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.

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. 

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…

26 Feb

Mike Anderson On One of the Strangest Box Scores in SEC History

Portis' three blocks contributed to a stat line funkification you won't believe.

Portis’ three blocks contributed to a stat line funkification you won’t believe. (courtesy Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.)

Arkansas assistant coach Matt Zimmerman couldn’t believe it.

As ushers swept the seats of a cavernous Bud Walton Arena behind him, he sat courtside, looking down at the box score of a game that had just finished. It wasn’t the 81-75 final score that surprised him. These days, it seems, his No. 18 Hogs go into every game legitimately expecting to win. No, it was the way in which Arkansas had sewn up its seventh straight win.

On this bitter cold night, Texas A & M had outrebounded Arkansas 44 to 23. In the Razorbacks’ 40 Minutes of Hell style, getting out rebounded happens. Usually not by this much, but it happens.

The weird part?

While giving up so many boards – a stat stronger, bigger and more athletic teams usually win – Arkansas somehow also held a 12 to 0 advantage in block shots. Which is, of course, a stat that also usually goes to the taller, more athletic team. In this game, Alandise Harris likely had the defensive game of his year, chipping in four blocked shots, while Moses Kingsley and Bobby Portis added three swats each. Yet the fact that not a single Aggie touched an Arkansas shot attempt is a testament to the Hogs’ discipline and shot selection on offense.

Matt Zimmerman couldn’t recall such an unlikely disparity in his decades of coaching. Same goes for his boss Mike Anderson. “I’ve had some teams that have gotten out-rebounded by about 20, yeah, and [still] win the game” the head coach said.  “On a of lot of those rebounds [the Aggies] would shoot it and go back and get it, shoot it and go back and get it. But we’ve got to correct that. To have 12 blocked shots and for them to have zero, that tells me our guys were pretty accurate. And in the first half we were blocking those shots and we were coming up with them, we were heading down the other end on the fast break. So, to do that against a team like Texas A&M – that tells me we are getting better.”

So, has anything like this ever happened before? 

It’s very rare. I have confirmed Arkansas has pulled off the only -20 or more rebound/+10 or more block disparity in a Division I game this season. But, thanks to a tip from HogStats.com, it appears one Razorback team did something similar on December 11, 1990. In that game, a 10-point Arkansas win, Hogs center Oliver Miller went off for nine blocks and the team tallied 15 in all, according to separate records found by the HogStats editor.

Yet perhaps Miller was too hungry for a record-setting block night to corral many defensive rebounds, because South Alabama out-rebounded Arkansas 60-34 (Miller finished with seven total rebounds). We don’t know how many blocks South Alabama got this game (team blocks aren’t recorded in that season’s media guide), but it’s likely the number was less than five. If anybody can find record of that stat, please let me know.

N.B. Anderson would have actually coached in this game, as an assistant under Nolan Richardson, but I won’t hold it against him for not being to recall this one specific time in the .60 seconds he had to respond to me.

Dear readers, do you recall any other crazily anomalous statistical disparity games in college basketball history?

22 Jan

Mike Anderson Explains Razorbacks’ Struggles to Fans: SEC Week 3

FullSizeRender-2

Entering tonight’s game against Alabama, the Razorback basketball program’s identity still isn’t set. In theory, its foundation is a tenacious defensive “40 Minutes of Hell” philosophy which is supposed to turn foes into whimpering newts. In reality, three weeks into the SEC conference season, the Hogs are a far more impressive offensive team while ranking at the bottom or near the bottom in multiple SEC defense categories.

The extent to which Arkansas can improve here – especially on the road – will determine how many fans believe head coach Mike Anderson has finally, unequivocally turned the program around.

With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to chart how Anderson himself monitors the progress – and lack thereof – of his team’s performances on a week-by-week basis. He provided the following insight early this week on his own show – Full Court Press with Mike Anderson:

Arkansas 69

@ Tennessee 74

“To me, it’s a lesson for our guys. You got to show up and play, no matter where you’re playing. You got to show up and play with energy, you got to show up and play with toughness, and you got to play together with teamwork.”

