stomped on the Internet the past year or so, you will notice a recurring theme: they complain ad nauseam about Anderson's road failures there, too. 

Arkansas fans would not complain, however, if Anderson's career trajectory here mirrors that of his stint in Columbia, regardless of whether the road issues were prevalent. His predecessor at Missouri was Quin Snyder, who much like Pelphrey was beloved in his playing days for one of the nation's blue bloods (Snyder at Duke, Pelphrey at Kentucky). Both Snyder and Pelphrey effused passion for and knowledge of the game, and both prospered briefly on the rather big stages on which they had been placed. Snyder took the Tigers to four straight NCAA tourneys at the start of his tenure, and Pelphrey's first Hog team earned the program's first NCAA tournament win in a decade when it defeated Indiana in 2008.

For Snyder, NCAA violations and rumors of personal indiscretions dogged his last couple of seasons and he was ultimately forced to resign toward the end of the 2005-06 season. Pelphrey's teams became notorious for disciplinary issues and rampant suspensions, and by the time he was fired last March, the disarray rivaled what Snyder had abandoned five years prior.

Anderson's first Mizzou team ended up 18-12; at the time of this writing, his first Arkansas team is 18-11. His third season in Columbia was, without dispute, the best the program had ever experienced, a 31-win year that ended on the doorstep of the Final Four. He wrapped up his five-year term with back-to-back 23-win seasons, and both of those squads made the NCAA tourney field. The Missouri team he left behind is likely headed for a No. 2 or 3 seed in this year's field, appearing poised for a deep run in the tournament behind senior leaders like Marcus Denmon and Kim English.

Would we fans tolerate that manner of success here? I should hope so. Embracing a hypothetical where Anderson follows this transitional year by averaging 23 wins per season and authoring a couple of respectable NCAA tournament showings would evoke memories of his mentor's achievements here, but more importantly, would purge the fan base of years of accrued bile and disengagement. Even in this season of frustration and attrition, Anderson has managed unthinkable progress in the morale department.

And that was reflected on the court at Auburn. The Hogs fell in another large hole within minutes of tipoff, but when quarterback-cum-undersized-power-forward Brandon Mitchell entered, the team sparkled and refocused. Mitchell had a fine game in his own right with 10 points and six rebounds before fouling out, but it was his on-court demeanor, his coach-in-hightops mentality that shined more. Life was breathed into Rickey Scott and he responded with his best game ever, 22 points and six rebounds after amassing only 18 points in the previous five games combined. A team that had been worn down by its opponents and itself started to surge again, to chase down loose balls and demonstrate movement offensively.

This season isn't likely to be remembered for much when it all wraps up at some undetermined point in March. But maybe it should be. When viewed in the context of recent history, and through the prism of Anderson's career ledger to date, it has been an unqualified success. And that's a rather daunting statement given the team's struggles away from home and its unexceptional overall record.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of 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: Spero heads up songwriting camp

    • A good step in the right direction! Another step would be to unite the women…

    • on July 17, 2017
  • Re: Walter was the worst

    • What a lame review. Walter Becker was never Steely Dan's guitar star...they left that to…

    • on July 17, 2017
 

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