by well-respected folks within the industry … with no emotional ties to our Program.
As a general consensus, they seem to be of the same opinion I’ve held for quite some time: that NR captured lightening in a bottle, and for a rather short window achieved unparalleled, yet unsustainable elite success.
They further seem to indicate that although we CAN achieve intermittent, nationally-relevant success (making the NCAAT on a “regular basis”), we have never been a historically elite program and are not one now (and may never be?).
I know some will bash me for “accepting mediocrity”, and that’s okay; their opinion is just as relevant on this message board as mine.
Yet I can’t help but think there are some of us who should take this article to heart and recalibrate their assessment of exactly where Razorback Basketball lies in the world of NCAA D-1 basketball.
And for the record, I have always thought that Sutton’s level of success was about where I “see” our program on a national level; Richardson most definitely over-achieved; while Heath, Pelphrey, & Anderson all under-achieved (although CMA perhaps not as much as the previous two).
It’s all about hiring the right guy. We have stuck out three times in a row. If EM is the right guy we’ll be back to where we want to be. There is nothing really holding Arkansas back from being a top 20 program other than the fact on who the coach is. Just like at any other school.
All three of those dudes were a bit off when asked on if Arkansas could be a successful hoops program again.
The great Arkansas teams of the past were built around generational in-state (or border) talent that hung around for 3+ years. Corliss was really the last truly difference-making talent to come out of Arkansas. The pool may be deeper now, but the state hasn’t produced a Corliss or Moncrief in a while. Even if such a talent arrives in state and we can somehow keep them at home in this environment, which is extremely difficult if we play more by the rules than others, said talent will not hang around for three years. We can have second weekend teams in odd years where every piece falls into place and a little good fortune in the draw, but I doubt any coach can reload after up cycles to keep us consistently in the national conversation unless radical change comes to the recruiting environment. With the SEC improving we are also going to fall out of the tourney in natural down cycles that will bewilder the X-in-Y-years crowd.
Joe Johnson was a Corliss or Moncrief type talent, but proves your point because we only had him for one and a half seasons. And he didn’t have the talent around him that Corliss and Moncrief did.
I disagree with Joe Lunardi about the beginning of the end being when we joined the SEC. We were better than Kentucky when we entered the SEC. In my opinion, the beginning of the end happened in 1996-97 with the bogus NCAA investigation, losing Jesse Pate and Sunday Adibayo.
However resurrection was on the way and then we committed suicide by firing of Nolan. And then, some obvious posters will disagree with me but resurrection was again on the way with the signing of the 2018 class and coming 2020 and 2021 classes, but we lost patience, interrupted that process by firing the coach.
Now we have to wait and see if that interruption resurrects the program or keeps it in status quo or even worse.
We all hope the last coaching move works. But it is not a sure thing. It all looks good on paper, but so it did when we hired the previous coach.
The problems with the top 10 reloading class in 1996 certainly interrupted the flow and momentum of the program. To compete at the highest level, you need to have a fresh infusion of talent every year. The direct effect was a trip to the NIT and a regression from the Uber competitive top level of college basketball. The next years were a step down from our status as a top program. The Reid, Bradley, and Hood teams were very good basketball teams that beat top 10 teams regularly in Bud Walton Arena. They were not top 10 teams, losing too many winnable games. The SEC tournament winning team was a unlikely winner of that tournament The NCAA tournament was a first round loss. The program was still respected, but the Hogs had clearly fallen from elite status to a bubble NCAA team. Poor coaching hires cemented us to a mediocre level. The program did improve with the hiring of Mike Anderson but the success seemed to plateau with a 5-11 seed in the tournament.
Coach Musselman has sparked new interest and optimism in the program. He appears to be aggressively recruiting a higher level of player. If he can win early, he has a good chance to improve the program. Just how much won’t be known for 3-4 years.
I think that success similar to Coach Sutton’s is possible. The talking head dismissed Sutton’s success as a by product of a relatively weak SWC conference. Kind of like Gonzaga and Butler and UNLV. I think that Sutton’s Razorbacks proved their merit in the NCAA tournament. Consistent winning makes winning easier. Let’s hope that Coach Muss has early success and can build on that.