But there's an entirely different animal for John Pelphrey's current roster of six scholarship players, a football player and three walk ons in game two.
The Razorbacks (1-0) face a stiff test against No. 17 Louisville Tuesday night in St. Louis at 6:35 p.m. in the opener of a Hall of Fame Showcase doubleheader at the Scotttrade Center.
"We understand exactly who we are and what we're up against," Pelphrey said. "My whole thing has always been as a player or a coach is that whoever shows up to the park and has a uniform on, that's who we're going with.
"We're not making any excuses, we're not worried about what we don't have," Pelphrey added. "This is our opportunity and we'll do the best we can with it."
ESPN2 will televise the game with Dan Shulman (play-by-play), legendary head coach Bob Knight (analyst) and Holly Rowe (sideline reporter) calling the action.
"I think it is going to be a great college doubleheader, especially for us as the first game of the season, " Pitino said. "To play a team of Arkansas' stature and talent is a great test for us and we look forward to that challenge."
Kansas head coach Bill Self echoed those sentiments.
""To have a doubleheader of this magnitude in front of a sold-out house, I think will definitely kick off the college basketball season right," Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Pelphrey's team will once again be without injured forward Michael Sanchez and 5 players that are suspended – including starting point guard Courtney Fortson.
He will start two freshmen in power forward Marshawn Powell (17 points, 11, rebounds) and point guard Julysses Nobles ( 8 points, 9 assists, 5 steals) along with another newcomer in junior college transfer Jemal Farmer (28 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists).
That trio will join Clarke – who had a school-record 51 points with 13 3-pointers in the opener – and All-SEC center Michael Washington (14 points, 5 rebounds) in the starting line-up.
"I hope they will handle it very composed, prepared, be able to stay in the moment there and whether something good happens or whether something bad happens, get to the next play," Pelphjrey said. "But we don't totally know. Even for the guys that are coming back into it, it is going to be a little bit different setting for Rot. He's always had some of these other guys that won't be there with us that had roles. We are all adjusting and trying to do different things.
"…Hopefully we will stay play-to-play, go after it really hard and be a good team and be there for each other when adversity sets in because there will be some adversity in the game," Pelphrey added.
Pitino is clearly very fond of Pelphrey, who was one of four Kentucky players dubbed "The Unforgettables" that helped Pitino lead the Wildcats out of a dark time that included NCAA penalties and scholarship reductions before he arrived and a two year post-season ban.
"I am real proud of John," Pitino said. "John is one of probably the brightest players I have coached in my college tenure. Definitely in the top three. He was always like a quarterback who studied film. He would come in extra and just try to to get an edge on the program. John as an extremely bright young man, really understood scouting, really understood how to get the best of an opponent. I am real proud of his accomplishments as a player and as a coach. "
He joked about how it might be better for Louisville if Pelphrey decided to unsuspend some players.
"I wish he would bring them back so Rotnei Clarke would shoot a little less," Pitino said.
Pitino then got serious about what Pelphrey is going through right now with the suspensions.
"There are certain things you have to do in a program that is doing the right thing to make sure that not only the players understand right from wrong, but also that certain requirements have to be met in every program to build a very good foundation with what you are trying to build," Pitino said. "I admire John for doing that. He is teaching the players the right lessons.
"On the other hand, when you are a wounded Tiger, you have players like Clarke and Washington, you are going to overachieve sometimes," Pitino added. "So we have got to be ready for that challenge."
Pitino notes that he understands the pressure Pelphrey is under in not having a full squad while doing the right thing.
"Tough decisions have to be made, but the one thing you can't do is sweep them under the carpet," Pitino said. "You have to make the right choices as a college basketball coach for the future of the program. Those are the tough decisions he's making right now and they'll become stronger because of it. I do believe that they still have enough talent to be very competitive."
Pitino was well aware of Clarke before his outburst in the opening game.
"To score 51 points in a college basketball game, wow," Pitino said. "I watched him play in high school and loved him because he not only shoots it so well, but he handles the ball extremely well, knows how to use screens and really understands how to play the game."
He plans to play some 1-3-1 defense to try and slow the sharpshooter down.
"…Rotnei Clarke is kind of a combo guard in that he has point guard skills who shoots it with tremendous range," Pitino said. "The NBA line is close for him. So his range is unbelievable and the fact that he has point guard skills makes it even further a problem."
|Marc F. Henning|
|John Pelphrey played for Rick Pitino from 1989-92.|
They showed that in two exhibition wins in Freedome Hall over Georgetown College (80-68) and Bellarmine (85-66).
The Cardinals are expected to start sophomore forwards Terrence Jennings (6-10, 240), Samardo Samuels (6-9, 250) and George Goode (6-8, 230) and a pair of 6-2 senior guards in Edgar Sosa and Preston Knowles.
"They are a little bit different of a team because the two guys that they lost – Clark and T-Will – were terrific," Pelphrey said. "But I think they have got some very good players – Jennings and Samuels are still up front, an experience guard in the backcourt, a McDonald's All-American (guard Peyton Siva) from Seattle and Sosa is still there. They have got a number of guys that have been part of at least one and maybe back-to-back Elite Eight."
Pelphrey knows the challenge that awaits, but hopes the confidence gained from the win over Alcorn State will help his team going into the game.
"If we do what we are supposed to do, we will have a chance to execute," Pelphrey said. "The thing we are going to have to make an adjustment to is the talent level is just going to be completely different. "
Pitino said once the game starts he doesn't really think about the other coach.
"The one thing you do when you coach a friend or an ex-player or a coach, you really don't look down the sidelines too much during the game. You are just focusing on trying to get your team to reach its potential. You understand it before the game, you understand it after the game, but during the game you are just tied up so much in strategy that you really don't look down the other end of the court."
Pelphrey tried to downplay what an upset would mean for himself.
"I try not to make it about me, but I would be happy for our basketball team any night we can get a win," Pelphrey said.