NCAA Men's Basketball program profiles: Arkansas Razorbacks

Based out of Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas college program has molded young athletes for nearly 100 years as part of Division I NCAA basketball.

Today we have a full profile of the Arkansas Razorbacks basketball team, from its origins and through its development over the century to become the team they are now. If you’re interested in NCAA basketball and the teams that play in its divisions, you may be interested in March Madness odds.

Founding & First Decades

When compared to some of the other accomplished collegiate teams, the Razorbacks had a late start.  The first season of the men's basketball program at Arkansas began in 1923, with Francis Schmidt serving as the team's first head coach.

Although the Hogs had a losing conference record in its first season, the Hogs had a winning season overall at 17-11.  The Hogs got better from there to become a force in the Southwest Conference under Schmidt’s leadership. In just the program's third year, they won the conference championship, and two years later had the first-ever perfect season in conference history. During Schmidt's six-season tenure, they also recorded a 31-game winning streak. 

One of the star Razorback players was Glen Rose, was All-Southwest Conference from 1926-1928 as well as All-American in 1928.  Rose become an assistant coach at Arkansas from 1929 to 1932, then became head coach in 1933.  Rose coached the Razorbacks until 1942, winning 5 conference titles.  One of the stars during this era was John Adams, an All-American who is credited with pioneering the jump-shot. Rose left the Razorbacks with a 154-47 record, winning 76% of the time.

Decline & New Heights

After a decade with other coaches, Glen Rose came back as coach for a limited time, from 1952 to 1966. While he did not do as well as his prior stint, the Razorbacks did have a successful 1957-58 season where they tied for the regular season conference championship and made the NCAA tournament. After Rose’s fourteen seasons were over, he had recorded 171-154, a 52% winning percentage, but a decline from their previous decade of play.

The rest of the ‘60s were disappointing with several losing seasons, though this paved the way for new heights for the team. After starting the 70s with some of the worst seasons in program history, Arkansas began to turn things around.  

Two coaches were responsible for the team’s success in the 1970s, ‘80s, and early ‘90s. The first was Eddie Sutton, who coached the program from 1974 through 1985.  Arkansas acheived an 11-3 conference record in Sutton's first season, its best performance in 14 years.  One of the stars during this period was Sidney Moncrief, leading Arkansas to the Final Four in 1978 the first Razorback to have his number retired.

Under Sutton, Arkansas won five regular season conference titles, three SWC tournament titles, and nine consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, including their first Final Four appearance. Sutton finished with a 260-75 record, a 77% winning percentage.

The National Championship

The second coach that brought the Razorbacks men's basketball program to new heights was Nolan Richardson, who took over for Sutton in 1985.  Richardson played for Texas Western and had previously coached the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. Under Richardson, Arkansas won both regular season and tournament conference titles in 1989, 1990, and 1991. After moving to the Southeastern Conference in 1991, Arkansas went on to win the SEC Western Division title from 1992-1995.

Across Richardson’s seventeen seasons at Arkansas, they reached the NCAA tournament thirteen times and made the Final Four in three seasons. In 1994, Arkansas won their first national championship title.

Although Richardson was fired in 2002 after falling out of favor with the athletic department over some public statements, he remains in the history books as their most successful coach.

The Modern Day

Within the last two decades, Arkansas has had its moments, but has not quite returned to the glory days of the Richardson Era.

Mike Anderson took over as head coach in 2011.  Anderson had served as an assistant coach to Richardson. Across eight seasons, Anderson led the Razorbacks to three NCAA tournaments, becoming a 5 seed in the 2014-15 season for the first time since 1999. Anderson’s Arkansas coaching career ended in 2019 with 170-103.

Currently, the Razorbacks are coached by Eric Musselman, who took over the program in 2019.  Musselman has previously coached for the NBA's Golden State Warriors and the University of Nevada.  Under Musselman, Arkansas has registered a winning percentage over 72%, highest since the 1940s.  

In 2021, the Razorbacks made it to the Elite Eight but lost out to the Baylor Bears, their best performance in the NCAA Tournament since 1995.  This season, the Razorbacks finished the regular season 24-7, good for the number 4 seed in the SEC.  Arkansas should get a similar seed in the NCAA Tournament, and based on the latest FanDuel March Madness odds, Arkansas is 50-1 to win the national championship this year.

Accolades

The Arkansas Razorbacks are unique among the usual NCAA Division I March Madness participants. They have played fewer seasons than most other collegiate athletics programs in the country, yet they are within the top thirty by all-time wins in NCAA history. Likewise, they are in the top twenty by all-time NCAA Tournament games they have played (33) and they are a top 25 program, having a winning percentage of 63.9%.

They are also within the top fifteen programs for most Final Four appearances, having appeared six times. They have won just the one national championship in 1994, where they beat the Duke Blue Devils.

In Conclusion

While they have yet to recapture their ‘90s glory, Arkansas is a consistent winning basketball program with a solid history, and it only takes one mastermind coach or a star player to lead the Razorbacks to another NCAA championship.  

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