THE GAME: Arkansas (9-3) opens Southeastern Conference play on the road at Mississippi State (8-2), which just won the Bank One Fiesta Classic with an upset of No. 16 and tournament host Arizona in the championship game. Arkansas is 7-2 overall in SEC openers with a 3-6 mark in road openers. UA and MSU have never met in a conference opener.
THIS WEEK’S POLLS: Arkansas is out of each poll for the second straight week but is receiving votes in each. The Hogs received 27 votes in the ESPN/USA Today poll and 11 in the AP poll. If the polls extended past the top 25, Arkansas would be No. 28 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and tied for 33rd in the AP poll.
RADIO/TV INFORMATION: Twenty-two of UA’s games are being televised this season while each game will be broadcast on radio on the Arkansas Razorback Sports Network. The radio network consists of more than 70 affiliates with Mike Nail handling play-by-play and former Razorback and recent NBA retiree Joe Kleine the color commentary.
THE SERIES: The Hogs lead the series with MSU 19-9 with a 7-6 advantage in Starkville, a 9-2 lead in Fayetteville and a 3-1 lead at neutral sites. Arkansas has won seven straight over the last three seasons, but four of those games were decided by six points or less with one going to overtime.
HOGS AGAINST THE DOGS: In two career games against MSU, Joe Johnson is averaging 26 points. Teddy Gipson is averaging 10.3 in four games, Alonzo Lane eight points and 6.5 rebounds in two games, and Dionisio Gomez nine points and six boards in one game.
LAST TIME OUT: Arkansas held Maryland-Eastern Shore to the fewest points ever scored in Bud Walton Arena in the 100-40 victory Tuesday. The Razorbacks forced 40 turnovers, shot 60 percent from the field and recorded 24 steals, the second-highest game total in school history to the 26 against Louisiana-Monroe earlier this year. Seven players scored in double figures with Joe Johnson and Jannero Pargo scoring 14 each. Larry Satchell set a career high for the second straight game with 12 points while T.J. Cleveland had a season-high 13. Alonzo Lane and Brandon Dean scored 11 each, and Blake Eddins added 10.
DAVIS AND BAKER SHOULD RETURN: Senior Brandon Davis and sophomore Carl Baker should be available for the MSU game. Each player missed the Maryland-Eastern Shore game. Davis was out after slipping on the ice outside his dorm and suffering a mild concussion. Baker missed the game to rest his sore back.
RAZORBACK SPARE RIBS:
PARGO’S PERCENTAGE: Junior Jannero Pargo has been a bigger offensive threat the last few games and with good reason – he’s hitting more shots. Over the last four games, he’s the team’s leading scorer with 15.3 points per game, but he’s been hot even longer. He was five-of nine, including two-of-three on three-pointers, against Maryland-Eastern Shore; four-of-eight, including three-of-six on threes, against Grambling; five-of-11, including three-of-five on threes, at OU; eight-of-10 against Northwestern State, three-of-five against North Texas and two-of-three at Oklahoma State. Over the last six games, he’s 27-of-46 from the field (.587), including 15-of-26 from three-point range (.577). Heading into the North Texas game, he was shooting 41 percent from the floor (18-of-44), but he’s upped his percentage to .500 (45-of-90), including a team-high 47 percent on three-pointers (27-of-57).
DEAN HOT, TOO: Jannero Pargo isn’t the only hot Razorback. Fellow junior guard Brandon Dean is averaging 14 points over the last four games while shooting 61 percent (20-of-33) overall from the field, including 50 percent from three-point range (eight-of-16). His four-of-four performance from three-point range against Northwestern State (12/20/00) ties the school record for single-game three-point percentage.
FREE THROW FACTOR: In the three games Arkansas has lost, the Razorbacks have been outshot by a long shot at the free throw line.
TRAIL OF THREES: With eight three-point buckets against Maryland-Eastern Shore, the Razorbacks have now made at least one three-pointer in 411 consecutive games. Arkansas made at least one trey in every game it played during the 1990s. The last time UA failed to make a three-pointer was in a 99-92 win at Texas in January 1989, and the Hogs attempted just two three-pointers in that contest. Arkansas has played 477 games since the three-pointer was added to college basketball and failed to make a three in only six games. UA won each of those six games.
