Ask Mike: Dodging a Bullet in NLR; Graham’s Short Leash & Arkansas as a Football State

By Mike Irwin
on 2023-12-18 18:16 PM

Q. Basketball starts us off after a near loss by the Razorbacks to Lipscomb in North Little Rock.
HotlantaHog asks: Could you assess how the Hogs basketball team is doing so far this year– pros, cons, outlook?

A. They are very good when they’re focused and playing with great effort on both ends of the floor. That’s how they beat Purdue and Duke and why they had a 20 point lead on Lipscomb midway through the second half in North Little Rock on Saturday.

When they lost focus and started playing sloppy, undisciplined basketball they had the same issues as in that loss to UNC Greensboro. Part of the issue is a tendency to lose focus against so called mid major teams.

The loss to OU had more to do with Trevon Brazile and Tramon Mark coming back from injuries. They’ll be fine by the start of SEC play.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy says: Jalen Graham. Have the Hogs ever had a player that has had a shorter leash? It seems he’ll be rolling pretty good and boom. Vanished. I get it that there’s “holes” in his game but, dang it, so do others.

A. Muss said that he needs Graham to rebound better. He also had a turnover which contributed to him being pulled. I just think Muss is making a point with him. He needs to be an all around player because they do need him on the floor a lot more for his offense. Also the other big men play better when he’s out there.

Q. Call Me Surprised says: I tuned in the game Saturday and saw Menifield playing. How did that happen? How do you think it will impact the team?

A. The NCAA declared him eligible the day before the game. I do think this team gets better with Keyon on the roster. He looked okay against Lipscomb for a guy playing in his first game of the season. By the time SEC play starts he should be fine. He’s quick. He can shoot and create shots for himself and others.

Q. sgiles says: I’ve been disappointed with Devo’s play so far but he won the Lipscomb game with a huge layup when the Hogs offense had left the building. It just seems like he sits there and waits for a moment to save the day.

A. We tend to forget that he’s a “step up in the clutch” guy because he doesn’t always do it. But when he does we are once again reminded what Devo means to this basketball program.

Q. MDW says: Tonight I watched the basketball Hogs play in North Little Rock. Simmons Bank Arena is like the Bermuda Triangle for Hog basketball. Creepy stuff happens, and nobody knows why. Do you have any idea what’s going on?

A. It’s not the arena. Arkansas problems against Lipscomb were what I’ve already outlined. I will also say this, the schedule this season has contained no pushovers. I was impressed at how hard the Bisons played. They were like a bunch of energizer bunnies. Wind ’em up and watch ’em go. Their defense was relentless and with the ball they did all he things Arkansas wasn’t doing. Great ball movement. Lots of ball screens and assists. With players staying in college longer because of the extra COVID season more good players are going to mid major programs out of high school. There is more parity in college basketball these days. A lot more. Teams like Lipscomb don’t hit the road scared.

Q. dagnamit says: I have read that U of A players have been getting cars and cash for a very long time. Is that true? If true it seems like we as fans of clean programs have been duped.

A. The University of Arkansas has no history of providing cash or cars in recruiting. In the past, when strict NCAA rules left some athletes virtually penniless, I do believe there were some athletes who got a small amount of financial support from boosters they knew. I was once told a story about a player who became very close to a family in NWA. In his last year of college they bought him a car so he would no longer have to walk everywhere he went. I could never confirm this. If true it was not done by the school. I think at many universities athletes in the past athletes sold comp tickets to games that they were given for their families. This would typically generate a few hundred dollars.

A few years ago the NCAA created cost of attendance scholarships that provided several hundred dollars in spending more for athletes each month.

Q. daprospecta says: He can’t answer that because that is incriminating our own program. All I can say is what you’ve read here has a high probability of being true.

A. I don’t work for the athletic department. In the past if I had direct proof of Arkansas breaking NCAA rules against the buying of players I would do a story on it. But I can’t just go with rumors. There has to be proof. I have always drawn a line between buying players out of high school, outright cheating, and low income players getting help from fans for certain personal expenses. That money was not used to get them to Arkansas or keep them here.

Q. whippersnapper asks: How about Harding University rushing for over 6000 rush yards? First team to ever achieve it at any level of college football.

A. That’s a nice story in a year in which he University of Arkansas had such a miserable football season. It’s also a reminder that those people who say you can’t win big in football in this state are wrong. In 1964 Arkansas won a national title in Division I. Arkansas State won a Division II natty in 1960 and now Harding has a Division II title. Plus UCA won three NAIA national championships. (1984, 85 and 91) This blows up the notion that this is not a football state and you cannot win big here in football. I know it’s Division II or NAIA but the process is still the same. So four Arkansas colleges have won national championships in football. That’s impressive for a small state.

Q. AlabamaHog says: I recently read an article about Jason Peters discussion his long career. Do you think he will be selected to the NFL Hall of Fame on the first ballot?

A. The oldest player in the NFL at age 42. Seven pro bowls. All Pro twice. You’ve got current NFL players saying he’s the most incredible athlete they ever competed against. He was a tight end at Arkansas all the way back in the Houston Nutt era. I can’t say he’ll get in on the first ballot but he should.

Q. WVHogfan: Why can’t they wait until after the bowl season before opening up the transfer portal? Why should a player be able to leave a team before a bowl game after helping a team to a bowl. It is like a player deserting a team to meet their selfish needs.

A. The NCAA could do that but the whole point of portal transfers is to get players who can play right away. You delay the portal until after the bowl season and the spring semester has already started. The kid can’t come in and work with his new team until summer when spring football is already over.

(Last updated: 2023-12-18 18:16 PM)