19 Mar

Arkansas-North Carolina Makes NCAA Tournament History

North Carolina Arkansas

Arkansas becomes the first modern-era program to play one foe three straight times in the same round.

This evening, the No. 8 seed Razorbacks take the court against a heavily favored, No. 1 North Carolina squad in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. This feels a bit like deja vu for Hog fans, who have seen their Razorbacks match up against UNC in this same round in the program’s last two tournament appearances. Neither go-around — one in 2008, the other in 2015 — was close.

When coincidences like this happen to a specific fanbase, it’s enticing for those fans to believe said “crazy thing” happens only to them, that they have been somehow specially smited by the basketball gods. Here’s the thing, though: Such singularity really is happening to to the Razorbacks.

With today’s game, Arkansas becomes the first program since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams — or 32 teams, for that matter — to play another program in three straight appearances in the same round. To put this in context, consider that heading into this 2017 NCAA Tournament, there have been about 110 “rivalries” in which one program has played another at least three times over the 78-year history of the NCAA Tournament.

In none of those cases, in the modern era, has any program undergone what’s happening to Arkansas. Before expansion to a 32-team field, this “three-peat” did occur in the 1950s through early 1960s, when the total pool of teams was much smaller and programs tended to more often play geographic neighbors in the first round. In this era, the NCAA Tournament fluctuated between 22 and 25 entries. Below are the other occurrences, according to an analysis of mcubed.net:

Seattle: From 1953 to 1956, met Idaho State each year in the first round (won three, lost one).

Utah State:  From 1962 to 1964, met Arizona State each year in the first round (won two, lost one).

Oregon State:  From 1962 to 1964, met Seattle* each year in the first round (won two, lost one).

Tonight’s game against North Carolina presents a daunting challenge for the Hogs. The speedy Tar Heels hold advantages on paper across the board. They are, for starters, most strong (in rebounding) where Arkansas is the most weak. And their best player, the 6-foot-8 Justin Jackson, is the kind of rangy, skilled wing for which Arkansas simply has no answer.

While the Hogs regularly throw out four players in the 6-foot-1 to 6-foot-3 range in Dusty Hannahs, Jaylen Barford, Manny Watkins, Daryl Macon and Anton Beard, North Carolina has only have one starter under 6-foot-6 . Simply put, North Carolina represents the kind of gold standard to which Arkansas is aspiring: a team more skilled, longer and more athletic.Hannahs is hardly using hyperbole when during a media session this weekend he noted, “This is David and Goliath.”

Statistically, the chances of an Arkansas upset are slim. But, from all outside appearances, the players and coaches firmly believe they can do it.  They have, after all, seen infinitesimal odds overcome before. If not, they wouldn’t be on the cusp of playing UNC three straight times in the same round in the first place.


*The star of a few of those early 1960s Seattle teams was North Little Rock’s Eddie Miles, whom former Hog basketball coach Glen Rose wanted to make the first black Razorback. I write more about that story and others in my upcoming book African-American Athletes in Arkansas: Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks and other Forgotten Stories.

06 Mar

Mike Anderson’s 2014-17 Hogs Better Than Nolan’s Late ’90s Teams

Mike Anderson

Since 2014, Mike Anderson’s Hogs are winning more than Kareem Reid/Derek Hood-era Arkansas

I can’t help myself: I love Mike Anderson/Nolan Richardson comparisons.

As an Arkansas native, I firsthand remember growing up in the 1990s and breathlessly following each of Richardson’s Razorback teams. That experience — along with watching my classmates Joe Johnson and Jarrett Hart play at LR Central — seared into me a deep love for the game of basketball.

Nolan Richardson himself has told me he doesn’t expect Anderson to follow exactly in his footsteps, and Anderson has publicly said just about the same thing. These men are too old and accomplished to worry much about metrics, notching marks on belts, counting golden, basketball-shaped bullion and that kind of thing.

But I’m not.

I love it. Numerical comparisons appear to cleanly tie together different eras of Razorback basketball so many decades apart. They also provide a clear standard of success. The bar had been set. So let’s ask: Is Anderson meeting it?

When comparing the coaches’ first seasons on the Hill, Mike Anderson comes out ahead. Neither coach made the NCAA tourney in Years One or Two, but Anderson’s overall 37-27 record was superior to Richardson’s 31-30.

