Coming into this year, Arkansas's Mike Anderson was one of just a handful of coaches who had at least ten seasons of experience without having an overall losing season. With his Razorbacks falling to .500 on Tuesday night, that streak is looking in jeopardy.
Everyone knew that the Hogs were going to be taking some steps backward after losing stars off of last year's outfit like SEC player of the year Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls. What Tuesday's 32 (!) point loss in Starkville showed is that Arkansas didn't just regress but it regressed into a specific old pattern.
The rap on Anderson's first couple of teams was that they couldn't win away from home. The only neutral site win they had was the 2012-13 team's victory over Alabama A&M, and their only SEC wins were one in each season over dreadful Auburn teams.
|Season||Arkansas Road Record|
Anderson's third team began to break the cycle, scoring a decent neutral site win over Minnesota and SEC road wins at Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and eventual national runner up Kentucky. Last year's outfit even finished above .500 on the road, befitting one of the conference's best teams.
This year, though, it's all come crashing down. The Hogs have only one serious miscue at home with their loss to Akron in their second game of the season. In neutral venues they've sustained questionable losses to Mercer and Stanford, though, and the thumping from Mississippi State surpassed a loss to Wake Forest as the worst result away from home yet.
It's not from a lack of competitiveness. The losses to Stanford, Wake, and Mercer were each by just three points, the last of them in overtime. The team's four-point loss at Dayton and three-point loss at Georgia were both in overtime as well. Their recent loss in Gainesville was by just four, and their loss in Baton Rouge was by merely two. Aside from understandable blowouts at Texas A&M and Kentucky, Arkansas seemed like a team that just needed to find a way to get over the hump on the road.
The loss in Starkville calls all of that into question, and that question needs an answer quickly. The Hogs face a road test at Ole Miss next, one of three road games in the season's final seven.
Including the SEC Tournament, it's possible for Anderson to finish the year at an even .500 and keep his streak alive without winning a road or neutral site game. Winning out at home and dropping the rest would make his Hogs 16-16, pending any potential non-Big Dance postseason tournament action. Doing so would require picking up home wins over both LSU and South Carolina, though, making it a tall task.
But if Anderson's streak does fall, it's not going to be due to gacking up that home game against Akron. It's going to be because of slipping into the old rut of not being able to win away from home.