On April 3, 1995, the Arkansas Razorbacks made their second consecutive appearance in the national championship game, having won the title the year before. The Razorbacks lost that night to UCLA, but the program was clearly on a roll under head coach Nolan Richardson, compiling a 52-9 record over two seasons. At Richardson's side throughout that run was Mike Anderson, who served as an assistant in Fayetteville from 1985 to 2001. (When Richardson was fired during the 2001-02 season, Anderson was tapped to finish out the season as interim head coach.) Under Richardson, the Hogs thrived by playing an up-tempo pressing style they labeled "40 minutes of hell."
It took nine years and stops at Alabama-Birmingham and Missouri, but Anderson has finally returned to Arkansas. Not only does the new head coach link the present-day Hogs with the most illustrious chapter in the program's past, he also plays a style that he learned from Richardson. Those two facts go a long way toward explaining why Anderson was chosen last March to replace John Pelphrey.
That being said, don't expect the Razorbacks to make an appearance in the 2012 national title game. Arkansas hasn't finished above .500 in the SEC since 2008, and even with a new coach and a highly touted recruiting class, the Hogs could have a hard time ending that streak this year. Here's what to watch for in Year 1 of the Anderson Era.
The Hogs will be young.
Anderson and his staff deserve credit for holding on to a very good incoming freshman class that Pelphrey put together, one featuring point guard B.J. Young, big man Hunter Mickelson and wing Ky Madden. Those freshmen should find minutes available more or less right away.