A Return To Arms

Posted by Hayden Hodges | 2:14 AM | 1 comments »

We're Back!  The best in the biz of wordsmithing, RAZORBACK insight, and sports wizardry are making their triumphant return.  After a long hiatus, we have decided that is is completely selfish of us to keep this talent wrapped up inside of our own cerebral vaults and to share with you the knowledge and expertise of the best bloggers in the World today.

Sure, we took time off to recharge, focus on realities, and to tour the greater United States to find that one great contributor that would push our blog over the edge.  However, after 134-interviews (and countless e-mail from our fans asking.... no begging for our return), we realized that we are what this State and the entire blogosphere goes in search of at 2:43 in the A.M. when their hands leave the confines of their X-Box remotes and they need their sports fix.

We've got what you need, when you need it.  We're not holding back this time.  There are no new surprises, just a license to unleash what we've been wanting to actually say for years - the boss turned off the censors and unhooked the leash..... And we did lie somewhat....  We do have one surprise in store for you: we did find that one equal that will make your synapses appreciate you dragging your ass past the Swiss Rolls and over to the mountain of junk mail that you call a desk.  Stay tuned for an addition to the family.

Until then, visit tomorrow when we break down the schedule for the Arkansas RAZORBACKS 2012 Football campaign.  And we're sure that we'll make fun of Paris Hilton as well, just for tradition's sake.

It is Time.

A Diehard’s Lament

Posted by JCK | 10:45 PM | 4 comments »

It is beautiful here today.  The sun is warm and friendly.  Winter’s leaves still blanket the ground, crackling under-hoof as a handful of deer lazily nibble their way through the woods in my back yard.  My screen door is open and I can hear birds shuffle along the ground and then flitter away  when spooked by unseen enemies.  From my Razorback red Laz-y-boy I can see my cat, Louie the 3rd, stalk an arrogant squirrel.  College basketball is flickering on 3 tvs here in my man cave.

But something just isn’t right.

Please don’t take this as a call for a coach’s head.  I am not qualified in either basketball or business to make that sort of decision.  This is simply a lament, an attempt to express the feelings of an Arkansas basketball fan at what should be a most joyous time of year.

Missouri is playing Clemson as I write this.  You probably guessed that.  For the past 8 or so years folks like me have alternated between the sheer joy of watching a Mike Anderson coached team lay it on the line in the NCAA tourney and the vague ache of watching our own past drift farther and farther out of our grasping hands, a past that we cannot regain.

Mizzou isn’t a great team.  They are barely even good.  Every starter for Arkansas would easily start on this Missouri team.  Clemson is better at every position.

Before the game Oliver Purnell, the very capable Clemson coach, said that he had a pressing team too, so his team was well prepared to handle the Mizzou defensive attack.  Really?  Missouri had 2 steals in the first minute.

The thing is this, no team anywhere has ever played the way Nolan’s and Anderson’s teams play.  None, zero, zilch. 

UNIQUE.  That is the word I am looking for.  It is an overused and often misused word. It requires no modifiers.  “Very Unique” is oft heard and quite meaningless.  Unique means one of a kind.  There is no “very” about it.  And that is what the Mike Anderson style of basketball is.  One of a kind.  Unique.

I guess that is the essence of what we miss about the old days.  It isn’t the national title runs so much, although that is certainly a part.  It is the sense that we, that OUR team and by extension ARKANSANS (in reality or in spirit), are UNIQUE.

Isn’t that what is so important about family, about wives and husbands and children and parents?  Isn’t it the fact that those relationships are singular?  It is in  those relationships, and maybe ONLY in those relationships, that we are recognized as the one of a kind people that we are – massive warts and all.

For most of Nolan’s tenure (And even Nolan backed off his traditional style in later years, trying to adapt to his personnel.  This was perhaps his fatal error, losing his identity) there was noone like us.  The name ARKANSAS meant something in college basketball, both good and bad.  People dreaded playing us.

I remember watching the NCAA selection show in ‘96.  It was the year AFTER our 2nd finals appearance and we just weren’t very good.  In fact we were probably the last at-large team to get a bid.  We were starting 5 freshman for goodness sake. ( Kareem Reid, Pat Bradley, Derek Hood, Marlon Townes etc. ) Jesse Pate and Sunday Adebayo had been lost earlier in the year.

ESPN was focusing on Penn State.  They had just finished a surprising season and hadn’t been to the tourney in years so they were a feel good story.  The camera caught the players and fans crowded in a large room, cheering wildly when their name showed up on the bracket as a 4 seed.  Just as dramatic as the cheers was the deafening silence seconds later when their opponent’s name popped up.  Arkansas.  Bang!

They were whipped before we played them.  We scrambled and stole and slapped our way to the sweet 16. That was FUN.

It isn’t that we were always so good or so dominant in those years.  There were lean times.  And Mike A’s teams have hardly been dominant.  It is more the fact that a team that played like our Hogs used to, that played a committed style of ball like Mike Anderson teams always do, has more than a punchers chance.  If you sit down to watch Mizzou play a higher seed you may end up watching them get whipped.  But you can look forward to the game with anticipation because Mike A’s team may just put a hurt on them, strangle them, choke them, embarrass them like UAB did to Kentucky and LSU a few years ago in separate NCAA tourneys.

My cat has taken a beating from the squirrel.  He is licking his paws and scratching his back on a stump.  Clemson is fading and Mizzou is up 10.

There are arguments against being a pressure team, some of them valid.  It is difficult to recruit to such a system, it can be tough on the road, it can look plain sloppy at times.  But the fact is that it will ALWAYS be hard to recruit nationally and nearly all of our NBA level players have hailed from Arkansas or an hour drive either way.  And it is ALWAYS tough on the road – in any system.  And I can’t imagine anything sloppier than the atrocious ball that has been played here 5 of the last 8 years.

I guess my point is this.  Arkansas basketball is unique.  We will not thrive unless we embrace that, unless we embrace the people and the styles that made us great.

I know sports are meaningless in the big picture.  But so is music and art and books and dance.  These things are meaningless but they have extraordinary value.

In my mind I can see the future.   The Arkansas Basketball program will reflect something about us.  It will be wild and scrappy.  We will dominate at home.  Opponents will whine about the refs.  Announcers will mention in amazement that Arkansas hd 25 steals in the previous game.  We will win games before they are played because we instill fear.  In lean years we will struggle but still make tournament noise and in those years when a big time player or two rises from the local high school ranks we will push for it all.  We will be unique. And we will be led by one of our own. One who gave 19 largely thankless years to this place. One who, when his time finally came here, was dismissed by nearly all (including me) with a thanks but no thanks and  a condescending pat on the back.  We will be led by one of ours, unique just like us.

Louie the cat is asleep now and this gorgeous day is a hint more cool than warm.  Louie stretches and yawns and goes back to sleep, dreamless and satisfied.  I think there might be a speck of blood  at the corner of his mouth.  A sneaky one that Louie is.

Clemson is desperate now, fouling and jacking, dead on their feet.  Missouri will play again Sunday.  They will be a big underdog but they will have a puncher’s chance.

And I will be in my chair.  Watching and cheering.  Not sure how to feel.

Ark v LSU Running Diary

Posted by JCK | 1:08 PM | 0 comments »

(Said during Charlie Weiss’s first season at Notre Dame)

“If Charlie Weiss gives a clinic, I’m going. I’m on the bandwagon now.”
- Bob Davie-

I think I injured something diving headfirst back onto the Arkansas Basketball bandwagon. I’m not sure if it was my butt or my ego that got bruised but something down there sure is sore.

