Thanksgiving Day Hoops at The Milk House

Arkansas (2-0) enters today's inaugural Old Spice Classic basketball game with Southern Illinois (2-0) at 11 a.m. as a slight underdog, but has stated plans to win the eight-team event at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.

ORLANDO, Fla. - The University of Arkansas will enter today's inaugural Old Spice Classic game with Southern Illinois as a two-point underdog, but Razorback head basketball coach Stan Heath is not buying that role.

Instead he plans on his team going into the 11 a.m. CST Thanksgiving Day game at Walt Disney World's Milk House arena with confidence.

""This is our first trip on the road and I want to make sure we have the right attitude," Heath said. "We need to be business-like. With the team we're facing, we can't look ahead. But we're not going in thinking we are the underdog. We are going down there to win the tournament."

The Razorbacks (2-0) certainly didn't catch any scheduling breaks in the eight-team tournament by getting matched up with the Salukis (2-0) in a game that will be televised by ESPN2.

"Southern Illinois is highly regarded nationally," Heath said. " They return all five starters and they won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship last year. They've had tremendous success over the years."

That matchup leads off a day which also includes Marist battling Minnesota at 1 p.m., Virginia Tech battling Western Michigan at 6:30 and West Virginia topping Montana at 8:30 p.m.

ESPN announcer and former Razorback player Jimmy Dykes – who is here as one of the broadcasters - thinks the Arkansas-Southern Illinois game may be the game of the tournament.

"I think you will see the winner of the Arkansas-Southern Illinois coming out of one side of the bracket and coming out of the other side I have got to say Virginia Tech," Dykes said. "But there are some great teams without some big names in this tournament, but they are teams that are always in the postseason in March."

Southern Illinois went 22-11 that made its fifth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.

The Salukis have downed Washington (Mo.) 59-28 and Murray State 62-46 in its first two outings.

"We did what we do - we guard," SI head coach Chris Lowery said after the opener. "They scored 28 points. That's a football score."

Indeed Arkansas will not be facing a team that wants to get up and down the court or get off quick shots.

"They play a very deliberate style," Heath said. " They run a ball control offense. It will not be a pretty game, but my concern is winning. For us, we can't get concerned with the way they play. We may have to guard them through the shot clock."

Heath notes that his team has averaged about 62 or 63 posessions a game, but will be hardpressed to get anywhere near that today.

"In SIU's last game against Murray State they allowed just 36 possessions," Heath said. " The number of possessions goes down. They wind down the clock and play for the shot in the last four or five seconds. "We will make adjustments, but we have to be good enough to guard in the half court." Dykes is very impressed with the Salukis' three guards.

That would be the trio of senior Jamaal Tatum (6-2, 195), senior Tony Young (6-0, 190) and sophomore Bryan Mullins (6-1, 185).

"Jamal Tatum is the league-leading scorer and leading assist kid, Tony Young is a great shooter and Byran Mullins was the league's freshman of the year at point guard," Dykes said. "Those three guys right there, they make it tough on anybody, especially early in the year.

"It is a team that has always been an excellent man-to-man defensive squad and defense is always ahead of offense early in the year," Dykes continued.

Dykes is also a big fan of Lowery.

"Chris Lowry comes out of that system where Bruce Weber was at and Matt Painter and he played there and it is defensive oriented and it is ingrained in him," Dykes said. "It would be like one of Nolan's guys coming back and coaching here or one of Eddie Sutton's guys. They would know that style like the back of their hand. It is very good and very sharp, not flashy and is just kind of like his team. They work their tails off and it is very, very difficult to beat that guy."

Dykes thinks that Arkansas has a lot of potential.

"I think the strength of this team early is obvious – it's their front line," Dykes said. "Their size is the one area that they have an advantage over Southern Illinois when it comes to that first round match-up. The question is going to be can their guard play stand up.

"I think the pieces are there this year for Stan to have a really good year," Dykes added. "When I was talking on the air last night about teams that could possibly go to the Final Four and have the pieces to have a chance to make it down that path, Arkansas has those pieces to be one of the top two teams in the SEC West – a true point guard, a kid that can shoot it in Beverley, size inside. They are not a finished product certainly, but I like what I see."

Arkansas will play at 9:30 a.m. on Friday morning regardless of whether they win or lose on Thursday. The Razorbacks will be matched up with either Minnesota or Marist in that contest.

There are no games Saturday with the tournament then concluding on Sunday with the championship game slated for 6:30 p.m.


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