Ask Mike: Portal Talk, Final Four Madness & Are College Baseball Bats Juiced Again?
on 2023-03-27 19:16 PM
Q. Our first question this week is from s-glies who asks: So did we turn back into that other team in the UConn game? I had hoped that the problems were fixed but the basketball team went back to the same questionable defense and missing three point shots we’ve see so many times before.
A. I’m not gonna try to convince anybody that the Razorbacks played well and yes, UConn broke down Arkansas’ defense and when the Hogs had the ball they forced outside shots. But that had more to do with what UConn did than what Arkansas didn’t do. Even if Arkansas has played its best game of the year I’m not sure the game was winnable. It would have been closer but UConn is the best team I’ve seen so far in the tournament.
I also think a lot of our fans looked at it like that too. Razorback basketball fans are some of the best out there. They’re smart, they understand the game and they know when to tip their caps when the other team is just better.
Q. Slobberslob says: What a season, from we’re going to win it all to are we going to make the tournament? They played their hearts out and I was entertained. Sure some games were better than others but I loved them then, now and next season. Woo pig!
A. I’m not saying that all Arkansas basketball fans have that attitude but the majority of them do and that’s what I meant in my previous answer. I think most get the injury issues. Most get it that this team had to count on too many freshmen. Even five-stars, if they are freshmen, are going to be up and down. They had just two players back from last year. That was an issue too.
Q. BloodRedHog asks: Who do you predict will come back for Coach Muss next year? I assume Smith and Black will leave, but what about Council, Walsh and Trevon? You can’t transfer a third time due to a new rule, correct ?
A. A lot of rumors. Not too many answers yet. Most assume that Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black are gone to the NBA draft. It sure looks like it.
Based on what he said after the UConn game in the lockerroom it sounds like there’s a good chance that Ricky Council is gone. He refused to say if he was coming back.
Jordan Walsh did say he was coming back so there’s that.
Nobody seems to know about Devo. The Mitchell twins and Jalen Graham, some say they’re gone, some some say they aren’t.
It looks good for getting Trevon Brazile back. Keep an eye on the projected draft boards. If he shows up close to a first round pick that could change.
I have no idea about the three freshmen who weren’t five-stars. I can’t imagine all of them transferring even though none played very much.
As for the portal, there are a several players who have publicly said that Arkansas has reached out to them. Reaching out means nothing. Those that the coaches have visited are the ones to look at. Kevin McPherson, our recruiting and portal guru, says Muss has visited with four. More are coming up.
Q. RazorAlex88 says: Oh how satisfying it was to see SDSU send Bama home! It’s going to be a very interesting Final 4 and National Championship Game!
A. Two separate issues here. First the general dislike for Alabama not just from Arkansas fans but around the country. This is a reaction to the Brandon Miller controversy and head Coach Nate Oats’ refusal to discipline Miller in any way. Also the silence on the part of the athletic department or the school administration over the matter.
Finally head coach Nick Saban sent a message by suspending one of his players and saying publicly that there was no wrong place, wrong time excuse for that player. That was a reference to Oats’ statement about Miller, saying he didn’t do anything wrong, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. A place and time, according to police, where a young mother was murdered.
Saban, no doubt, understands that the controversy casts a bad light on all sports at the school and creates the impression that nobody with any common sense is in charge.
This is why basketball fans all over the country were happy to see Alabama go out far short of its national championship goals.
Part two of this answer, the interesting Final Four. Man, I don’t remember anything like it. A four seed, two fives and a nine seed.
Talk about blown up brackets. A lot of fans are complaining saying it’s gonna be boring. No traditional basketball powers. The TV people are worried because San Diego St. and Florida Atlantic have small fan bases.
I like it. If Florida Atlantic were to win this whole thing, Wow. Look, they’re not some team that lucked out to get there. These guys haven’t lost a game in a month and a half. So for me it will be fun.