Seriously - WTF! I actually tried to write one of these diaries after the Florida game but failed. I was striving to have a more positive tone but it quickly degenerated into a nasty bashing so bleak and humorless that I was too embarrassed to post it. That was maybe 2 and a half weeks ago. Now the Hogs are in first place in the West and my brother is shooting me texts because he is concerned about our RPI. (#111 - gulp) I haven’t checked a freakin’ RPI site in 2 years!

How does a team go from from being publicly sodomized at Kentucky to first place in just a couple of weeks? How does Pelphrey go from being all but history to relatively secure over the course of a few ballgames?

Something remarkable is going on but I have absolutely no idea what. Which is why I decided to just leap on the bandwagon and enjoy the best ball played by an Arkansas basketball team in a decade. Now - On with the diary.



Arkansas v LSU Running Diary

“Game shows are designed to make us feel better about the random, useless facts that are all we have left of our education.”

-Chuck Palahniuk -



My wife likes my blogs and diaries. At least she says she does. Since she is my wife she can’t really tell me that I’m an insufferable know-it-all with a bathroom sense of humor. Well, she can but she doesn’t want to waste that sort of quality verbal assault on mere literary tomfoolery.

So anyway my wife pretty much thinks I’m funny, most of the time. However she was a teensy tiny bit miffed at her depiction in my most recent diary. Something about me making her the epitome of “slutterosity” or some such.

So for the record my wife is way too hot for me and I am fortunate to have her ( and she would make Stephen Cox at least take her on 3 dates before, well, you know).

Also she is pregnant and lovely but feeling bad about herself and she said that “If I’m gonna make her out to be some sort of hoops Jezebel then I could at least show her looking hot.” So here she is. I’m the bloated clown in a Huskies cap holding on for dear life.

jandtkwaterpark1


-I feel like I have to mention all of this here because the night before the LSU game my wife had a disturbing dream. She was at a party, a dinner party but it was mostly wives and old friends and she was sipping vodka mixed with cherry slush from a big Sonic cup with a red straw. She explains that in this dream she is positive that Chuck Woolery is at the party (yes THAT Chuck Woolery). She has actually seen him at this party, and when she saw him a part of her realized that this actually WASN’T Chuck Woolery but everyone kept calling him that and insisting that this was him.

Faced with a dinner party sans her husband, a styrofoam cup full of sugary booze, a suddenly flat stomach, and an amazing lack of nausea my beloved set off on a quest to meet this Chuck Woolery who isn’t Chuck Woolery. She is stymied at every turn. She doesn’t know if she wants to meet him because she loves him or because she wants to expose him. Before she can figure it out, I show up to whisk her away and she wakes up. (I think she may have just added this last part for my sake - she knows how much I hate Chuck Woolery)

ChuckWooleryFish

This was a dream that posed too many questions and almost no answers. Was Chuck a symbolic version of me - a beloved imposter, a phantom phony? Or could Chuck have been a larger metaphor, for fulfillment and lost youth - always just out of grasp? Or could Chuck be our yet to be born daughter, beautiful but untouchable, loved but beyond our grasp?

Stranger still could Chuck be our Hog basketball team, an image of handsomeness and glory, loved but replaced by something else, something foreign?

Or, to paraphrase Freud, maybe sometimes a Chuck Woolery is just a Chuck Woolery.




And sometimes a frustrating basketball team is just a frustrating team. Maybe these Hogs just are what they are (to misquote an annoying truism) - a team that has miraculously turned a corner, the best team in the SEC West. Maybe they are a team that in all likelihood will be favored in all but one of their remaining games, a team that shines on the road.

Or maybe they are just a shiny Chuck Woolery. A group that suddenly looks good but their quality is an illusion. Maybe they are false hope. Maybe they are a guy with good hair trying to steal your drunk pregnant wife at a party. Right now it is just impossible to say.

Its an eerie night as we head up the mountain. We emerge through islands of dense fog into unbroken inky sky, then descend back into the soup. Snow is frozen in place along the highway but the roads are bone dry. Trees seem desperate to shake off the cold weight of the season, their limbs bowed and heavy

We encounter actual traffic as we approach Razorback road - the first time this season that this has happened. We may be a fan base of bandwagon jumpers but the fact remains that if you give us any hint of a winning team we will fill the joint up.

There is a certain zen or maybe it is just fortune when you assemble a truly good basketball team. Ask Florida. They won back to back national titles with the least heralded group of players Donavon has ever put on the floor. The Gators have been awash in All-Americans since Billy the Kid came to town. But it was the team with the oddly complementary players, the guys that to a man sat their freshman year, not good enough to break into the lineup as rookies much less contemplate leaping straight to the NBA. They were the guys with vision and unselfishness and brains.

Prior to their title teams Florida was mostly an enormously talented up and down team - as likely to get beat in the first round as they were to make the finals. They wore headbands to hold their flowing curls back and dated Playboy models.

Since those two wonderful championship teams they, honestly, have been a hot, talented, mess. Players go one and done (Speight) or transfer due to PT (Lucas). The guys that stick around seem like soft tweeners.

Florida is packed with 4 and 5 star recruits. Filled to the brim. And they have been to the NIT 2 years in a row and appear headed there again. I’m not so sure this is a system we should be emulating. Yet . . .

I arrive to the game too late to see if Chuck Barrett announced a salute to a past player. The last game I attended they honored Nick Davis.

Not to dog Nicky - he played hard and did a lot with a little - but he was an awkward, average player with a swirl around the head jump shot that seemed to go in only through random chance. He was an average player on a below average team. There was never a time that I saw my beloved Hogs in a hopeless situation and thought to myself “Don’t worry, we have Nick Davis.”

Again, I’m not trying to be hard on Nicky but are we really so starved for heroes? Has our basketball tradition fallen that far?

Should we salute Kevin Rehl, John Snively, Mike Ratliff, Tim Scott etc.? (Okay maybe that would be fun. I’m getting kind of excited now.) We should have salutes to the guys in the middle of the Bell Curve. A shout out to mediocrity if you will.



So I guess you could say I’m kind of glad I missed the salute this game. It sort of brought me down last time. And it didn’t bode well.


TIPOFF


Captain Picard is sitting 2 rows in front of me. I want to be his #1.

The tail on the ”Boss Hog“ costume is oddly phallic. I am officially disturbed.

My wife comments that a little guy on LSU ”is adorable - like Webster“.

I don’t respond, somehow fearful that this comment could be construed as racist even though I have no idea how.

”Is Emmanuel Lewis or whatever that kid’s real name was still alive?“ My wife asks. ”Didn’t he need new kidneys? Or was that Gary Coleman?“ She is pulling things up on IMDB on her iPhone now.


I suggest to her that this could be a good game show - guessing whether D-list celebrities from decades past are alive or dead. ”Chuck Woolery could host“ I say. ”Or is he dead“ I add.

She is not amused.

We are a few seconds late for tipoff and can hear the crowd roar for a Mike Washington basket. That sounded like a real crowd at a real game. I’m serious. Are you people feeling this? Hog basketball is alive.

We open the game with a 10-0 run - just like a good team should do at home. RC and Courtney both make 3s. CF isn’t hesitating on his shot and it makes all the difference. Still not pure but good enough.

Tasmin Mitchell breaks the LSU drought. I think he was on the team back in the Dale Brown era. He is the David Overstreet of college basketball. (My apologies for the obscure reference but back in the day it seemed like Overstreet logged about a decade in the OU wishbone backfield)

FIRST TIMEOUT 12-2

Hard to believe what a difference some confidence makes - oh yeah and guard play, that helps too.

We are aggressive on defense. Not full court or anything but LSU is starting their offense from near half court. Don’t know if this is a strategy change or simply confident players being more aggresive.

LSU has pretty much subbed the whole lineup save Tasmin. They even have a redhead in the game.

”Good for him“ my wife says, as if being redheaded is a physical debility. ”I bet his mom is proud“.

