An SEC Fanbase Has it Out for Musselman, and It’s Not The One You’d Think

Eric Musselman, Arkansas basketball, Missouri basketball
photo credit: Nick Wenger

The term “Napoleon complex” is not an actual scientific, psychiatric evaluation. No one in medicine is using it. But like every colloquialism and cliche, it exists for a reason: sometime, somewhere, enough evidence – anecdotal or otherwise – was presented to create a generalization.

Now, I’m no doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but our good friends to the north, those Missouri Tigers (or, rather, the fans of the Missouri Tigers, to be more precise) are sufferers. They have, by all appearances, a Napoleon complex.

In the latest and most bizarre example, let’s take a look at the NBA Draft on Thursday.

In this neck of the woods, finding a hardcore college basketball fan who is as big a fan of the NBA is relatively rare. Sure, they exist. But people are more passionate about their Razorbacks and their Tigers than they are, say, the Oklahoma City Thunder or Dallas Mavericks or…actually, what the heck NBA team do people in central Missouri root for, anyway? 

So, when college fans watch the NBA Draft, they’re sometimes mistaken on how large an effect their favorite school had on a particular player’s pro chances. These aren’t the old days, mind you, when the molding was greater. Nowadays, rare is the man who spends three or more years in college and goes to an NBA roster. 

Missouri Basketball Fans Go After Musselman

Strange, then, what occurred from some Mizzou faithful on (everyone’s favorite social media platform!) Twitter. They found it oh so funny that former Arkansas guard Nick Smith Jr. was taken with the No. 27 pick.

See, Smith was once projected to be a possible No. 3 selection. A knee injury limited him to just about a third of the Razorbacks’ games last season and when he was on the court, he was good, just not game-changing great. Nevermind that Smith was still a first-rounder taken three spots ahead of Missouri’s Kobe Brown, who wasn’t even the first Kobe taken. And nevermind that Anthony Black was the No. 6 pick, too. The Tigers fans wanted them some schadenfreude. Mostly they took it out on Arkansas coach Eric Musselman.

But why? What in the world did Muss do to Missouri? Nothing that should deem the outcries. Alabama. Tennessee. Kentucky. They have reasons to rag on Musselman. Arkansas has real rivalries, real histories with those teams. But Mizzou? Let’s examine, anyway.

Examining Missouri’s Beef with Arkansas Basketball

First, maybe they’re upset Eric Musselman is 6-3 against the Tigers since he arrived at Arkansas in the 2019-20 season. Missouri hasn’t exactly been dynamite in that span, with two losing seasons alongside two NCAA Tournament appearances. 

Mizzou might have been the better team last year during the regular season, but it also lost in the second round of the Dance. Arkansas didn’t. That doesn’t seem like enough, though. Missouri has lost to lots of teams in the last four years, some even more consistently than it has to Arkansas. It must be something else.

Perhaps the animosity is a residual from the Mike Anderson days. Anderson coached the Tigers for five seasons in the 2000s and took the TIgers to three straight NCAA Tournaments in his final three years. One of those included an Elite Eight run, something the school hasn’t accomplished since. Of course, when Anderson split after those five years he ended up in Arkansas. 

Maybe it’s Connor Vanover. By all accounts Vanover is a good dude and his two seasons with Arkansas were not without some high-quality minutes, especially in his first year.

But the 7-foot-3 Natural State native saw he wasn’t going to be a big part of Arkansas’ plans last year, so he transferred to Oral Roberts. Vanover was the team’s second best player in 2022-23 and when he hit the transfer portal again, his game was deemed worthy enough to re-enter the SEC. And where did Vanover end up? Missouri. In other words, Mizzou is actively recruiting Arkansas cast-offs, whereas the Tigers’ best players are heading to Fayetteville. Hello, Trevon Brazile.

That’s three straight anecdotes about Missouri simply being second-tier to the Razorbacks. So, ya know, maybe it does make sense.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Jimmy Whitt. A Columbia native who turned down his hometown school to head to Arkansas. Whitt played one season with the Hogs and was good, but opted to head to Southern Methodist where he played the next three years and, like Vanover, re-earning some SEC cred. But instead of heading to Missouri to finish his college career back home, he again spurned the Tigers for Arkansas, finishing his career with Musselman at Bud Walton Arena.

Huh. What do you know? Turns out, Fayetteville is Elba.

Eric Musselman vs Missouri Basketball

StatEric Musselman at ArkansasMissouri Since 2019-20
Head-to-Head Wins63
NBA Draft Picks61
NCAAT Appearances31
NCAAT Wins81


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