Year Three for both coaches got off to a bad start, as sportswriter Jim Harris points out:

After two seasons of inconsistent play and fans wondering if Frank Broyles had erred in replacing Eddie Sutton with the man in polka dots and cowboy boots. That third season got off to as woeful a start as any — a blowout loss AT Tulsa, the school that had produced Nolan in the first place. It’s pretty much forgotten now. But it was not much uglier than the Hogs’ SEC-opening trip to Texas A&M in Anderson’s third year.

Turns out, neither drubbing foretold what would eventually happen.

Arkansas wasn’t as bad as that season-opening loss at Tulsa indicated in 1987-88, eventually pulling together to compete for the [SWC] championship and earn an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament…”

Of course, while Nolan did start churning out NCAA Tournament appearances in that third year, Anderson only produced one in his seasons three through five.

But with 23 regular season wins, including six on the road, Arkansas will return this season.  In doing so, Mike Anderson’s Hogs have so far strung together a three-year run that is better than any in his mentor’s last seven seasons.

Since the beginning of the 2014-15 season, Anderson’s teams have won 66 of 99 regular season and postseason games. That’s a 66.67 winning percentage.

I dig into this more for an upcoming OnlyInArk.com article, but for now imagine the best three-year runs Arkansas basketball has had since the 1994-95 season when the Hogs finished as the national runner-up.

Those happened, not surprisingly, not long afterward in the late 1990s, when Kareem Reid, Pat Bradley and Derek Hood consistently led  Arkansas into NCAA Tournament appearances after leading them to a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 1996:

1996-97: 18-14

1997-98: 24-9

1998-99: 23-11

The overall winning % in this three-year run was 65.66%

 

1997-98: 24-9

98-99:  23-11

1999-00*: 19-15

The overall winning % in this three-year run was 65.35%

(*The aforementioned trio had left by this season, and the Jannero Pargo/Joe Johnson era had begun)

After that, as we slide into the last couple years of the Richardson era, and then into the Stan Heath and John Pelphrey eras, it only gets worse.

Without the same kind of postseason success Richardson had even in the late 1980s and late 1990s (i.e. outside of the peak years of the early-mid 1990s), these kinds of statistics will ring hollow with many Razorback fans. But they still provide some value. They show while Anderson’s teams have seemed maddeningly inconsistent at times, he is overall tracking ahead of his mentor when compared to Richardson’s early-career and late-career team performances.

For Hog fans, two main questions endure: What is Anderson’s ceiling? How close will it be Richardson’s?

With the elite levels of talent, size and athleticism Anderson has coming in these next few years, we’re going to get that answer sooner than later.

03 Mar

Talking Fayetteville’s Lost Black Razorbacks with the Local NPR

Kyle Kellams

I recently discussed Fayetteville’s forgotten “Black Razorbacks” of the Great Depression era on Ozarks at Large, a daily news and culture show through KUAF National Public Radio 91.3 FM. I always enjoy talking with the show’s host Kyle Kellams, who I’d gander has one of the most inquisitive, roving minds in the tri-state area.

Check out our 11-minuteish interview here:

 

And here’s a preview of the story itself:

Razorback linebacker Brooks Ellis had lived in Fayetteville his whole life, but had never heard of the Black Razorbacks. Not that he’s to blame. Hardly anyone, after all, remembers the group of young African-American men who donned old Razorback and Fayetteville High jerseys during the Great Depression and played football across Fayetteville and the region. These northwest Arkansas locals represented their region against other all-black teams from Russellville to Joplin, forming a kind of regional “Negro Leagues of football” all but forgotten by Arkansans today.

They also upend common modern conceptions of athletic segregation in the Old South. Not only did this team scrimmage against white players from a then-segregated Fayetteville High School, but they did so on the grounds of the segregated University of Arkansas itself — under the watch and tutelage of white Razorback football coaches. Moreover, the white players often visited Fayetteville’s all-black neighborhood to play there. “That’s awesome to hear about,” Ellis said as he sat in the Razorbacks locker room in August 2015. His alma mater, Fayetteville High School, stood less than a mile away.

Ellis noted Fayetteville High School had in 1954 become the first high school in Arkansas to publicly announce its desegregation — “I take a little pride in that” — but the fact African Americans were regularly playing against the all-white Bulldogs decades before that was news to him. He added, “It would be cool to learn more about, obviously.”

