Solid season. Where do we go from here?

I don’t post as much on here as I used to due to life, but I still read almost everything. Thought I’d throw my thoughts out for discussion.

First, like all of you, I’m really disappointed with that performance the other day. I liked the matchup. Still do, having seen it play out. The things that made us inconsistent this year just reared their ugly heads, namely our defense.

That said, this was a solid season. We met regular season expectations. Ranked #26 in the country by the NCAA committee. 7 seed (worthy of a 6 seed, easily argued). From a one-season-view, this was a fine season. I’ve seen many say that this was our most talented/best team under CMA. I’ve disagreed. It was 2014-2015. This year was only our most experienced team under CMA. Many of us that follow the team and college basketball closely expected a slightly worse record, but slightly higher seed (5-7) than last year. Expectations met. NCAAT performance? No, obviously. But, as we’ve seen, crazy things can happen in this tourney. Performance in the tourney over a range of years is a better measuring stick, which segues to my next thoughts…

What are reasonable expectations for our program when healthy (which we are now)? I’ve thrown these out before with little argument:

  • NCAAT 8 out of 10 years
  • Sweet 16 2-3 out of 8 appearances
  • Elite 8 1-2 out of 8 appearances
  • Final 4 1 out of 8 appearances

When did we become healthy? I say after three years of CMA’s tenure (should’ve been a year earlier in my opinion). So, from there, what have we done?

  • NCAAT 3 out of 4 years (check)
  • Sweet 16 0 out of 3 appearances (incomplete)
  • Elite 8 0 out of 3 appearances (incomplete)
  • Final 4 0 out of 3 appearances (incomplete)

From that lens, CMA has done enough so far. He’s brought us back to a respectful position. Financially, we’re in a great spot; we’ll be around #10 in the nation in attendance. The program is clean and academics are in good shape.

But, where do we go from here?

Let’s talk best-case on returnees. Gafford could be one of the best players in the country next year. Huge if he returns (gun to head, I think he’s gone, but I think there’s a little hope). After that, we have a bunch of questions and role players in my opinion.

We are bringing in a solid recruiting class. Many have said it’s the best class CMA has signed, but using the most common way to measure, that’s false. It was the Bobby Portis/Moses Kingsley class (not counting Ky Madden’s group since he didn’t recruit that full cycle). This 2018 class is full of good players that could turn into great college players. But, projecting these guys is tough.

Like others, I do think we could see smarter basketball next year. But, I worry about our overall talent and the negative trade-offs you get with CMA’s system. Losing Reggie Perry was an absolute back-breaker in my opinion.

All said, as or right now, my expectations are that we miss the NCAAT next year, which would put CMA on thin ice with my overall program expectations.

BUT, I remind myself often that CMA has met my expectations to this point. Instead of go into next year with a negative outlook, I will continue to let it play out. I think CMA has earned that.

I’d love discussion from here. Also, I’ll be at the Real Deal in the Rock again this year, so look for that report in a little less than a month!

You have very good thoughts. I think a few simple changes in scheme will take us to the next level. Next year will be tough without Gafford. Hall is my favorite player that returns, but that scares me we have so little talent if Gafford leaves.

I have been saying basically the same thing in my posts. You summarized it and organized it a lot better than I did, which is not a surprise.

Only thing I want to add is that while there are no Top 50 guys in the 2018 class, it is a solid group of Top 80-150 players added to the 3 we have on campus, that will stay together for at least three years and provide continuity and stability. We have not had that over a thre year span in the last four years. We have scratched and clawed to put rosters together. I am encouraged by that.

I also like your expectation targets for NCAAT finishes.

Good to see you back Razorag. You bring reasonable thoughts…One thing that I would not agree with you on is Gafford…Unless the kid can develop some low post game he will have no more impact next season as he has had this season. ( which was pretty good and much needed just not a big time game changer). He does not have the game where you can throw him the ball on the block and expect him to score. I think Gafford returns…

This kid improved unbelievably between his senior year and now. Based on that, I expect another big jump if he stays. His ceiling is really high. Thats why scouts love him and he’s being projected as high as mid-first round.

