Indiana is 11-2 so far this season with the Hoosiers’ only losses coming to No. 1 Duke and Arkansas.
That’s right, the same Arkansas team that beat Indiana in Bud Walton Arena also lost to 6-6 Western Kentucky in that same building. The Arkansas team that ran off a six-game winning streak after a two-point loss to Texas to open the season lost to 6-5 Georgia Tech in Bud Walton Arena.
An Arkansas team that at one point was being projected as a possible NCAA tournament six seed, also struggled at home against Texas State and Texas San Antonio in front of a home crowd in North Little Rock.
So what’s going on?
Scoring for one thing. Through its first seven games Arkansas was averaging a whopping 87 points per game. Over the last four games that number is 70 points a game. In fact, since an impressive 89-74 road win at Colorado State, the Hogs gone have 2-2 while being outscored by an average of 71 points to 70.
Watching those first seven games and comparing them to the last four it’s obvious that Mike Anderson’s young team is not running its offense the way it opened the season. Assists are way down, from 20 a game through the first seven to 13 a game in the last four.
Not surprisingly shooting percentages are down from both the field and from behind the arc. Going into the Western Kentucky game Arkansas was shooting at a 47 percent clip and 35 percent from three point range. Over the last four games the numbers are 41 percent and 31 percent.
Scoring defense has actually slightly improved during this slump, from 73 points a game given up to 71, but rebounding, which is a big component of defense, is also down. From an average of 40 boards per game over the first seven games of the season the Razorbacks have been out rebounded over the last four games by an average of 39-33. In the Hogs’ last outing, a 73-70 win over Texas State, they were murdered on the defensive glass, giving the visitors 21 second chance points.
Looking ahead it’s not hard to see disaster looming once SEC play begins unless this team starts reversing those numbers. At 8-3 Arkansas’ overall record is currently good for a sixth place tie in the 14 team league. But over the last four games the Razorbacks have either lost to or struggled against teams that would likely finish near the bottom of the SEC this season.
If you are losing at home to Western Kentucky and Georgia Tech while struggling to beat Texas State how many SEC teams will come into Bud Walton and walk out with a win? Florida, LSU, Missouri, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State are each arguably better teams than the two you’ve already lost to. What if your first home win doesn’t come until late February against Texas A&M?
Yes, this is an extreme forecast but possible if these guys don’t get back to playing the way they were. There was a time when even an average Arkansas basketball team could count on at least five conference wins at home. The SEC is better these days. Hog fans going bonkers on Internet lately have these same worries bouncing around in their collective heads.
A solid win Friday night at home against Austin Peay might calm things just a tad as long as scoring, shooting and rebounding are at the levels we saw in November to Mid December. As long as these guys play with “good energy,” as Anderson puts it. Maybe, in fact, Hogs will return from Christmas break with their batteries charged just in time for conference play.
If not, if you can somehow get through January and half of February, the Diamond Hogs start their 2019 season coming off a second place finish in the College World Series. The NCAA has the Diamond Hogs 10th in its preseason poll.