Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
UA men’s coach stays in the now
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson directs his players from the bench during the second half of play against Southern Methodist Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - The NCAA Tournament is three months away, but ESPN.com already has come out with its first of many projections for the 65-team field.
While the SEC schedule hasn’t even started, Arkansas is being listed as a No. 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN.com’s Joe Lundari, who predicts the Razorbacks will play No. 6 seed UCLA in a first-round matchup in Orlando, Fla.
Considering Arkansas hasn’t played in the NCAA Tournament since 2008, even being mentioned in the field in a mock bracket would appear to represent progress.
Not that Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson is paying attention to the projection.
While Anderson has talked often about his third season with a program being significant considering his third teams as a head coach at Alabama-Birmingham and Missouri made the NCAA Tournament, as did Arkansas in his third season as a Razorbacks assistant, he said he isn’t interested in December speculation about postseason chances.
“I don’t worry about stuff like that,” Anderson said last week. “I’m more into what we’re doing right now, and that’s building this team so we can play some of our better basketball as we get into conference play.
“I think if we do what we’re supposed to do, all those things will take care of themselves.”
The Razorbacks (9-2) have been doing what they are supposed to do so far in December, with home victories over Southeastern Louisiana, Clemson, Savannah State, Tennessee-Martin and South Alabama since returning from the Maui Invitational, where they went 1-2 with a victory over Minnesota and losses to California and Gonzaga.
Arkansas, which plays High Point at 7 p.m. Saturday in Walton Arena, resumed practice on Christmas night after taking a short break following the Razorbacks’ 72-60 victory over South Alabama on Dec. 21 in North Little Rock.
“I feel we’re in a good position,” Razorbacks junior forward Alandise Harris said after the South Alabama game. “We’ve won a couple good games, lost against two good teams. That made us learn the things we’ve got to do harder, or better.
“We’re just looking forward to these next couple games and getting ready for conference.”
The Razorbacks complete their nonconference schedule against Texas-San Antonio on Jan. 4 in Walton Arena, then open SEC play Jan. 8 at Texas A&M.
“I feel like we’re pretty good right now,” Arkansas junior guard Ky Madden said after the South Alabama game. “We’re staying together, keep getting wins, and we’re working hard.
“That’s all we can control is day to day, and every day we plan to come out and work to get better. If we continue to do that, then we should be pretty straight.”
South Alabama Coach Matthew Graves, a former Butler assistant, said he believed Arkansas is the best team the Jaguars have played this season,even though Gonzaga beat the Razorbacks 91-81 in Maui before beating South Alabama 68-59 in Seattle.
“I think Arkansas is going to have a great season,” Graves said. “I was very impressed with their whole team. They play hard on every possession and get guys in and out.
“Their length and their ability to switch on a lot of our ball screens really limited what we could do offensively. We really didn’t have an answer for that.”
Anderson said the game was played at South Alabama’s pace, but the Razorbacks won by holding the Jaguars to 35.1 shooting from the field (20 of 57) and forcing 20 turnovers.
“We can play a lot of different ways,” Anderson said. “The key is to find a way to win, and we did that. We’re still a work in progress. We’ve got some work to do. I think we’ve got to continue to try to be consistent in all facets of the game, especially rebounding the basketball.
“We’re like all other teams. We’re just trying to get some more guys to play at a high level.”
Up next ARKANSAS VS. HIGH POINT (N.C.) WHEN 7 p.m. Saturday WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville RADIO Razorback Sports Network TV KATV, Channel 7, Little Rock; KHOGKHBS, Channels 40-29, Fayetteville; and KAIT, Channel 8, Jonesboro.
Sports, Pages 17 on 12/27/2013