Arkansas head football coach Chad Morris will always have one phrase that will stick with him for as long as he remains in Fayetteville.
In the same way Bret Bielema would never be able to live down the phrase of "borderline erotic" -- not that he even wanted to -- fans and especially us in the media will always remember his declaration of "unacceptable" after the Razorbacks were embarrassed, 52-6, in Starkville, Miss., in the penultimate week of the regular season.
"Unacceptable" came to embody Arkansas basketball as well on Wednesday night.
My brain still has not been able to process the team's 69-65 loss to Georgia Tech on Dec. 19 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. It was a distinctly bizarre performance different from the usual losses under Mike Anderson.
The College Football Playoff championship game showed yet again why predictions and projections can be so unproductive. I and many others felt Clemson had a chance to win the game, but no one expected the Tigers to dominate the Alabama Crimson Tide so thoroughly.
You may write something like, "Mike Anderson may have stumbled into the best all-around team he has ever had in Fayetteville," only to see the Razorbacks put in their two most lifeless, careless and brainless performances of your lifetime.
That was the only way I have been able to describe them. We are used to seeing Anderson's teams get worked in the half-court game. We have seen upperclassman guards boss his Hogs. Arkansas almost always allows the other team's star player to set a career high.
That is life with Anderson.
The loss to Georgia Tech (9-6, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) and Wednesday's 57-51 surrender to not only Florida (9-5, 1-1 Southeastern Conference), but also the sport of basketball, were unacceptable. The Razorbacks presented a different, listless way to lose.
Anderson's numbers in road games were historically bad through his first six seasons in Fayetteville, but the Razorbacks (10-4, 1-1) have improved dramatically away from Arkansas in recent seasons. The Hogs always made up for their road failures by utilizing one of the best home court advantages in the country. You can say a lot about Anderson's teams, I don't know if anyone would ever describe his teams as dumb or lacking in energy.
To see them capitulate so easily and refuse to make positive changes in their two recent losses was unacceptable. To do it on their home court not once but twice is as perplexing as it is embarrassing.
It was the worst offensive performance at Bud Walton Arena during Anderson's tenure and the worst offensive output by the Razorbacks in Fayetteville since 2009, and that was with a guy who scored 30 points on his own.
Arkansas attempted 32 3-pointers against Georgia Tech's zone defense, making zero effort to intelligently attack and get into the lane. The Razorbacks shot 77.8 percent at the free throw line -- easily one of their best performances of the year there -- and yet they only attempted nine free throws the entire game. That is exceedingly dumb basketball.
But, fine, it was one game. Arkansas moved on to gut out three consecutive wins against far less talented opponents. The Razorbacks even started off 1-0 in conference play with a 73-71 road win against Texas A&M (6-7, 0-2) at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas. Arkansas was a mere 11-for-22 at the free throw line and almost choked the win away at the end, but as many have uttered this week, "A win is a win is a win."
To see them repeat their Georgia Tech performance against one of the weakest Florida teams of the past decade was more than just unexpected. It defied all logic and reason. That Arkansas was still in the game late in the second half is as much of a reflection of how down the Gators are this season.
It started almost immediately, which in a 40-minute game should not be as worrisome, but at no point against Georgia Tech did Arkansas feign a change of approach. Mason Jones shot a 30-foot 3-pointer from the Razorback logo early on Wednesday. Isaiah Joe airballed two attempts from the wing.
And they just kept shooting. They never stopped. They shot 26 3-pointers and only made six, 23.1 percent.
Somewhere in the last five games, Arkansas came to believe it can beat anybody by just shooting enough threes. The strategy did work against A&M when Arkansas was only 10-for-33, 30.3 percent, as four late 3-pointers gave the Razorbacks enough of a cushion to not give the game away at the free throw line. That may prove to be more detrimental in the long-term than if they had lost that game.
Jalen Harris entered Wednesday's game as the nation's leader in assist-to-turnover ratio. His 15-point, nine-assist and zero-turnover performance against the Aggies was one of his best of the season.
The inane amount of 3-point attempts is a pretty good reflection of how mindless the Hogs played in those games. Harris' numbers help to show how careless they were.
Harris has averaged 7.1 assists to every turnover in 12 of his 14 games this season. He had four assists with two turnovers against Georgia Tech and three assists with three turnovers against Florida, dropping his ratio to 5.4 and out of the top two in the country.
Jones did get hot on Wednesday and finished with 30 points. He was 12-for-13 on free throws.
The rest of the team made just 2 of 17, 11.8 percent, 3-point attempts and 3 of 13, 23 percent, free throws.
As I always say, I don't know what the answer is, but this team is fundamentally broken at the moment. Daniel Gafford had four shot attempts Wednesday. Meanwhile, Jones shot 13 3-pointers, Joe shot 10 and even Adrio Bailey was 2-for-8 from the floor.
The Razorbacks shoot 34 percent from distance and 64.3 percent at the charity stripe and they're not using a potential NBA lottery pick on offense.
Anderson is treated like a modern politician in a way I have never seen a coach protected. Any critic is labeled a "hater" and he constantly gets a free pass as many fans ignore anything negative and give him all of the credit for anything positive.
If you don't think Anderson is culpable for whatever is going on with this team, what are your hopes for the rest of the season? They shoot 64 percent on free throws for a reason.Sports on 01/11/2019
Print Headline: Football descriptor befitting of Hoop Hogs