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Beard-Musselman an intriguing match-up

by Wally Hall | March 21, 2021 at 3:21 a.m.

When Chris Beard was at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock he was a little bit of a loner.

He had friends -- lots of them -- but he was known to show up alone at off the beaten path alone for a cold one.

He might be an introvert living in an extroverted world. If that's the case he pulls it off very well.

When he was an assistant coach at Texas Tech, working for Bob Knight, the two would just take off and drive two hours south to a barbecue place Knight loved.

So far, Beard has proven he learned a lot of basketball from Knight, no doubt on the way for barbecue.

He's active on the sidelines, but there have been no indications he would ever throw a chair, slam the scorer's phone or dog curse a player publicly.

Yes, to motivate his Trojans to win the Sun Belt Tournament he slammed his fist into a blackboard and broke his hand, but that ploy worked and UALR got the bid. In their first game, the Trojans beat Purdue, which Friday lost to No. 13 seed North Texas.

Beard and the Red Raiders pose a big problem for the University of Arkansas in today's NCAA Tournament game.

Eric Musselman and Beard share a philosophy about defense. They will personally invite any player who isn't giving his all on defense to sit with him on the bench.

That's not the problem area.

It is offensively where they are almost polar opposites.

Beard is a bit old school. Musselman is not.

Beard likes slow, methodical games.

Musselman wants to beat you to the prize by running, running and running.

From the opening tip to the final buzzer Beard will be focused on controlling the tempo. He wants to take away the Razorbacks' normal pace.

He's going to try and control the game.

In that 2016 game against Purdue, the Trojans were down 13 with 3:33 to play.

For the last five minutes, Beard had been squatting in front of his bench studying the Boilermakers, and at that precise moment he stood up and took over the game.

He set Josh Hagins free, and the Trojans pecked away at the lead. With time running out and the Boilermakers all over him, Hagins back up almost to the NCAA Tournament logo and drained a 35-foot three-pointer to send it to overtime when the Trojans outscored Purdue 15-13.

That game led to Beard getting the UNLV job, which lasted about a week. The players wanted former UNLV player and current assistant coach Stacey Augmon to get the job.

Beard called his first practice and four players showed up.

When Texas Tech called, Beard couldn't pack his bags fast enough even though the Red Raiders offered him $150,000 less.

Besides, his two daughters were in Texas, and they have always been as important to him as basketball.

In his second season, he led the Red Raiders to the Elite Eight. The next year he led them to the championship game, and he became recognized as an excellent teacher of the game.

He did it with high percentage shooting, a slow pace and defense.

Musselman knows that, and he knows the Red Raiders spent all of Saturday working on defending isolation basketball, which the Razorbacks run very well.

Within minutes of the Hogs' win over Colgate, Musselman's attention was fully on Texas Tech, and he remarked how different tonight's game would be.

He mentioned that the smaller, quicker line-up that ran the Raiders into the ground might change because Texas Tech is a different challenge.

Coaching won't be the difference tonight. Both are great, although it is easier to lull a team into slowing down than it is speeding up.

Most likely, tempo will decide who is going to the Sweet 16.

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