Matt Jones is the editor of the Hawgs Sports Network. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has a bachelor's and master's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas.
Anderson, Hogs trending upward
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson, center, is announced before an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi State, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015, in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas defeated Mississippi State 61-41. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE — Through 125 games, Mike Anderson has the second most wins of any coach in Arkansas history.
Only Eddie Sutton, who went 101-24 in first 125 games, has a better record in the same sample size.
Anderson (81-44) is two wins ahead of his mentor Nolan Richardson, 12 wins ahead of his predecessor John Pelphrey and 14 wins ahead of Stan Heath through the same number of games coached at Arkansas.
The Razorbacks appear to have turned the corner in Anderson's fourth year and reclaimed their place among the SEC's best teams. Arkansas is 22-5 this season and 11-3 in conference play.
Arkansas Coaches Through 125 Games
Eddie Sutton, 101-24
Mike Anderson, 81-44
Nolan Richardson, 79-46
John Pelphrey, 69-56
Stan Heath, 67-58
The 22 wins match last year's win total, meaning Anderson should continue a trend of increasing the number of wins from the year before. The 11 conference wins are three shy of the program record in a single SEC season, although there are two more league games than when the Razorbacks' national championship team won 14 SEC games in 1994.
"Coming into this year I said I felt more comfortable because I kind of had an idea of what we had in terms of the players coming back and the guys coming in," Anderson said. "You don't know how the guys coming in will impact, but I knew for a fact that we had Bobby (Portis) coming back as a much better basketball player, we had Michael (Qualls) coming back, you've got Ky Madden, Alandise Harris, who are seniors.
"As we've evolved into the season, we're seeing guys step up. (Anton) Beard has took the bull by the horns and stepped into that role and had a good impact on this basketball team."
Anderson having 81 wins at this point in his tenure probably seemed unfathomable a year ago. Anderson's record at Arkansas was 50-35 entering last February, but the Razorbacks have drastically turned things around since that point.
Arkansas has won 31 of its last 40 games, including 19 of its last 25 against conference opponents. Only 16 programs have more overall wins during the same time frame.
Most Wins in Last 40 Games
37 - Virginia
36 - Gonzaga, Wichita State
35 - Kentucky, Stephen F. Austin, Villanova, Wisconsin
34 - Arizona, Murray State
33 - Harvard, Duke, North Carolina Central
32 - Davidson, Louisville, Northern Iowa, Wofford
31 - Arkansas, Dayton, Harvard, Iona, San Diego State
"Which game it was, I don't know, but somehow the trigger kind of went off," Anderson said, "and our guys, it doesn't matter where they're playing, they feel confident in what we're doing and confident in each other."
Arkansas' biggest progression under Anderson has been on the road, where the Razorbacks have won eight of their last 12 SEC games. Arkansas' six road wins this season are its most since winning seven in 1995.
The Razorbacks have won nine of their last 10 games (place your John Hampton officiating comments here) entering the final week before March. Arkansas will move up in the rankings and has a chance to boost its RPI this week with games against Texas A&M and at undefeated Kentucky.
Regardless of their finish to the regular season, the Razorbacks have all-but secured an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. But the only Final Four on Anderson's mind are his team's remaining regular season games.
"We don't get ahead of ourselves," Anderson said. "Have we improved? Absolutely? Do we have room for improvement? Without a doubt, we do.
"We're playing good basketball but I still don't feel like we've clicked on all the cylinders. This is the time where you really want to start playing some of your best basketball and I feel like we're going in the right direction on that. I really do."
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