THE GAME: Arkansas opens the regular season in the preseason NIT for the first time since 1995-96 against the Maine Black Bears. The winner of tonight’s game faces the winner the Wake Forest/North Carolina-Wilmington game being played tonight at WFU.
A LITTLE ABOUT MAINE: The Black Bears compete in the America East Conference and went 18-11 last year, finishing fourth in league play with a 10-8 mark.
OTHER FIRST ROUND GAMES: Other preseason NIT games tonight are North Carolina-Wilmington at Wake Forest, Manhattan at Syracuse and Fordham at DePaul. First round games on Tuesday are Wyoming at Southern Cal, Montana State at Fresno State, Central Connecticut at Oklahoma and Detroit at Michigan State.
UA IN THE NIT: Arkansas has participated in the National Invitation Tournament three times, twice in the postseason and once in the preseason. The Razorbacks are 7-4 in the NIT.
PRESEASON HONORS & PREDICTIONS: Jannero Pargo has been named to preseason All-SEC teams selected by The Sporting News (second) and by Lindy’s Basketball (third).
TEAM EZYBONDS GAME RECAP: Arkansas shot 58.8 percent from the floor in the first half, 63.2 percent in the second and 61.1 for the game (44-72) in routing Team Ezybonds, 107-48, on Friday. The Razorbacks forced 27 turnovers and held the Australians to 24.2 percent shooting (15-62). Charles Tatum hit eight of 12 shots and scored a game-high 21 points. Dionisio Gomez was seven of seven from the floor for 16 points while Alonzo Lane was five of seven for 14 points. Brandon Dean added 12 points while Berry Jordan had six points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
EA SPORTS GAME RECAP: The EA Sports Central All-Stars rallied from a 19-point second-half deficit to beat Arkansas, 87-84, on Tuesday. UA led 58-39 with 16:20 remaining on a T.J. Cleveland three-pointer. EA Sports went on a 40-20 run and took its first lead of the game at 79-78 with 2:41 remaining on a three by LaDarion Jones, who had just five points. Arkansas shot just 39 percent from the floor (35-89), including just 36.2 percent in the second half (17-47). The All-Stars, meanwhile, shot 61.5 percent in the second half (16-26) after hitting 38 percent of their shots in the first period (13-34). EA also had a huge advantage at the free throw line, making 17 of 27 attempts while UA was five of six.
THE RED-WHITE GAME: Charles Tatum scored 28 points in the Red-White game for the second straight year, leading White to a 110-92 victory. Tatum was eight of 17 from the field, including six of 13 on three-pointers. Teddy Gipson had 24 points on 10 of 17 shooting while freshman J.J. Sullinger had a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds.
PRESEASON LEADERS: It doesn’t count in UA’s official stats, but in the two exhibition games, Charles Tatum was the leading scorer for the Razorbacks with 15.5 points a game on 12 of 20 shooting. Dionisio Gomez averaged 14 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals; Alonzo Lane 13 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2 assists; and Teddy Gipson 11 points and 3 rebounds per contest. T.J. Cleveland led the team with averages of 4.5 assists and 3 steals.
LAST YEAR’S EXHIBITIONS: In last year’s first exhibition game, Nov. 7 against EA Sports, six Razorbacks scored in double figures and the Hogs forced 28 turnovers in posting a 112-87 victory. UA shot 59.7 percent from the floor for the game (43-72), including 61.9 percent in the second half (26-42) when Arkansas outscored EA Sports 67-45 to break open a close game the Hogs led at the half, 45-42. Brandon Dean led the Razorbacks with 18 points on eight of 11 shooting. Teddy Gipson, Brandon Davis and T.J. Cleveland added 12 each, Joe Johnson had 11 and Larry Satchell 10. Satchell also had a game-high eight rebounds.
FIVE FOR 500: UA head coach Nolan Richardson needs just five wins to reach 500 for his career. He enters his 17th season at Arkansas, and his 21st overall, with a 495-192 mark (.721). Through 16 years at Arkansas, he is 376-155 (.708).
SEC PREDICTIONS: Arkansas has been picked by the media to finish second in the SEC’s Western Division behind Alabama. The Hogs received five first-place votes to 15 for the Crimson Tide. Kentucky is the pick to win the Eastern Division and the overall title ahead of Florida. The rest of the order in the West is predicted to be Ole Miss third, Auburn fourth, LSU fifth and Mississippi State sixth. In the East, Florida is followed by Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt.
CONSECUTIVE POST-SEASON APPEARANCES: With last year’s selection to the NCAA Tournament, the Razorbacks made their 15th consecutive national tournament appearance. Over the last 15 years, Arkansas has played in the NCAAs 13 times and the NIT twice. Over that stretch, the NCAA years include 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991, 1990, 1989 and 1988. The NIT seasons were 1997 and 1987.
SATCHELL’S SWATS: Larry Satchell led the team with 45 (1.5) blocked shots in 2001. His 45 rejections would have led the team in six of the last eight seasons.
SEC LEADERS: In the 2001 final team rankings, Arkansas led the Southeastern Conference in field goal defense (.404), steals (11.77), turnover margin (+7.0) and three-point goals per game. In league games only, the Hogs led in steals (10.12) and turnover margin (+3.25). Individually, T.J. Cleveland was second in steals (1.97) and Larry Satchell was third in blocked shots (1.45). In conference games only, Brandon Dean was second in assist-to-turnover ratio (+2.0) and Jannero Pargo was third in three-point goals per game (2.56).
TRAIL OF THREES: With five three-pointers against Georgetown, the Razorbacks have now made at least one three-pointer in 430 consecutive games. UA made at least one trey in every game it played in the 1990s.
STARTING LINEUP: Your guess is probably as good as anyone else’s. In 2000, head coach Nolan Richardson used 22 different starting combinations in 34 games. Every player started at least once.