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McCollum's Column: The Hogs and that discordant long and winding road

Posted: January 23, 2014 - 6:03pm

Same song, we’ve lost count of the verse.

To its fans, on the road again for the Arkansas Razorback basketball team is like listening to a continuous recording of someone scraping on a blackboard.

Under three different head coaches, the Hogs have won 10 road games in the last 15 years, fewer than one a year.

We won’t go into the details of why, which often defy explanation even though many seem to have one.

Poor shot selection, too quick shot selection, poor ball movement, good ball movement that ends up in nothingness, failure to take advantage of opportunities, lack of aggressiveness, lapses on defense, wrong people in the wrong place, everybody trying to make the play that wins the game rather than letting the game naturally come to them, a lack of valuing the basketball. The checklist can go on and on.

The bottom line is the Hogs seem to enter a black hole under 10 minutes on the road and forget how to win. That is accentuated by players with weak basketball IQs, a lack of seeing the big picture and a mindset of expecting to lose instead of expecting to win.

Winning on the road requires an attitude and a swagger — not overconfidence but an edge.

It requires adaptability when put out of a comfort zone.

It requires toughness, mentally and physically. On the road, the Hogs have neither.

They are floating pieces of disharmony. There are too many flash players. That problem is accentuated by not having a true point guard who can be a coach on the court and a true center, who can be a go-to guy who can aggravate a team.

The Razorbacks now have neutralized all the momentum and any overall gain from the Kentucky victory.

They are alienating even some of their hard-core fans. It will be interesting how they respond. The culture nowadays requires a team to earn respect enough to motivate fans to go to large arenas.

The distinct crashing sounds you might have heard are many extremely loyal fans jumping off the bandwagon. A few fans I never expected to do so have given up. They are tired of having their spirits rise, then having their hearts psychologically jerked out. They are still supporters, but they’ve gone in the closet, waiting for the Hogs to prove something to them.

There’s a confidence loss among the faithful that parallels and confidence loss of the team on the road.

The problem is, even if the Hogs break the string on the road (and it has to happen eventually), it wouldn’t have much more than a feel-good pattern because of a pattern over many years. It will take many road wins over time.

The NCAA? Don’t hold your breath. The Hogs and the Southeastern Conference have already been pigeon-holed. Realistically, the SEC is a three-bid league but might get four.

Noting the strength of other conferences, it will take some extraordinary developments for the Hogs to get in or the SEC to get more than that. I’d bet on the under.

But the NCAA is not really the issue right now.

The immediate issue is stopping the rapidly increasing bleeding of confidence from the fans.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)

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