Q. Our first question is from Mousetown who says: I was starting to think that this basketball team was like the last two. Struggling in January but a holy terror come February. Looks like I was wrong. What’s different about these guys?
A. They could still be tough from here on out. Maybe the Mississippi State game was a hiccup. But I agree that there appears to be some differences between this bunch and the previous two under Muss. Last year for instance, at this point, Arkansas was 8-4 in the SEC. This season they are 6-6. That’s a huge difference in terms of making the NCAA Tournament. If five get in from the SEC Arkansas maybe has to jump from tied for 7th to 5th. That would means moving past Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and either Auburn or Missouri. But NET rakings mean something too and Arkansas is good with that right now. But look at the schedule. Road games at Texas A&M, Alabama and Tennessee. Seriously? Those are the top three teams in the league right now.
So what has caused this? Losing Trevon Brazile for the season and Nick Smith Jr. for seven weeks is part of it. The scoring is down just a little bit. Last year Arkansas had four players scoring in double figures. This season it’s three. But overall the stats aren’t a lot different. It seems to me that the league is better top to bottom this season. More teams can do what Mississippi State did.
I think another difference is expectations. When you bring in three Mc Donald’s All Americans the expectations are huge. But when you’re two thirds of the way through the season and only one of them has had a big impact and you know that you’re never gonna see the best of him because he’s gone after one season, there’s a frustration level from the fans. Think of the pressure to perform there is for Anthony Black, Nick Smith Jr. and Jordan Walsh.
Finally there’s no Jaylin Williams on this team. No JD Notae. Stanley Umude. Audise Toney. Veteran players who won games in the clutch.
Q. S-giles says: I keep reading that Nick Smith Jr. messed up the team chemistry. That he played too much and it caused Devo and Council to go backwards. What do you think?
A. I don’t buy that. It certainly didn’t affect Anthony Black who had a great game. The Mitchell brothers played well. Devo Davis and Ricky Council IV were below their scoring averages but to me they just had off games.
Defense was the problem for Arkansas in that game and I don’t see how Nick Smith Jr caused all of those open three pointers or inside layups.
Q. Pigsfeat wants to know: Why are there so many (I don’t want to call them haters) people down on Nick Smith Jr.? He didn’t choose to be injured. He did choose the Hogs. I’m happy he is a Hog!
A. Because the story is out there that his agent was behind his absence and some don’t like the idea that you can even have an agent as a college athlete. You can these days because that agent is called an NIL agent. Nick Smith Jr. is Arkansas’ first clear one and done coming in and some fans aren’t adjusting to that and what it means.
I agree with you. I think his knee issue is real. I also think when you watched him play you could see how badly he wanted be back out there. I see him making a difference in the next game or two and by post season I think all Arkansas fans will be glad he’s back.
Q. Hotdogger says: Looked like there was a little dust up between Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh on the floor at the Miss St. game. Hope it’s not a symptom of what might be hurting the Hogs.
A. I think that was a heat of the moment thing. Black was playing his tail off and several of the other guys seemed to be out of sync. In that situation Walsh was inbounding the ball to Black from the MSU baseline. He threw a careless pass that caused a turnover and Black was very animated in explaining what Walsh should have done instead of what he actually did.
Earlier in the game Ricky Council had some words with one of the Mitchell brothers after a foul was called on Arkansas.
I don’t see any of this as serious. Just frustration when the other team is in sync and you are not.
Q. PTN #1 Fan says: All this rain and snow really can damper a person’s day and influence their attitude. Do you think Musselman corresponds to the weather as well?
A. I’m not sure about Musselman but you’ve just described me. I don’t like rain, I hate snow and cold weather drives me up a wall. Summer and fall. That’s what I like.
Warm to hot temperatures. Not much rain.
Look, Muss is cranky a lot. But I don’t think it has anything to do with the weather. He hates to lose more than just about anybody. His coaching style is intense. He’s difficult to be around after a loss. But when Arkansas is winning he’s a fun guy. We see it in various videos on the Internet. He loves the students. That’s one of the things I like most about him. Coaches need to understand that students should be the bedrock of your fan base. No they don’t have the deep pockets of high level boosters but students are closer to the players than non students and boosters. They’re on campus with them. In classes with them. You need to keep the students happy and Muss does that.
Q. Ladybackfan274 want to know? Would you be interested in buying Coach Neighbors house? After tonight it might be up for sale.
A. I don’t know where he lives but I promise you I could not afford his house.
This question was submitted right after Arkansas’ loss to Vanderbilt last Thursday. Things are looking a little bit different with Sunday’s domination of Missouri. Arkansas played it’s best defensive game of the season. That’s been the problem lately. Poor defense. A lack of effort.
After that miserable effort against Vanderbilt the fans were suddenly restless and in woman’s sports that’s rare. Fans tend to be more patient and forgiving when it comes to U of A women’s athletics. It’s hard to understand what happened to this team. Their top two rated players were mostly sitting on the bench. I’m told it’s because they weren’t producing when they were the floor. Well there are a lot of players on the floor who weren’t producing.
Vanderbilt, which had one conference win, out worked them, played smarter than them and had much better fundamentals. This deep into the season it was hard to understand the careless passes, the lazy rebounding, and poor defense.
But again, they are coming off an impressive bounce back win.
Is Neighbors gone? With the recruiting class he’s got coming in I’d say no. If this Missouri game sparks a turnaround, Arkansas will be fine.
Q. Patty Herman says: The Women’s softball team is off to a great start but it was annoying having to watch the games with no sound and bad camera work. Boo on ESPN.