All good thoughts. Some truth and reality here.

Is program on best footing since the dark days?


Will we benefit from stability and better than average recruiting, absolutely.

I think we lose seniors who were not good on defensive front. I don’t think Mike forgot how to coach D.

I find it hard to believe we can be much worse on D with new players.

That will improve.

The tag team of this year is over.

I am a Mike fan and want so much to believe the program will compete at elite levels consistently.

I don’t expect final fours every year at all,

But Arkansas was an elite program and should be again.

When Mike was hired, I did not think it would be a decade before we had at least one sweet sixteen appearance.

But we likely miss NCAA next year in year eight, and perhaps following as well in year nine.

Mike is family and we all want him to succeed, and perhaps we are close, I don’t know.

I know by comparison, Mike is doing great compared to dark days.

But I think program has to start showing more if it is to be proven that only Mike can win big at Arkansas.

Having a senior laden team and getting drilled last two games of post season is tough to digest as progress and ultimate confidence. I think only natural that we ask questions about program we all Love.

I will continue rooting like crazy for Mike to get us in elite conversations again more consistently, and I give him props for clear improvements in program for sure and he’s the kind of guy we want leading our program.

But I have to admit, I expected it to take less than almost a decade to get to second weekend at least once in NCAAs.

Good analysis on our program Razorag, as usual. I think our improvements will be in defense and rebounding which gives me hope for next year. Scoring will be a problem if we don’t move the ball better than we did basically all year. 3 senior guards held the ball more than anyone that experienced should. Motion offense without motion. Watching the ball get rotated by others teams and seeing it stand with ours is frustrating. That being said, it will be fun watching these kids get better. Growing pains will be there.

Spot on opinions by fellow hog fans. MA has scratched and clawed to put together his roster in the past few years. The incoming class by far is most talented overall as we have had in 25 years. It would have been even better with Reggie Perry! The lack of a true point guard and flower forward has killed the teams production in the past 10 years.
Next year I can take not making the Dance. What id like to see is the next trip make the sweet 16!

The group of seniors that are leaving gave all they had and do their best! They weren’t a good defensive group and were poor at rebounding. The lack of depth hurt their performance. Maybe in the next few years we have have quality depth.

I’m an old fan so defense is what I want to see. It has been a while since we have had anyone rebound like Derek Hood or like Super Sid!
At the point guard position who was our last good point guard?

What we all need to realize and appreciate is the hard Mike Anderson has done! He took over when the cupboard was bare!

He should have been given the job when Nolan left! The future is bright and we have a good man in charge leading our hogs.

I was hoping for a lively discussion in this thread as you requested. Maybe this thread is too positive for some.

In a separate thread, I would love to see your expectations of incoming freshmen, if you have the time.

Your expectations are reasonable.

What we really need and needed was to capitalize in one of the last 2 years.

We needed Gafford to be good but stay.

We needed Khalil to not have a potential career-ending problem and play to his ranking (similar to Gafford’s and he would have provided a sorely needed slasher. IDK if he’s a good perimeter defender. That would have been huge, too.)

We needed Perry to not $omehow change his mind.

This coming year was always going to be a transition. But now, without the S16 appearance, the Year 7 crowd is already starting the dumbbeat.

We will be competitive but not great. It happens. Just look around the country. I’m certainly not satisfied with being one of the better programs in the SEC. But it’s a start.

The coming classes in Arkansas have lots of talent. Hopefully we will keep winning and keep being an attraction to good players. The return of the atmosphere in BWA and having some players make it in the NBA should help in that regard.

We need to find a way to make this transition a decent one. I’ve watched Isaiah Joe a lot and I think he has potential to be like Thurman in terms of a bit u fee the radar but immediate # producing.

