FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas’ 2003-04 basketball schedule, which was released on Wednesday, features a non-conference home game against Oklahoma State, road dates at Illinois and Tulsa, and 10 other games against teams earning NCAA Tournament bids last year.
“This is a good schedule for our team,” head coach Stan Heath says. “Last year, our schedule was ranked as high as No. 2 in the country and was a bit overwhelming. There’s not much difference in this year’s schedule, but this team and this schedule fit really well because we have more spacing between games and we have several very challenging non-conference games that will help prepare us for the SEC. We want to build momentum before we get to conference play, and this schedule, I think, allows us to do that. I see games on this schedule that are going to be competitive and hard fought, and will give us a feel for what the SEC will be like.”
Heath’s second Razorback schedule includes seven home games in November and December, beginning with the season-opener against Nicholls State on Nov. 21 and Grambling State on Nov. 25. UA once again plays a game in North Little Rock with a Nov. 29 date against Jacksonville University in Alltel Arena.
Following a home game against Oral Roberts on Dec. 3, the Hogs face Illinois at the United Center in Chicago on Dec. 6. Four straight home games follow in Bud Walton Arena, including Southeast Missouri on Dec. 9, Louisiana Tech on Dec. 17, OSU on Dec. 20 and Western Carolina on Dec. 22 before a trip to Tulsa on Dec. 30.
UA closes the non-conference portion of its schedule on Jan. 3 with a home game against North Texas before opening SEC play with a nationally televised ESPN game against LSU on Tuesday, Jan. 6. Road games follow at Mississippi State (Jan. 10) and Alabama (Jan. 14). Ole Miss plays in Fayetteville on Jan. 17, followed by a trip to Auburn (Jan. 21), a home game against Vanderbilt (Jan. 24), a game at Georgia (Jan. 31), a home game against Auburn (Feb. 4), and road games at LSU (Feb. 7) and Tennessee (Feb. 11).
The Razorbacks close the year with four of six games at home, playing host to Mississippi State on Feb. 14, going to Kentucky on Feb. 18, and then entertaining South Carolina (Feb. 21), Florida (Feb. 28) and Alabama (March 3) before wrapping up the regular season on March 6 at Ole Miss.
The SEC Tournament is March 11-14 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
“The SEC is very, very strong,” Heath says. “There are quite a few players who were maybe the second or third-best player on their teams who will move up and step into different roles this year. There are so many talented players that have been recruited onto rosters the last few years and now they have an opportunity to make a name for themselves. I do feel that we’ve closed the gap in the differential of talent, which will give us an opportunity to fight and be in the thick of everything. It’s going to be a very competitive race and we just want to fight for our piece of the pie.”
In addition to the LSU game on ESPN, other televised games include the Nicholls State, Oral Roberts, Southeast Missouri, Louisiana Tech, Oklahoma State, Tulsa and North Texas games on the Arkansas Razorback Sports Network; the Georgia game and the home game against Mississippi State on SEC-TV (Fox Sports Southwest), and the Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, road LSU, and home Alabama and Auburn games on Jefferson-Pilot Sports.
Teams on the schedule earning NCAA Tournament bids last year include Illinois, Oklahoma State, Tulsa, LSU, Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky and Florida while Tennessee played in the NIT.