STARTING LINEUP: Your guess is probably as good as anyone else’s. Last year, head coach Nolan Richardson used 22 different starting combinations in 34 games. Every player started at least once.
Tennessee St. (11-17): Johnson, Gipson, Lane, Dean, Pargo
Southern Miss. (11-18): Johnson, Gipson, Baker, Lane, Pargo
Jackson St. (11-22): Johnson, Gipson, Baker, Eddins, Cleveland
La.-Monroe (11-25): Johnson, Gipson, Baker, Eddins, Cleveland
Centenary (11-28): Johnson, Gipson, Baker, Eddins, Cleveland
Memphis (12-2): Johnson, Gipson, Lane, Eddins, Cleveland
North Texas (12-5): Johnson, Gipson, Lane, Eddins, Cleveland
Oklahoma St. (12-9): Johnson, Gipson, Lane, Dean, Cleveland
Northwestern St. (12-20): Johnson, Pargo, Baker, Gomez, Cleveland
Oklahoma (12-23): Johnson, Pargo, Baker, Gomez, Cleveland
Grambling (12-31): Davis, Eddins, Lane, Gomez, Tatum
Maryland-Eastern Shore (1-2): Johnson, Gomez, Lane, Gipson, Tatum
Records For Starting Combinations
Johnson, Gipson, Lane, Dean, Pargo: 1-0 (TSU)
Johnson, Gipson, Baker, Lane, Pargo: 0-1 (USM)
Johnson, Gipson, Baker, Eddins, Cleveland: 3-0 (JSU, ULM, CC)
Johnson, Gipson, Lane, Eddins, Cleveland: 2-0 (Memphis, UNT)
Johnson, Gipson, Lane, Dean, Cleveland: 0-1 (OSU)
Johnson, Pargo, Baker, Gomez, Cleveland: 1-1 (NSU, OU)
Davis, Eddins, Lane, Gomez, Tatum: 1-0 (GSU)
Johnson, Gomez, Lane, Gipson, Tatum: 1-0 (UMES)
ALMOST EVERYBODY IS BACK: Head coach Nolan Richardson returns 11 of 12 lettermen and four of five starters from last year’s team which won the SEC Tournament, finished 19-15 and earned an NCAA Tournament bid. Of the 11 returnees, only one, Brandon Davis, is a senior. Four are juniors (T.J. Cleveland, Brandon Dean, Teddy Gipson and Dionisio Gomez). Although Gomez has played just one year, he is a junior. A partial qualifier when he entered school, if he graduates in four years, he will earn a fourth year of eligibility. Six returnees are sophomores (Carl Baker, Blake Eddins, Joe Johnson, Alonzo Lane, Larry Satchell and Charles Tatum). This veteran group is joined by a trio of newcomers: junior Jannero Pargo, freshman Michael Jones and redshirt freshman Carter Clark.
PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: Several publications have listed Arkansas in their preseason rankings. Here are just a few:
SEC PREDICTIONS: Following Southeastern Conference Media Days in Birmingham, Ala., on Nov. 1-2, Arkansas was picked to win the Western Division ahead of Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss. Sophomore preseason All-American Joe Johnson was also named the league’s preseason Player of the Year.
HEAD COACH NOLAN RICHARDSON: Head coach Nolan Richardson is in his 16th season as head coach at Arkansas and he owns a 365-146 record (.714). He is the school’s all-time leader in victories and has led the Razorbacks to three Final Four appearances (1990, 1994, 1995) and the 1994 national championship. The 1963 graduate of Texas-El Paso has led UA into the NCAA Tournament 12 times, all in the last 13 years. The Hogs have made 14 straight postseason appearances under Richardson, including advancing to the Elite Eight in 1991, and the Sweet Sixteen in 1993 and 1996. His teams are 26-11 (.703) in NCAA Tournament play.
RICHARDSON OVERALL: In his 21st year of head coaching, Nolan Richardson is 484-184 (.725), including 16 years at UA and five at Tulsa. The only coach to ever lead teams to an NCAA championship (Arkansas, 1994), an NIT title (Tulsa, 1981) and a national junior college championship (Western Texas, 1980), entering the season, his winning percentage ranked ninth among all active Division I coaches.