Arkansas To Meet Connecticut In Maui

FAYETTEVILLE -- It's official -- the University of Arkansas men's basketball team will play in the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational tournament in November and will meet Connecticut in the first round.

The Razorbacks, who went 18-12 last season, will play Connecticut (23-8) in the last game of the first tournament day, Nov. 21, at 10:30 p.m. CST, with ESPN2 televising the game.

"Connecticut has established itself as one of the premier programs in college basketball," said Arkansas coach Stan Heath. "We're young and excited. We'll go in and give 100 percent and see what happens."

The other opening-day game in Arkansas' bracket is an 8 p.m. contest between perennial college basketball heavyweights Arizona and Kansas.

In the other bracket, Division II host team Chaminade will meet Michigan State at 1:30 p.m., and Gonzaga will play Maryland at 4 p.m.

"This is an incredible field, so you're just picking your poison," Heath said. "We want to become one of the better teams in college basketball. To do that, you have to play the best. Every game will be a war. We're not just going to show up; we're going to win."

Tom Izzo, the Michigan State coach whom Heath formerly assisted, said during an AAU tournament in Fayetteville this past spring that he looked forward to spending time with Heath in Maui.

If the Razorbacks defeat Connecticut, they will play the Arizona-Kansas winner on Nov. 22 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN. If the Hogs lose, they will play the Arizona-Kansas loser at 3 p.m. on ESPNU.

The championship game, on ESPN, is set for Nov. 23 at 8:30 p.m. CST.

Every game of the tournament will be televised by either ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU. All games will be played at the 2,400-seat Lahaina Civic Center.

Arkansas returns four starters, including junior guard Ronnie Brewer of Fayetteville (16.2 average, tops among Southeastern Conference returnees); senior guard/forward Jonathan Modica; senior guard Eric Ferguson and sophomore center Darian Townes.

Modica ranks 24th on the UA career scoring list with 1,074 points, while Ferguson is ninth in career assists with 297. Townes ranked second on the team last season in scoring (10.2), rebounding (4.6), shooting percentage (.519), free throw percentage (.698) and blocked shots (1.6).

Connecticut lost to North Carolina State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season and finished the year ranked 17th.

Arizona, 30-7, reached the Elite Eight and was ranked sixth. Kansas went 23-7, losing to Bucknell in a first-round stunner in the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks still finished with a No. 15 ranking.

Michigan State surprised many by reaching the Final Four. The Spartans, 26-7, were ranked fourth in the final poll.

Maryland, 19-13, reached the championship game of the NIT.

"The field is so strong that the team winning will probably be ranked in the top five," Heath said. "If you win two games, you'll be pretty high in the rankings. It gives us a great opportunity and will also be a good measuring stick for us. It will show us where we are and what we need to do to prepare for the SEC."

The tournament is being touted as the 2005 "Field of Dreams," since Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas, Maryland and Michigan State have all won the national championship.

The UA Alumni Association is offering a travel package for fans interested in making the trip. For information, call Michelle Bell at 479-575-4786 or 800-775-3465.

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