Arkansas will open its exhibition basketball season tonight at 7 p.m. CT when they play host to Central Oklahoma in Bud Walton Arena.
Mike Anderson met with the media on Wednesday and talked about his excitement for the game tonight.
"This time of the year it's basketball season," Anderson said. "I can tell. I set my alarm for a certain time and I wake up around 5 o'clock in the morning. And my mind is racing. It's racing about things we need to get done to get better with this basketball team.
"We certainly have a lot of experience coming back. With six guys that are seniors and then you add C.J. (Jones) and Adrio (Bailey), and then you've also got some new parts to it as well. The sooner we get those guys with the older guys, then I think we've got a chance to have a real special team. I really believe that."
The Razorbacks played a Red-White game this past Friday night. The Red team was led by senior guards Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford as well as freshman forward Daniel Gafford. The White team won 95-69 with nine players on the two teams combined scoring in double figures led by Jones' 24 for the Red and Gafford 23 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Anderson talked about his impressions of the Red-White game.
"The process is ongoing," Anderson said. "People got a chance to see glimpses of that in the Red-White game, which I look at being just kind of glorified scrimmage. So I don't put a whole lot into it. But at the same time you can see there's some potential there, some possibilities in terms of different lineups. We've got some more versatile parts to go with what we're doing. We're a little more athletic. But now we kind of zero in on how we want to play and who are going to be those guys that are going to be playing."
Tonight, the Razorbacks will finally get a chance to go against someone other than themselves. Anderson talked about Central Oklahoma, a Division II school, on Wednesday.
"We're looking forward to playing Central Oklahoma, coached by Tom Hankins," Anderson said. "A young man that I know. He's from Tulsa. He used to coach at Oral Roberts. It's a team that's going to come in here with nothing to lose. They've got a lot of transfers. They won like, 17 games last year. They return four or five guys. So it's an opportunity for us to play someone other than ourselves and so I'm looking to see who does what with the minutes that they're given."
It likely won’t be a competitive game, as Arkansas has won 26 consecutive exhibition games. Anderson’s teams are 12-0 in those games and won them by an average margin of 32.7 points, including a 110-74 victory over UCO three years ago.
Does Anderson have a lineup set for tonight's game or is that still up in the air?
"Right now I don't know who's going to start," Anderson said. "It will be game time (decision). It'll probably be quite a few of the guys that have been here. But I haven't really just pinpointed who's going to start. But you can probably pencil in Daryl and Jaylen. Possibly Anton (Beard), Trey (Thompson)… I don't know where I'm going from there.
"I haven't set in my mind who's going to start. But you'll see some of that platoon, just to see how guys work with another. Then it probably will calm down in the second half where we'll put the guys out there that are going to be the core guys.
"You've always got to have that core group of probably eight or nine guys. But with this team here, you keep going on down the line, you've got multiple guys that can … I don't think there's a whole lot difference in the talent level in some of those guys. So therefore this is an opportunity for me to put some of these guys out there and see what they're capable of doing."
Even though it was basically a scrimmage this past Friday night and defense wasn't necessarily the most abundant, Arkansas' fans can't help but get excited for the possibilities of Gafford. He was heavily recruited and showed why on Friday. What most impressed Anderson about Gafford's play?
"I keep saying it, his energy for a guy that size, athletic," Anderson said. "He does what we ask him to do. He’s going to out-run most big guys down the floor. The biggest thing we’re going to need is not only just Daniel, we’re going to need other guys to do it, but he rebounds the basketball. He rebounds above the rim. If he catches anything around that basket, he’s trying to dunk it. I love that part about him. I just love his energy. I love that he’s a sponge. He wants to continue to get better. He listens in on everything that we’re going. Since this summer, since he’s been here, he’s gotten better. Since the fall, to this point where we are, the things he’s been doing in practice, you saw some of that on display. He’s just got to continue to work, get stronger and figure things out as we go."
Could you possibly play Gafford with Thompson inside or will it just be one or the other?
"I think the beauty of it is I can play those guys together," Anderson said. "We saw that a lot with Moses last year. He and Trey… It’s funny because I think that’s when we really made our great, great run, when those guys were out there. You think back to the South Carolina game, those guys played really well, played a lot of minutes together. You will see that. Again, you can’t teach size and of course if you’re going to play, we have so many versatile parts.
"We have a guy like Darious Hall. You put him out there as a perimeter guy, now you really have some size with the two big guys, then you have some big guards. We can get as big as we want to, we can get as small as we want to. But we still don’t lose that versatility. I think Trey is a guy that can bring people outside and is a tremendous passer. His basketball IQ far exceeds anybody on our basketball team, so he’s like a coach on the floor."
Following tonight's game, Arkansas will close out the exhibition season on Friday, Nov. 3, when they face Missouri Western in Bud Walton Arena. The regular season opens on Friday, Nov. 10, the Hogs play host to Samford at 7 p.m. CT in Bud Walton Arena.