“I want us to be less predictable. I think we’re more predictable now, and I think that’s why teams are really attacking us. We got some time to get it right, and we will get it right.”

Hogs’ Conference Record: 2-1

Hogs’ Conference Road Record: 1-1


 Ole Miss 96

@ Arkansas 82

“Our defense has really, really, really got to get back on track as far as guarding people.”

“They played a lot of zone against us, and we hadn’t seen a lot of it, and they came out with the win.”

“Our guard players got to pick up defensively, our forward players got to pick up defensively, and I think just overall we’ve just got to be connected with our bench – which has been our strength. They didn’t have one of those particular nights that we really love.”

Hogs’ Conference Record: 2-2

Hogs’ Conference Road Record: 1-1

“We’re better than where we were last year, but we’re nowhere where we need to be as contenders,” Hog legend Corey Beck* told Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly. “We’ve still got a long, long way to go.”

*Whom the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective tongue-and-cheekily qualified as one of the NBA’s biggest partiers of all time (when taking into account FG% difference between Sunday games and all other games).

04 Dec

Mike Anderson Vs. Nolan Richardson: Comparing Their First 4 Years At Arkansas

nolan-mike far

For Razorback fans, the question never gets old: Will basketball coach Mike Anderson lift the program to the same levels reached by his mentor Nolan Richardson? Tonight’s game, on the road against No. 20 Iowa State, should provide the best start of an answer yet. The greatest Arkansas teams of the early to mid 1990s regularly defeated ranked non-conference teams away from home but that hasn’t happened since 1997*. But, so far, all signs point to this being the best Arkansas team since that era.

The most dramatic evidence is below. Look at this steady improvement through Anderson’s first four seasons in Fayetteville:

imageThe Razorbacks’ scalding shooting from the outside this season – 46% on three-pointers – has been a major reason for the boost in Effective FG % and True Shooting % (definitions below). That shooting helps space the floor and lead to a nation-leading assist rate. But the Razorbacks can’t rely on shooting at this clip in the kind of hostile environment the Cyclones’ Hilton Coliseum will present. So it’s important they get to the line and build an early lead.

Referee bias (conscious or not) toward the home college team makes it doubly difficult for visitors to play from behind or in a back-and-forth affair. “On the road especially you want to help keep the officiating out of it as much as you can,” Nolan Richardson said in a phone interview.

As always, defense fuels offense for a “40 Minutes of Hell”-style program. The below numbers show that while Arkansas is playing at a faster rate than ever in the Anderson era (78 possessions per 40 minutes vs. 72 in his first year), they are barely giving up more points. This is a credit to the lower rate at which they are fouling this year than the past two seasons (more experienced players) and fresher second-half legs generating turnovers at a higher clip (more depth).

image(1)It’s likely older Razorback stars like Bobby Portis, Rashad Madden and Michael Qualls will play well at Iowa State, where the Cyclones are 50-4 the last five years, Iowan-Arkansan sportswriter Nate Olson points out.  They proved they could deliver on the road last season and have played in similarly intense arenas like Kentucky’s.

The pivotal issue is how Arkansas’ three first-year guards – Anton Beard, Jabril Durham and Nick Babb – play. “You’re as good as your guards take you,” Richardson said. So far, all three have played their supporting roles well but they have played in only one game away from Bud Walton Arena. While often what’s needed is a timely, clutch three in the vein of Scotty Thurman, this year the right play may simply be avoiding a turnover and making a timely entry pass to Portis. Last year, “we got discombobulated in the final few minutes of games,” Portis told USA Today, recalling seven losses in ten road games. “Are we going to finish teams off? That’s the biggest question.”