A. Well, you can’t blame that on ESPN. This was a Youtube streaming feed and it was either watch that or not see the game at all. I’m a rare bird in that respect but I actually liked the no sound with stationary camera feed. It was like sitting in the stands watching. I think ESPN and the other network games are over produced. Too many replays. Graphics plastered all over the screen. Interviews while the games are in progress. It’s like these people think fans won’t be content just watching the game. Well, it’s a sports event, not a movie. I wish they’d keep that in mind.
Q. BlakeTaylor1112 asks: After the first weekend of Razorback Softball, how do you feel about the team this year? I came in fully expecting less power, but we ended with 10 home runs in 5 games. Outscored our opponents 51-9. The Freshmen looked good and it looks like they are living up to their hype.
A. All that power was nice but I liked the pitching. They allowed just 2 runs in their first 4 games. Gave up 7 against a good Baylor team on Sunday but had solid relief pitching after a big 4th inning by Baylor to win 11-7. If you can hit and hit for power with pitching depth, you can go a long ways. Hopefully that’s a trip to the Women’s World Series.
Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy asks: With the confirmation that OU and Texas are coming in the conference sooner than originally scheduled, what is your best guess on football scheduling? Any idea how basketball might work?
A. I see a lot of fans on the Internet putting up maps of which teams would be in the SEC East. Which ones in the West. There’s every indication that East and West divisions are going away. The talk is that there will be four pods of four teams each. You’s play each team in your pod every year and rotate the other five conference games. However it’s looking like the SEC will go to nine conference games played each year instead of eight. Money is the reasoning behind that. ESPN would pay more for a nine game conference game slate. I’ve heard some talk that with nine games they could go to a rotating schedule for all teams with no permanent opponents like they do in basketball.
The problem with that is, it would end annual rivalry games, like Alabama-Auburn, Ole Miss- Mississippi State and Florida-Georgia. So what I could see is one permanent opponent each year. A rivalry week opponent. I could see Texas and A&M hooking up again each year and that might bring back the LSU-Arkansas Thanksgiving week game which would eliminate the Arkansas-Missouri so called rivalry game which most Razorback fans hate. Let Missouri play OU that week.
Q. OkinawaHog says: I hope people don’t panic regarding the instate QB committing to Auburn. Plenty of time for CSP and new OC to show him what the new offensive scheme will be this year. What do you think?
A. Based on what I’ve read about that situation Walker White is one of those kids who wants to go out of state to play. He’s got strong Razorback connections in his family. He’s not mad at anybody. He just wants to get away from home and go out on his own. Arkansas’ roster is full of like guys like that. I doubt that Mark Enos is going to turn him around. If he does fine but if White goes to Auburn then it is what it is. Some Hog fans are automatically going criticize a player who goes to another SEC team and if down the road Walker White comes to Fayetteville as Auburn’s starting QB that game will be a sell out. Fun to watch.
Q. whippersnapper wants to know: Who is in your top 3 favorite offensive and defensive players for the football Hogs of all time?
A. We’re talking personal favorites, not outright best which could be debated until the end of time so, here goes
Offense: Matt Jones: Loved they way you could not beat him in an OT game. Loved to watch a kid that tall with a long stride who was that fast. Enjoyed watching him beat teams with his arm when supposedly he wasn’t a good passer, which was nonsense. Darren McFadden: Wow! Arkansas has never had a running back that physical who was that fast. He could run over you. He could blow past you and he could throw the ball out of the Wildcat formation. He’s a once a generation player. I have a tie for the third offensive player: Treylon Burks and Anthony Lucas. Burks was a guy who was faster than he looked with great hands. Lucas wasn’t a speedster but he ran good routes and could flat jump. There could be four guys around him and he’d go up and get the ball. His 1999 TD catch against Tennessee is the stuff of legends.
Defense: Billy Ray Smith Jr.: A great pass rusher and fun interview after games. Bumper Pool: Loved the way he played hurt . Never complained. Just made tackles. A record number of tackles. Finally Tony Bua, the most all-out committed, go-after-the-ball player I ever saw. Nobody loved being a Razorback more than Tony Bua.
Q. revolution says: I enjoyed last week’s insight into Coach Anderson. Do you have any interesting stories about the folks who previously covered the Hogs or served as broadcasters over the years?
A. Mike Olmstead. He was the sports director at this TV station back in the mid 2000s. I was the sports director at the CBS station. Back then and we did a morning radio show together.
There was a university chancellor in those days who had a lot do do with the chaos going on. He was trying to get rid of Frank Broyles which directly led to the whole Houston Nutt-Gus Malzahn fiasco. He ran off Gary Blair, the best women’s basketball coach this school has ever had.
Olmstead made it his mission to dog this chancellor on the radio every morning. He came up with the name Oz for the guy. Have heard about Oz’s latest stunt? Guess what Oz did yesterday? Stuff like that.
I quickly asked him, What’s the deal with that name?
Olmstead said to me, Ever watched the Wizard of Oz? I said yes and Olmstead then asked me, Who was the real Wizard of Oz? He was the little man behind the curtain. There’s this giant monster head in the throne room of the Emerald City surrounded by flames, smoke and noise. But it’s all being controlled by that little man behind the curtain. That’s our chancellor. Razorback athletics is in flames and the little man behind the curtain is making it happen.
The listeners loved it. They started calling in and asking Oz questions.
One morning the producer of the show told me that there was a guy on the phone who wanted to talk to me during the next commercial break. So I went into the control room and the caller explained to me that he had been in the parking lot in front of the administration building at the university when the chancellor pulled up next to him. He had the radio in his car on and he was listening to our show. When Olmstead started talking about Oz, the chancellor got out of his car, slammed the door and walked off muttering to himself in a highly agitated state.
When I went back into the studio and told Olmstead what the guy had said, he raised his arms in a touchdown signal and said, TOUCHDOWN ARKANSAS in his best Paul Eells voice.
His goal was to get under the chancellor’s skin and he had succeeded.