Fresh off whacking two Division II exhibition foes, Arkansas opens its 2015-2016 regular season with a team that was just one step away from the same Big Dance the Razorbacks were in last season.
Arkansas will host Southern University in their lid-lifter Friday night at 7 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena.
“Ready or not, it’s coming,” Razorback head coach Mike Anderson said. “It’s here. The season is here and we are looking forward to it. It is an opportunity to see where we are.
“The season is not a sprint, it’s a race. As we get into the non-conference schedule, we are going to play against a lot of different type of teams.”
The Razorbacks are coming off a 27-9 season, but have lost eight players off that team.
“We’re been getting prepared this off-season and we have a big task ahead of us,” Razorback senior point guard Jabril Durham said. “We want to go out there and show everybody and really show ourselves that this is not a down year for us and we’re here and still winning and are going to reach our goals.”
The Jaguars, who visit Mississippi State on Monday, started 5-12 last season with losses to Power Five schools Ole Miss, Baylor and Minnesota included.
Southern responded by winning 13 of their last 18 games and seeing their season end with a 62-58 loss to Texas Southern in the SWAC Tournament championship game.
“Southern is a team that is predicted to be in the top two or three in their league,” Anderson said. “It is a team that is going to come in with some quickness and some athletes.
“They play teams such as Arkansas all the time so they are going to come in here looking forward to an opportunity to come into Bud Walton and steal a game. We have to have the mindset that we have to protect the home court.”
The Razorbacks have won 41 straight home openers, including 22 in a row at Bud Walton Arena, 20 consecutive season openers and have opened 42 of the last 44 campaigns with a victory.
Anderson has never lost an opener, going 13-0 at UAB, Missouri and Arkansas while his teams are 39-1 in non-conference games at Bud Walton Arena under the current head coach.
The Razorbacks have played a regular season game once on Nov. 13 with Rotnei Clarke going off for a school-record 51 points while hitting 13-of-17 3-pointers and 15-of-21 from the field overall.
Durham, who had 16 assists to just three turnovers in the exhibition games, hopes to push his team to success in the season opener.
“I feel like an assist makes two people happy, makes me happy and makes the person that scored happy,” Durham said. “I would rather make two happy than one.”
Southern is led by returning guards Adrian Rogers (13.1) and Trelun Banks (10.3).
The two teams have met only once with the Razorbacks edging the Jaguars 76-75 back on Nov. 29, 1985.
The game will be debuts for a pair of new Razorbacks in former Pulaski Academy Dusty Hannahs (6-3, 205), who spent two seasons at Texas Tech before transferring to Arkansas, and freshmen guard Jimmy Whitt (6-4, 173).
"I'm definitely very excited," Hannahs said. "Any time you can suit up for the Razorbacks, it's a very exciting day.”
Whitt, one of the nation’s top 70 high school players of a year ago, wants to talk about team goals instead of individual ones.
“I feel like the team goals are going to be bigger - and I think I can say this for everybody - than anybody’s individual goals for this season,” Whitt said. “We all just want to come together as one unit.”