Mike Anderson was asked by a St. Louis reporter if he talks to his team about the NCAA tournament. Anderson said he never does. But the Arkansas coach does mention the NCAA tournament in team goals before the season.
"My goal every year is to win the national championship," Anderson said Monday morning on the SEC teleconference. "Post-season (for a goal) is a given. If we take care of things, we'll be there."
Arkansas, up to No. 18 in the rankings, plays host to Missouri on Wednesday night after sweeping a pair of road games at Auburn and Ole Miss last week to improve to 9-3 in the SEC, 20-5 overall.
Missouri is struggling under first-year coach Kim Anderson and has been dealt another tough blow with guard Wes Clark now out for the season after sustaining an elbow injury last week. The Tigers are 7-18 overall, 1-11 in league play.
Asked about possible discussions on the NCAA tournament by a based in Missouri, Mike Anderson said, "We never talk about it. We talk about getting better from last year. We won 20-something games last year and we want to do better than that this year. We are more dialed in to the games. Our first game was our biggest game. So now all we are looking at is Missouri.
"Obviously, we know we have Kentucky down the line, but we are focused on Missouri right now."
Mike Anderson said the key to the Hogs' surge has been solid bench play and the move of Anton Beard to the starting lineup.
"I think it takes awhile for our bench to get in-sync and all know their roles," Anderson said. "Beard was inserted in the lineup and that was huge for our chemistry. It enabled Ky Madden to play off the ball and we also have Bobby Portis playing at the highest level."
Mike Anderson was asked about the improved play of Portis over last season.
"You look at his freshman season, Bobby last year was one of the best freshmen in the country," Mike Anderson said. "He has a huge work ethic. He wants to be a great player. He's in (our offices) constantly wanting to know what he can do to get better. He went to the Lebron (James) Camp. He works on the things the coaches give him. He's shooting every day.
"I think it's the same mindset for Bobby as we saw with DeMarre Carroll (at Missouri). It's work ethic and you see him making strides.
"You see him this year as a stronger player. He was active at Ole Miss. He took another step. He was a rim protector, something we have been wanting to see."
Mike Anderson wanted to see Portis get the ball more in the second half at Oxford.
"Ole Miss had something to do with it and we had something to do with it," he said. "At one point, I told the team that he needed to touch it more. We want to go inside and then get the inside-out looks. I thought we did do some of that starting out the game."
Missouri's Kim Anderson confirmed that Clark would be out for the year. He sustained the injury late in the loss to South Carolina. It's a dislocated elbow that has a rehab time of six to eight weeks. Obviously, that gobbles up the rest of the year for the Tigers.
The Tigers lost 65-60 at South Carolina, then a 77-74 setback Saturday to Mississippi State. The losing streak is 11.
"Obviously when you lose this many games in a row, you're trying to find some bright spots," Anderson said. "I thought Johnathan Williams was outstanding against Mississippi State. That's probably the best game I've seen him play.
"I thought he took the game over. Certainly if we're going to competitive here in the last few games, we need for him to that. I thought Keith Sham Burger, who was really our only ball-handler in that game, had an outstanding game. He had 15 points, 6 assists and didn't turnover it over. Ryan Rosburg is a guy who has struggled some earlier in the year and he's started to play better lately. He really came out and played well against Mississippi State. Hopefully, he can continue that and we can get him into the mix again."
Kim Anderson was asked specifically about the losing streak.
"It's difficult," he said. "Probably no one involved with this team has ever lost 11 games in a row. I think our guys all come from successful programs and they all come from AAU programs. What we've tried to do is focus on getting better. Our biggest problem has been consistency and being able to finish a game. We'd have several games where we've had opportunities to win down the stretch, and we haven't been able to make plays.
"Part of that is youth, part of that is guys who are younger and this is the first time they've been put in that type situation. But it's been tough. We've had some situations where we've had to play some guys kind of out of position, but hopefully that will get better as we go along.
"For me personally, it's been a tough on me, just because I'm not used to this. But it is what it is. I've said this several times, nobody is more disappointed than me about where we're at, but nobody is more excited than me about where we're going. We have a lot of work to do to get this program back to where it has been. The only way to do it is to roll your sleeves up and go to work."
Kim Anderson was asked if he sees something different from Arkansas since the two teams played last in Columbia.
"I think the first time we played them, Kingsley was playing a little bit more, and I think Durham might have been starting at point," he said. "I know Beard is playing now, and I really, really think Harris is good. I think he brings something to the table. And of course (Michael) Qualls and Portis are excellent players.
"I imagine they're playing with more confidence. Like I said, the greatest compliment I can give that team is, hey, they know how to win. They figure out how to win late in the game. They've had some games that have gone right down to the wire and they've been able to pull them out. I'm sure their confidence level is high and their guys will be ready to play Wednesday night."
Goal Simple for Mike Anderson
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