Let us begin, then.

Much of the Black Razorbacks’ story comes to us from accounts of their games buried in the archives of the Northwest Arkansas Times, a newspaper run by civic leader Roberta Fulbright — the mother of future U.S. senator U.S. senator J. William Fulbright. The most detailed known retrospective comes from Arthur Friedman, a white Fayetteville resident who attended Fayetteville High School in the early 1930s.

He often watched the Black Razorbacks’ scrimmages and games, and considered those times “the highlight of my growing-up years and school,” he wrote in a 1985 Northwest Arkansas Times article. Indeed he considered the African-American players, many around his age, as friends.


To read the rest of this story, and other long-forgotten stories about Arkansas’ sports heritage, reserve a copy of my forthcoming book African-American Athletes in Arkansas: Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks and Other Forgotten Stories.

 

14 Feb

Bill Ingram on Mike Anderson’s Fate at Arkansas: Part 1

Bill Ingram

Bill Ingram, a former Razorback football player who lives in the Little Rock area,  has become one of his state’s most influential basketball people. He directs the Arkansas Hawks AAU program, which last summer put forth a 16U team from which every last starter has committed to the Hogs.

But their on-court impact is almost  two years away. Will current Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson even be around then? This has become a pressing topic in light of Arkansas’ recent stretch of bad losses to Oklahoma State, Missouri and Vanderbilt.

Bill Ingram recently shared his thoughts on Arkansas’ program with sports talk show host Bo Mattingly. The below excerpts are lightly edited for clarity:

Bill Ingram: … I’m just like any other fan. I’m disappointed in what’s going on and how the team is playing. And hopefully, that they can turn this thing around now but, the thing is, can you turn it around? And some of the things that we’ve got a chance to witness is just not a pretty … It’s not good basketball. And when it’s a lack of effort and that’s never a good thing.

Bo Mattingly: What has surprised you the most about how this season has unfolded?

Bill Ingram: At times the lack of effort. From looking at it from a coach’s standpoint, what I see is: I’m just not sure guys really know their role. I don’t think guys’ roles have been defined, or they’re not playing their roles, that stuff.

When I look at them I see, just a little bit of all kinds of stuff from each of the players. And we got a post man out shooting threes and putting the ball between his legs. I’m an old school type guy, so I think everybody should know exactly what they’re suppose to be doing and what’s expected of them. And it’s obvious when you get some of the results that they’re getting, that’s not the case.

Bo Mattingly: There’s been a lot of in state kids that have gone elsewhere, some because they didn’t get an offer, others because they just chose, like KeVaughn Allen or Malik Monk. How would you describe what [Anderson’s] been able to do in recruiting? Obviously it looks good moving forward. How would you kind of summarize it?

Bill Ingram: Well, like you said, it looks good moving forward. But what’s happen in the past, it has not been good. Cause having a guy … getting an opportunity to get a guy like KeVaughn. He would have been a perfect fit for some of the stuff they’re doing.

Now the situation with Malik was totally different. I think that they had different plans from the very beginning and that’s just my opinion. And it didn’t make a difference, if Phil Jackson was the coach, they weren’t going to be here. That’s my opinion.

But KeVaughn probably may be a little different story. I don’t know how the recruiting went with him, because of course I wasn’t a part of it, but I would have really loved to see him in a Razorback uniform.

Bo Mattingly: … What do you think is the issue with Arkansas basketball, big picture, that has lead to one tournament in five years, and what could end up being one NCAA tournament in six years?

Bill Ingram: Well the big picture is we thought we would be a lot farther along in six years. We thought this team would be a solid 3rd or 4th place team and having a good chance of heading to the NCAA tournament. And that was true up until about 10 days ago. But, the fact is, that we’re going through some of these growing pains and this is year six of Coach Anderson’s coaching regime.

It’s not a good thing. And I don’t know if there’s anybody that would say any different. So we thought we would be in a better position by now and we’re not there… Fans are not happy. You spend your hard earned dollars to go and support your team and they go out there and give efforts like that. I don’t want to get into what kind of talent level’s Missouri got, but it’s definitely not the talent level of Arkansas. So those games are games that you know that you need to win.

And in order for you to build a good basketball program you gotta win the games you’re suppose to win.


Read more about Ingram’s thoughts on Anderson and the state of the Hogs  by going here. 