To me, North Little Rock native Anton Beard is the most important of the three young guards. Perhaps I’m simply biased,  as I have followed him closely since he was a freshman in high school and seen many of his games at Parkview High and North Little Rock.  He’s a champion, point blank, winning three state titles in four years. Point guards simply don’t start for Parkview coach Al Flanigan as freshmen. He’s the only one who has, and that season I watched him lead his team to a victory at Hall High School in the middle of its four-year run of consecutive state championships.

So far, Beard the collegian freshman has played the role of a scrappy, clutch shooter (46.2% on threes) off the bench who has a not-stellar 1.2 assists-to 1 turnover ratio. “Beard is moving in a pretty good direction,” Richardson said. “For the Razorbacks to be where they got to be, his game has got to improve.” Beard is fairly stocky, but Richardson says he (and all other current Razorback guards) don’t compare in the physical toughness department to Corey Beck, the point guard of his ’94 title team. “Beck was an animal.”

Perhaps the most apt comparison for Beard, at this point, is Arlyn Bowers who ended up pairing with Lee Mayberry as guards in Arkansas’ 1990 Final Four run. Two years before that, Bowers and Mayberry were just starting out as freshmen in Nolan Richardson’s fourth year as head coach.

Just six games into Year 4, it’s difficult to conduct a thorough comparison of Nolan Richardson and Mike Anderson as Razorback head coaches. Obviously, the jury’s still out on Anderson. But the sample size is large enough now to at least take a look:

image(2)[Most conferences didn’t adopt the three-point shot until 1986-87. So 1985-86 Effective FG % stats reflect two-point field goal percentage only.]

image(3)Comparing these numbers with the last four seasons,  we see Anderson’s teams have improved at more steady clip, year by year, in most categories. And from an overall statistical standpoint, Anderson’s Year 4 is significantly more impressive so far than Nolan’s.

But it’s important to note that Nolan’s Year 3 team finished 11-5 in conference vs. the 10-8 record Mike’s Year 3 team had. Nolan made the tournament in 1987-88 (losing in the first round to Villanova) whereas Mike hasn’t yet. In Year 4, Nolan got a massive injection of talent when Bowers and Mayberry arrived, along with fellow freshmen Todd Day and Oliver Miller. Their play paid immediate dividends, and the Hogs ultimately finished 13-3 in conference and 25-7 overall. They lost in the 1989 NCAA Tournament’s second round.

We’ll see if Mike’s Year 4 team keeps pace. A win tonight certainly certainly helps toward that end.

* November 29, 1997 was the last time Arkansas beat a ranked team on a neutral court in pre-conference play. Arkansas beat No. 17 Fresno State in Phoenix. And December 6, 1992 was the last time the program scored such a win on the road. The Hogs beat No. 9 Arizona in Tucson, AZ.  Mike Bibby was 14 years old.

** Using data from six of Hogs’ first seven games in 1988-89 (Box score from Game No. 5 not available at HogStats.com).PS: Partial season data not available for Turnovers Forced Per Game, so this stat instead reflects per-game average from entire 1988-89 season.


Effective Field Goal % adds weight to three-point shots. Formula: (FGM + (0.5 x 3PM))/FGA

True Shooting % is similar, but also factors in free throws. Formula: Pts/(2*(FGA + (.44*FTA)))

19 Aug

Nolan Richardson’s Official HOF Enshrinement Program Profile Part 2

As far as I know, this is the only version of the 4-page thing available online. Here’s the first half. Below’s the second:

Good times all around.

Good times all around.

[Below is text not entirely visible in the above and below sections]:

He coached five seasons at Tulsa, going 119-37 for a searing .763 winning percentage. But every great character in American literature faces adversity … faces heartbreak. And so it was for Nolan Richardson.

“It was Monday, right after the NCAA pairings were released (in 1985) and we thought our daughter Yvonne was sick with the flu,” he said. “We were getting ready to play UTEP in the NCAA Tournament…

wpid-20140813_102818.jpg

wpid-20140813_103611.jpg

wpid-20140813_102842.jpg

27 Mar

Is Mike Anderson On Track To Fulfill Potential as Nolan’s Heir Apparent? Part 2

Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.

