The Arkansas basketball team was riding (relatively) high before traveling to Mississippi. The Hogs had won 3 of their last 4 games, including an overtime win over Texas A&M. There was talk of a potential NIT bid, with an outside shot at the NCAA tournament. But that was before Mississippi happened…
Leave it to Mississippi to be the location of a tragic event. The Arkansas Razorbacks entered Mississippi (just to clarify, the Hogs played back to back road games against Miss. State and Ole Miss) with their heads held high and a little bit of pep in their step.
Somewhere, in between Starkville and Oxford, the Hogs not only lost their peppy step, but pretty much lost their will to live. And fans seem to have lost their ability to stomach this season. With only 6 games left, the Hogs are 12-13 (5-7) and if the internet is to be believed, then fans have just kind of checked out of basketball, and have moved on to baseball.
Fan perception, or at least the vocal percentage of fans, swung rapidly away from Mike Anderson after last week. Going into Mississippi, the Hogs had played ok, even in their losses. And fans were not pleased to be losing, but if Arkansas kept it close, then there could be a pass given. After all, Anderson lost so much from last year’s squad. There was bound to be a dip.
But nobody seemed to be ok with a 32 point loss to Mississippi State. The Bulldogs aren’t even a good team, and Arkansas had beat them by 14 at home just a few weeks prior. The Hogs shot an abysmal 20% from the field, and generally looked tired as they got beat up and down the floor.
Then the Razorbacks turned around and got beat by 16 at Ole Miss, after leading by double digits at one point in the game. For fans who have been critical of Anderson, last week was just another log for the fire. And for that other percentage of the fan base who had been defending Mike…well…they have just kinda stayed off the internet this week.
So, as hyperbolic as it may seem, this game against Auburn is an absolute must win for Arkansas basketball, and for Mike Anderson. If the Hogs are able to win out at home this season, then they can finish with a winning record. But that’s going to require wins over both LSU and South Carolina. Maybe Arkansas can get a win over Tennessee on the road, but they also have to travel to Alabama, and Avery Johnson has the Tide playing their best basketball in…like…forever…right now.
So what happens if the Hogs finish with a losing record? Well, for starters, it will be Mike Anderson’s first losing record EVER as a head coach. Which brings up a pretty interesting conversation about how Anderson had more success at UAB and Missouri than he has at Arkansas. But that’s for a different article.
If the Hogs have a losing record, tt will be Arkansas’ first since Pelphrey was head coach. His 2009-2010 team went 14-16 and only won 2 conference games. So, even if Mike has a losing record, that kind of puts things in perspective, I guess. John, by the way, did not get fired after his losing record season. He was fired the next year with an 18-14 record and a top ranked recruiting class coming in.
I point that out because I think it’s almost impossible to come back from a losing overall record at a school like Arkansas. For all intents and purposes, a losing record is the toilet. How can a coach come back from that? Mike already has a good recruiting class coming in next year. But can fans be that patient with him at this point? And more importantly, can the athletic department?
This, however, can all be avoided if Arkansas is able to close strong in 2016. And that all starts on Wednesday against a 9-15 (3-9) Auburn Tigers team. Tipoff is slated at 6:00 PM on the SEC Network.