Anderson has NCAA tourney in sights next season for Arkansas
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Mike Anderson narrowly avoided his first losing season as a head coach this season, a relative positive in a season full of ups and downs for Arkansas.
The Razorbacks coach left little doubt on Monday that he fully expects many more ups than downs moving forward, starting with a return to the NCAA Tournament next season.
''I don't anticipate talking to you guys at this time next year,'' Anderson said. ''We'll be playing at the (NCAA) Tournament. That's my mindset is to be in the tournament.''
Arkansas finished 16-16 this season, including a 9-9 regular-season finish in the Southeastern Conference and a first-round exit from the conference tournament.
It was a season marked by the emergence of outside shooters such as Dusty Hannahs and Anthlon Bell as well as second-team All-SEC performer Moses Kingsley in the middle.
However, after losing nearly 80 percent of their scoring from last year to begin the season, the Razorbacks never lived up to last year's SEC runner-up finish - struggling with defensive consistency throughout the season while never falling or climbing more than two games away from .500.
It was a frustrating follow up to last year's 27-9 team for many Arkansas fans, who have grown increasingly vocal in their criticism of Anderson after missing the NCAA Tournament for a fourth time in five seasons.
Anderson, who left Missouri in 2011 to return to the school where he was an assistant at for 17 seasons - including during the Razorbacks 1994 national championship season - is well aware of the pressure that awaits next season.
''The standards of Arkansas are tremendously high, and I understand that,'' Anderson said. ''So, to me, a 16-16 season, I'm not satisfied with that. When that takes place, you have to draw back and look back and see what took place and see what you've got to get better at.''
Anderson said that evaluation will include looking at himself, his assistant coaches and each of the players to see how each can improve. He plans on meeting with the players when they return from spring break next week, but he doesn't anticipate any roster changes - other than the losses of seniors Bell, Jabril Durham, Keaton Miles and Willy Kouassi.
What Anderson does expect is improvement from Hannahs, who averaged a team-high 16.5 points per game, as well as from Kingsley - who surprised many by emerging from Bobby Portis' shadow to average 15.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in his first season as a starter.
Anderson is also counting on an immediate impact from a recruiting class that features three of the top junior-college transfers in the country, and he isn't shying away from where he expects them to lead the Razorbacks.
''(The NCAA Tournament) is the goal, no question about it,'' Anderson said.