Not overly proud since he has yet to even glance towards the bucket.

Glen Bryant is in and he is wearing knee socks. I repeat, Glen Bryant is in and he is wearing knee socks.

Bit of a lull for the hogs. This might be a good time to complain about over-substittion again but whatever Pel is doing seems to be working so I’ll get off his back.

SECOND TIMEOUT 13-9 Hogs

RC hits a tough jumper.

Coach Evans is as into the game as I have seen him - up off the bench, pointing and yelling. Is the team feeding off his energy or is he feeding off theirs?

LSU skipper Trent Johnson has on some sweet shoes. Some kind of elephant skin loafer. Nolan would be proud.

We are going small.

Bryant has some serious holes in his game but he makes stuff happen. He can fly and has an excellent nose for the ball. I really hope he develops. He just got a board and a tip in. (Oops - and a silly foul)

Nobles makes a great steal in open court. He is a terrific ball defender. Using him and Stef for pressure D off the bench can be a huge bonus.

RC hits a runner then makes 2 straight pick pocket steals. He looked like Robby benson at the end of ”One on One“.

THIRD TIMEOUT 25-9 Hogs

Wow. The place is about 3/4 full and very active. Ushers keep moving people out of the good seats. I think everybody is used to sitting wherever the heck they want. This is a good sign.

The band is playing ”Hey Jude“ during the timeout. Seems a strange choice to fire up the joint.

I’d like to file an official protest regarding Marshawn Powell’s facial hair. It is a thin beard that runs just along the angle of his chin and jaw. He looks like a fetal Civil War general.

Goofy guy in camo from head to toe is sitting in the front row with a creepily hot chick in painted on jeans and thigh high boots. I suggest to my wife that ”Guess How Long ‘til They Divorce“ could be another good game show. Gene Rayburn could host with that silly little thin microphone. (Or is he dead? Maybe he could be a question in my other game show. My ideas are developing layers.)

Courtney misses a 3 and gets yanked for Nobles. CF isn’t happy - does a kind of slow saunter to the bench. He is playing beautifully but has to control his emotions just a bit.

Soft press and Nobles almost gets a steal. Then Stef DOES steal it. I LOVE this.

Now Stef does a Robbie Benson and dunks on the other end. We have more steals this half then I hace sen all year. And they are all straight strips. (This might be a good time to mention that LSU really blows. Trent Johnson looks like he is considering self mutilation.)

Stef looks incredibly quick tonight, as does RC. Aggression covers many weaknesses in college hoops.

LAST TIMEOUT 31-14

Courtney misses a 3 and Mike misses a follow (he is still leaving too many chances out on the floor). Courtney drives and gets knocked around. They have no hope of staying in front of him, even with double teams. The whole team rushes to help him up from the floor. Seems like all that junk about helping out teammates comes a little more naturally when you are playing well.

I think sometimes coaches think that they can force chemistry with junk like having everyone run to a fallen player but the fact is that picking people up FOLLOWS team play - it doesn’t cause it.

Guy in the floor seats has the flattest face I have ever seen His nose disappears when he turns sideways. And he has a shock of white hair sticking up in a Johnny Cash circa 1963 kind of look. Are they giving these seats away in a raffle or something?

CF beats a TRIPLE team and feeds Mike. Goodness.

Courtney is either way, way, way better than I remembered or he has really improved. Probably both.

HALFTIME 43-21 Hogs

Good things are happening at Bud Walton. I am freaking giddy. I don’t care if LSU slurps. We are doing to a bad team exactly what we should - slapping them around.

Defensive intensity is up. Ball movement is good against zones and even the ever unpopular pick and roll looks servicable these days. Our lack of shooting is still an issue but if we force turnovers and protect the ball (I think we had 2 or 3 turnovers in the first half) then we will keep on rolling. This looks like an 11-5 team easy and the credit has to go to Pel for patience and consistency. (I still have major problems with some of the schemes but he has proved me wrong. His way CAN work.)

SECOND HALF

It turns out my wife has some sort of game show obsession. She is rattling off various hosts as if they are family friends. She thinks Sajak is ”short but sweet“. She found Richard Dawson ”offensive“. Peter Marshall (of ”The Hollywood Squares“) was ”sneaky hot“. Burt Convy ”looks like a pedophile and always pretends he would have known the answer on “Password”. She liked Bert Parks better in that role. (Bert Parks - alive or dead - or Canadian?)


RC hits a 3. Nice.

Britt is guarding Tasmin Mitchell - giving up about 3 inches and 30 pounds - and doing a terrific job.

Courtney goes coast to coast, really pushing tempo. He feeds Powell for a tap in alley oop.

Then CF gives up 2 straight easy buckets to Bass. Consistency is still lacking a bit.

Washington is already tired. He just doesn’t seem to be in very good shape. Of course I got winded climbing down from the drivers seat of our SUV today so I guess I shouldn’t talk.

FIRST TIMEOUT 54-28 Hogs

My wife claims Bob Eubanks is “masculine but had a weird growth on his face”. Wink Martindale was “overrated” (I wasn’t even aware he was rated at all). Charles Nelson Reilly and Paul Lynde were “funny queens before being funny queens was cool”.

Another steal for RC. Excellent hands defensively.

Mike blows another bunny. He loses focus when tired.

Another steal for Stef. Man he is quick tonight.

Farmer is guarding Tasmin now and is having trouble. We really need him to break out.

3 from Stef. He is having a nice game. He does his best when he plays 15-20 minutes.

Bryant forces a quick jumper.

SECOND TIMEOUT 64-38 Hogs

I tell my wife that when my little brother was about 7 he used to do a Paul Lynde impression. She wonders aloud if she married the wrong brother.

Farmer hits a nice 3. Stroke looked natural. Didn’t know he had that.

Then he pulls up and buries another just because he feels hot.

Farmer is calling for the ball. He hits another! Barely looked at the goal. Its good to know he has at least the potential to be a shooter.

THIRD TIMEOUT 72-38 Hogs

This is a serious whoopin’.

We talk about Alex Trebek, ( “cocky”), the Ray Combs tragedy and his penchant for boots with lifts, Monty Hall and the things people would do to be on television, Chuck Barris and J.P. Morgan flit through the conversational air and we both wonder what J.P. actually did to become qualified to be a “Gong Show” judge.

This is the sort of thing that builds the foundation of a healthy marriage.

RC and CF have been sitting for a while. Have I mentioned lately how far good guard play can get you in college basketball?

My father, who has been going to hog games religiously for 35 years, just turned around and asked me how everyone knew there would be a timeout at the last dead ball. I stare at him for a second and then explain how for the last 20 years there have been official timeouts every 4 minutes of every college basketball game. He is astounded by this information. My mother expresses shock about this “timeout” business as well. I’m not sure I should let them travel alone any more.

Powell is soooooo good!

It looks like Fran Drescher has joined the Pom squad.

We are playing a lot more zone this half - maybe just to practice it?

The redhead on LSU still hasn’t looked at the basket, like he was told “Whatever you do - DON’T SHOOT”

My coach used to say that to me.

Delvon makes a pretty little hook. He is an enigma.

Bryant makes a wild spinning up and under that covered about 15 feet of court. Kid has some talent.

LAST TIMEOUT 82-46 Hogs

Farmer does another heat check and his run is over - alas.

The crowd is screaming for Cox to shoot every time he touched the ball. They are acting like he is a walk on that never plays. The kid has gotten minutes in every single game - sometimes during crunchtime. I realize I am nit-picking but this is an example of how un-knowledgable our student section is. It is like they simply cheer from a “student section chants for dummies” book.

Nick Mason is checking in. My mother is pleased. “He is like a very cute little miniature person” she says.

OK.

Bow-legged miniature person I might add.

