Arkansas men’s basketball is off to their worst start to SEC play in the last 13 years. Dropping their first three games of the conference schedule has some Razorback fans boarding the panic bus. Meanwhile, the Muss Buss drives late into the evening searching for answers.
“I can remember a lot of times on a Sunday night I’ve still been in the office, where I was in the office all day with the staff, went home for dinner and came back at night,” said Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman. “Like, we’re trying. We’re searching. We’re trying to do everything we can.”
Musselman has always been an analytical mind when it comes to the game of basketball. And after dropping five of their last six games, maybe a fresh perspective of his team is needed.
“We had an outside company do a self-scout, which I’ve never done mid-year. We’ve always done that at the end of the year, so that was something I was reading. It was 29-pages, so I went through all that (Sunday) night with notes and some of the players have already seen their individual write-ups.”
But some positive things don’t show up on analytical stat sheets. Hustle, heart and fight. Down as many as 17 points on the road to Texas A&M in the second half, Arkansas clawed back to pull within a single point in the game’s final moments. Unable to complete a comeback, they fell to the Aggies 86-81.
But to fight back without one of their best players, Stanley Umude, who fouled out of the game with just under 14 minutes left to play, is a silver lining.
Eric Musselman says that his team may be a bit down after losing their first three SEC games, but that doesn’t mean they are defeated.
“You got to create your own confidence right now is really what it comes down to… when another team makes a run, you got to have mental toughness as a group, everyone included, that when another team goes on a run, that you’re able to come back and fight and I think we showed that a little bit at Texas A&M.”
Losses need to hurt, Musselman said. But he is beginning to understand how his team operates. This isn’t the same group Arkansas had last year, with players like Moses Moody, Justin Smith and Jalen Tate – all who, Musselman said, could more easily grasp how a team was playing and make in-game adjustments.
There was a brief moment in that game against the Aggies where Arkansas switched into zone coverage, the same scheme Musselman used while he was coaching with the Lakers G-League team.
“Normally there’s not many blow-bys in a zone. But there was more blow-bys in our zone than in our man,” laughed Musselman.
Incorporating new ideas on the fly may not be the answer that Musselman and his staff have been searching for on those late Sunday evenings in the office. Embrace your identity as a team and master it.
“We need to just stick to our basics and try to become a little bit better at what we are. I think some times you start changing everything and then you’re just moving furniture around. We’ve got to get better at what we are,” said Musselman.
Some fans may want an entirely new living room set to go along with the new kitchen they got last year, but it’s not time for a remodel just yet.