Arkansas will have get to have a different experience in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday afternoon when it play its first game in the brand new Pavilion at Ole Miss.
Gone is the dilapidated Tad Pad, Ole Miss’ old 8,867-seat arena it had played in since 1966 and where the Razorbacks lost seven of their last nine and 18 of 24, but did win their final game last season.
When Arkansas (12-12, 5-6) and Ole Miss (15-9, 5-6) meet Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. on ESPNU, it will be in the Rebels’ brand new 9,051-seat coliseum, which opened in January and cost $96.5 million.
"They are in their new place and I’m sure there will be extra excitement, energy so to speak, emotion as we enter that game with them," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. " I know it’s going to be a tough ballgame but I think our guys will be up to the challenge. Especially on the heels of what took place at Mississippi State (a 78-46 loss) where we came out real, real flat.
"I thought we were real, real flat and it just went throughout the whole game. When your leading scorers, I think they had a combined of 18 or 19 points. Here is a trio that has been averaging almost 50-plus points for you. When they don’t show up, you know you are going to be in trouble. But that page has been turned. We flushed that out of our system. We burned the tape and you move forward. We are in the SEC conference play, seven games left, and every game continues to be really big."
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy feels like he has a new job with the new arena.
“It's a real game-changer for us,” Kennedy said. “We’re still getting acclimated with making the transition just a few weeks ago. … It's surreal for me in that it feels like I've taken another job.
“Everything has just totally changed from the dynamics of the game-day experience and the excitement of our fan base and how our students have really taken ownership and provided the energy that you need to truly have a home court advantage.”
Kennedy notes that the arena has an NBA feel.
“It's a state-of-the-art brand new facility that has amenities we can offer our fan base that we've never had before in the history of our program,” Kennedy said. “The students have the closest seats to the floor, so they really provide great energy for the building. The acoustics, the scoreboard, just the feel.
“Most everybody that comes into it that I've spoken to afterwards said it has a smaller scale NBA type arena feel to it.”
He admits to not missing much about the Tad Pad, which was viewed as the league’s worst arena.
“No, I haven't missed it just yet,” Kennedy said. “I will say this. There are a lot of great memories in the old Tad Smith Coliseum. We were pretty successful in there winning about 80 percent of our games. So hopefully some of that will carry over."
Both teams will come in off an loss with Mississippi State having embarrassing Arkansas in Starkville on Tuesday night while Florida downed Ole Miss 77-72 earlier this week.
Anderson noted that Arkansas was putting the loss to the Bulldogs in the rearview mirror.
"That page as been turned,” Anderson said. “We've burned the tape. We had an off day and didn't even watch the tape. There is no use to it. They know what took place. They know what took place. There is no need in that."
Anderson was glad to see the effort and aggressiveness of 6-4 freshman guard Jimmy Whitt, who had 11 points against Mississippi State after being inconsistent for most of the season.
"I was really proud of him," Anderson said. " Him and Willy (kouassi) I thought are two of the guys I thought really fought. And so that certainly is going to play into more playing time for both of those guys. I thought they played with energy. I thought they played with passion uhh throughout the whole game no matter what the score was."
Ole Miss goes to the boards hard and does pressure you on defense according to Anderson.
"No, I just think you know their recipe is they going to be as physical as they possibly can," Anderson said. They're going to attack the glass. Uhh they're going to be a team try and slow you up with their press. They're going to press you and you got to take care of the basketball and you got to make them pay for it. You got to attack them
Ole Miss is led by 6-1 guard Stefan Moody, who averages an SEC-leading 23.3 points per game, which is seventh nationally in the country.
"May have to put two people on him," Anderson said. "He's that good. He's very gifted, very athletic. Just, his range is when he gets into the gym. He has that kind of range. And from what I'm looking at, he's getting to the free throw line. He probably shoots more free throws than anybody in the country. He's probably averaging nine to 10 free throws a game."
The Pavilion at Ole Miss