Desi needs to work on his shot and handle but he will provide some intangibles. Henderson doesn’t put up numbers but he hammers everything and that’s key.

Chaney and Phillips look like long term upgraded at what we have at those positions.

Perry and Gafford next year would have been salty. We need one of the others to produce more than expected. Getting Garland back would be big but I just can’t imagine a doctor risking a Hank Gathers situation.

All in all I think the program is on the right track and well ahead of where it was when Mike took over. They just need to turn the corner.

They’re close. They are better than several of the S16 teams but they have to find a way to turn the corner like MA did at Mizzou.

The 2014-2015 team was the only team that CMA has had that returned all the key members from a postseason team the year before, and it was his highest seed. In general great Arkansas teams have been about continuity with a core group building towards a deep run. The only team with massive roster turnover that made it to the second weekend was the runts, and it was lead by arguably the best freshman to ever come out of Arkansas. Even Moncrief didn’t make it to the NCAAT during his freshman season and didn’t win an NCAAT game until he was a junior. He would never have seen his junior season in 2018.

RazorAg, your post was the best thing I’ve read on here in a long time.

Just to add to add some other thoughts, I don’t think most fans understand what a crap shoot the NCAA tournament is. It’s just so unpredictable that’s why you have people going crazy trying to get Vegas and everybody filling out brackets like they are lottery tickets.

I thought this team this year was good enough to be a sweet 16 team, but honestly when you get to the tournament, you have to get lucky on a lot of things to get past the first weekend. You have to have the right match-up, get put in the right region, get the right seed, and hope for an upset to go in your favor. Just look at Kentucky for example, this was probably the easiest path to the sweet 16 of all time. They played 2 mid-majors that were 12 and 13 seeds. If Arkansas would have got that same draw, odds would be in our favor to make the sweet 16 as well.

As far as the how is Mike Anderson doing discussion. I agree with you, he has done enough so far for me to still have confidence in him. And you mentioned all the reasons why and explained it better than I could have. Those wanting to make a change now have no idea the impact it will cause this program. It’s almost amazing to me how quickly people forget the situation we were in before coach Anderson arrived. The discussions weren’t about us losing in the first weekend of the tournament, they were about us being a bottom of the barrel team in the SEC. That was always my reasonable first step with CMA, start making the tournament consistently, IMO 3 out of every 4 years we should be there. And that’s the big thing just making the tournament, as we can see from this year, once you get there anything could happen.

And to hit on your last point about next year’s roster. A lot does depend on what Gafford decides to do. I also think what happens with Khalil Garland is going to really have an impact on the team next year as well. If things go our way and both of these guys are on the roster, and some of the incoming freshman out play their rankings, I could see us being a tournament team. But, it’s really too early to predict that IMO, I’d have to see our schedule, see who other SEC teams are going to have on their roster and see how the strong the league will be, and see how the incoming freshman are looking. I’m not going to count them out, Tennessee had a very young roster this year, and was arguably the best team in the conference. And the vast majority of their contributions was from their very strong sophomore class and their junior Admiral Schofield. We could very well do the same thing… Gafford, Hall, Gabe, Harris, and Garland (if cleared), could be our foundation, then if CJ Jones can channel what he did at the beginning of the year and do it all year next year, he could be that strong junior player for us. I’m just going to be cautiously optimistic about next year, I’m sure we’ll learn more in the next few weeks on exactly what we’re going to look like.

Exactly. Continuity with Top 150 talent is a key if you don’t get one and dones. I am really encouraged that the next class of 6 freshmen plus Hall, Gabe and hopefully Garland can do together the next three years. I got my eyes set on 2020-21 season for something big. And that us the season that brings in the next Moses, Moody that is.

I like the look of next years team. If Gafford comes back, then it will be a pretty good team. These players have been playing together for awhile. I was disapointed like everyone else because I had the hogs as a sweet 16 team but when you shoot bad and the other shoots good, its not going to work out. Look at the other teams ousted. I think the hogs will do well the next few years. Only time will tell.