21 Jan

Hogs are Better In SEC Road Games Than At Home. How Rare Is That?

moses kingsley

A troika of seniors also led the last Razorback team to start conference playing better on the road than at home.

 

The ’98-’99 team had a rough SEC home start, but a helluva finish.

Road struggles have defined the Razorback basketball program through much of the 21st century. In the glory years of the late 1970s through mid 1990s, the Hogs were nearly invincible at home while winning their fair share of road games. In the 21st century, they have still been one of the SEC’s most dominant home teams but constant road woes have often sunk them into mediocrity.

This year, though, these 21st century trends are changing, for better and worse.

First, the good news for Hog fans: Their team has begun winning road games at a rate similar to that of the 1990s Nolan Richardson-led teams. Since 2014, Arkansas is 11-10 on the road in SEC play. Arkansas had gone 16-81 in the previous dozen seasons before that.

The problem: In the last two years, the program has been anything but invincible at home.

The result is a strange inversion of the Razorback’s usual 21st century mojo: This 2016-17 team has lost two of its first three SEC home games, while winning two of its first three SEC road games.

That’s very unusual.

Indeed, in the last 69 years*, only one other Razorback team has gotten off to a better start on the road than at home in the first six conference games of the season. That team, the 1998-99 Hogs, spent most of that season ranked in the Top 25 (no higher than No.18).

Those Hogs won their first SEC contest of the season — a road game — against LSU 80-75. It then lost on the road to Auburn, then ranked No. 14, 83-66.

Here’s how its next four games panned out:

(Home) Ole Miss, L 76-65

(Away) Mississippi State W 61-59

(Home) Georgia, W 82-79

(Home) Alabama, L 67-60

Those Hogs were stocked with All-SEC caliber seniors in Pat Bradley, Derek Hood and Kareem Reid. Their experience and tenacity was critical to allowing the squad to squeak out those road victories. This Hogs team also showcases three important seniors: Dusty Hannahs, Moses Kingsley and Manny Watkins.

Hannahs and Bradley fulfill similar roles on their respective teams, as do Hood and Kingsley. But nobody on the team has been able to harass opposing point guards, while consistently staying in front of them, like the ultra-quick Kareem Reid.  These Hogs’ inability to contain quick guards killed them in home losses against Florida and Mississippi State, and in the second half against Kentucky.

Former Razorback Blake Eddins, who began playing under Nolan Richardson in 1999-2000, recently joked this year’s team needs “a couple of defensive stoppers like Pat Bradley and Blake Eddins in there, to really bend their knees and get that butt down and show them how to play defense.”

“I’ll say this: I would have clotheslined a guy if he had a wide-open fast break layup. And that’s about all I was good for,” Eddins told Pat Bradley, now a sports radio co-host, on 103.7 The Buzz FM.

It’s difficult to imagine Dusty Hannahs — or newcomers Daryl Macon or Jaylen Barford — playing with this kind of Charles Oakleyeque defensive tenacity. But Barford and Macon do have the needed quickness to become much more effective one-on-one defenders, while Watkins and Anton Beard, though not as quick, have long flashed Kareem Reid/Corey Beck-like defensive effort.

It’s just a matter of putting it together in longer stretches, and specifically against the SEC’s best point guards.

That 1998-99 team ended with a fantastic home stand, beating No. 6 Kentucky and No. 2 Auburn in its final two SEC home games. It later made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Manny Watkins knows this is the last chance for he, Kingsley and Hannahs to make a similar statement.

“It’s our last year,” he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “The sense of urgency is through the roof. In order to win, you’ve got to do things and it has to be from your seniors.”


*Only one team during the Razorbacks’ SWC days won at least two of its first three road conference games while losing at least two of its first three home conference games. That would be the ’48-’49 Hogs, which ultimately finished 9-3 in conference as SWC champs.

** Arkansas isn’t the only SEC team struggling at home this season. Through January 20, SEC teams are a combined 18-21 in home SEC games . (h/t to Blake Eddins)

african-american arkansans

Includes how NLR native Eddie Miles almost became the first black Razorback in basketball 

29 Dec

James Shibest: “I can remember how chunky ol’ Austin was when he was young”

James Shibest

The Virginia Tech special teams coach recalls meeting Austin Allen while coaching at Arkansas

James Shibest and Bobby Allen are at the center of Razorbacks-Hokies football coaching cross-pollination. Allen, a former Virginia Tech player, has been on the Arkansas staff for nearly 20 years. Shibest, meanwhile, is a former Razorback player and coach. He’s in his first year at Virginia Tech, coaching special teams and tight ends for Hokies coach Justin Fuente.

