Q. As expected there are a lot of questions this week about that shocking basketball loss to Hofstra in North Little Rock. The first question, more of an observation, is from Tucker who says: We need to start playing Zone Defense and/or stop switching on pick and rolls and/or stop overplaying the pick.
A. There a coaches who so believe strongly in man defense that they’ll stick with it no matter what but your point is well taken. There has been so much focus on Arkansas struggles to hit jump shots that the bad defense they’ve been playing has gotten somewhat overlooked. It looked like to me that Hofstra’s coaches looked at video of the Oklahoma game and said we can draw these guys out on the perimeter with our three point shooting and break them down with our guards using pick and rolls to create layup and dunks. Ironically this is what Arkansas should be doing offensively but guess what? Opponents are throwing up a tight zone defense and cutting off access to the lane. So yes, playing more zone would probably help. It might open them up more from behind the arc but their three point defense has been ineffective playing man defense anyway. Plus a backdoor layup may only get you two points but it’s a higher percentage shot than a three and just like you, I think all these points in the paint are killing this team.
Musselman did say in his Monday presser before the Elon game that he did switch defenses against Hofstra but nothing he tried seemed to work.
Q. Jay Brooks says: Little to no chemistry, definite signs of smoke behind the scenes.
A. You’d have to be inside that team to know if that’s part of the issue but it’s definitely the kind of thing fans start talking about. These grad transfers were all studs on their previous teams. They get here and their playing time is reduced. Maybe they don’t see where they fit into the offense so you’ve either got confusion or maybe some anger from newcomers who don’t think the coaches have any faith in them. So far I haven’t heard anything like that. It’s just speculation but I will keep checking.
Q. Hawg Girl says: Williams definitely didn’t look like himself. Several of them seemed almost lethargic.
Q. Deena H Adams adds: Williams was tired. I was in the front row watching & he seemed very tired.
A. These observations are in response to the fact that former Razorback big man Beybe Iyiola out played Jaylen Williams with 18 points and 14 boards to 6 points and 8 boards for the Hogs which caused me among others to question why Connor Vanover didn’t play in the game at all after Muss had announced on Thursday that he would come off the bench. Also there’s an Internet rumor that several of the players had the flu and maybe that was why Williams struggled and Vanover never got off the bench.
Q. And that rumor prompted Jimmy Keirsey to suggest sarcastically: Maybe they had the River Market flu.
I have to believe that if some of these guys did have the flu Coach Muss would have said so after the game. We’ve been told that he flu rumor is false. Musselman said on Monday that after Arkansas got behind he was trying to speed the tempo of the game up which is why he didn’t play Vanover.
Q. BloodRedHog asks: Do you feel the main issue with the Hog basketball team is a lack of leadership? There is no Justin Smith or Moses Moody on this team.
A. Leadership is best expressed with performance in games so yes, that’s a loss that hasn’t been replaced. I would add Jalen Tate to that equation. Last season they had a strong power forward, an athletic guard who could create his own shot and hit it and a point guard who could score and distribute the ball. None of that has been replaced by players of similar effectiveness so far this season. It remains to be seen if that’s going to change at some point.
Q: Finally there is this observation from T.L. Slaten about the fact that this team has not developed an effective point guard 11 games into the season. He says: K.K. Robinson played 4 minutes and had 4 assists. The other three point guards played a combined 87 minutes and had 6. What’s up with that?
A. Another valid point. K.K. got the start. Seems to have played well. But he did get two quick fouls. It might have been one of those things where once he went to the bench he got lost in the shuffle and never came back in. Still, if as the head coach, you’re talking about a point guard problem, a need to share the basketball and set up teammates with assists, Robinson seems to have done his job in the four minutes he had on the floor.
Q. To football now. Hog minus Nutt wants to know: Will Tre Williams’ DUI affect his playing time in the bowl game?
A. He’s gone. He announced on Sunday that he’s moving on to prepare for the NFL draft. Some are guessing that it was a mutual decision. Pittman said, you need to go and Williams agreed. There is some evidence to suggest that it was Williams’ decision. He apologized in a statement to the fans. Said he’s grateful for his time here and he wished he’d represented his school better.