FINAL SCORE 87-52

I am man enough to admit that my analysis of this team might have been slightly off. (Okay - way way off). Whatever Pel is doing is working. They are a fun team in a very weak conference. I think we will win the West at 11-5. Is that a tourney team? If they just use our record with Courtney it is and that is what they claim to do. 2 weeks ago who could have imagined we would be having THIS conversation? Then again right after the Texas and OU games last year who would have imagined we would win only 2 conference games. Sports are weird.

And right now sports are fun again.

Go Hogs

Ark v Bama Running diary

Posted by JCK | 8:39 PM | 1 comments »

(couple of quick notes - this is a rambling rant filled diary. It has my usual game stuff mixed in with a little story and lots of bellyaching by me. don’t take any of it too seriously ;-) )

“The salesman knows nothing of what he is selling save that he is charging a great deal too much for it. Otherwise a salesman wouldn’t be required.”

-Oscar Wilde-


My Stepdaughter as a semifinalist at Miss Teen Arkansas (I’m a proud poppa)

Arkansas v Alabama Running Diary

Life is bursting at the seams with “Rites of Passage”, with landmarks on the path to manhood (or womanhood). Some days it seems like life is little more than a rush to grow up followed by quiet years looking back with muted regret at roads not taken and paths not crossed because of our endless hurry.

There must be joy in the PROCESS, I think. The journey must be its own reward because if it isn’t you never arrive. Such has been my theory, at least. I have spent my life chasing the process - avoiding the landmarks.

Things like marriage, children, home ownership, pajamas, a lawnmower - I managed to avoid all of them for 40 years. And then BAM! I’m having a serious discussion about whether our Nursery should be mint green and referring to a certain shade of yellow as “custard”. Welcome to manhood.

-------------------

I’m not sure exactly how I feel as we make our way to the Bama game. Before the Miss St. game I promised myself that if they couldn’t open the conference slate with an upset win then I was going to write off the season, begin a boycott of my beloved program until finally someone, ANYONE, would actually pay more than lip service to the ideas of intensity, focus, and tradition.

The early, embarrassing whipping at the hands of a mediocre State squad just confirmed my worst feelings about this team, this staff. The defense went three steps beyond atrocious. State was dunking and cranking unguarded 3s by doing little more than curls around a high post screen and intermittently rolling to the basket. The defense of basic screens and rolls is SO fundamental and so entwined with aggression and effort that I simply lost all hope. Honestly, why does our team at times seem so confused by simple help and recover, switch and stay, hedging out and back. It isn’t like we were pressuring so hard that we were getting nailed backdoor, the opposite in fact. Our “man” defense is so soft that the sudden switch to aggressively going over a screen or hedging violently to stop the ball is nearly impossible. This is just one of the many, many examples in life where being cautious is actually MORE dangerous than accepting some risk.

But the Hogs climbed back, as much a function of State settling for jumpers and getting cold as it was Marshawn Powell’s re-emergence as a dominant low post and transition scorer.

Of course having Courtney running the show automatically makes this team somewhat competitive. He is better than I remembered, able to penetrate at will to the point it seems like every single possession should, at least result in a wide open shot for someone. His defense is pretty fair as well, though unfortunately spotted with incomprehensible total lapses of concentration. The same lapses occur on offense as well, evidenced by a ridiculously casual flick to Rotnei when we were down 3 with the ball. The pass went directly into the leg of a defender and effectively ended our chances.

Regardless I was encouraged, or I wanted to be encouraged I am not sure which. My rationalization goes something like this:

Put a team on the floor with Courtney at point, Rotnei at 2, Powell at 4, and Washington at 5. Now plug in Farmer or Britt depending on matchups and you have a starting five that should be able to score and score big, Feed Powell, or feed and kick, or Fortson penetrates, or penetrates and kicks, RC keeps the middle free and knocks down the open ones, the 5th starter shoots stanstill 18 footers, runs the floor and plays defense. Michael Washington serves as a rebounder and second low post option and in that role he is very very good.

Now that isn’t just a passable starting five - it is a very good one, one that could win the West IF . . . IF they could stop someone. There are defensive liabilities with each of those five but the good thing is that each also brings a few postives defensively. Rotnei has great hands, Courtney is a strong ball defender, Farmer is physical, and Washington and Powell can both rebound and block shots despite their atrocious post defense. In sum, it could work - maybe.

Now we plug holes. Stef, Nobles and Farmer or Britt each play 10-12 hell bent wild dog minutes of defense, creating pressure, confusion, transition baskets, and forcing the opponents to shoot their open jumpers from unfamiliar places at an unfamiliar pace. Johnson spells the posts for 8-10 minutes each.


Then comes Bryant . Freed from the halfcourt pick and roll he might explode. He can be a guy that runs the court, rebounds, steals, does a heat check with his jumper, and some nights play 5 minutes some nights play 25 (stealing some minutes at the 3).

My point is that covering up the defensive holes in this team isn’t a matter of a soft zone or tepid man to man. It is an all out frenzy, taking advantage of our depth - yes I said depth, I am done with the talk of this team not having the players to run or pressure - that is ALL we have. What we don’t have are shooters, half court post dominance, or half court defensive competence. Slowing down and backing off doesn’t mask those weaknesses, it makes them more glaring and gives the opposition the time and space to pick them apart. Why have we suffered through 7 years of coaches telling us they don’t have the players to pressure? Clearly we haven’t had the players to do what we have been doing. Why not actually ATTEMPT what we CLAIM to believe in? (I actually think I know the reason but I will get to that later.

--------------------



One of the rites of passage I have long avoided is the process of negotiating the price of a new car. Now I’m not saying I’ve never purchased or owned a vehicle. Its just that I have been more about writing the check and leaving the discussion of large numbers, the scribbling of figures on a piece of paper and sliding it across the table, the low balling, the uncomfortable silence when pretending to be disgusted by a price point, the coats slung over the back of a chair, cuffs rolled up and tie loosened, the scurrying of disingenuous men in off the rack suits from room to room so they can ask their boss if there is any way we can “make this work”.

I have some high minded reasoning for why I hate this ritual so. I say that I hate the “lie” of it, that I think people should say what they mean, that honor and pride should keep us from trying desperately to take advantage of our fellow man. But that is just rhetoric. There are really just 2 reasons I hate negotiations. 1) I desperately need everyone to like me and 2) I find social awkwardness to be worse than a rough mugging. I once stayed with a girlfriend I detested for an extra 6 months because breaking up would be kinda uncomfortable.

Today is going to be different. Today I must be a man. The heater is busted on my wife’s car and fixing it will cost more than the heap is worth. We have a baby coming and need a roomy form of transportation. Today I shall face the personal nightmare that is car salesmen.


---------------------------

TIP OFF

We are barely in time for the game, sitting down as the ball is tipped. Surprisingly decent crowd, probably 10,000 actual bodies. For a team that has been this bad and this lifeless it is kind of encouraging.

Britt is starting for Farmer. I like this move. I think this is our best five - very light on shooting but still our best five.

Powell gets 3 straight buckets right off the bat. One of them off of, gulp!, a press and a steal. The place is very loud.

Bama calls timeout and Anthony Grant gets teed up. Could he wear his pants just a wee bit tighter? Gracious. I feel I could ID the man’s butt in a lineup.

His shirts are no better. Is he comfortable like that? I’m all proud of him for having muscles and all but he looks like a high price Vegas gigolo.

RC hits the tosses and we have mo.

Well maybe not so much now. An easy 5 points and it is tight again.

