LAS VEGAS - The Arkansas basketball team is about to run through a gauntlet that will see the Razorbacks play unbeaten Arizona State, either No. 12 Creighton or No. 24 Wisconsin and then No. 6 Syracuse, Oklahoma and No. 4 Michigan.
By the end of that two-week run, Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson – whose team arrived here Wednesday and practiced at the site on Thursday - should know exactly how good his Razorbacks have a chance to be this season.
"I think we are going to be tested often and we are going to be presented challenges," Anderson said. "I think the most important thing is for our guys to stay focused – one day at a time, one practice, one game at a time. But obviously we will find out more about ourselves in these kind of games."
The gauntlet begins Friday night at 6 p.m. CST when Arkansas (3-0) meets Arizona State (3-0) at Orleans Arena in the semifinals of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational.
Wisconsin (3-1) and pre-tournament favorite Creighton (4-0) – featuring a pre-season All-American in 6-8 junior forward Doug McDermott - play in the following game with the winners and losers then matched up on Saturday.
"We better be ready," Anderson said. "Our guys are excited about playing. I think that the beauty of it is when you are playing against teams of that caliber, you want to play against good competition and that is what we are getting ready to go into."
The two teams have both played Florida A&M with the Razorbacks downing the Rattlers 89-60 and coach Herb Sendek's Sun Devils winning 97-70.
Florida A&M head coach Clemon Johnson, the former 10-year NBA vet, obviously got to see both teams in Friday's match-up.
"It is going down to the last four or five minutes of the ballgame," Johnson said. "I don't see a blowout by any means even with the pressure you guys can put on them. I still think it is going to go down to the last four or five minutes."
Johnson said that Arizona State - which opened its season with a win over Corliss Williams's UCA team - has the length and shooters to be a very good team while Arkansas just comes at your in waves.
"We knew what Arkansas was going to do, we just couldn't do anything about it," Johnson said. "We were just too short and they just have too many bodies to put on us."
No doubt because his school picked up large checks from both schools, he did not want to pick a team.
"I am not picking a winner," Johnson said. "…"I am going Friday night like you are and I am just going to sit there and watch a good game."
Redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson (5-10, 170) had 20 points and 7 assists against the Rattlers while 6-7, 220-pound forward Jonathan Gilling of Denmark posted his first career double with 13 points and 15 rebounds.
Jordan Bachynski, a 7-2 junior center, is averaging 13 points, 10 rebounds and 7 blocks per game this season.
"They have a 7-2 kid that is really, really good," Anderson said. "They have a good point guard…He sit out last year, but was one of the top 50 players in the country. He is very, very good."
Arizona State also starts 6-6 senior forward Carrick Felix and 6-3 junior guard Evan Gordon, the younger brother of NBA star Eric Gordon.
"They want to play up-tempo," Anderson said. "Coach Sendek, I know him real well and they are up-tempo, much more this year. They have Eric Gordon's brother. They have got size and they have got some people that can shoot the basketball…I think it is going to be a good challenge for our basketball team."
Cornell led Arizona State 25-22 at halftime Tuesday night before Sendek lit into his team and the Sun Devils responded and eventually won 64-53.
"It is a neutral site game and Arizona State is a team that is going to present a lot of challenges," Anderson said. "I am looking forward to seeing where we are at this particular time.
"Along the way with any game, you are going to have some adversity take place," Anderson said. "I will be anxious to see how our guys respond to adversity whether we are up or down or get in foul trouble. Who are the guys we are going to be able to count on? I think we will see some guys start to emerge."
Viva Las Vegas
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