You have to like Mike Anderson’s attitude toward scheduling. He’ll take on all comers.
With one of the least experienced and most youthful basketball teams that the Arkansas Razorbacks have fielded in the program’s history, the Hog’s eighth-year coach’s attitude about opening the season against Texas was bring those Longhorns on.
Next up for the Razorbacks
Opponent: vs. Texas (ESPN Armed Forces Classic)
When: 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9
Where: El Paso, Texas (Fort Bliss)
Nov. 12 – UC Davis
Nov. 18 – Indiana
Nov. 21 – Montana State
Nov. 23 – UT Arlington
Dec. 1 – FIU
Dec. 5 – at Colorado State
Dec. 8 – Western Kentucky
Dec. 15 – UTSA
Dec. 19 – Georgia Tech
Dec. 22 – Texas State
Dec. 28 – Austin Peay
Jan. 5 – at Texas A&M
Jan. 9 – Florida
Jan. 12 – LSU
Jan. 15 – at Tennessee
Jan. 19 – at Ole Miss
Jan. 23 – Missouri
Jan. 26 – at Texas Tech
Jan. 29 – Georgia
Feb. 2 – at LSU
Feb. 5 – Vanderbilt
Feb. 9 – at South Carolina
Feb. 12 – at Missouri
Feb. 16 – Mississippi State
Feb. 20 – at Auburn
Feb. 23 – Texas A&M
Feb. 26 – at Kentucky
March 2 – Ole Miss
March 6 – at Vanderbilt
March 9 – Alabama
March 13-17 – SEC Tournament
Anderson did not have to think twice about accepting ESPN’s invitation for the Razorbacks to play Texas in the ESPN Armed Forces Classic at 6 p.m. Saturday at Fort Bliss Military Base in El Paso, Texas.
“We were selected, and it’s an honor to play before our troops who protect out country,” Anderson said.
The head Hog said he had no hesitation about giving his inexperienced Razorbacks an opening-game trial by fire. Anderson knows the game will be a challenge, but it will give him and his assistants an early evaluation of what type of team they will have because of the quality of Shaka Smart’s Longhorn squad, which defeated Eastern Illinois, 71-59, in their season opener Tuesday.
Anderson allowed that Texas getting a game under their belt might be a bit of an advantage to the Longhorns, but it’s not something he’s worried too much about. As always Anderson is more concerned with his team, and forcing the opponent, even one like Texas, to react to his Razorbacks rather than the other way around.
Anderson invited his mentor and former college head coach at Tulsa Nolan Richardson to speak to his squad earlier in the week.
Daniel Gafford said, “Coach Nolan’s wisdom is always welcome and helpful. We all want to listen to what he has to say.”
While Richardson did mention how big the Arkansas-Texas rivalry was to the program, forward Adrio Bailey said Richardson stressed that the players should be excited and determined to beat every opponent no matter the name on the jersey.
“We’re excited to play Texas, but they have to play Arkansas, too,” Bailey said.
Anderson admitted his squad that features 10 newcomers is entering uncharted waters, but that he wants this squad to count on its defense from the outset.
“I think this can be an outstanding defensive team,” Anderson said. “That’s what we want to be known for and what we want to hang our hat on. We want our defense to create easy opportunities for our defense. We have to be patient. We aren’t trying to steal every pass, but we do want to disrupt as much of their offense as we can.”
Anderson said he understands that there will be nervous mistakes in the game, like any opener, but the key for the Razorbacks is to play within themselves no matter what happens and learn from their mistakes.
“The big thing, no matter what happens is don’t panic,” Anderson said. “If we get down, stay calm. It’ll be O.K. If we get up, stay even. We don’t want to get too excited. Right now we are leaning on each other, the coaches and the players.”
The on-base facility the Hogs’ are playing in only seats a couple of thousand people, but Anderson said the cozy setting shouldn’t impact the game.
“The goal’s going to be 10 feet high; the floor is going to be 94×50,” Anderson said. “We’ve just got to put the ball in the hole more than Texas does.”
Anderson said another goal was to continue to develop his bench and with both squads wanting an uptempo pace that should be easy.
“I think we will have seven to eight guys that will start for us at some point,” Anderson said. “We want to play as many as can help us win.”
At the pace we play, you get tired quick,” Gafford said. “Everyone has to understand that and be ready. No holding back.”