The Missouri Tigers provided the reasons why the Arkansas Razorbacks hired Mike Anderson earlier this decade. How ironic it is that the Tigers are also providing the most convincing reasons why Arkansas needs to fire Anderson at the end of the decade.
Will Anderson receive a pink slip as UA’s head coach?
That is for athletic director Hunter Yurachek to decide. After another very familiar failure on Tuesday night, however, it is harder for Anderson to make the case that he can take Arkansas to the next level… the level he reached at Missouri.
Remember Anderson’s ascendance in the college basketball world. He not only thrived at UAB in the early years of this century; his shining and crowning moment with the Blazers came against an SEC opponent, and not just any SEC opponent, but Kentucky.
UAB stunned the top-seeded Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament. Anderson knew how to beat Kentucky.
Five years later, Anderson coached against the man who was about to become Kentucky’s next head coach. Anderson and Mizzou smoked Memphis, Tyreke Evans, and John Calipari in the Sweet 16 to give the Tigers a berth in the Elite Eight, and a shot at their first Final Four.
Mizzou lost to Connecticut, but Anderson had established Missouri as a major player in college basketball. He showed he could beat Kentucky. He showed he could beat Calipari.
The Nolan Richardson protege was a perfect fit for Arkansas, the ideal choice to lead this program back to the heights Richardson had forged. This did not mean Arkansas should have been expected to make a Final Four run every year, but the Richardson standard generally meant making a run at the Final Four once in a while, making the Sweet 16 on a semi-regular basis, and winning at least one NCAA Tournament game on an annual basis.
Mike Anderson came home to Fayetteville in the autumn of 2011.
He has won two NCAA Tournament games at Arkansas.
He has not yet made a single Sweet 16.
[bctt tweet=”Missouri ironically amplifies why Mike Anderson isn’t cutting it at Arkansas” username=”CBBToday”]
If Arkansas does get into the 2019 NCAA Tournament field, it will be as a team wearing road jerseys in the round of 64, as a lower seed. Losing to Missouri Tuesday night, 79-78, puts the Hogs on the bubble — if they weren’t there already.
The loss, which follows a defeat suffered at the hands of South Carolina on Saturday, cancels out the value of the win over LSU a week and a half ago. Arkansas is staring at a double-digit seed, maybe a 9 if everything breaks right.
The Razorbacks have a ton of work to do just to crack the field of 68. They are almost certain to fall short of the Sweet 16 once again. If they miss the NCAA field for the fifth time in eight seasons under Anderson, it will be a complete disaster.
Daniel Gafford could then leave for the NBA Draft. Then what will Arkansas do?
It’s a mess, and it is thematically appropriate that Missouri — Anderson’s previous place of employment — has magnified why this era of Arkansas basketball has been so immensely disappointing.
This loss on Tuesday night — to a Missouri team which entered the game 2-8 in the SEC, almost certain to play in the first round of the SEC Tournament (in the games matching the four worst teams in the conference) — was not the first of its kind for Anderson.
This has happened before — not just a loss to a bad team, but a bad Missouri team, in February.
On February 4, 2017, Arkansas lost to a Missouri team coached by Kim Anderson, who was about to be fired at the end of a disastrous tenure in Columbia. Arkansas fell 83-78 to the Tigers, who snapped a 13-game losing streak that night.
Arkansas — which has lost at home to Georgia Tech and Western Kentucky at home this season — regularly finds a way to include head-scratching losses in a basketball season. Missouri has resurfaced as a team Mike Anderson can’t solve, even though the Tigers are nowhere near the team they were when Anderson expertly guided them to the Elite Eight, 10 long years ago.
Missouri gave Mike Anderson a chance to go home to Arkansas. Now, Missouri is giving Arkansas administrators fresh reasons to tell Anderson to simply go home.
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