Arkansas Basketball: Pieces of the puzzle coming together for Mike Anderson and Arkansas

Arkansas Basketball

Mike Anderson (Photo Credit: Beth Hall/AP)

It hasn’t been an easy rebuilding process for Arkansas basketball head coach Mike Anderson.

Anderson was hired in March of 2011 as the head basketball coach, almost two decades after he won a national championship at Arkansas as an assistant coach under his mentor, Nolan Richardson.

Taking after his mentor, Anderson wants to play what he likes to call “The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball.”

In his first two seasons, the Hogs went 18-14 (6-10) and 19-13 (10-8). Both seasons included only one road win at Auburn. Anderson took a lot of criticism from fans, as they were expecting the Nolan Richardson Era to return immediately.

Arkansas fans are running low on patience, especially after the past two football seasons.

What fans don’t realize is that it is hard for Anderson to play the style he wants without every player on the court being his own recruit –this also holds true for Bret Bielema and the Arkansas football team.

Anderson is finally starting to put together a team of his own, players that buy into his program and style of play.

In his first recruiting class at Arkansas, Anderson picked up five three-star prospects: Anthlon Bell, Coty Clarke, Michael Qualls, Dequavious Wagner, and Jacorey Williams. Arkansas also added Houston transfer Alandise Harris.

Besides Wagner, all these players are making an effective impact on the program. Qualls is the leading scorer and rebounder this season with 15.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

Anderson’s second recruiting class for the Razorbacks consisted of two top-ranked prospects, McDonald’s All-American and five-star Bobby Portis and four-star Moses Kingsley. Manuale Watkins, son of assistant coach Melvin Watkins, walked-on to the team. West Virginia transfer Keaton Miles also joined the team, but has to set out this season.

Portis is making an immediate impact for the team averaging 11.5 points per game and 4.5 rebounds. Kingsley is still finding his place on the team, but improving tremendously with each game he plays.

The Razorbacks have signed three players for the 2014 season, four-star Anton Beard (listed as a three-star on some recruiting sites), three-star Nick Babb and two-star Trey Thompson.

Anderson’s “team” is finally starting to puzzle together. The Razorback’s talent in all five positions (especially next season with addition of guards Babb and Beard) should have the Razorbacks competing with the best every night.

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The Hogs haven’t seen the NCAA tournament since 2008. This season their chances of making the tournament are slim, but possible.

To make the tournament this season, Arkansas is going to have to compile a winning record against tough SEC opponents, as well as win every non-conference game from here on out. But the main thing Arkansas must do is win on the road, which they have already done once early in the season, but must continue to do throughout the entire season.

Fans, be patient and remember that a solid backcourt is coming next season to help with the stronger, improved front court.  Twenty-plus win seasons and NCAA tournaments should become a normalcy for Arkansas starting next season.