Will Anderson become a giant in his own right? Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.

Modern society promotes instant results, and the impression they are always possible no matter the field. This mirage causes much stress in the world of college coaches, where in order for most new hires to build winning programs, a number of foundational changes must first be made – from making sure the players attend class and do their own tests, to recruiting guys who fit a particular style of play, to convincing a  super-talented player it’s worth staying for a sophomore or junior season before bolting to the NBA.

Waiting for all these changes can especially be tough on fans of a program that has already been to the promised land. Especially when the coach who led the program there has an heir apparent who takes over for him. Everybody hopes – against reason – the successor will equal or surpass the mentor.

For the sake of perspective in these situations, it’s good to compare actual season-by-season results. In Part 1, we looked at how Mike Anderson’s first two seasons at Arkansas stacked up against his mentor Nolan Richardson’s first two seasons there. So far, Anderson comes out ahead.

How does this combo compare to other “legend-successor” duos around the nation? I’m especially interested in programs which, like Arkansas, have only won one or two titles. I’ve thrown the UCLAs, Kentuckys and Dukes out because those programs are quite frankly at another level in terms of branding and ability to recruit.

Below are the programs I consider most similar to Arkansas in terms of prestige. We’ll start with a legend-successor duo involving Eddie Sutton, the coach who preceded Nolan Richardson at Arkansas. If Sutton hadn’t left Arkansas for Kentucky in 1985, Richardson and Anderson likely never coach the Razorbacks. We’ll also see that Anderson’s first two seasons stack up well against Tom Izzo’s head coaching start at Michigan State.

Izzo is the only coaching disciple in the list who has actually outperformed his mentor.

Oklahoma State

LEGEND

Hank Iba (1934-1970)

1934-35: 9-9

1935-36: 16-8

SUCCESSOR

Eddie Sutton (player 1955-57; assistant 1957-58; head coach 1990-2006)

1990-91: 24-8, 10-4; Lost in NCAA tourney 3rd round

SRS*: 21.18

1992-93: 28-8 (overall season record), 8-6 (conference record)

SRS: 21.52; Lost in NCAA tourney 3rd round

* Simple Rating System – a rating from sports-reference.com that takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule. The higher the number, the better the team.

Read More

26 Mar

Is Mike Anderson On Track To Fulfill His Potential As Nolan Richardson’s Heir Apparent? Part 1

 

In the end, only the head coach will be blamed.

Yes, this season, guard  B.J. Young at times resembled an over-caffeinated rickshaw driver careening into dense traffic without the slightest intention of bringing anyone aboard. Sure, last offseason the accuracy of Mardracus Wade’s three-point shot apparently learned how to ski downhill. And yes, Marshawn Powell at times mightily struggled with free throw shooting. Especially in the 7-15 clunker he threw up two weeks ago in a 72-75 loss to Vanderbilt.

It was the Hogs’ fifth consecutive opening game game loss in the SEC Tournament, marking the fifth consecutive year Arkansas missed out on the NCAA Tournament and the 16th straight season without an NIT Tournament berth.

It no longer matters how Arkansas entered this pit of gloom. All fans want to know is how quickly the program will get out of it. And, more importantly, how quickly the program will get back to the top.

Three years from now, fans won’t get hung up on any one player’s lack of court vision or another player’s season of erratic shooting. The fans won’t even care if the Hogs win a few more games in the SEC Tournament and annually start playing in a round or two of an NCAA Tournament.

They will be looking at the big picture.

In 17 years as an assistant under Nolan Richardson, Mike Anderson learned how to build programs that could consistently beat the nation’s best teams – on any court. He learned what kind of talent and basketball IQ is necessary to build a program that can make three Final Fours, what kind of cold-blooded killer instinct it takes to win a title.

How well Anderson applies these lessons and how close he gets to achieving the benchmarks of success that Richardson set will ultimately determine Anderson’s legacy. Will he always be seen as Richardson’s chief lieutenant/heir apparent, or will he be seen as a giant in his own right?

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