This Arkansas Razorback basketball team has turned the season into one frustrating road trip to Groundhog Day for their fans, many of whom have gone from cautiously hopeful to just plain mad.
Road warriors? They are road kill, and not tasty at that, in a generally mediocre Southeastern Conference with a low RPI.
It’s apparent that coach Mike Anderson cannot yet offer a lineup of his type of players who can play all elements of the style he wants to play.
The Razorbacks are good in flashes and those flashes enter a funk and a fog on the road.
That is not uncommon in college basketball this season. No team, even at the very top of the pecking order, has been consistent night-in, night-out, particularly on the road. That partly explains the revolving door at No. 1.
Some of the problems are systemic across college basketball and athletics and education in general.
Ask any coach in America. One of their major concerns is the focus of the modern student-athlete. The jock form of Attention Deficit Disorder is rampant. That is complicated by a lack of accountability and a lack of understanding of the big picture of team vs. self that plagues many a program.
And so many players are more concerned about the spectacular highlight video than the details, the little things that are the difference in winning and losing.
Much of the magic of basketball is in the details. That’s why legendary coach John Wooden spent some early practice sessions teaching his players how to properly put on their socks. The lesson wasn’t really about feet; it was about detail as a building-block to amazing feats.
To many observers, what is bothersome about this Razorback team is the progress has been seen in baby steps with stumbles. Individually, players are not as far along as expected or where they should be.
The poster child is BJ Young. He can be alternately spectacular and awful and that kind of loose cannon is not what you want from a go-to player. He’s not a good shot much beyond 10 feet. He makes terrible on-court decisions. His basketball IQ seems to be low. At crunch time, he’s selfish (there’s a difference in wanting the ball and being selfish).
Marshawn Powell and Mardracus Wade have a tendency to disappear or go into funks — or limit their effectiveness with foul trouble. Hunter Mickelson, forced to play out of position, seems uncomfortable and a fish out of water in Anderson’s offense. Ricky Scott has regressed in his development. Anthlon Bell, perhaps the young player who is developing the quickest, seems to not yet gained the full confidence of the coaching staff. Ky Madden is a so-so, 10-minutes a game sub, underachievubg from his high school hype — not unusal for a much-decorated player from a small school.
The only player who seems to get it game after game, as far as focus, intensity and effort, is Kikko Haydar, a walk-on.
Fans are now looking toward next year — and possibly Bobby Portis — as a savior. Portis has wonderful skills and is probably the best player in the state. But at the major college level as a freshman, Portis may not have the bulk or strength or overall maturity to take all or part of the team on his shoulders.
Actually, the National Invitational Tournament may be the best (and most likely) end game for the Hogs this year. Realistically, they would not go very far in the NCAA tournament. The NIT could offer more games, more home games, more winnable games and a chance for this series of discordant parts to better get in tune.
What we have now is an occasional harmonious melody in friendly confines and too many sour notes everywhere else.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-1235)