Schedule will challenge Anderson's young team

By: Scottie Bordelon Scottie Bordelon's Twitter account
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2018
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson points during practice at the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Detroit, Thursday, March 15, 2018. Arkansas plays Butler in the first round on Friday. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson points during practice at the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Detroit, Thursday, March 15, 2018. Arkansas plays Butler in the first round on Friday. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ 2018-19 basketball schedule may not be as rigorous as last season’s, but Mike Anderson knows it will challenge his young bunch.

Anderson’s roster consists of 10 newcomers and only three players who averaged more than five minutes per game a season ago. Their task will be to navigate a schedule that features a pair of interesting November tests, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech and a number of solid mid-major programs such as Western Kentucky, Colorado State and UC Davis.

The Razorbacks will open the season against Texas at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, on Nov. 9 before returning home for 9 of their next 11 games. This season’s meeting with the Longhorns marks the second in the last three seasons and just the 11th time the Razorbacks will open the season at a neutral site.

“Again, you say Texas and Arkansas, you’ve said a mouthful,” Anderson said. “We’re honored to play in that game. It’s the hometown of Coach Richardson. … (Texas has) a chance to be a really, really good basketball team. They lost the Mo Bamba kid, but they have all of those guards back and we played this team when they were freshmen. I think some of those guys were freshmen two years ago when we played them in Houston. So now we play them again.

“It’s a big, big challenge right off the bat,” he added. “That’s why I said we have to expedite some things in terms of getting guys really ready to play, understanding the level they have to play at.”

Arkansas then welcomes in coach Archie Miller and Indiana on Sunday, Nov. 18 for a big early season matchup as part of the Hardwood Showcase, an exempt event that also includes UT-Arlington, UC-Davis, Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Montana State. The Hoosiers finished the 2017-18 season with a 16-15 record and a 9-9 mark in the Big Ten in Miller's first season in Bloomington.

Indiana returns star Juwan Morgan, who averaged a team-high 16.5 points and 7.4 rebounds last season, and will bring with it a star-studded recruiting class that features five-star shooting guard Romeo Langford and three other four-star prospects. The class is ranked 10th nationally, according to 247 Sports.

Anderson, who also scheduled a home-and-home series in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons with Dayton when Miller was head coach of the Flyers, said common open dates ultimately led to scheduling the Hoosiers.

“Very good basketball team,” Anderson said of Indiana. “They’re probably going to be a top 20-25 team, I really feel. Archie Miller has got his guys in there. They’ve got some seasoned players that’ll play well, but they’ve got a great recruiting class coming in.

“It just continues what we talk about in terms of our schedule. We want our schedule to reflect the type of team we’re going to be and hopefully it prepares us for conference play.”

The Razorbacks will face Georgia Tech in Bud Walton Arena on Dec. 19, marking the first time the schools have met since November 2015 in Brooklyn. Arkansas is 4-2 against ACC members in Fayetteville and 2-1 in Bud Walton.

Anderson said Arkansas will make a return trip to Georgia Tech next season.

“It’s a good game on our schedule,” he said. “We've got to be battle tested before we get into SEC play, so it's a team that they needed a game and we needed a game. I thought it would be a good series.”

Among the interesting notes from Arkansas’ schedule is five Saturday homes games in conference play – LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Alabama. The Razorbacks’ final four home games of the season fall on Saturdays.

Arkansas is 42-5 in Bud Walton Arena on Saturdays under Anderson. The last weekend home loss came on March 5, 2016.

“I think it's great for our fans, and I'm glad the SEC recognizes that,” Anderson said of the weekend showcases. “Our fans, they come out in droves. We have some great, great crowds, and I think our fans will really come out and support this team here. … But having those games on the weekend for our fans, who show up and they show out, they continue to make Bud Walton Arena what it is.”

Anderson is hopeful the nonconference slate prepares his team for what should be a competitive conference season. Scheduling tough games is the only way to gain valuable experience, he said.

“It’s going to challenge our guys in a lot of areas,” Anderson added. “There’ll be some adversity, but adversity should make you stronger and hopefully they’ll be on the same page. … Somebody within that young group, they’re going to have to really emerge.

“I think these guys are doing the things we ask them to do. I haven’t put a whole lot on them yet, but it’s coming. They are going to have to grow up in a hurry.”

Schedule notes

– Arkansas is playing Florida International and Montana State for the first time

– Arkansas is a combined 18-0 against UT Arlington, UT San Antonio, Texas State and Austin Peay

– The Razorbacks are playing in their fifth consecutive Big 12/SEC Challenge (Jan. 26 at Texas Tech)

– Arkansas faces UTSA on Dec. 15 at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock


Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.