Like It Is:

Arkansas' loss not one of tourney upsets

By: Wally Hall
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Mike Anderson, Arkansas head coach, coaches in the second half against Butler Friday, March 16, 2018, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Photo by Ben Goff
Mike Anderson, Arkansas head coach, coaches in the second half against Butler Friday, March 16, 2018, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

No one was happy with the loss.

Not the fans, the players or the coaches and days later some fans are still grousing about Arkansas' 79-62 loss to Butler in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday in Detroit.

A few have suggested Mike Anderson should be replaced, which isn't going to happen. He just got a contract extension and the truth it is easy to like Mike.

Plus, folks were unhappy in 11 other places after this weekend and better seeded teams were sent home.

Perhaps, though, the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, head coach is under more pressure and expectations than most coaches.

Especially this season because six of this year's team scored 42 of the Razorbacks' points in the 72-65 loss to eventual national champions North Carolina in last year's NCAA Tournament.

To add to that Daniel Gafford, the freshman center, turned out to be really good. He made the freshman All-SEC team and some mock NBA drafts have him going as the 19th pick of the first round. Plus freshman Darious Hall became a valuable contributor.

Granted starting the SEC 2-4 didn't charm anyone, but Anderson's teams traditionally get stronger as the season progresses and at one point they won seven of eight and they were just one of two teams to beat Tennessee and Auburn (Alabama was the other) who tied for the SEC regular season championship.

The Hogs beat South Carolina and Florida in the SEC Tournament before losing to Tennessee and that gave them a No. 7 seed, but they left their defense on the bus and got ousted by Butler and that left most of the program unhappy, no one more so than Anderson.

The once-feared Razorbacks have not been to the Sweet 16 since 1996 when Anderson was the top assistant to Nolan Richardson.

Since Richardson left in 2002 the Hogs have danced six times and are 3-6.

The fans and program want more. Richardson and Eddie Sutton created a monster during their combined 28 years. They took the Razorbacks Nation to the Big Dance 22 times. From 1989 through 1995 Richardson had one of the most feared teams in the nation as they made three Final Four appearances including winning it all in 1994.

The drought has been long and hard on the Hog faithful and so losing to Butler was frustrating, but there is absolutely no way Anderson's job is in trouble.

He's gotten the Razorbacks to the dance three of the last four years, that's half the Hogs' appearances since Richardson left.

Many believed hiring Anderson was going to immediately return the Hogs to the land of feared like they had enjoyed with Richardson, and that is just unfair. The game has changed. There are too many timeouts and official reviews for fatigue to make cowards of opponents.

The clock stops so many times these days teams aren't all that tired when the final buzzer sounds.

Another factor for the frustration with basketball is football. For the last seven years it has ranged from bad to mediocre and back to bad, so fans go into basketball season already disappointed.

Last Friday, because of lack of defense from the Razorbacks, Butler was the better team. They blew a 19-point lead and fell behind by five before rallying to lead 36-31 at the half and the Bulldogs were just warming up.

In the second half, they made 45 percent of their threes, outrebounded and outhustled the Hogs and won. In the opening weekend there were 11 upsets. Arkansas' loss was not one of them and they didn't play enough defense to win.

Sports on 03/20/2018


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