Like It Is:

Tournament chances fading game at a time

By: Wally Hall
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2019
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson looks to the court in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Shawn Millsaps)
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson looks to the court in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Shawn Millsaps)

It would be easy to blame the free throw differential for the University of Arkansas' 106-87 loss to Tennessee on Tuesday.

The Hogs shot 22 free throws, making just 13, and the Vols were 35 of 39. That certainly helped the Vols, but that wasn't the entire reason Tennessee won.

Tennessee shot only three free throws between the 15:33 and 13:06 marks in the first half. That was when the Vols outscored the Hogs 14-0 and took a commanding 20-5 lead that became as much as 25 before halftime when UT led 55-34.

In the second half, the home team continued to make the nylon sing on three-point shots, making five of eight, and leading by as much as 30.

Rick Barnes started going deeper in his bench with two minutes to play and a 100-78 lead, and the Hogs outscored the Vols 9-6 from there.

Tennessee never trailed Tuesday night, but give the Razorbacks this credit: They never quit. They went down swinging to the better team in that game. A team that has a chance to make a long run in the NCAA Tournament barring injuries.

With each conference game Arkansas seems to be separating itself from March Madness. In the latest NCAA basketball NET rankings the Razorbacks are No. 78. They were 80th before a quality loss to Tennessee if you believe a loss can have quality.

Most of the ticket-buying, Razorback Foundation-giving basketball fans have a long memory. They are not millennials.

They remember Nolan Richardson and the national roar he made, and that in his eighth season, the Razorbacks were about to make their fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament and he had a Final Four and Elite Eight on his resume. He was a season away from winning the national championship and then playing for it again the next year.

From 1977 to 2001 Eddie Sutton (nine) and Richardson (13) led the Hogs to 22 NCAA Tournament appearances. Since then, the Razorbacks have been six times.

That stat is alarming, but that is not solely on Mike Anderson.

John White, the former UA chancellor, made a mistake when he hired one-year wonder Stan Heath. Heath had taken over a loaded Kent State team, went 30-6 and made the Elite Eight in 2002.

That was his only experience as a head coach, but he was hired to coach the Razorbacks. When he was fired after the 2007 season he was 82-71 and 31-49 in SEC games. He made the NCAA Tournament twice, losing in the first round both times.

White had refused to let Frank Broyles hire Bill Self who was then at Illinois. Unbeknownst to White, Broyles actually offered Self the job on the Monday before Heath was interviewed on Tuesday and hired on Thursday.

It seems obvious White feared Richardson would file suit for his dismissal, which he did.

In replacing Heath, Dana Altman was hired by Broyles. Altman flew to Fayetteville, was given an academic report (at that time of the year it was not uncommon for basketball players to be a little behind), and at dinner that night Altman assured White he would get that cleared up when he brought his academic guy in from Creighton.

Obviously, the dinner soured and the next morning Altman was on his way home.

A search committee was paid $75,000 to find John Pelphrey at South Alabama. Pelphrey, a great guy, went to the NCAA Tournament his first season but not again.

He was terminated and Jeff long hired Richardson's former top assistant Anderson, who took Alabama-Birmingham and Missouri to three NCAA appearances, and today Mike Anderson is still writing -- and is in control of -- his chapter at Arkansas.

Sports on 01/17/2019

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