Their last three foes — Florida A&M, Texas Southern and North Carolina Central — sport a combined record of 2-27. So the Hogs figure to learn more about themselves tonight than they did in the past 25 days when they welcome reigning Ohio Valley Conference champion Austin Peay to Fayetteville.
By game time, final exams will have finished for Arkansas' players. So will have the less challenging portion of the Razorbacks' schedule.
"We won't be able to play to the level we have all season long," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "We will need to play our best game both offensively and defensively. ... This will be, by far, the best team we've played."
Arkansas (6-1), which has won four straight games, faces the real possibility of not winning its own tournament because of the difficulty of the competition. The Razorbacks opted to host the Jim Thorpe Classic instead of travel to a tournament such as those they went to in 2006 (Old Spice Classic) and 2007 (Puerto Rico Tip-Off).
But by scheduling Austin Peay (5-3) and Stephen F. Austin (6-2), which Arkansas plays on Saturday night, the young Razorbacks will encounter two schools capable of springing an upset.
The Governors have won 45 games the past two seasons and won't even consider being intimidated by Bud Walton Arena tonight. Their two top scorers this season — senior forward Drake Reed and junior guard Wes Channels — had one of their best games last season at Memphis.
Austin Peay also nearly won Saturday at No. 9 Louisville, carrying a lead deep into the second half.
"That's the nature of our program," said Dave Loos, in his 19th season as Austin Peay's coach. "We have to play a number of games like that every season, always have. We've been down that road in the past."
Pelphrey talked about the challenge of guarding Austin Peay's "inside-outside attack."
The Governors have four shooters who have taken at least 20 3-pointers and made at least 39.7 percent of them. And the 6-foot-5 Reed, their leading scorer at 20.5 points per game, has improved at finding them after negotiating double-teams in the post.
"When (Reed's) in a crowd, he can find the open guy on the perimeter," Loos said. "He's really doing a little bit of everything for us."
Pelphrey said stopping Reed would present a tough task for his inexperienced frontcourt. Reed, the OVC Player of the Year as a sophomore, has felt comfortable his whole career battling against taller opponents.
"He's a big-time player," Pelplhrey said. "He's certainly strong around the basket and can hurt you with his offensive rebounding."
Austin Peay at Arkansas
When: 7:05 p.m.
Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville
TV: KFTA (Cox Ch. 8)
Radio: KEZA-FM 107.9, KKEG-FM 92.1, KUOA-AM 1290
Records: Austin Peay Governors, 5-3; Arkansas Razorbacks, 6-1
Coaches: Austin Peay, Dave Loos (19th season); Arkansas, John Pelphrey (second season)
Series: Arkansas leads 1-0
Austin Peay (5-3)
Pos. Player Ht. Class PPG
G Caleb Brown 6-0 So. 7.4
G Wes Channels 6-3 Jr. 17.5
F Kyle Duncan 6-5 Sr. 9.6
F Drake Reed 6-5 Sr. 20.5
F Ernest Fields 6-6 Jr. 5.3
Pos. Player Ht. Class PPG
G Courtney Fortson 5-11 Fr. 15.4
G Rotnei Clarke 6-0 Fr. 14.3
G Stefan Welsh 6-3 Jr. 10.4
F Michael Sanchez 6-8 Fr. 8.7
F Michael Washington 6-9 Jr. 14.9
Arkansas hosts Austin Peay
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