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Mike Anderson is a better coach than lots want to admit.

Stop blaming Mike Anderson for Arkansas’ troubles, especially on the road

Eric Bolin

SEC Country reporter Eric W. Bolin will candidly answer your Arkansas Razorbacks sports queries each weekday in our Mailbag Question of the Day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryHogs or by email to Eric at ericwbolin@gmail.com.

Question of the Day: Tuesday, January 8, 2018

arkansas-arkansas basketball

That’s a lot of text. So for those who don’t want/can’t be bothered to read through it, the long and the short is this:

“Mike Anderson is the fault of the basketball problems.”

This is not an uncommon take right now. Fans get frustrated at the smallest things during basketball season. It’s like it’s football or something, like one game is going to ruin the whole year. Not two weeks ago, Arkansas was on top of the world. Now some back to “Fire Mike.”

Blow-by-blow, let’s break down these concerns. Most of them are unfounded or misinformed. No #FakeNews here, though:

1. ‘He does NOT coach’

Anderson coaches and coaches well. The majority of coaching happens in the days other than game day. Game decisions are important, but only to a certain extent. The largest chunk of what happens in a game comes from what happens in practice. Players execute it or they don’t. Anderson is not Bret Bielema, although some act like they’re one and the same. Bielema teams could not rally from halftime deficits. Anderson teams have proven not only that they can, but they do so at a decent rate.

2. ‘They don’t play good defense’

Right now, no, they don’t. The notion the Razorbacks were poor defensively last year is a misconception. Arkansas was sixth in field-goal percentage defense, fifth in 3-point percentage defense and fifth in blocks in the SEC. Are those glimmering rankings? No. They’re also not, by any means, bad. This season those same totals are 12th, ninth and ninth. Those are, generally speaking, bad.

Of course, to be literal about it, none of the numbers are “good.”

3. ‘They don’t have an offensive system in place’

Anderson has the most-used offensive system in place in basketball. The Motion offense is taught to middle schoolers. Its complexity depends on the players executing it. Arkansas players have a tendency, when they get down by several points, to abandon it. The “motion” in the motion offense disappears. That isn’t on Anderson. This goes back to players executing what they’re taught in practice.

4. ‘They don’t play with heart’

While quibbles can be made about whether the first 3 points are on Anderson, this one absolutely cannot. Heart is an individual trait. It cannot be coached, it cannot be taught. Players either play through things or they don’t.

5. ‘He wants to have 10 athletes he thinks will be in better shape than the other team’

I agree with this … somewhat. Wearing out the other team is an antiquated style. However, wanting 10 athletes is a great thing. That’s the direction basketball is headed. Every season the sport becomes more and more a positionless sport. Anderson is ahead of the curve in putting athletes on his court.

6. ‘Good and great teams win on the road’

Correct. And Anderson’s teams are the best at doing that. Time to get this breakdown out from last season and update it with current numbers:

Look back at the last 20-plus years of Arkansas basketball on the road. In order of most recent first, the last four Hogs coaches have done the following:

  • Mike Anderson: 0-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 1-8, 1-7
  • John Pelphrey: 2-6, 2-6, 0-8, 2-6
  • Stan Heath: 2-6, 3-5, 1-7, 0-8, 1-7
  • Nolan Richardson: 1-7, 3-5, 2-6, 3-5, 3-5, 2-6, 3-5

The breakdown goes back to every season since Arkansas lost the national championship game in 1995. Exactly two winning records in the 22 completed seasons since. Anderson both. Overall coaches winning percentages on the road break down like this:

  • Anderson: .363
  • Pelphrey: .188
  • Heath: .225
  • Richardson: .304

7. ‘We simply dribble 1-on-1 and try to make individual plays’

Yep. That’s where Arkansas gets in trouble, when players stop executing what coach wants them to do, the Razorbacks get in holes and lose games.

Not Anderson’s fault. Not right now, anyway.