Arkansas head basketball coach Mike Anderson is not happy with the 2016 SEC schedule - one that has his team opening at Texas A&M for the third straight season in row and opening on the road for the fourth time in five years.
Nothing’s going to stop that game from happening as the Razorbacks (6-6) visit the No. 20 Aggies (10-2) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in a game that will be televised by the SEC Network, but Anderson has expressed his displeasure.
“It is something that I have addressed and I will continue to address,” Anderson said. “It seems like we open up on the road every season, 4 out of the 5 or something like that since I have been here. So I don’t know if it’s an Arkansas thing or the schedule just went in that direction. That’s what they try to say but I don’t believe that.”
The only mitigating factor to starting on the road again is that Arkansas will then have three straight home games.
“It’s something when you talk about in our league it should not be every year, the same teams shouldn’t go on the road to start every year,” Anderson said. “But the schedule is what it is and we will move forward.
Arkansas comes in off an 85-81 overtime loss at Dayton on Wednesday night in its next-to-last non-conference game
“For the most part the non-conference is almost over with,” Anderson said. “We still have one game later on in January (30th hosting Texas Tech), but for the most part we (are) finished at 6-6.
“The record is what it is. I am not awful proud of it but I am proud of our guys and where they are trending, the direction we are going.
“We were really tested against a very good Dayton team and as we begin a new season, beginning in the SEC on the road for the umpteenth time, it seems like, we open up at Texas A&M.
“It’s a team that’s a Top 15 team and could be a Top Ten ranked team, a team that has six seniors led by Danuel House, who we know is a tremendous scorer. He’s a leader of that basketball team.”
Texas A&M is riding a three-game win streak that includes home victories over Kansas State (78-68), Baylor (80-61) and Cal-Poly (82-63).
The Aggies - who also have marquee wins over Texas and Gonzaga and whose losses are to Syracuse and Arizona State - to are led by 6-7, 212-pound all-conference senior forward Danuel House (15.3, 5.3).
He joins a talented starting line-up that also includes Jalen Jones (14.9, 6.4), freshman center Tyler Davis (12.3, 6.3), 6-5 senior guard Alex Caruso (6.8, 4.8 assists per game) and 6-1 South Florida senior guard Anthony Collins (5.8, 4.4 assists).
“Caruso is a guy that has been there it seemed like forever,” Anderson said. “And he is one of the top thieves in the conference and a tremendous assists player and they have added a kid by the name of Anthony Collins who is a fifth-year senior and transferred in there. I think he has given them another dimension.
“It’s a team that is really deep and has some tremendous young talent, the Davis kid, the Jones kid who is a senior as well. So again it’s a team that presents a lot of problems for any team.
“I was watching a game they played against Baylor and they just dominated. So we have got our work cut out for us. But everyone (in SEC play) is undefeated. Everyone is 0-0 so the SEC race is officially on.”
Arkansas is 0-4 in close games this season, 0-2 in overtime games.
“It’s not just tough losses away from home, it’s tough losses period,” Anderson said. “We had a tough loss at home against Akron. We had a tough loss against Mercer.
“So to me it’s a progression of a team. We were at this point two years ago. This team has a lot of different pieces that are in different roles so now they are impact roles now. They have to learn to be a team.
“They have to learn to compete and now they have to learn how to finish off games, especially against the quality of opponents that we are playing against.”
Arkansas fell down 23 in the first half against Dayton, but rallied to take leads in both regulation and overtime before faltering down the stretch.
“We had a pretty good non-conference schedule,” Anderson said. “So we have to find ways to win. The game against Dayton we just ran out of time. I don’t think the guys lost the game, they just ran out of time.
“We were down 23 we spotted them 23 points and we took the lead in regulation time and took the lead by four points in overtime. We just have to learn to finish it off by making plays. We had shots at the basket and that’s all you can ask. Guys give you the effort and our guys did.”