Razorback Reflector: Arkansas Basketball skid may be symptom of bigger problem

Eric Musselman, Razorback Basketball Coach (Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports)
Eric Musselman, Razorback Basketball Coach (Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports) /
Arkansas Basketball
JD Notae and Chris Lykes, Arkansas Basketball (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Arkansas Basketball team is going through a bit of a rough patch right now, exacerbated by the thin schedule around the holidays.

If the Razorbacks can’t find a way to hold of their next opponent, Elon, they’ll have to wait until conference play begins on Dec. 29 to search for a win. We would then be talking about going more than three weeks without a win. Hopefully it doesn’t get to that point, as the Hogs have one more contest, scheduled against Elon Dec. 21.

This three-week stretch is a deceptively tough one. It started Dec. 8 and lasts until Dec. 29 when the Hogs play Mississippi State.

During this stretch, the Hogs will have played two neutral-site games (Oklahoma, Hofstra), hosted Elon, taken final exams, tried to enjoy the Christmas holiday and regrouped to prepare for conference play.

The Arkansas Basketball team needs to regroup before it’s too late

Playing just four games during that stretch gives players a lot of extra time to dwell on these tough losses. But, the blame can’t rest solely on the shoulders of the players.

Arkansas is part of a trend in college basketball this season in which teams that have committed to running a pro-focused program have struggled. Programs that promise a pipeline to the pros with guidance from men who have been at the NBA-level and know what it takes to get there have gotten in the way of playing winning basketball.

Elder statesmen like Bill Self (Kansas), Mark Few (Gonzaga), Coach K (Duke) are all humming along nicely with their focus on competing for a national championship. They are continuing to play the game like they always have— recruit to build a complete team.

The Memphis Tigers, led by former NBA superstar Penny Hardaway, have struggled to find a leader and an identity early in their season. They were ranked inside the top 10 early in the season, before rattling off four consecutive losses.

The Michigan Wolverines, led by former NBA star Juwan Howard, have also struggled this season, despite being ranked inside the Top 5 of the college basketball rankings.

This pro-style approach relies heavily on talent (and usually talent alone) to get bailed out of tough situations. Recruiting with a mind on talent allocation works when you have an overwhelming amount of talent compared to the opponent you’re facing.

But, once you start to face teams that have a really good player or two, a veteran team, teams that do all the little things really well, then the Hogs are going to struggle.

Who do we hold accountable for this sort of problem? Musselman has gone on record stating there is no leadership on the team and newcomer Chris Lykes stating the team is still learning to play with each other.

Someone, somewhere along the way is going to have to step-up and get this team to play unselfish basketball or the team will risk being exposed by the likes of Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and the rest of the SEC.

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The Razorback Reflector is a weekly column by Jacob Ellerbee covering all things Razorbacks— Arkansas Football, Arkansas Basketball, Arkansas Baseball & more.