UA Releases Non-Conference Basketball Schedule

FAYETTEVILLE -- Spiced by three high-profile games in the Maui Invitational on Nov. 21-23, Arkansas' non-conference basketball schedule looks to be much more formidable this season.

The intersectional slate was released on Friday, while the Southeastern Conference continued to try to finalize the league portion of the schedule. The complete schedule should be out sometime this month.

Besides a game against Connecticut in Maui at 10:30 p.m. on Nov. 21 on ESPN2, Arkansas will play either Arizona or Kansas on Nov. 22, either at 3 or 8:30 p.m. on an ESPN channel.

The Razorbacks, 18-12 last season, will play a third game in Maui on Nov. 23 at a time to be announced, against either Maryland, Michigan State, Gonzaga or Chaminade, on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.

"Maui is an incredible field," said UA coach Stan Heath. "It will give us a definite gauge of where we are on the national scene."

The Hogs open officially against Portland State in Bud Walton Arena on Nov. 18, then return after Maui to play five consecutive games in Walton Arena: Radford on Nov. 26 at 2:05 p.m., Southern Miss on Nov. 30, Missouri on Dec. 2, Texas State on Dec. 6 and Missouri State on Dec. 15.

Arkansas then goes to Alltel Arena in North Little Rock to meet Rice on Dec. 17, and to Dallas to play Texas Tech at American Airlines Center on Dec. 21 (9 p.m., ESPN2).

The Razorbacks return for two more games in Walton Arena -- Texas-Pan American on Dec. 29 and Western Illinois on Jan. 1 -- before beginning SEC play.

"It's a tough schedule," Heath said. "We went from getting criticized for our non-conference schedule last year to surely having a Top 20 schedule this season -- maybe better."

Arkansas talked to several other schools, including Minnesota, Wake Forest, Ohio State, Syracuse and Houston, but none was willing to come to Fayetteville first for a series this season. UA athletic director Frank Broyles said Arkansas would like to schedule Texas and Oklahoma in future years.

"Missouri and Texas Tech were feathers in our cap," Heath said. "I think you'll see more high-caliber opponents like that in the future."

Heath was asked whether the upgraded schedule reflected a more experienced Arkansas team, a desire to increase season ticket sales or an attempt to acquire a higher RPI at NCAA Tournament time.

"All of the above," he said. "We want to bring entertaining teams into Bud Walton Arena, and at the same time we have an experienced team for the first time and it needs to be challenged. This schedule has to assist our RPI."

Heath credited Broyles, UA executive associate athletic director Bill Gray, sports information director Kevin Trainor and two UA assistants with helping put together the schedule.

"We found getting home games to be very difficult, but this schedule will be very challenging and will prepare us for the SEC," Heath said.

While pointing out that Missouri and Texas Tech are two strong Big 12 opponents, Heath said, "What strengthens our schedule are (games against) Rice, Southern Miss and Missouri State. Those are three high-caliber opponents that it is usually difficult to schedule at home."

Texas Tech went 22-11 under Bob Knight last season. Portland State, 19-9, won the Big Sky Conference. Rice, 19-12 in the Western Athletic Conference last season, joins Conference-USA this season.

Missouri State, still called Southwest Missouri State until Aug. 28, went 19-13 last season. Texas State of the Southland Conference, 14-14, is coached by Dennis Nutt, youngest brother of UA football coach Houston Nutt.

The Southern Miss game on Nov. 20 will be televised by Fox Sports South at 7:05 p.m. ARSN will televise Arkansas' next four games, including Rice, and also the UT-Pan American and Western Illinois games.

Among the non-conference games, only Portland State and Radford are not scheduled for television.

Arkansas also plays a Red-White game on Oct. 29 at 4:05 p.m. and exhibitions against Southwest (Mo.) Baptist on Nov. 4 and Xavier-New Orleans on Nov. 12 -- all in Walton Arena.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories