UA draws Butler in NCAA opener

By: Bob Holt
Published: Monday, March 12, 2018
Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Mike Anderson (right) and his wife Marcheita Anderson (center) call the hogs during the NCAA selection show, Sunday, March 11, 2018 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks will play Butler in Detroit on Friday
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Mike Anderson (right) and his wife Marcheita Anderson (center) call the hogs during the NCAA selection show, Sunday, March 11, 2018 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks will play Butler in Detroit on Friday

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks are opening NCAA Tournament play against a Big East opponent for the second consecutive year.

This time it's Butler.

The No. 7 seed Razorbacks (23-11) and No. 10 seed Bulldogs (20-13) play Friday in Detroit's Little Caesars Arena in a first-round East Regional game.

Tipoff is approximately 2:10 p.m. Central time with the game televised on truTV.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville opened last year's NCAA Tournament by beating Seton Hall of the Big East 77-71 in Greenville, S.C.

The Arkansas-Butler winner will advance to play Sunday against the winner of No. 2 Purdue against No. 15 seed California State-Fullerton.

If the Razorbacks win two games in Detroit, they'll advance to the East Regional semifinals in Boston.

The NCAA Tournament selection committee decided to send the Razorbacks to Detroit -- 885 miles north of Fayetteville -- rather than closer sites such as Dallas, Wichita, Kan., or Nashville, Tenn.

"Obviously, we'd like to have gotten a seed closer to home," Arkansas senior forward Trey Thompson said. "But I guess we've got to pack our coats and get ready for Michigan."

The Razorbacks have played Butler once previously, but it was 86 years ago.

Butler beat Arkansas 37-21 at home in Indianapolis during the 1931-32 season.

The Razorbacks are in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year, the third time in four years and the 32nd time overall.

"The one thing you always want to do is hear your name called," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "You're in one of the greatest sporting events there is, the NCAA Tournament.

"To me, that's going to be the given every year we play. That's the standard here at Arkansas and always has been, and now we get the chance to play for a national championship.

"I know our guys are super, super excited about having a chance to play in this event and having a chance to play against an outstanding Butler team."

Butler 9-9 in the Big East this season, including a 101-93 victory over No. 1 Villanova on Dec. 30 at home and 67-66 in overtime over Ohio State at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Ore.

The Bulldogs went 1-1 at the Big East Tournament in New York, where they beat Seton Hall 75-74 and lost to Villanova 87-68.

"I've had the chance to watch them play a little bit," Anderson said of the Bulldogs. "I haven't really just studied them, but any team in this tournament is a very, very good basketball team."

Butler is led by 6-7 senior forward Kelan Martin, who averages 20.8 points and 6.2 rebounds. Kamar Baldwin, a 6-1 sophomore guard, is averaging 15.5 points and 4.8 rebounds.

The Bulldogs are averaging 79.2 points and have a plus-3.0 turnover margin and a plus-1.3 rebounding advantage over their opponents.

"They have multiple guys that can score," Anderson said. "Their bigs can step out and shoot the basketball. Defensively, they do a really good job of contesting three-point shots.

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"They rebound the basketball well. Fundamentally, they do a lot of great things ... But more importantly I'm worried about what we do.

"Obviously, we love the up-tempo. So for the fans, you get two teams that like to score. I think the fans are the winner."

Razorbacks guard Anton Beard, a senior from North Little Rock, already has some fans in Detroit.

"I've actually got family in Detroit," Beard said. "My dad's side of the family is from Detroit. I'm actually going home."

Butler will be the 12th NCAA Tournament team Arkansas plays this season. The Razorbacks are 8-8 against 11 teams in the field with victories over Alabama, Auburn, Bucknell, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas A&M and losses to Auburn, Florida, Houston, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M

Butler is led by first-year Coach LaVall Jordan, a former player and assistant coach for the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs are making their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and 10th in the last 12 years. They didn't make the NCAA Tournament in 2012 and 2014.

Sports on 03/12/2018

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