Ask Mike: An Incredible Run for Hog Hoops; The Muss Bus Isn’t Going Anywhere

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Q. Our first question comes from Eddy Lynn who asks: Do you think Arkansas was overmatched against Baylor?

A. Overmatched in terms of experience. Baylor is a junior/senior oriented team with just one sophomore and one freshmen who contributed in that game. Arkansas was mix of two grad transfers, two juniors and three freshmen. Upperclassmen scored just under 80% of Baylor’s points. Upperclassmen scored 68% of Arkansas’ points. Baylor got 8 points out of their freshman. Arkansas’ freshmen scored 33 points.

Also Baylor had four players last night with previous NCAA Tournament experience from 2019. Arkansas had one.

The good news is Arkansas will have five players back next season with NCAA Tournament experience and maybe more depending on what develops with grad transfers in recruiting.

It was an unexpected run in the tournament. Fans are back into Hogball the way they were under Eddie and Nolan and a new generation of fans now know what it’s like when Arkansas basketball is dancing deep into the tournament.

Q. T.L. $laten (Slaten) wants to know: Did Moses Moody hurt Arkansas’ chances to go to the Final Four and what do you think about one and done players?

A. There was a lot of discussion about that on social media last night and most of it, I think, was fair. Moody scored 11 points in the game. His season average was 17. So if he scored 17 Arkansas still loses the game. A lot of fans were hoping, because he’s believed to be a one and done, that he would go crazy. Score 30 points or whatever. It didn’t happen maybe because he was percieved to be Arkansas’ best player by opposing coaches who targeted him in the tournament. That opened to door for other guards like Jalen Tate, Devo Davis, and JD Notae who stepped up.
Is Moody one and done? I think so. Did he hurt his draft position? Maybe a little bit. He’s still likely to get $10-15 million very soon. Who would turn that down?

What do I think of one and done? I wish the NBA would adopt the NFL model and leave players alone until after their junior seasons. Drafted players would be in much better position to help their teams immediately. Less player development would be needed. I hope Moses has a long NBA career but his chances to play 10 years there would go up with more player development now. But it’s not going to change. We’re stuck with it.

Q. GrandyHog says: Compare Justin Smith and Corliss Williamson. They seem to have similar roles.

A. They do have similar roles but the difference is Corliss had Darnell Robinson and Lee Wilson inside with him. Two legitimate fives who rotated in and out. Corliss was more of a scorer than Smith but Smith has upped his points per game in the NCAA tournament. Like Corliss, Smith is a physical rebounder capable of pulling down double digit boards in a game. Corliss was more of a shot blocker than Smith is but a comparison is valid .

Q. austin.hogfan asks: Have you ever seen an Arkansas team in any sport have this kind of success with almost a completely new team as our basketball team under coach Muss? The ability to bring in freshman and grad transfers together and use just the right mix against the opponent has far exceeded expectations!

A. No, and it’s incredible. This was an interesting mix between those freshman and the grad transfers. They developed some really good chemistry. Justin Smith, a fifth year senior, had a clear bond with Jaylin Williams, a true freshman. JalenTate, a fifth year guy, keeps the two freshmen guards, Moses Moody and Devo Davis, grounded and lifted them up with they had their ups and downs. Also keep in mnd that Tate was the only player on this team that had NCAA Tournament experience going in. Usually teams going this deep are built around NCAA Tournament veterans. Fans will be talking about this team for a long time and it looks like coach Muss may be just getting started. What a hire by Hunter Yurachek.

Q. hobhog says: Hopefully we have to wait a few more weeks to have coach Muss and HY talk contract updating. I’m guessing we will throw the bank at him. How high do you think we go and will it be more than what we pay coach Pitt?

A. I don’t think it’s going to take a few more weeks. I think it will be done soon and I think we’ll see Musselman go above Pittman’s salary of $3 million a year. I also think Pittman will be fine with it. He’s not an ego guy. He loves the other sports and coaches on campus. All of them are friends. keep in mind that coach Muss is already collecting bonuses for reaching the NCAA Tournament, making the round of 32. Getting to the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight. I don’t know how much his base salary will go up go but I think Musselman already has a good idea of the dollar figure. He and Hunter Yurachek are very close.

Q. whippersnapper wants to know: What do you think it would be like to watch this tournament run with Coach Richardson? Any chance you can sneak a camera and microphone to his house for commentary? Just kidding. I know he is a big fan of the team and Muss.

