Q. Our first question this week comes from @mousetown on Twitter. He asks: How do you explain this turnaround by the basketball team? Comparing them to how they played at A&M and how they competed at LSU, it makes no sense.
A. I think it makes sense. Muss has turned this team around in January of the previous two seasons. Two years ago it was late January. Last year it was early January. Looks like it’s gonna be mid January this time.
I realize that back-to-back wins don’t mean this team is headed deep into the NCAA tournament again but beating LSU in Baton Rouge shows that the Missouri win wasn’t a fluke.
So how did it happen? A lineup change featuring a bigger team with three forwards, and two guards instead of the other way around. Playing Trey Wade and Kamani Johnson more against Missouri triggered something with the rest of the guys. Jaylin Williams in particular. He’s had two great games. But Devo is playing better. Notae looks better. Stanley Umude and Au’Diese Toney were already starting to come around. The new look gives a bigger role to each of them.
The real difference is defense. They just smothered Missouri, holding the Tigers to 15 points in the first half. That was impressive but not as impressive as holding LSU to just two points in the final nine minutes of that game. The interior defense was amazing.
Moving forward, more good news. The schedule favors Arkansas. They have winnable games at home against South Carolina and Texas A&M this week. They go on the road to Ole Miss and Georgia. From 0-3 in the SEC Arkansas could end up 6-3 after those games. Also they only play Alabama, Auburn and Kentucky once. Auburn and Kentucky have to come to Bud Walton.
So if they keep playing this kind of defense and work hard to cut down on turnovers who knows where they could end up?
Q. Razorback Redneck says: That was a great win against LSU and kudos to Keith Smart for the coaching job he did filling in for coach Muss. But I hope we don’t get a lot of yahoos saying we should trade Muss for Smart.
A. You’re going to read just about anything on the Internet but there might have been a lot of that had Arkansas lost to Missouri at home. But the turnaround we’re seeing had already started before Musselman turned it over to Keith Smart so he could have shoulder surgery. Smart said he consulted with Musselman constantly. The game plan did not change. But he also said that once the game started Musselman told him, You have to manage the game your way. I do think that if Smart wants a head coaching job he probably just got himself one. But I have no idea what his plans are after this season. His main focus is South Carolina at Bud Walton Tuesday night at 6pm.
Q. TeamOTIS says: It seems like Eric Musselman is not taking enough responsibility for the team’s recent losses when there are clearly coaching flaws including lineups/rotations, refusal to call timeouts when getting buried, and sitting centers and then getting out rebounded the whole half.
A. This was posted before the last two wins and I included it not to embarrass teamOTIS but to show that while it might not have seemed like Musselman was taking responsibility, clearly he was well aware of these issues and took steps to correct them including changing the lineup and the rotations. As I’ve already pointed out he went big not just to rebound better but to improve the interior defense.
After the A&M loss I saw some posts on social media speculating that Musselman could be gone at the end of the season. These aren’t rational reactions. He was never going to be gone no matter what happened the rest of the season. I realize that we all live in the moment but the moment is constantly changing. This is why I almost never tweet anything during a game. You can end up looking really clueless.
Q. Eddy Lynn says: It sure was fun to watch Will Wade boil over during the game. He looked like a little kid who got his popsicle taken away.
A. Some fan, who was clearly a lip reader, edited together video of his rants during the game and added in what sounded like a little kid’s voice. It was hilarious.
I think most Arkansas don’t like Wade because the FBI caught him on a wire tape admitting that he paid players to come to LSU and nothing has been done about it. To me that says as much about LSU’s athletic department and its school administrators as it does about Wade. How does he still have a job?
Q: Errr-uh-wood says: At the end of every year season ticket holders are given an end of season survey. A GREAT NUMBER of us consistently say DITCH THE DJ & THE PIPED IN MUSIC!!! WE WANT MORE OF THE BAND AND CHEERLEADERS! Yet we seem to be ignored. This Jeff Long effect is KILLING the environment at Razorback events!
A. We got a similar question about this last week. I’m hearing it more and more from fans I run into. The Jeff Long effect is a perfect term for it because it started under him. A lot of tradition that started at Barnhill Arena and carried over to Bud Walton was just tossed.
Pregame, halftime and in-game timeouts used to be about keeping the fans at a fever pitch. These days it’s like, during this boring time out we have to entertain the fans so let’s get creative. A lot of fans are saying the game is the entertainment. Winning is the entertainment.
Q. Mark Anderson wants to know: Who is making all these decisions at Bud Walton? Every time I go there is some new dumb thing. The Bud used to be unique and feared and now we just do all the same hokey things everyone else does. Video game sounds, a DJ, some guy screaming at us on a microphone, It’s embarrassing.
Q: But Jason tweets: It’s like that everywhere. Even Cameron Indoor at Duke has a DJ and announcer walking around.
A.Depending on who you are that’s either good or bad. Some fans seem to like the idea that they are being entertained during time outs. Others complain that Bud Walton is getting too much like other arenas. It used to be unique. Not so much these days.