Q. Hawgredneck says: Are Alabama basketball fans the dumbest out there or what? Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama each lost in the Sweet 16 but the ‘Bama dummies are saying they went farther because Arkansas and Tennessee played on Thursday while Bama played on Friday.
A. Yeah, apparently this is so new to them they don’t get it that half the teams in the Sweet 16 play one day and other half the next day. No doubt these are Alabama football fans who are trying to figure this basketball stuff out.
Q. Hogdogger says: Seems like Hogs had a technical foul in almost every game this season. How many TF have they had and is this the most for a Razorback team ever?
A. It may seem like it but you’re way off. Arkansas was assessed 14 technical fouls in 36 games so that’s less than one every other game. The number was not unusually high either. The Hogs opponents got 12 in those 36 games. Kamani Johnson got the most T’s this past season. He was whistled for three of them. Eric Musselman only twice. Other Razorbacks who got two were Jordan Walsh, Devo Davis and Anthony Black.
I don’t have to the time to check those 14 T’s in 2023 with the numbers in other seasons but I seriously doubt that it’s even close to a record.
Q. mousetown wants to know: Why can Hog fans have anything nice? I’m just getting over the Sweet 16 blowout loss when we take down number one LSU in their stadium. So what happens next? They outscored us 26-7 in a double header. It was a total butt kicking. Now I’m freaking out again.
A. Be grateful for that Friday win. As good as LSU is there are a lot of schools who won’t get out on Baton Rouge with a win this season. Look, if you put Jaxon Wiggins, Coty Frank & Brady Tygart into the mix I think Arkansas would have had a good chance of winning one of those Saturday games and therefore win the series.
But that situation is what it is. Will McEntire is a key to this season. He has to be more consistent. If he pitches like he did a year ago it would take a lot of pressure off a bullpen that right now has maybe two or three pitchers it can count on.
However, I need to point out that baseball is a marathon sport that can change game to game. What looks bad today can be good tomorrow. Don’t freak out. Let it play out.
Q. Anthony Cameron says: I can’t wait to watch LSU run through everyone in the regular season, earn the number 1 overall seed, and not make it to Omaha. It’s a tale as old as time.
A. That has certainly been true the last two seasons. In 2022 Tennessee was number one almost the entire regular season and did not get to the CWS. In 2021 the same thing happened to Arkansas. Also last season Arkansas had a very disappointing season until it got to the Stillwater regional and caught fire there, almost making it to the championship series of the College World Series.
So you never know.
Q. Eddy Lynn says: There were warnings from the umps on two bat flips in the LSU series. One against Arkansas and one against LSU. Both times the SEC announcers said, let the kids have fun. To me there are other ways to have fun than showboating.
A. I don’t know how old you are but you sound old. I’m old and I know. Yes, for our generation, the Boomers, starting in Little League ball and on up, showboating was a sign of having no class. The whole idea was to win or lose with class.
But it’s not 1960. The bat flip itself, unless it’s directed toward the opposing dugout, is not that big of a deal. Here’s what going on. Tennessee caused this with its ridiculous antics last year. Putting crazy hats on players who hit home runs. Celebrating on the field for 15 seconds or so after the batter had crossed home plate. So the SEC is taking action this season. Sending a strong message. Don’t do any of that or it will cost you. Have they overreacted a bit? Maybe but I like it.
Q. Pigsfeat asks: Do you think college bats or baseballs are juiced this year? When my son played college baseball a few years ago, the bats were intentionally deadened. More like wood bats.
…..From what I have seen this year and especially at LSU, something has changed! Either that, or LSU is better than many MLB teams! I personally prefer the old game with wooden bats and non-altered balls.
Q. I haven’t heard anything about that but I’ve sure thought about it. Look at the numbers. In the SEC right now there are 10 players batting over .400…one one them over .500.
There are 10 SEC players with 10 or more home runs and we’re two weeks into the conference season. A kid from Florida has 17 home runs.
You’re right, they deadend the bats several years ago and messed with the baseballs. They may have to tinker with it again.