Pelphrey subs for Powell and Clarke. Well that makes sense. We are up 10-5 less than 4 minutes in and the crowd is rocking. Best to take out our top 2 scores who have scored ALL 10 of our points!! For what - a rest? After 3 minutes? Because Powell got 1 foul? THIS right here is what gets all over me. It is coaching for the sake of coaching, it is tactics without a comprehensive strategy. For instance, resting players at regular intervals is a reasonable tactic. But in the overall strategy of a basketball game the fact that we are on run, that a certain player is hot, that flow is disrupted MUST be taken into account when those tactics are deployed.

Basketball, especially in college, is all about guards and big runs of points. If you have a run you grab it so tight it strangles. You get every last bit of it. You don’t stop in the middle and say “wait, I intended to rest these two guys early.” You just don’t.

Bama gets a couple nice buckets.

FIRST Timeout Hogs lead 10-9

------------

I have the SUV picked out, have scoured the internet checking prices and options and colors, emailed a dozen dealers requesting quotes and asking when they could have the car I need with the trim I want. The vehicle has been located in Fayetteville and basically I just have to show up, agree on a price, and drive away. If only life were that simple.


------------

Bama is playing straight man. They are jumping and hedging on pick and rolls. UCLA is the best I have ever seen at this but it is fundamental to man defense. Why don’t we do it? Because we are afraid they will run a slip screen for a backdoor. The thing is that you have to have confidence in your help and rotations and those help and rotations need to be drilled to the point that players can do them in their sleep. It isn’t an issue of talent. It just isn’t.

Nice dish from CF to Bryant, me likey.

Powell and RC are back after a 2 minute rest. Just long enough to break our rhythm but not long enough to make a huge difference in terms of stamina - me no likey.

Courtney has another brain fart turnover. Our point guard simply has to value the ball more than he does. He can get us good shots every time down but he has to get us there first.

CF out and Stef runs point. uh-oh. Why not Nobles? Bama jumps in a trap and Stef gets stripped and fouls the guy for an and one. I don’t blame Stef for that. Bama knows he can’t run the point under pressure, every person in the stands knows it too. Why was he running it? Stef is a reserve 2 guard and can be terrific in that role. Nobles is a pure point. Bama is a team that wants to pressure. This isn’t higher math.

SECOND TIMEOUT Hogs down 12-18

---------------------

Things start off badly when I locate the sales“man” that I have exchanged email with. I have crusty stuff under my toenails older than this guy. He looks like he just got out of the shower - moist just short of greasy. He is fit and smiley and shakes firmly and a little too long. He keeps using my first name over and over, as if this was stressed at the salesman refresher course he just took on the internet after updating his profile on Facebook and dousing himself with Axe body spray. My pregnant wife is flirting with him between sprints to the toilet to vomit and pee so I guess he must be pretty good looking.


-----------------------------------

“Powell has no butt” my wife informs me. She seems honestly troubled by this, as if maybe he just misplaced it and we should ask around.

Early momentum is gone. Crowd sitting back.

Nice 3 by RC on drive and kick from CF. CF drives for 2. Crowd back in. This team and crowd are desperate for PACE.

Britt is playing a lot and playing nicely. He gets his hand on a lot of balls, causes passes to be thrown at slightly worse angles that in turn don’t end up leading to wide open shots. Just basic stuff. He is a good ball player and I’m starting to believe he can really help us.

Cox in for Powell (just as we start another run). Seriously WTF!

My wife is beside herself. She loves Powell and has been claiming all year that despite his buttlessness he is our best player. I think she has a point, but I ask her if she is conflicted because she is frequently on about Cox’s fundamental cuteness.

“Look” she says, “Cox is cute. I’d do him but I wouldn’t play him. At least not for Powell. This is about winning.” So there you go.

Washington catches the ball out of control yet again but draws a foul.

We D up nicely for a whole possession but give up the rebound. The little things.

RC for 3 but we give it back underneath at the other end. At times we are sending ZERO offensive rebounders, I suppose because we want to get back. The gutlessness of this strategy offends me on many levels.

Fortson gets stuffed.

THIRD TIMEOUT Hogs trail 22-27

----------------

We drive the car up a few hills and around some curves. Our salesman is running his speil in a hard to understand monotone, pointing out switches and lights and doodads. Finally we make it make to the dealership. I am nodding sagely and seriously at my wife, pretending that I picked up great automotive knowledge during our 5 minute jaunt. I blah-blah with the guy for a sec and then we nod at each other like boxers before a fight, touch gloves and come out haggling.

-----------------------

Despite my wife’s and my protestations Cox played well during his stint. I can sort of see why he gets to play. He is the only one of the guys that play the four that calls out screens, hedges, pushes and shoves and generally lets the offensive guy know he is there. In other words he plays sound defense. When he and Britt are both in we improve exponentially on that end.

However he is severely limited by his lack of size and, at least from what I have seen, he has no offensive game to speak of. (apparently my wife may be willing to test that)

The Hogs make a mini run with Cox so he gets pulled.

Powell is back and is guarding the low post on the left (ball ) side. The wing defender gets lost and and the Bama guy is wide open outside. So Powell goes out, not ast enough to cover the shooter but fast enough to leave his man wide open 2 feet from the basket. The ball is delivered easily. Washington helps late but gets a break and draws a charge.

Now even though we didn’t give up a hoop that sequence right there showed so many basic flaws in our defensive tactics, strategy, and execution that the coaches should play it on a loop in the locker room.

1) The wing defender got lost and hung up trailing through a screen instead of fighting and clawing through it.

2) Instead of giving up a jumper to prevent a layup Powell helps outside with no help underneath. This would be okay if he helped quickly - with a purpose. Instead he guarded no one instead of at least covering up the easy shot.

3) Michael was late on the help, waiting for the pass to be made instead of anticipating the series of rotations that needed to be made when the first man came open.

4) All three defenders moved cautiously, more afraid of making mistakes then they are anxious to make a play (Washington may be an exception there). Ironically this leads DIRECTLY to mistakes showing once again that caution does NOT lead to a safer style of basketball.


Tasty drive from Courtney.

Its a crucial juncture as we close the gap. So we sit CF. Yup.

“I gotta pee” my wife chimes in.

“I’ll tell Cox” I say.

Powell with an awful jumper. He is out of rhythm now.

He needs to be option #1, always in the middle of the action.

“Look at Powell” my wife says. “His no-butt can’t even hold up his drawers. He’s like a tube. Clothes just slide off him.“

LAST TIMEOUT Hogs down 26-27

-----------------


Patrick, thats my car salesman’s name, Patrick - (I find myself wondering if he has a handle like the guys on “Jersey Shore” - Pat “The Handshake” Dugan.) slides a price sheet to me and I stare at it, pretending to be considering an offer but actually thinking about Snooki and wondering how much she spends on make-up a month and about her roommate Mike and his abs and deciding he will soon be getting spit out the bottom of the porn industry, broken, pale, bald, flabby, impotent, addicted to cheap coke and expensive cough syrup and trying to explain to the girls he is trying to get in the hot tub why he has “The Situation” tattooed across his man boobs.

----------------

The guy from the band that runs around during the “William Tell Overture” and tries to get everybody up seems to be deadly serious about his mission. I’m a little frightened. My wife wants me to point out that his plastic band pants “aren’t very flattering either”.

Stef hasn’t come back since he got stripped early on. Maybe because we are better with Britt. Maybe because he has 2 fouls. Hopefully it isn’t the latter because that would get me started on another rant about imprudent caution.

RC swatted on a jumper. That is gonna happen. Gotta just reload. Fortson pretty feed to Farmer. We are really moving nicely off the ball and defending fairly well.

We look so good Pelphery takes RC and Powell out.

Farmer misses a pair but plays some good defense.

CF nice tweener shot. Needs to pull up more often. Bad foul from Farmer on the perimeter.

Powell back in. Are we doing offense for defense subs in the FIRST FREAKIN’ HALF?! Aye Carumba.

Washington boards and scores.

