This was the Razorback team many feared back in the offseason we'd see throughout the year. As anyone who's followed this team knows, Arkansas has been surprisingly competent this season, and often even good, which is what makes this performance against Mississippi State so disappointing.
It's one thing to get blown out by a good team - or even a decent team having a hot night. This is not what happened in Starkville. Coming into the game, the Bulldogs were 9-13 overall and just 2-8 in the SEC. Their only wins have been over Ole Miss and Missouri. Arkansas' been blown out by 30 or more points before, most recently by Florida in 2012 and a few times in the Pelphrey era, but all by good teams. That Gators squad made the Elite 8. Mississippi State still has a losing record.
This was an absolute disaster and it can't be explained away. It's unacceptable. It should never happen. But it did.
You'd think the simple notion of Joe Lunardi including Arkansas in a list of teams in the NCAA Tournament bubble conversation a few days ago would keep the team energized and focused, but that was not the case. This wasn't an example of Mississippi State playing particularly brilliantly - though they definitely had a great night, give them credit - Arkansas was absolutely atrocious. The Razorbacks shot 22.2% for the game, the program's worst mark in decades. They blew at least four fast break opportunities. They allowed Mississippi State to block nine shots, matching a season-high set by Kentucky. Arkansas' 19 defensive rebounds were the lowest number of SEC play.
The Razorbacks even grabbed 20 offensive rebounds - the first time since blowing out North Florida they reached that mark - and forced 17 Bulldog turnovers, and still lost by 32 points. That is amazing.
It was inexplicable. It's easy to be cynical and say something about Mike Anderson's teams playing like crap on the road, but that really hasn't been the case this year. These Razorbacks have played really well on the road save for the A&M loss. They took Dayton and Georgia to overtime, lost to LSU and Wake Forest by a single basket and played their best game in Gainesville in a long time. This team can play well on the road. They have played well on the road. This is an anomaly, not a trend.
And in the end, it's one game. It's one very aggravating, disappointing, unacceptable game, but it's not one that happens with any regularity. Arkansas gets a lengthy break to rest up before taking the court in Oxford on Saturday. The schedule is still favorable and they certainly still have an opportunity to finish with a winning record, and honestly, I have no idea what they'll have to do to gain interest from the NIT. But if they play more games like tonight, it won't matter. I don't expect this to happen again. It wasn't normal. They can still save face.