Q. The Hawk Hawkins says: I see where Bumper Pool is playing in one of those post bowl all star games. Does that mean he’s not coming back? Also what about Ridgeway? I know that Coach Pittman said he’s trying to convince both of them to come back next season.
A. Pool has been invited and apparently has accepted. The same is true of Ridgeway. But as long as they don’t participate in those games or the workouts they would be eligible to come back.
As of Monday both Pool and Ridgeway were working out with the team for the Outback Bowl. Neither has comment on their plans for next year.
Q. PorkSoda wants to know: Now that early signing period is over, what can we expect in recruiting between now and the February signing period?
A. Otis says Gentry Williams, a four-star cornerback out of Tulsa, is probably going to Oklahoma but hasn’t signed yet. Arkansas would take him in a heartbeat. Mostly what’s out there are portal transfers. Who they go after will depend on who leaves between now and February. As far as I know anybody they’ll add will probably be out of the portal, not a high school recruit.
Q. PatBoat says: With Jerry Jacobs starting in the NFL. Makes me wonder is there a back story on how he wasn’t a starter over Hudson Clark? Was it the three interceptions Clark had against Ole Miss in 2000 or something else?
A. The three picks Clark had everything to do with that. The Pittman moved Clark ahead of Jacobs after that game and Jacobs basically got mad and quit. It’s interesting that he finally said at the combine that he made a mistake and he should have stuck it out and fought to get his job back. How many of us would change major decisions we made if we had a chance to go back for a do over? A lot I suspect, especially athletes.
Q. Pigsfeat says: Arkansas fans see their players through Hog colored glasses, but it seems improbable that Burks is left off the AP All America team while Ohio State has three WR on it. Do you believe the OSU players are all better than Burks? Also, do you think Burks is a 1st round draft pick in the NFL this year?
A. I wouldn’t worry about what the AP does. Those are sportwriters and while I respect some of them, too many of them limit their thinking to top traditional programs. That’s especially of Big 10 teams where a lot of those writers are concentrated.
Yes Burks is a first rounder because NFL teams are trying to win. They don’t care where a player is from. If he can help them win they’ll draft him high. This has been proven over and over.
Q. HatManHog asks: Is it remotely possible that Coach Pittman can be renegotiating his contract in order to take care of his assistant coaches? He gives them credit for virtually every positive that happens with the HOGS, doesn’t it make sense that he’d want them taken care of so they’ll stick around?
A. That’s what he said last week. Also Hunter Yurachek seemed to suggest it in a statement he made about negotiating with Jimmy Sexton over Pittman’s proposed contract.
Here’s what he said: “One of the things I want to do is reward our assistant coaches for having a great year. I don’t want to reward them for looking at other jobs, I want to reward them for having a great year here at the University of Arkansas.”
“If you look programs across the country that have some really solid continuity within their coaching staffs, it helps you from a recruiting standpoint. It helps you in the development of young men. It’s important that we retain as many, if not all of our assistant coaches moving forward.”
So it looks like that’s a part of this process. But I also think Hog fans are going to be watching to see how this negotiation turns out. They’re kind of split between those who say say, pay Pittman whatever he’s asking and those who want Yurachek to hold the line against the kind of crazy money that agents are getting for coaches these days. Brian Kelly getting almost 10 million a year to go to from Notre Dame to LSU. Jimbo Fisher, about the same amount to stay at A&M with an insane buyout. Lane Kiffin getting 7 million a year at Ole Miss.
Some favor the kind of performance based contract that Pittman already has. He got an extra $750,000 for that this season. So what is reasonable? How about 4.4 million instead of 7 million with an improved performance based clause?
Q. Alex4Hogs88 asks: If you were to throw a Christmas party and could invite the SEC football coaches to come, which ones would you invite (of course you gotta invite the Pitt Boss!) and which ones would you “lose the invitation”?
A. First of all it would be a golf outing, not a birthday party. As my wife knows, I’m not a fan of birthday parties. If somebody was willing to foot the bill for a trip to the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, Pittman and Mike Leach would be at the top of the list. Saban and Kirby Smart right behind them.
Drinkwitz, no. Jimbo, no. No Aggie would ever be invited. Widdle Wayne Kiffin? No way. The rest are okay to me but it would be a fivesome including me, Pittman, Leach, Saban & Smart.