It’s Back to Rack against the SWAC.
Arkansas will take on its second straight SWAC conference foe, but Mississippi Valley State is likely to pose a bigger threat than winless Grambling did last Saturday night.
The Delta Devils may only be 1-5, but they start five seniors and their losses have included contests at North Carolina, South Carolina, Notre Dame and DePaul.
“I think they are one of the teams probably picked to win their league,” Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. “They have a senior, veteran team coming back. They are battle tested having played games on the road. The record is not reflective of how they have played.”
There’s also the matter of potentially looking ahead to a Saturday match-up at defending national champion UConn.
“It is going to be our job to keep our team focused on the task at hand,” Anderson said.
Arkansas did hammer Grambling 86-44 last Saturday with its four freshmen combining for 53 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists while all coming off the bench.
“Our young players had a chance to play extensively in the last game and I though they did some good things,” Anderson said. “I thought they brought some excitement, I think you saw the athletic ability and the talent that they possess.”
The starting line-up – which consists of the team’s five upperclassmen – could see a change as the season goes along.
"It's getting real competitive," Anderson said. "The more games we play, the more I get a chance to see. The guys that are starting out, it's not etched in stone they're going to be the starters, and I may end up having seven to eight starters before it's all said and done. The most important thing is when you get the playing time, you make it quality playing time."
That certainly was the case Saturday with 6-10, 240-pound rookie forward Hunter Mickelson, who had 10 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks in the win over the Tigers.
“I thought Hunter played with the utmost confidence the other night and played the most minutes of the big guys,” Anderson said. “That can only help him. He made some tremendous passes out there and I just like his aggressiveness going to the glass.”
Anderson was happy with the energy and tempo his youngsters all brought to the floor.
"I thought (the freshmen) took the tempo up another level and kept the crowd into it. That's what I'm looking for -- deflections, diving on the floor, taking charges, dunks, great passing. It was good to see that and it's exciting basketball. When you talk about the confidence of our guys, it can't help but build some confidence as we go into this part of our schedule.”
Mississippi Valley State is led by 6-3 guard Terrance Joyner (12.8) – a former Arkansas signee – and 6-8 forward Paul Crosby (12.7).
Joyner signed with the Razorbacks in November, 2007 in the same class Courtney Fortson and Rotnei Clarke, but Joyner never made it to campus.
He is part of something unusual in college basketball – a five-senior starting five.
“When you see that, you see some guys that have been through the wars and don’t panic and they are going to give themselves a chance to win,” Anderson said.
The Delta Devils also boast some scoring power off of their short bench with 6-2 freshman guard Brent Arrington tossing in 33 points while hitting six 3-pointers in his team’s loss at North Carolina.
“They played North Carolina earlier in the year and played them really, really well,” Anderson said. “They were right there l the end when the talent of North Carolina – who was the number one team at the time – just kind of took over and wore Mississippi Valley State down.”
Anderson had a chance to watch Mississippi Valley State play South Carolina.
“They had them (the Gamecocks) down nine with three minutes to go and somehow South Carolina was able to eek one out,” Anderson said. “We are going to have our hands full…They won’t be afraid and we will get their best shot.”