Cox and Nobles in. Can you say overcoaching in order to maintain a false sense of control and direction? Tactics without strategy again.

HALFTIME Hogs down 32-34

--------------------

I scribble and pass back an offer. My wife takes a call and seems to be talking to another dealer. She hangs up and informs Pat-man that Tulsa has a Platinum edition for only $1000 more than this Limited edition we are bidding on. Pat is thrown by this and is scrambling on his computer, trying to find this Tulsa car. I picture Pat-man having an evil nemesis in Oklahoma, thwarting him at every turn, possibly wearing a cape and bandana.

-------------------

SECOND HALF

We have decided that Anthony Grant looks like Taye Diggs. I feel better now.

RC makes a nice drive for a pull up bank shot. He needs a couple more of those a game.

Our switching in our man is frightful. One guy switches and the other doesn’t. Or one switches and they both jump back to original man. Our defense seems to lack a theory - for lack of a better term.

Nice feed from Courtney to Michael. The potential for respectability is right there folks. Right there.

I think Courtney is going to choke on his mouthpiece some day. He plays with it like an adult pacifier or something.

CF takes a 3 and bricks badly. Its a shame he will never be a good shooter. He would be unstoppable.

Farmer makes a bold drive and it rims off. I’ll take more of that though. Powell with a follow slam. Now we are cooking. Better sit him down. (Can you tell I am bitter?)

Britt’s steady defense is really making a difference with his increased minutes. He is part of our best five.

Powell Lay up.

RC is out and we have not a single shooter on the floor.

FIRST TIMEOUT Hogs lead 42-38

--------------------

Pat-man recovers but I don’t. I’m pretty certain my wife just totally faked that call. She is like an evil genius of some sort. I am filled with admiration as well as a fear that she has been faking many other aspects of our lives.


----------------------------

RC is back in. He is simply a must in order to spread the floor.

The Pom squad danced to a Poison song at the timeout. Can’t get enough of 20 year old Brett Michaels songs.

We still close poorly on shooters. It is certainly an art but do we have to be SO bad at it?

Bad turnover by Courtney. Just uneccessary. Difficult pass when an easy one would be fine.

Nice rebound and putback by Mike. He is controlling the paint now.

Courtney takes a block call for a Bama and 1. Criminy!

“Did you see the way the ref called that?” my wife says. “I just don’t care for his attitude.”

“Right call though” I say.

“Well he doesn’t have to be so rude about it.” She counters. So there.

CF out again. Stef in. This blew up in the first half.

Powell misses a runner. Rotnei with a turnover they convert for 2. Couldn’t see that disaster coming at all, could we?

Britt gets a board and feeds Powell. Big, big play.

RC gets jacked in the face for the 3rd time and they finally called it. Goodness! that was ugly.

Long break while the refs look at the replay to see what actually happened. How exactly did they miss it along with the first 2 times? And why isn’t Courtney going back in since we have this long rest. This is the time to finish it.

Dude got ejected. CF is back. I’ll just shut up now.

Mike makes a swooping lefty dunk that doesn’t count but was surprisingly graceful.

Britt nails a massive 3!

And now we are running clock. Hmmmmm.

Britt had a really quiet play where he took a left handed dribble and reversed the ball. It was subtle but it was the pass that set up the pass for the shot. Always the little things.

SECOND TIMEOUT 53-48 Hogs

-------------------

The Patster scribbles again but I just can’t hack it. I make an offer aloud. The whole dealership falls silent at my etiquette breach. I try to break the tension by asking my wife if she passed gas. She isn’t amused but her son is laughing hysterically. 13 year old boys “get” my sense of humor.

------------------------

Washington another nice board. Rc misses a three - too bad. Britt misses a three. At least we are looking for the knockout. Bama is self destructing with the least bit of pressure.

RC misses a good look. Bama calls timeout falling out of bounds. Thats the second time they have gotten that call when not in control of the ball completely. Didn’t they pass a rule or am I dreaming?

Torrance is a nice, big guard for Bama.

Cox in for RC. No shooters again. Delvon gets a lucky putback.

THIRD TIMEOUT 58-52 Hogs

-----------------

Pat leaves us pretending to be asking his boss how low he can go but in reality going to the bathroom to re-slick his hair and practice his mannerisms in the mirror.

Pat counter offers but prefaces by giving my wife a soulful look and saying “I just really hate this part of the job” - meaning the negotiating. I nearly puke on my sandals and then think to myself that my wardrobe of shorts and a hoodie with sandals probably isn’t giving the alpha male vibe I am going for in this situation.

---------------------

Delvon got a bucket then a block. He is pumped up and looking aggressive for the first time in a while. He was replaced. Natch!

Still no shooters with Cox in but this group is playing the best defense of the day.

We are stalling. I’m not joking. We are stalling.

Britt misses but clears a nice board on the other end. Best game of his career.

Courtney bricks but Mike cleans up again. Really good ballgame from him.

We go to a zone. Again this is a tactic that at some times might be reasonable but right now it makes no sense at all strategically. Its as if he is making in game decisions based on a card he filled out before the game, completely ignoring the fact that the situation has changed.

Bama misses a couple open jumpers. RC misses a long 3 that Powell cleans up. Gorgeous slip screen from Britt to Washington.

LAST TIMEOUT 62-52 Hogs

------------------------

I cave to Pat and cut the check, a hint of shame in my eyes. Pat-arooney leaves again, I can only assume to laugh wildly with his buddy about how badly he just screwed the dork in the sandals, while my wife looks at me like she just now discovered that I am, in fact, completely and utterly without balls.

-------------------


There is a guy a couple sections over with a forehead so large I think it must contain a twin that failed to mature. It is truly spectacular. I can’t look away.

RC hits a 3 and gets tackled. No call.

Courtney swatted again. More passing less shooting please. Share the sugar.

Washington starts a drive from somewhere near Springdale and still manages to get to the hole. Thats some special defense there.

Bama is losing their grip. They have no go to guy.

Sweet drive and dish from RC to Powell.

It’s basically over but Courtney makes one of those plays that just makes me wonder. Bama is in open court and CF stops at the top of the key, making no effot but looking at other guys like it is their fault. Who cares who’s fault it is? Just play.

Mop up time.

FINAL SCORE 71-59 Hogs win

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“Well that’s a side of you I could have done without seeing” she says.

“My aggressive killer capitalist dominant male side?” I ask, twisting one of my remaining strands of hair with my index finger.

“Yup. That’s the one .” she says and excuses herself to the bathroom where I fear she is ripping off Pat-man’s sweaty shirt and saying “Give momma a kiss”.

------------------

Until next time. I’ll be back after the Florida game. They have tricked me into having hope again.

Okay, how cliche could we have been with the title of this one? "The Quest for Liberty" - What? An Ole Miss blogger probably could have done better.... No, our New Year's Resolution was to be more confident, and despite how lame our title was, we know that even the Sherlock of Costello's over at Ole Miss Blogger Nation could not have come up with something half as a good. [For you mathematicians out there, one-half of zero is still zero.]

Wait, we are obsessing with Ole Miss who obsesses with our obsessing of them. It is a tangled, nutty weave, but we digress.

Suspensions for the bowl game: ouch. By now you know that Matt Harris, Marques Wade, and Wendel Davis have all been suspended for what is an "alleged" curfew violation at the team Hotel. Get better security, Mr. Peabody.

Ryan Mallet's and D.J. Williams' names are being tossed around about leaving for The League.

And even the brief talk of Bobby Petrino's departure for Florida with the brief resignation of Urban Myers. Move on.

But it is time to focus. Are the Hogs focused? To be continued....

vs Alabama State 12/16/09

Posted by JCK | 1:57 AM | 0 comments »


Oh, better take the keys and drive forever
Staying won't put these futures back together
All the perfect drugs and superheroes
wouldn't be enough to bring me up to zero.

