Commentary: Hoops Falls Into Abyss

Arkansas lost to Georgia, 81-67,W ednesday night at Athens for its fourth straight SEC defeat. That's the worst losing streak since the Razorbacks joined the league over a decade ago. And, there are no signs the streak will end soon. So, what's the deal?

This Arkansas basketball season has been more perplexing than those of the past four or five seasons, although those were tough to figure, too. Four straight losses for a team picked to finish second in the SEC West makes this writer wonder if it can get any worse. Yes, it can, and probably will with national power Florida headed to Fayetteville on Saturday.

So, what's wrong? One thing that I do know for sure is that we aren't equipped inside the way we should be to play in a league like the SEC. No other team in our league is as poor inside as Arkansas.

But, there is some talent on this team. I'd take these guards over most in the SEC, and I'd surely take Brandon Dean and Jannero Pargo over any other two from any single team.

However, it's hard for me to understand how a team can play so well at Illinois, and for a half against Oklahoma State and LSU and for full games at Memphis and Auburn and then play so poorly for other long stretches.

One of my theories is that the team has no constant, and that can be as far as strategy and as far as leadership. And, sometimes the leadership is not respected although the person tries to lead. Sometimes it just doesn't work when a player tries to lead. They may not be the leadership type, or they may not have teammates that will follow him.

The key to me is the changing structure of the way we play. That is coaching. I'm not saying Nolan is a poor coach, because we have proof in the past that his methods work more times than they don't work ... given the right set of players.

But, we don't have the right players now. They aren't good enough to change systems every game, or every half. We've heard over and over that the basketball IQ of this team is low. Given that low basketball IQ, I'd think it would be important to cut back on the playbook, as they say in football, and keep it simple. We don't seem to do that. We change more than we remain the same. If something goes bad for a half, then we go to something different.

I know, I know, Nolan is the master of unpredictable strategy. He wants to do it his way, and wants to be unpredictable. But, sometimes that is bad for the players. They need a constant, they need structure.

Nolan remains a tough disciplinarian. We've seen at least three cases of players not playing a game because of minor transgressions ... curfew, late for a meeting or missing class. That's great. And, I applaud that.

But, it may be time to give this team some basketball structure and stick with it for a few games to try to settle things down.

The team has lost four in a row. The emotions are crazy right now for everyone, including these players.

One thing I do know is that Nolan does not tire of trying something different, and that's probably what we'll see Saturday against Florida. The Gators like to play up-tempo, so we may see the Hogs try to put them in a higher gear and burn them up. I don't think that's possible, but it may be what we see tried next.

While I'm usually optimistic, this is a time that I don't see things turning around. The road that this team faces is way too tough. Nolan Richardson usually fools all of us, but I don't think he can do it this time. He's already tried about everything, and it's not getting better ... only worse.

This is not a give-up column. It's just a dose of reality. What we have here is a mediocre team that has slipped to a level below mediocrity.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories