FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The pairings for the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational have been released by KemperSports Marketing and Arkansas is facing Connecticut in the first round.
The Razorbacks and Huskies tip off in the last game on Nov. 21 at 10:30 p.m. (central) in a game televised by ESPN2.
“Connecticut has established itself as one of the premier programs in college basketball,” UA head coach Stan Heath says. “We’re young and excited. We’ll go in and give 100 percent and see what happens.”
The other game in Arkansas’ bracket is the 8 p.m. contest between Arizona and Kansas. The Razorbacks play one of those teams in their second game.
The other bracket has Division II host Chaminade facing Michigan State at 1:30 and Gonzaga playing Maryland at 4 p.m.
“This is an incredible field, so you’re just picking your poison,” Heath says. “We want to become one of the better teams in college basketball. To do that, you have to play the best. Every game will be a war. We’re not going just to show up, we’re going to win.”
If the Razorbacks win, they play the Arizona-Kansas winner at 8:30 on Nov. 22 on ESPN. If they lose, they play the loser of that game at 3 p.m. on Nov. 22 on ESPNU. Every game of the tournament is being televised by either ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.
All games are played at the 2,400-seat Lahaina Civic Center.
Arkansas was 18-12 last year and returns four starters, including junior guard Ronnie Brewer, the top returning scorer in the SEC (16.2 ppg); senior guard/forward Jonathon Modica, who enters the year 24th on UA’s all-time scoring list with 1,074 points; senior guard Eric Ferguson, who is ninth on the school’s all-time assists list with 297; and sophomore center Darian Townes, who was second on the team in scoring (10.2), rebounding (4.6), shooting percentage (.519), free throw percentage (.698) and blocked shots (1.6).
Connecticut went 23-8 last year, lost to North Carolina State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and ended the year ranked No. 17.
Arizona went 30-7, reached the Elite Eight and ended ranked No. 6. Kansas was 23-7, lost to Bucknell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and was No. 15 in the final rankings. Gonzaga was 26-5, reached the second round of the tournament and was ranked No. 18. Michigan State was 26-7, reached the Final Four and ended the season ranked No. 4. Maryland was 19-13 and reached the championship game of the NIT.
“The field is so strong that the team winning will probably be ranked in the top five,” Heath says. “If you win two games, you’ll be pretty high in the rankings. It gives us a great opportunity and will also be a good measuring stick for us. It will show us where we are and what we need to do to prepare for the SEC.”
The tournament is being referred to as the 2005 “Field of Dreams” with Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas, Maryland and Michigan State having won national championships.
The University of Arkansas Alumni Association is offering a travel package for fans interested in making the trip. For information, contact Michelle Bell at 479-575-4786 or 800-775-3465.