Who’s ready to renew the Battle Line Rivalry, this time in Basketball?! I know Sam and I are! We hope you are too! Mizzou enters today’s game with our new SEC sanctioned permanent rival Arkansas sitting at 7-11 and 1-4 in conference, good enough for a share of last place with South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Arkansas comes calling to Columbia today for our first of two games this year, and look they’re bringing an old friend…
Presenting the Arkansas Razorbacks
location: Fayetteville, Arkansas
By HHKB Chris: And that old friend is Mike Anderson! You remember Mike Anderson right, he was that guy that last had Mizzou playing basketball that was actually enjoyable to watch. You may also remember him for constantly looking at greener pastures (again, cash) and being very bad at leaving. He’s good with hellos, bad with goodbyes, kind of like me when I drink and then just dip at the bar without telling anyone and everyone wonders what just happened. The difference being I don’t get paid tons of money or make promises to kids, their parents and the fans that I’ll be at the bar until I retire (Sam's note: We don't need that promise, Chris, we know you'll be there)
In startling news (at least to me), Arkansas has five mascots! FIVE!!!! There’s the real one, a real razorback named Tusk. See he’s named Tusk, because he has them. Fun fact, only male razorbacks have tusks, the ladies do not. Arkansas has three Tusks, and I imagine they all take turns showing up on game day. I don’t know much about these pigs, but what I do know is that a razorback is a 250 pound rat, with scimitar like tusks, and a surly disposition, who'd love nothing more than to eviscerate anything that comes near it. And if I’m honest with you, I learned that all from John Locke on Lost, who was a bad ass with a knife. Thanks TV character from my favorite show!
The other four mascots are the type that are for the kids and public appearances. There’s the male one, who goes by the name of "Big Red", a lady one, who’s dubbed "Sue E" (get it, like the chant thing they do), "Pork Chop" who appears to be the love child of Big Red and Sue E and finally the worst type of mascot in the entire mascotting world, the stupid inflatable mascot named "Boss Hog." Allow me a slight tangent if you will…I was at the 1998 Mizzou – Nebraska game in Lincoln (the year post kicked ball bs) and at halftime the entertainment was someone shooting a potato gun at the inflatable mascot for Nebraska. Does that make any sense, shooting your own mascot? That’s weird and stupid, but even dumber was what transpired during the game. At the time, the quarterback for Nebraska was a fella by the name of Monte Christo, whose parents either named him after the sandwich or the book by Alexandre Dumas (not pronounced dumbass), I’m not sure which. Every time this guy would scramble for a first down (this happened a lot, it was the 90s and Nebraska after all, all they did was option) on the video board an image would show up of said quarterback wearing vampire teeth, a cape and he would emerge from behind his cape with the subtitle being "The Count of Monte Christo." Seriously?! Are you all that stupid? Did no one actually attend school while working in the AV club? The book was not about vampires…it was about revenge and prison and revenge and getting out of prison, and gold and revenge and family and really more revenge. It's great you should read it. God Nebraska is stupid, it’s no wonder they got kicked out of the AAU.
But back to Arkansas’ mascots, they have too many, and I dislike all of them.
Aside from having a plethora of mascots, Arkansas also has a bunch of alumni, here are just a few to get you familiar enough to have a conversation at a cocktail party. First off, William Dillard! He’s the founder of that clothing store that they have at the Columbia Mall. Dillards you may remember is where Peter Warrick of Florida State stole a bunch of clothes, proving that stealing is just what part of the program down in Tallahassee. CLOTHES AND CRAB LEGS, THAT’S WHAT FSU STEALS! Arkansas was also the school where Peggy Gram was educated. Peggy Gram? You don’t know who Peggy is? Well she’s only a world champion barbershop quartet singer and possibly an influence on the Be Sharps. Learn your history people. Finally, one cannot ignore Arkansas’ potentially most famous alumni, friend to Chris Christie, known groper and drinker, Jerry Jones! Jerry likes, oil, his cowboys, having a good time and thanking Dan Snyder for making him only the second least liked owner in the NFL. Keep doing you Jerrrrrrr.
