ASK MIKE: NCAA Tourney Woes For the SEC, Diamond Hogs’ Streak Ends & Still No Word on Muss

ASK MIKE: NCAA Tourney Woes For the SEC, Diamond Hogs’ Streak Ends & Still No Word on Muss

Q. Our first question is from mousetown who wants to know: What happened to Auburn and Kentucky? What it tells me is that Arkansas is not the only high expectation teams that can blow it. They got farther than we did but tell that to their fans who are gong bonkers on the Internet.

A. The higher the expectations the harder the fall. That’s always been true. I think it was a mistake for Bruce Pearl to publicly state that his team has a goal of winning all nine post season games. Three in the SEC tournament, six in the NCAA tournament.

I mentioned on the Internet that Auburn came up six games short. Some Arkansas fan answered me back basically saying that they beat us by 30 in the regular season. I responded to him by saying, that’s true but both Arkansas and Auburn ended up with the name number of NCAA tournament wins. Zero. That started a big discussion of what really constitutes a successful season.

To me it’s simple, it’s NCAA tournament wins. The more you get the better is it. Some fans pointed out that Arkansas has no trophies under Muss. That is correct. But they had eight NCAA tournament wins in three seasons compared to exactly three over the previous 15 years.
So which is it? I know how I feel. I also know that no matter how good a team looks in the regular season the NCAA Tournament resets your entire season. Your opponent is 0-0 just like you. That’s why Yale can beat Auburn and why Oakland can beat Kentucky.
Watching Arkansas win six straight in ’94 is still the highlight of my career. I saw just how hard that was to accomplish.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy asks: Are Muss and the U of A in negotiations on an extension? Does the SMU talk have legs?

A. There have been so many rumors it’s driving me crazy. I can only conclude that Muss is still looking at other jobs otherwise why would he not come out with a simple statement that he’s staying? Surely he and Hunter Yurachek are not that tone deaf. The fans deserve an answer. The problem I see, if Muss does leave, whoever replaces him is gonna be in a hole with regard to recruiting unless he can bring with him some of the recruits he has coming to him in his previous job.

Hopefully we’ll know something soon.

Q. Hogtied85 says: Mike Neighbors, love him or not so much, it just isn’t working out here. It is a problem when multiple players transfer out year after year. Those players go off and be great elsewhere. No one asks why nor is it addressed.

A. Actually the numbers don’t back up the claim that players leave Arkansas and become great. Only one transfer in the last few years has improved her scoring after leaving. A couple of others have actually regressed.

Neighbors admitted in an interview last week that he has to change his recruiting approach. He’s been old school, recruiting freshmen and trying to develop them only to see three of them head to other schools. So he going the portal route. He admits it’s new to him but he says he’s all in on it. He’s landed a top scoring guard out of Arkansas State. We’ll see how the rest of his recruiting goes.

Q. Lizzy Lemon wants to know: What do fans value? Winning over building good character men or off the court impact over winning?

A. Most fans would say both but when it comes down to it, whether they admit it or not, they want to win. But if their coach stops winning big then it’s yeah, he/she has got some deficiencies as a developer of character so he/she needs to go.

Ideally you get a Rick Barns. A great guy who wins and places a high premium on the character of this players.

Q. WVHogfan says: I feel that athletes should not be allowed to enter the portal until their season is completely over; like Ladybacks leaving the team before the NBIT game.

Should my attitude be that team needs are more important than individual needs, or should it be good riddance to you if you don’t want to be on our team?

A. That’s a good question. These days, more and more, it’s about the athletes and what they want. You, as a fan, are just supposed to accept it. I sense that a lot of fans are reaching the end of their patience with all this transferring. The NCAA is set to go back to the one time transfer without penalty rule next year but that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. The combination of unlimited NIL money used in recruiting and the transfer portal has to be dealt with.

Q GA HAWG says: I wanted you to be able to say that you know two more folks whose love with collegiate sports is slowly fading away. How big a fan are we? We were born and raised in Arkansas. We are U of A Class of ’71 graduates. Arkansas Alumni Association Life Members and current Arkansas Foundation supporters and football season ticket holders. NIL and the portal is driving us away.

A. This is a very common attitude among fans our age. Younger fans in their 20’s & 30’s seem to have less of a problem with it. Beyond that I think there is a resistance to the combination of unrestricted NIL money and unlimited transfers.

Q. Pigsfeat asks: Is Arkansas really so poor that they can’t compete with NIL or is it a case of “can’t get blood from a turnip”?

A. I’m not clear on that. I’ve heard a lot of stuff about basketball not having enough NIL money. No money for women’s sports. Most of it is going to football. I said last week that Hunter Yurachek needs to address these rumors. Fans can’t be expected to buy into NIL if they don’t understand it. I was told last week that once the average fan understands that the whole key to recruiting is with grass roots contributions of small amounts, Arkansas could potentially be at the top end of NIL collectives because in this state the Razorbacks have no serious competition like you have in Mississippi with Ole Miss and Mississippi State or in Alabama with ‘Bama and Auburn.

Q. whippersnapper says: The poorness of the state is starting to show up on our lack of NIL funds. Are we (as a state)now saying “bye bye” to having a chance to even compete against the rest of the SEC in the 2 major sports of football and basketball?

A. It may not be as serious as that. It’s possible that Arkansas is going through a short term issue where the athletic department is playing catch up with its NIL collective compared to some of the other SEC schools. The word I’ve gotten in the last two weeks or two suggests that this is not a long term problem. It’s getting better already. But others say it’s not going so well.

Q. Ralph Thompson wants to know: Is Kim Mulkey covering up something? Sounds like she’s doing damage control in advance of a newspaper hit piece on her. I’ve always thought she was a jerk but a jerk that wins. Maybe we need a jerk.

A. Because it’s the Washington Post some of it could be political. I’ve heard rumors that they didn’t like the hard line stance she took on some of the COVID restrictions that were imposed back in the 2000 season. They started investigating her and learned that she’s not always nice to the people around her. What a shock. There are a lot of coaches like that.

She may have ticked off some folks in the Baylor athletic department she left for LSU. They may have talked to the Washington Post about her.

There will probably be a discussion about what she said after that SEC Tournament fight involving one of her players and a South Carolina player.

If the tone of the story is, Kim Mulkey is a jerk I agree with you. A lot of fans will conclude, okay she’s a jerk but a jerk that wins.

Q. TX Diamond Hog says: You’ve been telling us that there would come a game when the pitching would not bail us out. Guess that time was Sunday against Auburn. We won the series but they scored 13 total runs just like we did. Gotta get this offense going.

A. I wouldn’t get too alarmed about this. I realize that a lot of Arkansas fans don’t respect Auburn because they got swept at Vanderbilt but I watched the Arkansas series closely. Auburn’s got good pitching and decent hitting. They were ranked and and stood 14 & 6 going into the Arkansas series. They had a win over 18th ranked Iowa. They were 11-2 at home. This isn’t some stinko baseball program.

Arkansas’ bullpen got lit up for the first time this season. That can happen on the road. DVH pitched a couple of relievers twice in the series. Gabe Gaeckle is a freshmen. Cooper Dossett is a sophomore. They are both good pitchers but maybe they’re not ready to go twice in a series.

Pay attention to the LSU series coming up at Baum. That will be interesting. LSU comes in after losing two of three to Florida at home,

Q. sgiles asks: How much longer do you expect Dave Van Horn to coach? I hope it will be long enough for us to see his triplets become bat boys and a bat girl at Baum Stadium.

A. That would mean what, another 10-12 years? I don’t think that he’ll go that long but being a grandpa actually charges your batteries. I think it will make him a better coach too.

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