Did you hear that crazy noise on March 11th around 11:15 p.m.? It sounded like a giant wind. You know, kind of like the sound a giant airball makes or the sound of air being let out of the Arkansas Razorbacks’ metaphoric tires. But really it was the sound of fans, and players alike, sighing as the 2009-2010 season finally came to an end.
I haven’t said this too many times in previous seasons, but I’m honestly glad this season is over. And from what I’ve heard from others, they’re glad it’s over, too.
After going 2-14 in 2008-09, Hogs finish 7-9 in SEC
It was another up and down season – much like last year’s – except this time we finished with two more losses than last time (14-18 compared to 14-16). It didn’t always appear that it would wind up that way, though, especially when we had a nice five-game winning streak in the SEC. Unfortunately, it was shortly after that stretch that we went on the season-ending six-game losing streak.
What a difference a year can make, indeed. The Hogs played MUCH better in the SEC this season. Not only was there a five-game winning streak, but the Razorbacks finally won two SEC road games. The Hogs also beat everyone in the West this year. For a team picked to be fifth in the West, finishing in third place isn’t too shabby.
While we won five more games than last year in the SEC, the bigger argument says that the West was down this year. In 2009, the SEC WEST Teams average RPI was 79.5. This year, before the SEC Tournament, the WEST Teams average RPI was 91.5 (a lower score is better). In addition to that, during the regular season, the SEC West was 0-24 against the top four teams in the SEC East. Ouch.
Fortson’s return made the team better
The Hogs went through a lot this year and the kids played hard, but one could easily say the cards were stacked against them from the first game. To start the season with six players suspended, there’s not a lot of hope to be passed around. It wasn’t until Cortney Fortson’s return that the team was at full-strength (sans Michael Sanchez, that is) and things started to turn around – or seemed to.
When Courtney Fortson’s suspension ended in early January, fans were excited. In several of our SEC wins, it was basically Fortson’s determination and will that made the difference. He averaged 17.9 points, 5.7 assists, and 5.2 rebounds a game. Fortson is a fierce competitor and never backs down from a challenge.
But because of his style of play, some fear that it divides the team. Fortson is a tad bit reckless with the ball and his shooting. Due to his constant driving into traffic and attempting ill-advised shots, he only shot 36% from the floor. Additionally, averaging 5.7 assists is great, except when you also average 5.1 turnovers per game.
When riding the Fotson train, you have to take the good with the bad. It appears that Fortson doesn’t run an actual offense, he just crashes the lane. Before Fortson came back to the team, Arkansas was 7-7. After his return, we were 7-11. Taking this all into account, tell me if you end this section’s title with a period or a question mark.
Is Pelphrey up to the job?
Coach John Pelphrey and his system is starting to create a stir in the fan-base. Arkansas fans want to win and right now that’s not happening fast enough. Athletic Director Jeff Long, as he has throughout the season, has defended Pelphrey and said he’s being given time to turn the program around. Meanwhile, others think Pelphrey isn’t up to the job and that he should be fired. The situation is not at the Houston Nutt level of discontent, but it’s growing.
It wasn’t until Pelphrey’s fourth season at South Alabama that they had a winning season (both regular and conference), won the Sun Belt Conference and went to the NCAA Tournament. Can Pel do that at Arkansas? Next year is season number four and I think his time is ticking.
It’s a shame that Arkansas Basketball has gotten to this point. Fans and players alike were used to a rich and winning program in the 80s and 90s. Now, we’re experiencing our fifth losing season in nine years and most recently won an NCAA tournament game in 2008 (the last time we had won was in 1999). The program has fallen on hard times and it’s having a difficult time clawing it’s way back out.
But there are some positives to rally with. We finished 3rd in the SEC West. We had a five-game SEC winning streak. We had two of our best players named to All-SEC teams (Fortson was named to the Second Team and Marshawn Powell was named to the Freshman team). And from what it sounds like, we’re keeping our coaching staff in tact – sometimes a little consistency for a program is better than turning it upside down over and over.
Next year should be a better season. Everyone hopes that’s true after two up-and-down seasons. The deafening sighs need to be replaced with many “woo pig sooie” chants. And so does our hopes of returning our program to its glory days.