Are you heading to the game today? You should be! Today’s game is in the friendly cavernous confines of Mizzou Arena, where a Mike Anderson led Arkansas team has never won, NEVER! So let’s keep it that way people. If you’re in CoMO today and you want to get some food before the game starts might I suggest going to Booches, just thinking about those tender little Booches burgers with those grilled onions that just explode in your mouth like flavor crystals every time you bite into one... just makes me want to burn this mother down. Come on, Pookie, let's burn this mother down! Come on, Pookie! Let's burn it, Pookie! Sorry…just uh, go to Booches and enjoy the Burgers ok? You'll thank me. If you can’t make it to the game, and you can’t meet the Jimmies out at Maddy’s in DC, the game will be on ESPN2 so you can watch it there from the comfort of your own home, where no one will see you sob when things go bad, if they do.
About Their Basketball Team
By Sam Snelling: Arkansas is pretty good at this whole basketball thing. Most of you will be familiar with the story because it was once our own. Coach Mike Anderson plays the uptempo style that's been dubbed the Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball. If you're familiar with the Fastest 40 minutes, it's because Coach Mike Anderson used to coach Missouri, where he ran the very same system. It's hard for me to hate on Coach A because of what he brought Missouri. DeMarre Carroll, J.T. Tiller, Zaire Taylor... that season was magical and fun. But then he left us to return to his home in Fayetteville.
This is clearly the best team that Arkansas has had, and much of it starts with the big man up front, Bobby Portis. Portis is a former McDonalds All American who has elevated his game to new heights this year and currently leads the league in scoring. Joining with him is Michael Qualls and Rashad Madden to form a pretty solid big three. The supporting cast isn't as good as it was a year ago, but the improvement from the top three players has kept Arkansas ahead of the NCAA game to this point.
They've won 14 games so far with 4 losses (3 of which were on the road). They score a lot of points, and sometimes struggle to prevent other teams from scoring. So, there's that I guess...
Now for a closer look at their basketball team, let's chat with somebody who knows them best...
Q&A With ARKANSAS FIGHT
Thanks to Doc Harper, the managing editor for ArkansasFight.com, for taking the time out of his cardiac filled Thursday to answer our questions in preparation for today's game. Doc and the folks at AF do great work following all things Hogs. Doc was also a guest on Episode 17 of Rock M Radio, and the second 2-time guest on the show. Congrats Doc!
RockMNation: Mike Anderson is in his fourth season as head coach at Arkansas, how important is it for the Hogs to make the NCAA tournament for the fan base and what is the general feeling for Mike A among the faithful?
Doc Harper: Making the tournament is vital. Despite limited progress in his first three seasons fans are still anxiously awaiting his breakthrough to get into the tournament. He talked up this team throughout the offseason. It’s almost entirely made up of players he recruited. Some, and possibly all of the best players could leave after this season, so if it’s not now, when will it happen?
I think most fans are in his corner. At the moment we’re coming off two straight losses (writing this before Thursday night’s game against Alabama) so there’s a bit of anxiety. If Arkansas doesn’t make the tournament this year things could get bad.
RMN: After a strong non conference showing, Arkansas has had an up and down SEC season, is this something you're concerned about or would you consider it a blip?
Doc Harper: The defense has been really bad for most of the first four games. Basically, if Arkansas doesn’t force a turnover (which is something we’re good at doing) the other team has a better than 50% chance of scoring. Teams that have been able to hold onto the ball and have good shooting nights can do some real damage. Against Ole Miss, the Rebels only turned the ball over 3 times and shot just under 75% in the first half, and they obviously won pretty easily.
If Arkansas can tighten up defensively, it should just be a blip. If not, it will be a problem.
RMN: Mizzou fans know all about Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls and their talent, aside from them who should we focus on as players to potentially have a great game tonight?
Doc Harper: There are several who could step up. Rashad Madden is a senior guard who could have a great game scoring and with assists. He’s also become an elite free throw shooter this season. He’s somewhere around 50% and I’d guess about half of his points have come from the line
Anthlon Bell is a streaky shooting guard who could light up for 5 threes on any given day but he usually struggles more on the road. But if he’s hot, look out. Alandise Harris is a senior forward who had a brilliant game at Georgia but has mostly disappeared since. But he is capable of breaking out. Anton Beard is a freshman guard who has been playing really well on the road so far this season.
RMN: Where is Arkansas most vulnerable, where Mizzou could potentially make hay?
