With Kansas-Florida and Texas-Kentucky the projected titanic Big 12-SEC clashes for the upcoming basketball the season, fans of Iowa State had resigned themselves to the fate of an unglamorous non-conference matchup.
A rebuilt Tennessee team was an option, as the Volunteers, like the Cyclones, finished fourth in their conference during the regular season. LSU, despite its disappointing record (20-14), was perhaps the trendy pick, the Tigers bringing in a handful of top recruits. Georgia, third in the SEC standings a year ago, did not do it for many. Vanderbilt tanked in 15-16 but carried name recognition. Missouri and Texas A&M were sentimental options.
Instead, ding-ding, it's Arkansas, which hasn't been to the NCAA tourney since 2008 but will bring with it to Hilton a balance of historical clout — Nolan Richardson's 17-year run with the Razorbacks included an NCAA title in 1994 — and entertainment value, as Mike Anderson's squad was fifth in tempo last season and No. 88 in three-point percentage.
It's not a blue blood, but it's not Auburn, either. The two will play Thursday, Dec. 4, in Ames, the league announced Wednesday.
The Razorbacks went 22-10 in Anderson's third season, losing to Cal in the second round of the NIT tournament. Of the five players in Arkansas' most frequent lineup, three return, and that does not include senior-to-be Alandise Harris, a trigger-happy forward who's also a rim protector.
Very Early Starting Five
Worth Noting: Moses Kingsley, the No. 5 center in 2013, will give Arkansas plenty of depth in the frontcourt and could start at power forward over Harris … Nick Babb, brother of Chris, signed with Arkansas this year out of Martin High School in Arlington, Texas. The fourth member of the recruiting class is three-star center Trey Thompson … Iowa State is 3-1 all-time against the Razorbacks … Current NBA players who attended Arkansas are Joe Johnson, Patrick Beverley and Ronnie Brewer.
Complete Big 12-SEC slate