South Carolina basketball beat writer David Cloninger looks at every other team in the SEC as the season approaches
Nov. 2 Alabama
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Mike Anderson (59-39, fourth season; 259-137, 14th season)
2013-14 record (SEC finish): 22-12 (10-8)
2013-14 postseason: Second round, NIT
He’s outta here: Coty Clarke (senior, 9.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg); Fred Gulley (senior, 3.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg); Mardracus Wade (senior, 3.9 ppg, 0.8 rpg); Kikko Haydar (senior, 3.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg); Rickey Scott (senior, 2.7 ppg, 1.2 rpg); Dequavious Wagner (transferred to Angelo State, 1.1 ppg, 0.3 rpg)
He’s here (freshman unless otherwise noted): 6-9 F Trey Thompson; 6-2 G Dusty Hannahs (transfer from Texas Tech, will sit out this year); 6-1 G Jabril Durham (transfer from Seminole State (Fla.) College); 6-5 G Nick Babb; 6-0 G Anton Beard; 6-7 F Keaton Miles (transfer from West Virginia, sat out last year)
Top returners: 6-5 G Rashad Madden (12.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg); 6-11 F Bobby Portis (12.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg); 6-6 G Michael Qualls (11.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
Arkansas just missed the NCAA tournament last year when South Carolina sent it home from the SEC tournament without a win, but made the NIT and won a game before bowing out to California. The feeling this year is, despite the losses of several seniors who had been around for Anderson’s first three seasons, the Razorbacks will return to the Dance.
They have the talent, with Portis leading a bevy of long, athletic and burly post players. They again have the benefit of Bud Walton Arena, one of the toughest places in the country for opponents, and their non-conference schedule is very negotiable (at Iowa State, hosting Dayton and an intriguing game at Clemson are the biggest).
The question, as seemingly it always is, is whether or not Arkansas can win away from home.
The Razorbacks were 1-9 on the road and 0-1 on a neutral court during Anderson’s first season. They were 1-9 road and 0-3 neutral in his second year. When the final records of those years were 18-14 and 19-13, winning just a couple of those road games could have meant the NCAA tournament.
Last season, Arkansas was 3-6 on the road and 2-4 on neutral courts. The Razorbacks were charging for the NCAAs with six straight wins from mid-February to March, but lost on the road to a bad Alabama team and then dropped its first SEC tournament game to a worse USC team.
Arkansas is a very good basketball program. It has the most NCAA tournament appearances of any SEC team (29) other than Kentucky and more Final Four appearances (six) other than Kentucky. The Razorbacks have missed six straight NCAA tournaments. They missed seven from 1977-2008.
For a man that has been around for a lot of those appearances (Anderson was an assistant at Arkansas from 1985-02), he wants to get back. He’s also hearing that it’s high time the program gets back. Anderson, above all, understands that even a native son won’t last if he doesn’t start stacking tournament appearances. The first three years, expectations were middling and it was OK that he didn’t get there.
With the Razorbacks picked to finish third this year, expectations are raised.
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Jimmy Dykes (First season)
2013-14 record (SEC finish): 19-11 (6-10)
2013-14 postseason: None
He/she’s outta here: Coach Tom Collen, Keira Peak (senior, 10.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg); Bria Pitts (quit team, 3.2 ppg, 0.8 rpg); Ana Faussurier (transferred to Drury, 2.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg); Aujontae Daniels (undisclosed, 0.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg); McKenzie Adams (quit team, 8.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg);
She’s here (freshman unless otherwise noted): 5-9 G McKinley Bostad; 6-4 F/C Katie Powell
Top returners: 6-3 F Jessica Jackson (16.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg); 6-1 F Jhasmin Bowen (8.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg); 5-10 G Calli Berna (7.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg)
I was like many of you – I read the text alert on my phone and thought, “Is that the TV guy? Nah couldn’t be. They must have found some assistant somewhere with the same name.”
Nope. It was Jimmy Dykes the TV guy. That’s who Arkansas got as its new women’s coach.
Dykes is a great guy and great analyst. His knowledge of the game is unquestioned. He’s an Arkansas grad, too, so he understands the tradition of the place.
But boy, is that a curious and downright strange move.
Dykes hasn’t coached anything but AAU ball in 23 years. He has never coached women’s basketball. The last time he blew a college whistle was in 1991 at Oklahoma State, for the men’s team. It’s a rather unusual choice.
Then again, after letting Gary Blair get away and with one NCAA tournament appearance since 2003, perhaps Arkansas feels all avenues are open.
Dykes revealed that he approached athletic director Jeff Long at the SEC men’s tournament last year, and asked him how the women’s search was going. Long said they were just getting started, but having bounced issues off Dykes in the past, he asked him if he had any ideas.
“I said, ‘Yeah. Me,’” Dykes said at SEC Media Days.
Long interviewed others but kept coming around to Dykes. The rumor had already started to spread.
“I saw him, I was out eating with a friend,” Berna said. “He asked how I was doing, and I said we’ll be OK. Then I said, ‘It’s funny, I’ve even heard rumors that you’ll be our head coach.’ And I started laughing, because he had such a great job and I would have never dreamed he would ever do that.”
He did, and is committed to bringing Arkansas back to prominence. Dykes called criticism of him “poison” and his players defended him, Bowen saying that every coach, at heart, is an analyst and a commentator. “He knows basketball,” she said.
Dykes’ mettle will be tested. The Razorbacks are down to nine scholarship players after Adams and Pitts quit. He does have one of the best players in the league in Jackson, who scored more points per game than any other SEC freshman last year, but Arkansas doesn’t have much to put around her. Like last year when they began 13-0 (only to finish 6-11), the Razorbacks have a soft non-conference schedule, but the SEC should be even more unforgiving than it was last year.
Dykes may yet prove to be a good or even great coach. This year, it seems as if several decks are stacked against him.
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