A. You’re right, because of COVID that can’t happen but was an interesting idea. I can tell you what if you be like. We’d learn a lot about basketball. We’d hear a lot of really funny stories from the 80’s & 90’s and I promise you, at least once Nolan would say something that would make you go….”Hummm. I never thought of that.” He’s got a unique way of looking at basketball and life.

Q Inhogswetrust asks: How do you think this men’s basketball teams talent compares to some of the other better teams we’ve had?

A. Maybe not as much talent as the 94-95 teams. Comparable to the 1990 Final Four team and the ’78 team. The difference is experience. No Arkansas basketball team has gone this far in the tournament depending on this many freshmen. But this is easily the best overall talent of any non Final Four team Arkansas has had.

Q.PorkSoda want to know: Outside of Bumper Pool and Grant Morgan, who do you think will step up at LB?

A. Hayden Henry is being counted on a lot as a backup middle linebacker. He’s a fifth year senior. Dion Edwards is another senior linebacker at the Will position. Andrew Parker is a 4th year junior at Mike Linebacker. Levi Draper is a 4 star transfer from Oklahoma who got hurt last year and didn’t play. The young man is huge. Zach Zemos is a big and talented third year sophomore.

Q. Porked Tongue asks: When the restrictions are lifted, do you expect the same amount of access to “all things hogs” when it opens up? Like face to face interviews and a lot less virtual?

A. That’s a good question and all of us in the media are waiting to see what happens. On the one hand, it’s easier and more efficient to do these Zoom interviews. We don’t have to take cameras over to the University, park and walk into the athletic facilities. Saves us a lot of time. But I don’t know of anybody in the media that wants this to continue. You miss something without face to face contact with the players and coaches. So I hope these Zooms go away starting next fall.

Q:Snout team says: We’ve had great success in Basketball this year. It seems we are doing the same in baseball. What win/loss record would it take for the average fan to feel the same about football this season. In your opinion what has to happen for that to be possible?

A. It would take a lot. Maybe 9 wins with a 5-3 conference record. That would get them into the top 20. Maybe the top 15 with a good bowl game. Probably not going to happen. Maybe in two or three seasons. Not next fall.

Q. redleg want to know: What will it take for Coach Musselman and his staff to keep the best in-state talent from going elsewhere, especially to other SEC schools to help them beat the Hogs? I would think that a deep run in the NCAA Tourney and Moody being a freshman lottery pick would help!

A. That had not been an issue so far with Musselman. He has stopped that trend of the best in-state player going to Kentucky or Florida or Ohio State. This year’s class of Moody, Devo Davis, Jaylin Williams and the injured K.K Robinson, who will be back next year, says all you need to know about his in-state recruiting. However, this season’s success and the tournament run will help both in-state and in other states. Also with grad transfers.

Q. Lem Branch Cheshir asks: Did the Diamond Hogs sweep of Mississippi State surprise you?

A. Absolutely. I thought they had a shot at winning two but figured Mississippi State would win the series. Going in, Arkansas’ team batting average was down to .266. The ‘Dogs had one of the better bullpens in the SEC and least, so far, a good starting rotation. I could see the Hogs getting outscored 3-2, 2-1 with the way they were hitting.

So what did we get? 30 hits in three games, 12 home runs and Arkansas ourscored Mississippi State 25-11. If you listened to the announcers, which I think was a Mississippi State crew, they kept saying about their pitchers, “Well this guy has an ERA of zero” or “This guy hasn’t allowed a runner on base to score all season.” And Arkansas would proceed to knock the guy out of the game.

In at least one poll Arkansas has been ranked number one for a month. The Hogs have the best record in the sec at 19-3. They are second in conference standings at 5-1 behind Ole Miss who has played the bottom two teams in the West whereas the Hogs have already gone on the road and swept the No. 3 team in the country. They’re off to a great start.

Q. Lanny says: Talk about Jalen Tate. His post game interview was heartfelt and you could feel the pain and appreciation he had for Musselman and Arkansas.

A. To me it’s what sports is all about. Regardless of wins and losses, to me, athletics is supposed to grow you up as a person. Prepare you for life which, believe me, is a lot like being on a sports team. You learn that it’s not always about you. That you have to sacrifice for the team. In your job you will have to do that. You will have to mentor younger co-workers just like younger players on a team. I learned so much that has helped me as an adult from participating in sports growing up. Jalen gets that. It’s what he was talking about when he mentioned taking a chance on transfering to another school and having faith in his new coach and teammates. It’s a great story.

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