Aimee Mann “Humpty Dumpty”





Growing up in Fort Smith we used to go to 4 or 5 Westark (now UAFS) basketball games a year. This was back before they built Stubblefield Arena. The games were played in a gym that was much like any you would find at hundreds of high schools throughout the state. One side of the floor had polished wooden bleachers that could be folded up accordion style against the wall. On the other side of the court the stands only went up about half as high and most of the seats had cushions and numbers. they were reserved for season ticket holders and most years we had a couple of passes because my father did physicals for the team.

Westark had an excellent junior college program. Particularly back before players were required to attend 2 years of school before they transferred the talent level was very high. Ron Brewer and Darrell Walker and various Kellybrew and Skulman bothers and guys like Robert Shephard plied their trade for Gayle and then Wes Kaundart. The team even won a National title the year after Walker transferred up the road to Fayetteville.

When Brewer was there and to a lesser extent when Walker was there the team drew very well. But beyond those seasons a typical crowd was about half full - maybe a couple hundred people.

I loved going to those games but I remember how much that experience contrasted to the one I would have when I went to see the hogs play in Fayetteville. When I went to see Westark play I didn’t really have a vested interest. Sure I cheered for them but mostly I just liked seeing these big guys play my favorite game. When I went to see Arkansas play I would actually get butterflies and on the rare occasions when they lost I would be depressed for days.

It was more than the fact that the arena was bigger and the opponents better. A college basketball game at Barnhill and later Bud Walton had an almost formal, professional air about it. The quality was always good and the energy that flowed from crowd to team and from team back to crowd was truly an experience.

Conversely at Westark games the lack of crowd interaction, the low level hum of the crowd was almost startling.

In my mind, when I recall those Westark games, I hear the squeak of rubber soled shoes as the players made cuts, I could hear the players yell to each other when they were on defense. The bounce of the ball echoed just a bit and it seemed like there was a decent chance sweat from one of the guys might spray us. I picture fans sitting amiably, chatting with friends while the action was going on, getting up and going to get oversalted popcorn and random junctures, not concerned that they might miss some crucial action.

Its not that the Westark games weren’t good or fun. It’s not that those players weren’t doing their best. It’s just that those games lacked tension and focus. The crowd never rose as one to tell the team that they HAD to get a stop. They never howled and whistled at the refs - truly believing an injustice had been done. They never urged on unselfish play by wildly cheering guys that did the little things - making an extra pass or diving for a loose ball.

I guess it just seems like those Westark games were just that - games. Hog games, on the other hand, were an interactive experience where the fans played a role that seemed to my young mind every bit as vital as the players coming off the bench. The crowd not only offered energy it dictated style and tempo. In some vague ways it actually shaped those Razorback teams.

I am 2 minutes late for tip off tonight. My wife is pregnant and sick but she sucked it up and made the hour long drive with me to the game. She knows how much this silliness means to me. She can see my eyes sparkle and my lips curl when I start getting a positive feel for an Arkansas Basketball team or game or possession or player. he knows how much I long for the days when hoops wasn’t just relevant here - it was CENTRAL. She knows that as silly as it seems I get a very real sense of WORTH when I am cheering a really good Hog team. She knows that the pride we both feel when the Hogs play good ball actually DOES make our lives a teeny tiny bit better. And what more can we possibly ask from an activity than it give us a little bit of joy.

This is not a trivial thing. Beauty and wonder can be in short supply these days. If we find even a little of it we feel lucky.

As we pull up to Razorback Road, rushing because we are late, worried that traffic might delay us another 10 minutes, we are amazed that there aren’t any cars ANYWHERE. The traffic as I make a left at the light is no more dense than an average day on Roger’s Ave. Or maybe about the same as it used to be when I would pull onto the Westark campus with my Dad years ago.

TIP OFF

I can hear every squeak and cut as the action is underway when I sit down. I can hear the players call out screens and yell “SHORT!” when a jumper looks off target. The crowd is not only very small it is very CASUAL. I am including my self here. We are not invested. We are just here to watch - not participate.

Rotnei is wearing a track suit on the bench, sitting next to Sanchez who again appears to be injured. Sanchez has bad wheels. In the past 4 years he has had devastating knee AND foot issues. You can’t play basketball with bad legs. You just can’t. It is a shame because he seems like a really positive guy.

Britt starts for RC. Where exactly are we going to get shooting? Outside of RC this is probably the worst perimeter shooting team I have ever seen at Arkansas - and that is saying something considering the absolutely atrocious shooting that has been the norm here for the past decade.

Washington clanks a pair of FTs. A guy in my section just yelled a couple taunts at him and it is so quiet in here I bet Wash heard him. So it’s gonna be like that is it?

FIRST TIMEOUT 4-2 Hogs

“Hmm what’s that stench? Oh I think its this basketball game” That was someone two rows up followed by loud laughter at his own joke. Greatest fans in America - yup that’s us.

Courtney isn’t on the bench. Now - we went 2-14 in conference last year with CF as our “leader”. But for some reason I keep thinking that if he comes back we will improve. How will that work exactly?

Alabama State’s unis are phantasmagoric. My wife just described them as “some kind of putrid yellow”.

Bryant hits a 3. I have hopes for this guy. Fundamentals are atrocious but he is active and can bounce. He needs to be in open court.

More taunts from the crowd. This time directed at Farmer - guy is yelling at him to “move”. Yup - that’ll solve it.

We are playing a lot of man. That is a positive I think. We need to embrace aggressive defense.

Mike makes a nice drive - and then gets a rest. That troubles me. He has seemed out of rhythm and as soon as he looks like he is getting in the flow he gets the hook because it is his turn to come out. A coach needs to be more flexible than that.

Nice aggressive rebound by Bryant.

Another nasty remark from a fan in our section. My wife just leaned over and said “That guy is sittin’ over there by himself just a-hollerin’ ” She’s from Charleston my wife is.

Britt hits a nice little tweener. He can look good when he is under control.

Even Alabama State has a guy that can rise up and just bury 3s in traffic. How long has it been since we had an athletic guy that could really shoot - anyone, anyone?

SECOND TIMEOUT 11-9 Hogs

Bryant gets a block. Washington makes a great pass to Britt cutting backdoor. Very nice.

Britt gets caught in between on a break and shoots it off the board so hard he doesn’t even draw iron. Hmmmm.

Nobles nails a wide open rhythm 3. He does that about once a game and has really nice form. Then he either stops shooting or bricks when he does. I can’t figure these guys out.

Nobles with a really sloppy turnover, then misses a pair of FTs. Not to be a negative nudge but is there ANY area of the game that this team excels at?

Bama State’s team kinda looks like a black fraternity circa 1985 - like Spike Lee’s “School Daze”. I haven’t seen a fade like #4’s since Kid’nPlay.

Whoa - Farmer just woke up and started defending. He is very good when he focuses.

Michael walks horribly but there is no call and he scores. The most importnt thing a big man can have is hands. The second most important thing is good feet and good footwork. I have never quite decided about Michael’s hands - but his feet and his footwork are just plain bad. He travels even when he just catches the ball at the top of the key. I’m not sure he has ever actually established a pivot foot. He seems only vaguely acquainted with the concept.

THIRD TIMEOUT 19-12 Hogs

Getting a bit of separation. This Alabama State team is, um, well, flawed I guess you’d say. Badly flawed. In more ways than just the uniforms and the haircuts.

I am looking at this team and I guess I am having a hard time finding the hope. I need to find it somewhere. It just isn’t much fun without it.

Two nice post feeds from Stef to MW. Awful post defense but nice feeds nonetheless.

My wife, “Boys these little players sure do get inked up young these days. Is our baby going to get a tattoo.”