They will both be on the sidelines for today’s Belk Bowl, in which Arkansas is a touchdown underdog to Virginia Tech according to the latest betting odds.

Shibest, who coached at Arkansas 2000-07, yesterday recalled Allen training his two sons in and around Razorback Stadium. Those boys, Brandon Allen and Austin Allen, have combined to hold the Hogs’ starting quarterback job for the last four years.

“Almost every free minute he had he was working with them boys and obviously that worked,” Shibest told sports show host Bo Mattingly and sportswriter Clay Henry on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly. “Whether it be football, baseball, whatever it was, has paid off. God I’m just so happy for them guys. I used to remember how chunky ol’ Austin was when he was young… He’s an unbelievable competitor, let me tell you. I know all the Hog fans know that boy but I’ll tell you what, he is a good player.”

Here are some more choice excerpts from their conversation:

Bo Mattingly: … What was that period of your life like when you  left Arkansas when coach Nutt took the job at Ole Miss? Then when it didn’t work out at Ole Miss, you had some stuff to figure out…

James Shibest: No doubt. I have really been unbelievably blessed. Ever since I’ve gotten to this level I was very fortunate. I came from junior college and coach [Houston] Nutt hired me. God what an awesome person to work for and learn from. You love your alma mater so much, you want to stay there. It was tough.

Then when we went to Ole Miss went ahead but you got to go feed the family. Really the first time I really ever had to look for a job is when I got connected with coach Fuente at Memphis there. It didn’t take long, it was a couple of weeks. It wasn’t like I had to sit out a year. It’s a tough road a lot of times in this profession. I’ve been extremely lucky. Always having to be at a great place and then with great people to work for.

On coaching junior college football:

James Shibest: Let me tell you it was really a great training. First of all you learn how to go be a coach. Them guys kind of were on their second chance especially the Division I type guys through academics or various reasons. They needed you more. I don’t know if I’ve ever been closer to my players more than in junior college. It was obviously a little bit smaller but them guys really needed your help. There was some deep, deep satisfaction when you could get them to that … back to division one or whatever, to that next institution.

Clay Henry: I’ve written stories about the Arkansas wide receivers of late and I keep pulling up these top 10 lists. I keep finding you in there —

James Shibest: Didn’t do much as a freshman and then, of course, it was a little nerve wracking there. I came in with hopes and Coach [Ken] Hatfield was … Of course all you heard was the Flexbone. I didn’t really know what that was as far as being a receiver, how I would fit in that. It’s amazing how it turned out to be a great blessing. Them safeties have to play the dang triple option in there, and I was out there by myself one on one most of the time and-

Clay Henry: You ran those crossing routes. It’d take a little while. The safety would clear than then ere came Shibest, about eight seconds later.

James Shibest: All right now, I was a lot faster than what y’all say I was.

Clay Henry: Okay, sorry, sorry.

James Shibest: [Laughs] It was pretty cool. You know Brad [Taylor] was still there so we kind of had to throw the ball that first year and end up having a pretty good year. It all worked out just like the way it should have.

The Shibest File
Experience: 27th season, 1st at Virginia Tech
Hometown: Houston, Texas
High School: MacArthur
College: Arkansas (1987)
Playing Exp: Arkansas (1983-87)
Family: Wife – Dianna; Son – James John III, Daughter – Jordyn Grace

Coaching History

Year School Position
2016 Virginia Tech Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends
2012-15 Memphis Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends
2008-11 Ole Miss Special Teams Coordinator
2006-07 Arkansas Special Teams/Tight Ends
2002-05 Arkansas Special Teams/Wide Receivers
2000-01 Arkansas Special Teams/Tight Ends
1996-99 Butler County CC (Kan.) Head Coach
1994-95 Garden City CC (Kan.) Offensive Coordinator/QBs/WRs
1993 Independence CC (Kan.) Defensive Backs
1992 Independence CC (Kan.) Offensive Coordinator
1990-91 Oklahoma State Graduate Assistant
19 Dec

Bill Raftery Compares Malik Monk to Michael Jordan, Jerry West

Malik Monk jumper

During Monk’s 47-point detonation, the longtime CBS announcer didn’t hold back with the praise

 

At the start of the 2016-17 season, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman assessed Kentucky freshman Malik Monk’s NBA potential. Names like “J.R. Smith” and “Monta Ellis” were thrown out. In the comments, someone chimed in with “DeMar DeRozan” as Monk’s ceiling. Someone else agreed that’s a very good apex.