Some of this no doubt is a result of the trackman computers that teams are using and all the analytics as a result of the data that results. Launch angles, exit vilocity…things like that.
I like wood bats. I have a couple of them at home and before I got too old a buddy and I would pitch to each in BP. Wood bats at the college level would be fine with me but it’s not going to happen. I’m not sure there’s enough quality wood out there to produce bats for all the college teams that play baseball. It’s easier to make composite bats and adjust them as needed.
Q. robs4516 asks: I know there have only been a few spring practices, but do you have a read yet on how the defense is doing with so many new players and coaches? Do the players seem to be buying in?
A. We’ve only had five practices. A third of the way through. The big story on defense is the four-man front and a new rush end position. Sam Pittman was singing sophomore Nico Davillier’s praises last week. Apparently the new coaches feel like he’s perfect for that position.
They also like Landon Jackson, a junior transfer form LSU. He was highly recruited out of high school and Trajan Jeffcoat, who started 10 games for Missouri last season. New defensive coordinator Travis Williams really wants to put the heat on opposing quarterbacks his season.
There is one negative, Arkansas continues to have injuries in the secondary. A redshirt senior transfer is already out for the spring. He was second team all Big 12 last season. So that’s not good.
Quincy McAdoo, the receiver who moved to cornerback in the middle of the season and had such a big impact, he’s been out but is expect to be back this week.
We’ll know a lot more about spring football by this time next week.
Q. Smalltownhog95 says: The Hogs seem to have a good amount of in state talent for recruiting all major sports except football. Mike beside NW Arkansas growing into a major metropolitan area what do you think would have to happen for this state to produce more D1 caliber football players?
A. Well you’ve hinted at the problem. It’s population. With just over 3 million people it’s hard to produce the number of D-1 players that it takes successfully support a major college program.
Let’s face it, with only 13 scholarship to give, if Musselman gets the top two basketball players out of this state each year, he’s in good shape with the way he works the portal.
With baseball, DVH needs maybe five or six in-state guys with just 11.6 scholarships. That’s going to change now that the NCAA has authorized an expansion to 31 scholarships. But that’s still less than half of the 85 Pittman has to give in football.
Another thing that has hurt football is that the state’s largest metropolitan area, central Arkansas, is more of a basketball area than football. That’s why they have that Real Deal on the Hill AAU tournament there instead of NWA. Several years ago it was also thought that the no pass, no play rule in Little Rock high schools was hurting HS football in Central Arkansas.
My own view is that football is making a comeback in the Little Rock area and as the population continues to boom in NW Arkansas you will see more top recruits produced here too.
But out of state recruiting will always be a big deal to Arkansas football. Pittman is going into the Georgia/Florida area. Louisiana has always been big along with Oklahoma and Missouri and of course, Texas. With Texas and OU coming into the SEC I think that will help Arkansas’ recruiting in both of those states.
Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy says: New NCAA president Charlie Baker said in an interview that he was wanting to get Congress involved someway with NIL. What part if any could government play in it? Typically, things get worse in those instances. Barkley certainly didn’t like the idea.
A. It may be the only hope they’ve got. If congress talks to ADs around the country and comes up with some ideas that can be put into legislation, maybe they can produce a bill that will hold up in the courts. Again, the only thing that makes sense to me is to make scholarship athletes part time employees of the university they attend. Every athlete is paid the same. You take into account the value of their scholarship, room and board plus medical care and come up with a reasonable rate of pay for the 20 hours of work they put in each week.
If the pay is regulated, everybody making the same adjusted for the cost of living where you are going to school, it takes NIL out of the hands of the highest bidder. What used to be cheating before his mess came about.
If a school wants to sell merchandise with a players name on it, yes the athlete can get a part of the profit. But athletes endorsing products not associated with the university they attend should be against NCAA rules. That would take wealthy boosters out of the mix.
I’m not a big fan of congress but this is not politics, it’s sports. Maybe they can come up with a non partisan bill that they can all agree on.
(Last updated: 2023-03-27 19:16 PM)