Doc Harper: The zone has been pretty effective against Arkansas the last few games. If Missouri can slow the game down and disrupt Arkansas’ rhythm, a lot of things could happen.
RMN: We've been assigned as permanent rivals in the major sports, and I think Mizzou fans have embraced this, how about from the Arkansas side of things?
Doc Harper: There are some fans who have totally embraced it and others who don’t like it just because it feels forced upon them. Arkansas fans really enjoyed a tradition of ending the football season against LSU, which we’d done since entering the league in 1992, and were very unhappy to see the game moved.
Personally, I’m looking forward to the rivalry. I think it will only get more intense as more games are played between the two schools. I was in Columbia for the football game in November and I see a lot of potential in the two schools playing each other in that last game of the season.
RMN: What's your prediction for the game, how does it play out and what's your expected final score?
Doc Harper: You never like having to play a game on Thursday night and turn around for a road game on Saturday, which is the situation Arkansas is in this week. That being said, if Arkansas gets back on track and beats Alabama, I like them to win in Columbia. Anderson obviously hasn’t won there since he left and I think the players will be gunning for him.
For final score, give me Arkansas 76 - Mizzou 72
Thanks again to Doc Harper for answering our questions, give his work and those of the others on Arkansas Fight tout de suite, they do good work over there, and hey they like basketball too!
Now that we know everything there is to know about Arkansas, how in the heck is Mizzou gonna win this game? (hint: I don't think they are)
1) Who Dictates Pace?
We're familiar enough with Arkansas and Mike Anderson to know that when Arkansas is rolling, they play with great pace and speed up the game. Mizzou seems to be okay when they push pace, but mostly they're going to want to control tempo. If they're able to stay under control, take the easy opportunities when they present themselves, but not get out of control, they'll have a chance to match the Razorbacks on offense.
2) Jumpers Can't Fall
The big Mike Anderson mystery is his "inability" to win on the road. It's mostly a myth, as winning on the road isn't easy no matter who you are. And the Anderson system doesn't exactly favor the road referrees the way a more ball control style would. When Arkansas struggles on the road, they do not shoot the ball well. If the outside jumpshots are rimming out (and Michael Qualls isn't putback-dunking them), and Mizzou can control as much of the defensive glass as possible, they'll have a chance.
3) Momentum Plays
I don't really have a StatSheet to show this so I just picked Defensive eFG, but Mizzou has to find a way to limit Arkansas runs. They're going to have them, but if they're 8-2 instead of 17-4 then that helps Mizzou. Because of the Hogs style of play, Mizzou will have opportunities for runs themselves. And they've shown the ability to make runs on good teams. They've struggled in stemming the tide of the big runs that the opponent makes, and that is going to be three-fold against Arky.
This is a tough matchup for the Tigers right now. They just aren't deep enough with consistent players that can make plays against a good opponent. A solid home crowd can help, but this is just too tall of a task for Missouri to take on at a time when they're reeling a bit. We've watched this team do a little bit of peak and valley, and they feel like they're in the valley at the moment.
In order for Missouri to be in this game with a chance to win, they have to try to limit the impact of the supporting cast. Arkansas gets rolling when guys not named Portis, Qualls or Madden score points. They can get beat when those guys each give them 20, so long as everybody else is a virtual zero. This is how Ole Miss beat them, and it's how Tennessee beat them.
KenPom projects a 77-71 loss for Mizzou. I wish I could be that positive. With the cumulating pressure that is happening this season, mounting losses, this is sort of a worst case scenario for Mizzou and their season. I think the locker room is still holding it together, and the "finger pointing" that JW3 brought up after the game is being overstated a bit. They are obviously frustrated because losing is frustrating. The path for a Mizzou win though is for JW3 to match Portis, Shamburger to match Madden, and Clark and equal Qualls. Then they need two or three other guys to step up, with UA not getting the help (either all that I just said, or Qualls and Portis get in foul trouble). That said, I see this being a fairly close game for the first 30 minutes, before Mizzou starts to wear down. Final: Arkansas 73, Missouri 58
As usual, leave your predictions/trifecta picks in the comments. For the trifecta I'll go with Shamburger, Clark and JW3. Because until somebody else can prove consistency, why not?