That ceiling may need to be raised a floor or two after Saturday. At night, in front of a national television audience,  Malik Monk scored 47 points in a thriller against North Carolina. The 6-3 shooting  guard produced the impressive shooting performance from an Arkansas native on a collegiate stage this big that I can recall:

 

 

If anybody thought Monk’s scoring ability or skill was overrated, this performance puts those doubts to bed. He is simply the most talented/electrifying scorer Arkansas has ever produced, and could overtake Joe Johnson as the most skilled. During the game, longtime CBS color commentator Bill Raftery, 73 years old and a college coach in the late 1960s through early 1980s – compared Monk’s first step to that of  Michael Jordan’s. (It’s very likely M.J. has watched this UNC-UK game. I’m sure the Tarheel was disappointed in the ending, but he was probably also glad to see Malik Monk — who was affiliated with Nike throughout the summer circuit — develop as a potential Jumpman representative in the future.)

Raftery also made a point of comparing Monk to the most skilled 6-2/6-3 scorer to ever play in the NBA: Jerry West. Specifically, he said Monk’s ability to “get those puppies aligned*” (i.e. his footwork on the jump shot)  reminded him of West’s.

This comparison is important to keep in mind when assessing where Monk will be drafted. He is only 6-3 and only has a wingspan just short of 6-4, and yes, that is short for a pure  shooting guard. Monk, though, projects to become a combo guard years down the line, in the mold of a Russell Westbrook or C.J. McCollum. Almost all all-time players are “combo” in the sense that their skills exploit  personnel mismatches, even if those mismatches come in the form of bigger, taller players.  Given up a few inches in height and arm span isn’t a death wish if the player is talented/skilled/driven enough to not only push through that deficit, but dominate despite of it.

Hakeem Olajuwon, at just over 6-9, is a case in point. He never seemed undersized against the giants of his day, though, because he almost always had the advantage in every other intangible and tangible you would want. Same goes with Steph Curry today at 6-2/6-3, who often has a strength and foot speed disadvantage. While in the 1960s, Curry’s height was more in line with the standard for a shooting guard, Jerry West still would have been a dominant scorer even if had he been a couple inches shorter.

In the pros, Malik Monk can do the same even as an undersized “scoring” guard.

His 47-point first-semester magnum opus hints at that more strongly than anything else. NBA executives are taking notice. In the last few weeks, Monk has more often appeared as a projected pick in the upper half of the 2017 NBA lottery. And, after the UNC win, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported an NBA executive can see him going No. 1 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft.**

 

*Credit to Marcus Monk, Malik’s older brother, for so consistently drilling him on the fundamentals over these last few years. 

**Monk would be the third Arkansan to be selected No. 1 overall in an NBA Draft. 

 

 

30 Nov

Is Mike Anderson’s #Fastest40 Tagline Still Legit?

Below is breakdown of where the Razorbacks have ranked nationally in “pace factor” (involving how many possessions a team has within the span of 40 minutes) in six seasons under head coach Mike Anderson.

For the unadulterated fun of it, I’ve listed rankings for other Arkansas programs as well. I’ve put records in parentheses to the right.

2016-17 (through Dec 2)

No. 95 Arkansas (5-1)

[Dec. 9 UPDATE: Dropped to No. 123]

No. 102 UCA (1-6)

No. 152 A-State (6-1)

No. 161 UALR (5-2)

No. 277 UAPB (1-6)

(All stats via Sports-Reference.com)

 

2015-16

No. 18 UCA (7-21)

No. 27 A-State (11-20)

No. 78 Arkansas (16-16)

No. 329 UAPB (8-25)

No. 341 UALR (30-5)

(Arkansas finished No. 50 in the nation in assists this season)

 

2014-15

No. 6 UCA (2-27)

No. 12 Arkansas (27-9)

No. 89 A-State (11-18)

No. 148 UALR (13-18)

No. 192 UAPB (12-20)

(Arkansas finished No. 8 in assists, No. 17 in steals)

 

2013-14

No. 3 UCA (8-21)

No. 11 Arkansas (22-12)

No. 82 Arkansas State (19-13)

No. 92 UALR (15-17)

No. 117 UAPB (13-18)

(Arkansas finished No. 31 in assists, No. 11 in steals)

 

2012-13

No. 3 UCA (13-17)

No. 22 Arkansas (19-13)

No. 49 UALR (17-15)

No. 69 UAPB (16-14)

No. 166 A-State (19-12)

(Arkansas finished No. 71 in assists, No. 23 in steals)

 

2011-12

No. 6 UCA (8-21)

No. 30 Arkansas (18-14)

No. 165 UAPB (11-12)

No. 216 UALR (15-16)

No. 273 Arkansas State (14-20)

(Arkansas finished No. 131 in assists, No. 43 in steals)

 

Below are a look at some of Mike Anderson’s Missouri teams. Sports-Reference.com doesn’t track pace before the 2009-10 season, but it’s safe to assume Anderson’s Elite Eight  ’09 team would have ranked highly there.

2010-11

No. 15 Missouri (23-11)

(No. 20 in assists and No. 3 in steals)

 

2009-10

No. 34 Missouri (23-11)

(No. 34 in assists and No. 1 in steals)

2008-09

Missouri (31-7) finished No. 1 in Assists and No. 2 in steals.

Likewise, Nolan’s best Arkansas teams in the 1990s often finished in the top 2 in both assists and steals.

27 Nov

Mike Anderson on the Razorbacks’ Early 2016-17 Struggles

Mike Anderson

Below is a transcript of the Razorback basketball head coach’s post-game comments to Razorback broadcaster Phil Elson after his team’s first defeat of the 2016-17 season. It was a 14-point loss to  Minnesota on Nov. 22. 

… Defensively I didn’t think we really for the most part got after Minnesota and challenged them and made things difficult. Early in the game I thought we did, but even then you talk about we had probably some unforced turn overs. That led to some easy opportunities for them. You can’t do that on the road.

We talked about the things you got to do. You got to be able to shoot the basketball well, get quality shots, and that’s probably evident that we only had 8 assists. I mean that, we could get 8 assists in the first 8 minutes of any game and so that tells you the rhythm wasn’t there, but let’s give Minnesota credit. I thought they came in well prepared and really made it difficult for our 3-point shooters.

I thought Moses [Kingsley], you know we missed some easy shots inside, as well as Moses missing some, but yeah that’s a learning curve for our basketball team. When you go on the road man, it’s going to be physical. There are going to be some things that don’t take place that you get at home that take place on the road and you got to be able to fight through some adversity and we didn’t and got down early. It was an uphill battle in the second half. We cut it to maybe 14, 16 – 14 points, with the basketball and we still had some bad turnovers too, so it’s a lesson learned for our players and this is the big stage.

As I told some of our guys, some of our guys had a little stage fright going into it…

… I just think nerves. Not necessarily fright, but I just think nerves, but we came out. I thought we came out and our defense I thought was pretty good, but we didn’t, I didn’t think we were very efficient from a scoring stand point in terms of spacing the floor, because they packed their defense in there. I think, I just think that we had good ball movement, we had … like I said, when you get 8 assists in a game of this magnitude… We had opportunities to score at the basket and whether they blocked it or we misses layups, that really gets you, and so if you’re trying to mount comebacks it’s hard to do that.

Phil Elson: Every shot that the Razorbacks took was defended and you couldn’t really even get many three-point attempts up today, so I mean even the easy baskets like you’re saying were not made and every basket that they ended up making looked like it was a contested shot or a double contested shot. I think you put the nail on the head there, you’ve got to tip your cap to Minnesota. They played a great defensive game.

Mike Anderson: Well they did. They did. I thought they were the more physical team. I think it was evident in this particular game. They did a lot of ball screening, which we knew was going to take place. It just seemed like our rotation was off just by a hair and but you can’t do that against good teams. There were times in the first half where we actually had rebounds in our hands and they would just it out of our hands and just score.