Q. Aaron Jones says: I wish the band still played. Watching on tv, you never hear them. I heard the fight song a total of zero times the other night. Had to text my friend at the game if the band is even attending. Atmosphere, regardless of team, 10,000x better in the 90s.
A. The band does still play but its impact on the game atmosphere is not even close to what it used to be. A lot of fans say that this is a college sports event so as much as possible students should be a part of the process. Plus, to them, live music beats recorded music at games.
Q. Not everyone agrees with this. Nate tweeted out this reaction to the complaints: Old man yelling at clouds.
A. It would be interesting to see what percentage of these complaints are coming from older fans who remember Barnhill and Bud Walton in the early days. What percentage of say, fans under 40 care about this? Do fans in their 20’s like the DJ and french fries contests?
As err uh wood stated, he gets a survey from the athletic department at the end up every season. What do to the results of that survey look like?
I don’t think we’re gonna find out but maybe I’m wrong.
Q. To some football questions. Razorback wants to know: Recruiting wise, can Arkansas compete with Alabama, Georgia, A&M, Texas, LSU and Oklahoma?
A. In other words the expanded SEC that’s coming in a few years.
It’ll be interesting to see. I’ve always said that the right head coach with the right staff could recruit much better than Arkansas fans are used to. Frank Boyles and his staff did it in the 60’s and came real close to winning three national titles instead of just one.
A whole staff of assistants that can recruit and a head coach who can close the deal is the key. That describes the current situation. I would not be surprised to see Arkansas approach the top 10 in recruiting in the 2023 class.
Q: BaconTheSaddleAgain says The football Hogs finished with 4 losses, three to top 11 schools and two by a combined 8 points in road losses to Ole Miss and Alabama. Are the Razorbacks closer than we think to competing at the highest levels of college football, or deceptively further away than the scores indicate?
A. I don’t think they’re farther away or that last season was somewhat deceptive. The question to me is how fast to they move up from where they are? With all that they have coming back and the ability of this staff to coach, Arkansas could indeed be ready take the next step. Alabama is in Fayetteville next season as is Ole Miss. Can they beat A&M two years running?
This off season is critical. Grant Morgan told us last summer that he’d never see the kind of complete buy in from the players in the off season that he was seeing. He wasn’t just blowing smoke.
They have to keep that same approach. There will be few super seniors to make it happen but maybe Morgan and the others have left a legacy that will stick.
Q. Alex4Hogs88 asks: On a scale of 1-10 how worried should we be about Kendal Briles going to Miami as their OC? Starting to get a little antsy the longer that position remains open. Would hate to lose him but definitely trust the Pitt Boss for naming the replacement if necessary.
A. Miami just hired a new running backs coach away from Ole Miss. From what I’ve read running the ball will be a priority for the team under their new head coach. As far as I know the quarterbacks position is still unfilled and until it is I guess these rumors will continue. I’ll just say what I said last week when we got this question. No news is good news when it comes to Briles.
Q. Portal questions and comments continue from last week. oldhawg says: When a coach leaves for another team there is a buyout. When a player voluntarily enters the portal (say, Mike Woods last year) and signs with another team, should the gaining team have to pay compensation (maybe one scholarship) to the losing team?
A. A very interesting suggestion but you do understand that this would apply to Arkansas when they’re bringing in players out of the portal. This year, with LSU, it would be a wash. Two Razorbacks left for LSU and Arkansas took two from LSU. This also doesn’t account for the fact that most of Arkansas players who transferred out were basically encouraged to leave. If their school of destination had to give scholarships back to Arkansas that school might not take them.
Q. Mike_e has another suggestion. He says: How big of an uproar would it cause if the NCAA were to require that any school that accepted a player from the portal be required to keep them for at least two years and if they didn’t for any reason they would lose that schollie until the two years were up.
A. This is another interesting idea and it would be done to protect athletes from jumping to another school only to learn later on that that the coaches at that school have decided that they don’t want them. I think most fans would probably take the position that if you leave for what you think is a better situation and it doesn’t turn out to be better, that’s your tough luck.
Q: Referring to last week’s freak out over Arkansas losing two starters to LSU in the portal, Slobberslob says sarcastically: A pair of 5 stars, a couple of 4 stars, everyone is right, the portal is killing us! How are we going to survive this kind of success?
A. That was the point I tried to make last week. Without being specific Same Pittman predicted this before the bowl game indicating that when it was all said and done he expected Arkansas to do very well in the portal. This week they got a 4 star defensive back from LSU and a 5 star linebacker from Alabama. They already had a 4 star defensive lineman from LSU and a 5 star receiver from Oklahoma. So again, at least for now, the portal is not this team’s enemy. Clearly Pittman and his staff know how to negotiate the portal.
Q. Let’s go to an NIL question: BigHoggard wants to know: Do you think new recruits now value NIL money over a schools ability of winning a title when deciding which school to attend?
A. In most cases schools with huge NIL money are probably going to be schools that are also very successful on the field. But I do think that with most players, winning titles would trump straight money. For instance I don’t think Texas A&M and Texas throwing big money around is going to allow them to take a lot players away from Alabama or Georgia. Maybe a few but not many.