She suggests a razorback. I suggest Cartman.

Whatever happen to that Pelphrey business of the whole team running to help up any teammate that hits the ground. Lately just 1 or 2 guys jog over and wave.

We press a bit and give up a 3. So we will quit pressing now. Persistent is not a word that I would ascribe to Pelphrey’s coaching philosophy.

Stef penetrates easily for a couple buckets.

Okay I’m going to say it. Right now Stef Welsh is our second best player. When Rotnei Clarke and Stef Welsh are your two best players you are going to struggle. They need to be our 3rd and 5th or 6th best respectively. Courtney and Mike need to be 1-2 and Powell needs to be 4th.

Stef and Nobles need to be guards that come off the bench for 18 minutes a game of INTENSE defense. They could thrive like that.

My wife is talking about #23’s calves. It’s like he has a couple of chunky rocks stuffed under his skin.

Now she is obsessed with the length of Britt’s arms. I nod in agreement that they are freakish.

Stef turnover. Farmer misses.

There are about 8 students here and a couple of them just high-fived because they felt their yelling caused a State player to miss a free throw. I am concerned with the nerd quotient of our student section.

LAST TIMEOUT 27-16

I wish I could say this has been a bunch of tough defense but no, that’s not the reason for the low score.

WOW! fancy behind the back from Stef to MW on the break. Stef is passing really well tonight.

And shooting terribly. He and Nobles both miss 3s.

Cox is open under the glass and you can see the shot block coming as soon as he starts his head fake. The sound of leather getting smacked echoes to the upper deck.

My wife, “COME ON REF! call a foul for my cute little guy.”

I bet Steven Cox is just livin’ the dream.

Cox passes on a 3 and drives and . . . he is so wide open he blows the layup. Cute only gets you so far.

HALFTIME 36-18 Hogs

One nice thing about a struggling hoops team - no lines at the concession stand. I grab a couple of surprisingly decent burgers and am back in my seat in about 3 minutes. The entire concourse is nearly empty and a good place for a casual stroll. There is even an older lady dressed in spandex and a sweatshirt doing an evening jog around the arena.

The band is cranking out the Aha classic “Take on Me”. Should I admit that I owned that album in high school?

We have a new halftime competition that involves the contestants spinning around for a minute before they run, jump rope, and make a layup. Contestant number 2 gets so dizzy she falls flat on her backside. We all laugh. Nothing like humiliation to bring a smile to our collective lips.

Boss Hogg is shooting free throws with his face. He has a plastic tongue that looks like an angry colostomy. My fear of mascots continues.

SECOND HALF

Farmer goes baseline and gets his shot stuffed by the rim.

Washington strokes a 3. He shoots well when he takes his time.

Nobles hits a pretty little pull up.

Things are getting ragged. Sloppy on both sides. Weak defense.

I think this is how Tennessee fans must have felt before Bruce Pearl. Huge, empty arena. Team that seemingly had talent but appeared to play without direction or plan or, most importantly, passion.

#00 for State is a tall boney guy with narrow shoulders and light brown skin. He has a pencil thin mustache that makes him look like a cartoon villain or maybe the lead singer of a swing band.

Stef makes another nice post feed.

Powell is playing some decent defense. He sat almost the whole first half because he had 2 fouls. This is an example of the lack of flexibility I mentioned earlier.

If you are expecting a tight game then maybe you hold him out so you have him at the end. But this is Alabama State and Marshawn Powell needs to play every minute he can in every different situation he can (including playing with foul trouble) before conference play starts. But nope, he gets a 2nd foul and we knee jerk him to the bench.

Britt on a 2 on none makes a 2 foot pass for no reason. His decision making can be suspect.

FIRST TIMEOUT 45-25 Hogs

We are actually doing some good things. State has no punch though and they are small, small. Powell and Washington should score at will.

Our lack of shooting ability is GLARING

SECOND TIMEOUT 48-33 Hogs

Team concentration is fading - possibly distracted by the middle-aged man in front of me wearing hiking boots with pink socks. “Fuchsia - there fuchsia” my wife informs me.

Farmer hits a nice 18 footer. That is his range right there.

Farmer has taken over for about 3 minutes. Good defense. Patient offense. He good be a piece of a good team if things fell into place.

Marcus Britt is making some nice plays as well. This might be the most minutes he has ever played in a game.

THIRD TIMEOUT 60-40 Hogs

Alley oop to Bryant draws a foul. Crowd almost got interested there.

Honestly - I have been going to home games since 1977 and this is the worst crowd I have ever seen. These are hard, hard times for Arkansas basketball and we as fans aren’t helping.

We don’t OWE the team anything. They are bad and it is hard to support a bad team. But it would be nice if we could do the “thick and thin” thing.

A big, active crowd could make this team better. Much, much better. They could learn intensity a focus. They could learn that they have another level of effort. They could learn what it feels like to play for something larger than yourself. Stuff like that sounds cheesy but it is proven to be true over and over and over. In college basketball if you have consistently excellent crowds your team will never be worse than “pretty good” and often much better than that.

I just noticed that Powell has remarkably skinny arms. At first glance he seems big but he is actually extremely thin. As he matures he will get even better.

Game is wide open now. Oop to bryant.

LAST TIMEOUT 69-45

The closing sequence was bizarre. State dribbled out the clock starting at the 35 second mark. Their ball handler was negotiating with Nobles (who was guarding him) what sort of shot they would let him take as the clock ran out because he HAD to shoot because the shot clock was going to run out a fraction of a second before the game clock.

He was going to take an uncontested 3 but Nobles said no - indicated he would have to challenge it. So the kid drives in for a layup at the buzzer - smiling and laughing.

The casual-ness and lack of intensity of that sequence kind of sums up this game.

FINAL SCORE 76-51 Hogs

Hey it’s a win. Our record is back to .500. There are positives. Nobles is fast and shows hints of being a perimeter defender that makes things happen. (He is also a sketchy shooter and makes handfuls of turnovers that leave you scratching your head).

Welsh is seeing the floor and passing better than he ever has and his ball defense is the best on the team. (But his shooting is awful and his handle is, as always, just not very good).

Powell was active on defense and will soon be a high level college scorer. (He also makes silly fouls, can’t hold his own on the block, settles for jumpers, and disappears exactly when he should be stepping up).

Washington had 22 and scored nearly at will down low. (But he always scores well against small teams. Against teams of equal size his awful footwork limits his ability inside and his shot is too shaky to count on. Defensively he is below average for an SEC center.)

Britt showed flashes of good perimeter defense and a nice mid range game. (But he is a truly bad 3 point shooter, gets beaten frequently and inexplicably, has a weak handle, and just doesn’t seem to be good enough to excel at this level).

Bryant might be the brightest spot. He has range and can rebound. He looks great in the open court and is our best true shot blocker. (On the flip side he can’t handle the ball and can’t defend the ball. He doesn’t seem to have a real good idea what is expected of him when)

I’ll leave it at that for now. Glass half empty or half full. Or maybe just spilled.

Until next time.

Seattle

Oil of Olay

Posted by Hayden Hodges | 2:20 PM | , , , | 0 comments »

Unbelievable. A great performance in Baton Rouge was dampened by a last minute drive with some "home clocking," a bad dead ball call, a porous defense, and a missed field goal in overtime. Yes, the Hogs started off slow, but they played their hearts out down the stretch, which is about all that one can ask of them.

Back off of Tejada, he does his best, but is that enough for you? Is it enough for the team? What else can be said?

Talk to us. Let us know what you think about the game.

Did anyone else disagree with the official on the game-tying drive? What about the clock stopping during a play before the whistle was blown?

Vent here.

Go HOGS!!!

Feel free to comment above and to e-mail me at haydenhodges34@gmail.com.

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS