FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson believes he has the pieces in place to get the Razorbacks back into the NCAA Tournament.
Now the Razorbacks know the path they’ll have to travel to get there.
Arkansas unveiled its 2014-15 basketball schedule Friday night, although the full slate isn’t quite complete. Finalization of the season opener in mid-November is still awaiting a signed contract, according to the Razorbacks.
For now, Arkansas will play 17 of its 30 games in Bud Walton Arena, one in North Little Rock against Southeast Missouri State (Dec. 20) and 12 on the road.
“It will be a dandy (schedule),” Anderson said last month. “It will be one of the tougher schedules that we’ve had. But I thought our schedule was really good last year. The bottom line is, you’ve got to win games. That’s the bottom line. With this team and with this schedule, I think it sets up for an outstanding year.”
The nonconference schedule is highlighted by home games against Wake Forest (Nov. 19) and Dayton (Dec. 13 on ESPN2). The Razorbacks also play SEC home games against Vanderbilt (Jan. 10), Ole Miss (Jan. 17), Alabama (Jan. 21), Tennessee (Jan. 28), South Carolina (Feb. 4), Mississippi State (Feb. 7), Missouri (Feb. 18), Texas A&M (Feb. 24) and LSU (March 7).
But Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament hopes will depend on its road success.
The Razorbacks, who didn’t play a true road game in nonconference play last season, beefed up their schedule with early tests at SMU (Nov. 25), Iowa State (Dec. 4) and Clemson (Dec. 7). Arkansas also opens its 18-game Southeastern Conference schedule on the road for the third straight season, traveling to Georgia on Jan. 6.
Arkansas will not host either Florida or Kentucky in Bud Walton Arena the first time since joining the conference in 1992. But the Razorbacks play the Gators (Jan. 31) and Wildcats (Feb. 28) on the road. Both games will be televised by CBS Sports.
Other road games include Tennessee (Jan. 14), Missouri (Jan 24), Auburn (Feb. 10), Ole Miss (Feb. 14), Mississippi State (Feb. 21) and South Carolina (March 5).
Tennessee, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Missouri are the five SEC opponents that appear on Arkansas’ schedule twice this season. Twenty of the Razorbacks’ 30 games have been set for television: 11 on either ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU, six on the SEC Network, two on CBS Sports and one on Fox Sports Net.
Arkansas has six of its top seven scorers returning from the 2013-14 team that went 22-10 and reached the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. It was Arkansas first appearance in a postseason tournament in six seasons, but Anderson said it’s time for the Razorbacks to take the next step.
“I think when you talk about the guys coming back, guys that have played, this is the first year that we’ve had, first of all, most of the guys have fit what I’m doing,” Anderson said last month. “So from that standpoint, this probably will be the best team that we field, from top to bottom.”
ARKANSAS 2014-15 MEN’S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
Nov. 19 - Wake Forest
Nov. 21 - Delaware State
Nov. 25 – at SMU
Nov. 28 - North Texas
Nov. 30 - Iona
Dec. 4 – at Iowa State, ESPN2
Dec. 7 – at Clemson
Dec. 13 - Dayton, ESPN2
Dec. 20 - Southeast Missouri State (North Little Rock)
Dec. 22 - Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Dec. 28 - Northwestern State
Jan. 3 - Utah Valley
Jan. 6 – at Georgia, ESPN
Jan 10 - Vanderbilt, SEC Network
Jan. 14 – at Tennessee, ESPNU
Jan. 17 - Ole Miss, ESPNU
Jan. 21 - Alabama, ESPN or ESPN2
Jan. 24 – at Missouri, ESPN or ESPN2
Jan. 28 - Tennessee, ESPNU
Jan. 31 – at Florida, CBS
Feb. 4 - South Carolina, SEC Network
Feb. 7 - Mississippi State, SEC Network
Feb. 10 - at Auburn, ESPNU
Feb. 14 – at Ole Miss, SEC Network
Feb. 18 - Missouri, SEC Network
Feb. 21 – at Mississippi State, FOX Sports
Feb. 24 - Texas A&M, SEC Network
Feb. 28 – at Kentucky, CBS
March 5 – at South Carolina, ESPN or ESPN2
March 7 - LSU, ESPN or ESPN2