The Big 12-SEC Challenge has huge story lines all across the country. Take your pick. One of the big ones would be Arkansas guard Dusty Hannahs going against Texas Tech, his former school.
There will be time to cover that one in the next couple of days. But the one that intrigues some is Arkansas coach Mike Anderson against one of his best friends, Tech coach Tubby Smith. The Hogs (10-10, 4-4) play host to the Red Raiders (12-7, 2-6) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Bud Walton Arena.
They've battled each other many times through the years. It's not something either coach wants to do, but that's the pairing the conference offices produced when this nonconference series was dreamed up last year.
"He's a dear friend," Anderson said Thursday in a media briefing at Bud Walton Arena. "I guess we have the same common thread, Tulsa. It's where Coach (Nolan) Richardson coached, where I played and where Coach Smith coached. I got to know him in recruiting right before he got to Tulsa. We've played against him, both at Arkansas and when I was at UAB. He's coached at Tulsa, Kentucky, Georgia, Minnesota and Texas Tech.
"I talked to him last summer. He likes this team. He thinks it's deep and athletic. He has 10 guys who play and they do want to play up tempo and attack.
"They play hard. They are going to get up into you on defense."
It's clear Anderson has great respect for Smith.
"He's going to be in the Hall of Fame in the end," Anderson said. "He won a national championship at Kentucky. His teams have always been in the NCAA tournament every year.
"They were 9-1 out of the gate and people were talking about them being ranked. I've seen some of their games. I watched a very close game against West Virginia. They are in one of the better conferences in the nation. We know they have been battle tested. They will come in here ready to play."
Anderson just wants the Hogs to keep progressing. He likes the way they bounced back from three straight losses to upset No. 5 Texas A&M on Wednesday night. The Hogs led for almost the entire game and held on with clutch plays in the closing minutes.
"I want us playing winning basketball," he said. "We took the fight to A&M. We finished the game the right way. Our teams generally play good this time of year, late January and February. I think we are playing good basketball but we want it to be winning basketball."
Anderson knows Hannahs will be pumped to play Tech. There's also the story line of Tech forward Aaron Ross returning to Arkansas. The Little Rock Hall product has battled back from two knee surgeries. Once committed to Arkansas, but unable to make academic qualifications, Ross averages 18.3 minutes for the Red Raiders. He provides 8.1 points per game and 3.7 rebounds. He's 13 of 41 on threes for 31.7 percent.
"He's a big body guy with skill," Anderson said. "He's very versatile. He was very athletic before he got hurt. He's picked up some weight since then and he's a power guy now who can step out and shoot it."