After two-plus weeks of hard practices that have at times gotten chippy, Arkansas head basketball coach Mike Anderson is sure that his Razorbacks are ready to play before a crowd and will get a chance to do that a pair of times this week.
The annual Red-White game will be held Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena at 7 p.m while Arkansas will also be on display when they have an open scrimmage Sunday afternoon at 2:45 in Vilonia.
“We've got some scrimmages coming up and I am sure our guys are very excited about it,” Anderson said Monday at the team's annual Media Day. “They have been pushing and shoving each other since this summer with the new guys and this fall. It's been pretty intense.
“At one point you have got to get their bodies ready to go into practice and now since we've hit the practice floor Oct. 9, we are trying to get them into more of a game mode,” Anderson added, “and that (the games) will give us an opportunity to get in front of some officials and fans and fans can get a little sneak preview of our basketball team.”
Admission for each game is a canned good or non-perishable food item with the Sunday scrimmage being a benefit to aid in the recovery of the victims of tornadoes that happened in Mayflower and Vilonia last April.
The NCAA granted the Razorback program an opportunity to have the open scrimmage in Vilonia, whose gym seats 1,600 and where fans can enter the door at 2 p.m and get autographs from the players and coaches.
“That community has been threw quite a bit in April with the tornadoes and hopefully we can go down there and create some smiles,” Anderson said. “...Guys are looking forward to it. It is a busy week and we are getting more and more in tune to basketball. As you can tell, I am very excited about this group as we move forward.”
Arkansas, who will open doors Wednesday at 5:30 p.m and be available for autographs at 6, will announce its Red-White rosters on Tuesday with the possibility of the seven in-state Razorbacks taking on the seven Razorbacks from out of state as happened in last season's game.
Anderson said that whatever teams he has put against each other in practice have produced competitive results.
“I talk about being the ultimate team and having a lot more depth this year,” Anderson said. “It has been very, very competitive in practice even from the standpoint of the workouts w've had, the scrimmage portion of practice. It has been nip and tuck in each and every game.
“I think Saturday was the first time that one of the teams actually blew the other out,” Anderson added. “We had a scrimmage about a week ago that had a score that was – and we had officials in – 114-111 and it went two overtimes. I had to go to just sudden death where somebody just had to hit a shot to get it over with. That's how competitive it has been. Hopefully that is a good sign.”
Anderson, in his fourth year at the helm at Arkansas, is anxious to get going with a team that went 22-12 last season and earned an NIT berth.
He has a host of returnees – including first-team All-SEC preseason pick Bobby Portis – to go along with several new faces, including new point guards Jabril Durham and Anton Beard, West Virginia transfer Keaton Miles, Texas Tech transfer Dusty Hannahs (who is redshirting this season) and freshman signees Trey Thompson and Nick Babb.
“I think this is one of our more deeper teams and not only with depth, but you have some pretty talented guys,” Anderson said. “And you have got some hungry guys. The new guys to me bring some of the hunger that you have got to have, especially from that guard standpoint. We have a number of guys that have really progressed to hopefully where they are going to help or basketball team.”
Lots of eyes will be on junior college transfer Durham and true freshman Beard, who should allow senior returnee Rashad Madden the chance to play off the ball more this season.
“He (Durham) commands guys to get them in the right place and that's refreshing to see – for a coach anyway,” Anderson said. “And Beard, he is just tough, he doesn't back down from anybody. He is always around the ball and is out there talking and trying to lead. So to me they are still learning and learning each other, but what they does is make it really, really competitive. They are getting after Ky (Madden) quite a bit.”
Arkansas was picked to finished third behind Kentucky and Florida in the preseason media poll at last week's SEC Tip-off' 15 in Charlotte, N.C.
“My saying is that it is not where you start, but where you finish,” Anderson said. “But one of the things that is very evident is they are noticing us more so that means we are on the right track. It doesn't mean anything right now. Everyone is undefeated. Hopefully this team will see things though my eyes and that is it is going to be a day-to-day progression with each day we are going to try and get better, each and every game we are going to try and get better.”
Anderson did not mention the NCAA Tournament by name on Monday, but has not been shy about noting this team should be in line to make the Big Dance.
“If we do what we are supposed to do, we will be there,” Anderson added.
Razorbacks Ready For Something Different
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