Hoop Hogs struggling to find their way

The Hogs are dog paddling with their heads bobbing in deep end at the moment.

After getting poleaxed, 88-66, by Oklahoma on Dec. 11 in Tulsa, the Razorbacks stumbled again Saturday night, 89-81, to Hofstra at Simmons Bank Arena in North Little Rock.

I’m not sure whom I should feel sorrier for — the fans who couldn’t watch the non-televised game, or the ones who actually bought tickets to sit through that loss on the final Saturday before Christmas?

Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: Elon
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21
Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville
TV: SEC Network

Next 5 games

Dec. 29 – at Mississippi State, 4 p.m. (SEC Network)
Jan. 4 – Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Jan. 8 – at Texas A&M, 12 p.m. (SEC Network)
Jan. 12 – Missouri, 8 p.m. (SEC Network)
Jan. 15 – at LSU, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)

Ho!, Ho!, Ho?

One hopes the Razorbacks don’t go for the trifecta at 6 p.m. Tuesday when they host Elon and pick up their first loss of the year at Bud Walton Arena. The game is televised by the SEC Network.

Elon isn’t just the game before Christmas, but it’s the Hogs’ final contest before opening SEC play on Wed. Dec. 29 with Mississippi State at Starkville, Miss.

I’ve not watched a great deal of SEC basketball this December, but I’ve seen enough to know several programs are on the rebound after more difficult than usual seasons last year.

Kentucky (8-2) is one of them. The Wildcats might be in contention for it all again this year as Coach Cal seems to have fit all the pieces back together.

LSU is undefeated at 11-0. That’s impressive in and of itself. The Tigers are big and ultra athletic as always under Will Wade.

Auburn is dynamic at 10-1, and may have the best player in the conference in the do-it-all freshman forward Jabari Smith. At 6-10, 220, he’s silky smooth, but tougher than he looks averaging 16.5 ppg.

Tennessee is also lurching around at 8-2 with an improved product on the floor, and Nate Oates’ Alabama squad looks salty again, too, after losing to UCLA in the Sweet 16 last year.

Texas A&M, Florida, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and South Carolina all have at least 8 wins as of today.

Right now I guess the Hogs’ would be in the mix of that group. Yes, they have an extra win, but Arkansas’ back-to-back losses are extra stinky.

The team isn’t meshing the way Musselman’s first two teams did. At least so far.

The Hogs have yet to develop a designated defensive anchor similar to the role Jimmy Whitt played in Musselman’s first year at Arkansas and Justin Smith filled expertly last year.

Jaylin Williams is perhaps the closest player to that role, but he’s not as quick or snakey as Whitt or Williams were, plus he is often the only inside defender that can bang with power forwards and centers. Hunter Vanover remains a bit player for the Hogs instead of a regular who can be effective for 20-plus minutes a game.

Arkansas has a bevy of wing and back-court talent, but the point guard position is a struggle for Devo Davis, Chris Lykes, and J.D. Notae, who was leading the conference in scoring at 18.3 ppg.

Turnovers have been an issue, and the Hogs’ own 3-point shooting percentage of 29.9 percent is low, while they are giving up 36.9 percent from 3-point range, which is too high to allow.

The Hogs have a great coach, and a considerable amount of talent. Things should work out. However, you can say the same thing about every team in the SEC, going into league play.

All we fans can do is wait and see.