J.R. and Henry: Hawgball Missed

In the past week or so, we’ve watched games involving the basketball teams of Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas. And after the games were over, we couldn’t help but wish that Arkansas’ basketball team played like the ones at Tennessee and Missouri. 

It’s been a long time since Nolan Richardson left, and even longer since Nolan ran his famed “40 minutes of Hell” defensive scheme that put wins on the board and fans in the seats. In Nolan’s later years, he seemed to move away from a steady diet of full court defense to one that included more half court traps and pressure. But in the glory years of the early 1990s, Nolan was Rollin’ and there was no better show on the hardwood than the Razorbacks.

When we look at Bruce Pearl’s Tennessee team, and Mike Anderson’s Missouri team, we see a lot of what we loved about Nolan’s early 90s teams. Great effort, constant action, and a general sense that win or lose, the other team was going to have to play like us. 

Which is one of biggest criticisms we have about Stan Heath’s Razorbacks this year. This is a team with enough of talent to win consistently, but with seemingly no plan on how to do it.  Every team Arkansas plays, regardless of style, controls the tempo and makes the Hogs do the adjusting. If Arkansas plays a slow down team like Southern Illinois, the Hogs slow down with them. Against a fast paced team like Missouri, Arkansas tries to keep up. Since Heath has been the Head Hog, the Razorbacks have demonstrated no identity on offense or defense. As a result, the Hogs are always playing to their opponents’ strengths rather than developing and implementing their own.

So 11 games into the season, Arkansas stands at 8-3, which is about where we expected them to be. The Hogs have a couple of decent wins. West Virginia is 9-1 and Southern Illinois is 8-2, and both of those wins will mean something in March. And before the Missouri game, everyone paying attention should have known that that game was going to be very difficult to win. The way the Hogs lost was the problem there.