That can’t take place on the road, but Minnesota’s got a good team. Rich has got a good team. They were prepared to play and I guess I didn’t do a good job of getting our guys prepared, but we’re going to learn from this. I think this to me is a learning game. This is the first road game for a guy like [Jaylen] Barford, a guy like [Daryl] Macon, even Arlando Cook, Dustin Thomas, this is their first time. Seven guys have never been on the road in a big time atmosphere and but again let’s give Minnesota some credit.

We got to learn from it. Our anchors, our guys that are coming back from last year, those guys got to be leading the charge. Moses, Dustin, Dusty Hannahs, those guys got to step up. Anton Beard, I thought he gave us something off the bench…

07 Nov

What Was Happening in Arkansas the Last Time Chicago Cubs Won It All?

The last time before  2016 , that is.

 

Before last week it had been a long time since the erstwhile ne’er-do-well Chicago Cubs won it all.

One hundred and eight years, to be exact. Yes, that really is a long time, as we’ve been repeatedly reminded in numerous articles, blog posts and during the Fox broadcast of Wednesday night’s Game 7 itself.

So long, in fact, that when the Cubs last won the World Series on October 14, 1908, World War I had not yet erupted, a sultan ruled the Ottoman Empire and Russia had an emperor. Babe Ruth was only 13 years old and Henry Ford had just finished his first Model T car.

But what was happening in Arkansas that October day in 1908?

Turns out a lot, actually. Residents in more baseball-crazy parts of the state were following the series’ last game. Thanks to an Arkansas Gazette brief, we know in several different parts of Pine Bluff, for instance, fans eagerly awaited inning-by-inning updates by telegraph.

But the bigger news belonged to the third annual State Fair, then winding down in Hot Springs. There, in the midst of  a reunion of Confederate and Union soldiers America’s first heavyweight champion of gloved boxing gave an impromptu speech to the veterans. The 50-year-old John L. Sullivan “admitted that he was now living in the memories of a past day of fighting,” according to the Gazette.

John L. Sullivan

Ol’ John L. in bare-knuckled    days.

“50 per cent better than that of last year”

The fair included a statewide agricultural exhibit. An Arkansas Democrat writer reported:  “Washington County has a rare exhibit of apples which occupies an imposing amount of space. Elberts peaches from Sevier County delight the eye and the fruit from Baxter makes a fine appearance. The magnitude of the growing rice industry is strikingly shown by exhibits from the heart of the rice growing counties of Arkansas, Prairie and Lonoke.

The horticultural exhibit is estimated by Mr. Manville to be 50 percent better than last year… In the live stock department the improvement over the exhibits of last year is calculated to be at least 20 percent…”

Southern Sympathies

When it came to the Confederate veterans traveling from Hot Springs to Little Rock, the Arkansas Democrat wasn’t shy about laying out its sympathies for Dixie.

“Little Rock today welcomes the veterans who wore the gray in the sanguinary days of the sixties [1860s]. The number is dwindling to a handful, and there is more of silver in locks once raven.

The steps have less of the elasticity that once marked them but their hearts are as warm with the chivalry of the Old South, and best as true to the dictates of loyalty to home and loyalty as ever.

It is a benign mission laid upon the shoulders of the new generation to make the path of the veterans as free from thorns as possible.”

Today, Arkansas is one of a handful of states to celebrate an annual holiday celebrating the Confederate general Robert E. Lee. That day, January 19, falls on the same day as Martin Luther King Day. “Proposals to end the joint holiday failed multiple times before a House committee last year after opponents said the separation would belittle Southern heritage,” according to a 2016 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article.

Democrat-Gazette opinion writers regularly pay tribute to Robert E. Lee around January 19.

Folks were going “autoing”

Decades before the construction of the interstate system and invention of more efficient car engines, driving across the state wasn’t exactly what we moderns would call “snappy.”

Helena

Just your normal half-a-day drive from LR to Helena (Arkansas Democrat).

In southwest Arkansas’ Montgomery County, the big news involved a new A.L. Clark Lumber Company sawmill

(Nashville News)

 (Nashville News)

… and word that a $171.50 artesian well would be going up on Nashville’s Main Street

(Nashville News)

(Nashville News)

Last thing: Advertisements circa 1908 could be strange. And a tad misleading, too:

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-1-08-15-pm

(Arkansas Democrat)


For more Arkansas pro baseball history, read our piece on Dizzy Dean and Satchel Paige.